Ten fucking rands to watch 4 bands that I should probably stop describing as emerging. What sorcery is this?
“We think the scene has struggled a bit recently, there are a lot of rad shows but they are pricey and not always accessible. For most bands (ourselves included) the vibe of playing a rad show, with a happy group of people, is pretty much what its all about.” explains Justin Gent of BOXER.
First to perform that night was SOL GEMS. This was my first time seeing the band perform and I had high expectations due mainly to the social media hype behind the group and my knowing that this was—in members at least—a reincarnation of The Stella’s. The band had released their two-sided debut EP just the day before which gave me something to lean on in anticipation of seeing them live. I say reincarnation in members as I realised as they performed that this was not like The Stella’s. The energy remains, but Punk has been dropped for Psych, allowing for more spaced-out grooves and an opportunity for Struan Watt to expirement with the delivery of his voice. They call it sungaze. Being a novice to Psychedelic rock n roll, SOL GEMS played well the part of introducing me to psych, meeting the expectations I had set. Someone just tell the sound dude to cool it on the delay and reverb next time.
Next on the line-up was Nothing Major alumni and personal favourites, Go Barefoot. Weirdly, the 5-piece indie-kwela group had also just released their debut EP, Routes, the previous day. Barefoot and using an ironing board as a keyboard stand, the laid-back group pulled our attention from gazing into the sun to bring it down to earth to experience the influence of Johannesburg on their music and lives. At one moment when I closed my eyes during their performance of “Johannesburg” I felt like I was taken back to the 60’s just a few kilometers down the road to a Sophiatown filled with open-minded liberals of all races jiving to kwela.
BOXER, who are also Nothing Major alumnus and custodians of DANK, were next up on the bill. Keeping with the trend of the evening the band had just released some new material in the previous week. The release was an intentionally awkward music video for their first digital release, “Exaggerator”. The group certainly has a light-hearted and jovial side to them, but it was all jokes aside during their performance. BOXER delivered a high-energy performance, blitzing through their indie-crunch set. Jake Patlansky stole the show with what was the most technical display of electric guitar mastery.
The final act to perform was Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness, also known as BCUC. With 7 members on stage, BCUC are not your conventional band. There is no guitarist, the percussion section is made of three members, and there are traditional instruments on stage which I can’t even name. I struggle to call what they did a performance. On stage, BCUC, become an instrument through which ethereal energies travel to create something which is difficult to describe and impossible resist if you’re in the audience. Influenced by lineal traditions and sounds the group consumes themselves in summoning ancestral energies to cleanse everything and everyone within their vicinity. With two bass drums and a bass guitar forming the rhythmic foundation, they drench the low-register wave spectrum with their pulsating rhythms rattling against our chests. It’s difficult not to be moved, both physcially and emotionally, by the commanding presence of Jovi. He leads the entire ensemble, including sound man and the entire crowd, with the vigour of an army general—assured and assertive.
I was worried about the decision I had made not to consume any alcohol that evening. Considering that the Bohemian is a business concern which functions off the profits of society’s inebriation, the circumstances were stacked against me. However, a couple of cokes and pizza slices in I surprisingly found that I had reached the end of the night without having consumed a single drop of alcohol. This was not so much my own doing, but rather the doings of a diverse line-up which kept me entertained regardless of whether the drink in my hand was alcoholic or not. Other promoters would do well to follow in these footsteps and curate stylistically diverse line-ups introducing us to sounds we’d probably never heard of before.
The evening was a special one as for me it signaled the beginning of a changing of guard in the scheme of ‘indie’.
The emerging bands aren’t emerging anymore.
Photography by Lize Scheepers