Arcade Empire, once upon a time an old reptile house, is a place I typically associate with indie kids kicking back tequila and dancing to Shortstraw, jocks playing beer pong and foosball in dingy corners chugging drafts (bru), a few strange stragglers outside drinking green drinks in jam jars and chowing pizza. But on Friday night the scene changed – the psych-ers with their crazy dos, leather jackets and fedoras descended, anticipating the sixties revivalists all the way from sunny California – the Allah Las.
Psych night did not disappoint, and put together a night worth remembering. Perhaps aided by the diverse and intricately curated line-up. Sol Gems, newly on the scene, clearly influenced by psych favourites Tame Impala and The Growlers, are a sexy, sungazing three-piece with catchy tunes, and an inviting stage presence; The Moths, another three-piece, summer-sandy, groovy instrumental and oh so vibey; Bye Beneco, so unique the only way I can describe them is as sweet, strawberry sugar, Lenny-Dee’s voice is ear-gasmic and their sweet melodies and harmonies are intricate and deeply resonant; Medicine Boy, whose stage presence is intensely enchanting and filled with tingling tension, the duo is bewitching what with Andre’s fiery guitaring, and Lucy’s piercing vocals; and the slime and grunge was dripping down the stage during the Make Overs set, as per usual when the garage duo takes over.
I was privileged to have backstage access, and managed to have a few deep and not so deep conversations with the Allah Las. Based in Los Angeles – drummer Matt, bassist Spencer, lead-guitarist Pedrum and front man Miles – were greatly anticipated by South Africans, and the hype was big. They are first class chillers, perhaps because of their Californian origin. Before their two gigs this weekend they went for a few surfing expeditions in Cape Town. Armed with craft tequila, which they generously shared, they were really interactive and interesting – telling me stories of their lives in Cali, having political debates about race and the State of the Nation (#sona2015), and generally being great humans.
The air was crackling with excitement as they came onto stage. Opening with instrumental “No Werewolf”, they were off to a cracking start. Despite the heat, everyone was jamming hard. Each song is uniquely catchy, and their lyrics give me shivers and make me want to sing along, which I can assure you I did, hard. Their music is very melodious, and they harmonise often and well. Every member of the four-piece sings and often switch rolls as lead singer. Pedrum the bassist rocked 501-415, and drummer Matt surprised us all when he came front and centre, armed with three shakers, during the encore with Miles on drums for Long Journey. They played popular favourites (or maybe they’re just my favourites) Follow You Down, Catamaran, Artifact and basically every song you would want to hear. It really was a perfect performance, and a perfect night.