“If you expect nothing from anybody, you won’t be disappointed”- Sylvia Plath
The last time The Brother Moves on played in the same line-up as John Wizards was in the Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg last year at an event dubbed Limpop, taking name from one of John Wizard’s songs. And now after so much time has passed, they have reunited, adding Caves and Bateleur to the mix, signalling very distinct sounds.
Having a mega line-up like this involves a lot of expectation, from the fans and bands alike. Within each sect of music making, the genres, the audience, the awareness of another gig comes together in one night to leave an impact, of honesty, of thrill and for some, a reason to sing/dance/drink along to some of their favourite tracks.
The event Pardon Island was hosted in the industrial and compact suburb of Paardeneiland, a sub-city swearing alliance to the fish packing and factory industries. Only a few kilometres away from the highway off ramp, groups of people flocked to this new venue that had boasted techno and house parties before breaking its band virginity. Quaint, with enough space to host a couple hundred people, the room was occupied by wooden crate couch-like seating, bar stool-table combinations and a stage/backstage area visible to the crowds attending. I salute promoters for finding new spaces for gigs. Building up an orbit around familiar surroundings can be tedious, and often allows for the environment to turn to autopilot mode; however ColourBox Studios sets the tone for something a little more.
This is the second time I have seen Caves. They start the line-up and the crowd eats them up. A band that has the potential to grow on me, my intrigue is certain. The vocals are reminiscent of a pseudo space psychedelic intellect, with the compromise of The Doors and Animal Collective undertones coming in. Contemporary, but also a sound that feels recycled to charge their output into a more ritualistic sound, Caves beholds an authentic, but an unusual presence. I am not convinced yet. The vocals lack strength and often feel condensed or slow pressed, and lack in emotion. Coming across as detached, most of the band members feel disconnected, missing the transparency I imagined I would see after hearing their recording at Red Bull Studios. After hearing their entire set, I would have to say that “Don’t suppress the groove” has a methodical and fluid rhythm that is raw and collected in their composition, and sits with me moments after it stops.
John Wizards are next, on the line-up, and on every playlist I compile. Tonight, something feels different. They have mixed up, played around and evolved the tracks, but left their charisma and enthusiasm dry. The first time I saw them, everything from their brows to their toes were vibrating with cosmic voodoo-like energy, hypnotising the audience into a frenzy of hype and sexual tension. I can’t be sure if it was the angle I was standing from or the mood I took on from the lack of ventilation in the studio, but boys, you looked tired on stage. If you aren’t moving, why would I want to?
And so it begins -what I have anticipated the entire evening. Bateleur claim their territory and fill the stage up. Their experimental instrumental daydreaming math rock melodies soothe serious mind ailments. Their community is there, watching and continuing their presence through the crowd with feet tapping, fingers sliding and necks rolling. Playing new material with divine sensations of intricate nuances, the last note of the piano high fives the trumpet, the bass catches up with the drums and the guitar leads them forward in melodic mystery. Once the purity of their set cools down, they bring The Brother Moves on to join forces. This moment alone keeps the momentum high as midnight approaches. The set sways from its initial songs to its latter. As Bateleur dominate the first two, TBMO captivate last pair. It feels as if they are enhancing instead of collaborating, but it still has a great variability and tone to it. In my eyes, neither band could do wrong, but I walked away craving the innate presence of Siyabonga’s storytelling to appear and compliment the rest of the band, as well as Bateleur’s music playing.
And on a whole, I realise this: is it my expectation that won’t allow them to deliver, or was it an off night for my mood. Three out of four of these bands are sitting at the top tiers of my local favourites. I am induced by them in different ways, and tonight was just a time their proximity and emotion felt further away than imagined.