The wind spat dust and small hard things at us and jerked the lanterns in the trees. The huge, red bedouin tent heaved like a massive heart muscle and petticoats, skirts and jackets whipped legs and arms and faces. Big Friendly and I got to the prettily decorated parking lot outside Charly’s Bakery too early for the gig. I could still go directly to the bar and have an actual conversation with the funky barmaid who served me a ‘special’ double vodka and Red Bull. Drinks in hand we had to wait it out in the wind. It was going to be a while before the reason we were there would kick in.Â The Balkanology party guy had pulled off a coup. Balkan Beat Box, live in South Africa.
Even the portable toilets were rocking in the wind.
Toby 2Shoes was his normal, magnificent self, mixing deeply Balkan and other stuff. The support band Nomadik Orkestera was a bit dreary. I was surprised that they were there at all, delivering a rather pedestrian oompah sound. But the more they played the more I realised that definitely most of the crowd, who were still arriving, were coming to a Balkanology party rather than to see Balkan Beat Box, who were what I was there for.
I squeezed myself into the tent, leaving Big Friendly at the back, and found myself right up against the railing in the front of the stage. I was wedged between a huge lump of immovable human man somebody and an almost 6ft tall female photographer . Toby played and I watched him get the countdown.Â Finally, the BBB boys exploded onto stage, and they were completely, outrageously excellent. For more than just a few moments I completely forgot myself and let their huge talent and energy sweep me away. It totally helped that I knew all the songs, and for over an hour I listened (had my eardrums blown off) and danced (rubbed up against arses and elbows) and watched (stretched around lumpy photographers making a nuisance of themselves all over and in front of the stage). I clapped, I cheered, I even shouted along. Balkan Beat Box!
Then, suddenly I felt my age (and height, it must be said)! These enormous young egos came at me from the stage. They were demanding. The Cape Town crowd werenâ€™t loud enough for them; werenâ€™t appreciative enough. They were all smoking (not sure what) and drinking all over the stage. Very â€˜Balkanâ€™ I know, but quite hectic. The whole crowd were smoking. I was being squeezed.Â I pulled myself away and battled the tide in the opposite direction.
Big Friendly and I listened for a while on the outskirts before calling it a night. By then the streets were jammed and there was a queue lining up outside the club up the road and there was a fight happening in the parking lot.
We got home at 1am with gritty eyes, ringing eardrums and chests remembering the base beats. Then, this morning Big Friendly played one of their songs. Awesome.Â I would not have missed them playing live for anything, and I love their recorded sound more now.