A Dedication To 1072 Schoeman Street
I remember waking up on the wooden floor of the band rehearsal room in the very early hours of a wintery Sunday morning under an old rug I was using as a blanket but was actually meant for the drums, and using my old worn out all stars as a cushion. Next to me, sitting on some amps, were two rather famous local musicians busy doing coke off of a Gorillaz CD cover. They offered me a line but being extremely dazed and already feeling symptoms of a hangover after the intense drinking session, I declined and rolled into a ball and passed out again. Looking back now, I probably should have said yes. What a cool story that wouldn’t have made? There’s something just so fucking rock n roll about that.
Before Park Acoustics, before Arcade Empire, before Grietfest, and before Capital Craft, there was this house in Schoeman Street. Surrounded by businesses that, apart from a sign outside, didn’t look like anything special from a pedestrian’s perspective. If I remember correctly, the house was originally owned by the grandmother of two brothers. But she gave the house to them and they decided to partner with a friend and turn it into a rehearsal and recording studio. But soon, that little house became known as the best party and live music venue in Pretoria. Maybe even South Africa. I am of course talking about the legendary Hotbox Studios.
All I am about to write now will just sound like me giving them verbal blowjobs. But it’s because I am. If it weren’t for Hotbox Studios and the bunch of guys who started it and eventually branched out to start Park Acoustics and Arcade and fuck knows what else, Pretoria would be a shade of what it is in terms of live music, parties and getting shitfaced on a Sunday. These establishments have given us some of our best memories and best nights and worst morning afters. A lot of faces seen and forgotten and lives changed forever.
Hotbox was a special kind of animal. The events that they hosted were incredible. It just kept getting bigger and bigger with a mixed bag of people attending every event. Hipsters, punks, musicians, hippies, artists, ravers, emos, stoners. You fucking name it and they were there. It was beautiful. It is seldom that I go to places and feel like I fit in. I always feel like I stand out like a sore thumb because I have no fucking idea under which subculture or under what group of people I fall, but, except for my first day working there as a bar and doorman where I didn’t know what to expect or barely knew anyone, there never once was a time where I felt like an outsider.
I would stand there in the middle of everything with all this chaos and debauchery happening around me and just let my senses take over. Seeing people from different backgrounds come together and just completely lose themselves to the music and alcohol and whatever else was coursing through their veins was fucking beautiful. You would see a guy randomly walking around nude with only a coat on and his genitalia flopping from side to side. You would feel the bass of the music grab your insides and caress them. You would smell the dust being kicked up at the stage and the smell of weed and cigarettes in the air. You would taste the alcohol on the breath of the girl you were busy hooking up with. And you would hear the sound of hundreds of people coming together for the love of music and having a good time. This is what in my opinion life should be all about. It’s those nights you wish you could capture from your perspective. If I could stay in a moment forever, I wouldn’t mind if that were it.
It was the small details that made Hotbox what it was. The walls graffitied with dead rockstars, ghosts, sketches and signatures from every musician or friend that graced events with their presence. The very loose casual feel of everything. The fact that they turned their deck and kitchen into stages and DJ booths. How people would literally break into the yard at the other side of the house to get into the party because that’s how desperate they were to get in. Whether it was because of a lack of money or that Hotbox reached capacity. People climbing onto the roof of the outside flat to watch the bands because it was too packed to see the them from the ground. Or Heinrich and I sitting outside in the cold and making a fire in a wheel barrow to keep us warm while working the door. You know, just small things like that that gave Hotbox that feel of authenticity that I haven’t felt at any other venue or event. It just went back to basics, everything felt so real. Dirty. Natural. Yes, you still got quality sound and light shows but all the rest felt just like a party any one of us would host with a bunch of our friends. All these strangers actually felt like your friends or like family almost. A shit load of regulars and a shit load of first timers walking in with awe written all over their faces coming together for a good time.
The things I loved most about Hotbox was the moments and memories made there. Whether it was making out with a girl who kept on calling me Francois on top of the bar, Lucy the small Rottweiler casually strolling around between the crowd, Zoolander showing on the huge projector screen, the cleaners getting drunk off of leftover drinks and dancing and singing around a fire, or when Menzi and I hijacked the DJ booth at one Dogbox party and started playing music and he named us the Bandits when a girl came up and asked what our DJ group name was; every single event had a unique special moment that makes me smile when I think about it. Like once at a Dogbox foam party I believe, there were these two girls who were friends of a girl who I used to work with at Crawdaddy’s in Brooklyn. Anyway, they asked if they could go in for free. I replied that only if they showed me their tits. They paid and then went in only to return about an hour later to show me their tits for their entrance money back to buy alcohol or god knows what. I of course fulfilled my side of the agreement but felt bad and took out my own cash and placed it into the bread bin wherein we stored the entrance money to pay for them. The one girl was hot and had exquisite breasts so it was in my opinion worth it. Should have asked for her number.
On another occasion I remember one morning sitting outside the same rehearsal room where I had previously slept under the rug waiting for my dad to pick me up while trying my best not to vomit in the hallway while Bile of Man suddenly walk in and start jamming. I’m not a huge fan of them but that moment, feeling the music reverberate through the floor and up my spine still gives me chills to this day. It was something beautiful. I also once witnessed a huge argument between the guys who ran Hotbox one morning at about 5 o’ clock while I was outside still working bar by myself. There was something so endearing about it. Like it was a real family.
Unfortunately, Hotbox disappeared when, I think, the grandmother took the house back. But every now and then a surprise event pops up to ease our nostalgia for a while. In fact, the other day Griet asked on Facebook if they should bring back a Dogbox foam party in 2015. And they received quite a response. Hopefully it will be held at the Mecca that is Hotbox. And hopefully that hot girl will be there.
But on a serious note, I learned more about the South African music industry, about life, about myself, and about people in my short time at Hotbox Studios than I would have learned anywhere else. I am, and I believe all of us who have ever been to Hotbox or Park Acoustics or Arcade or Capital Craft or wherever, are forever indebted to Henk and Willie van der Schyf, Chris Rautenbach, the Griet team, and anyone else who brings us quality shows and parties. Thank you.