In a moment of proper synchronicity Jaci and I discovered that one of our mutual demi-heroes would be performing one night in NYC while we were here. It was last night. Dan Bern at The Beekman Beer Garden, on the South Side Sea Port, on the water, with a brilliant view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
We got there really early; in time to see Dan and family having a pre show meal at one of the tables and benches under the little white marquee. The concert was a fundraiser for the Big Apple Greeters, a group of volunteers who show out of towners around. Delicious. As Dan himself said, “What’s not to support?”
As the sun went down and the lights of the city (the still to be completed No 1 World Trade building in stripes of red, white and blue) got turned on, Dan and his band came onto stage and played to us. It was such a brilliant, laid back concert, with a group of the most diverse, arbitrary, strange and gorgeous Dan Bern fans. Jaci described it as real bliss.
Afterwards we told Dan, as he signed our new CD covers with his daughter in his other arm, that we were from South Africa, and he mentioned his song Cape Town on his new album Drifter.
Picture this. It is 1983. I have jumped down the stairs into the cavern basement smoke of The Mix. I am in first year at ‘varsity and my Cape Town is a triangle between main campus, Drama school in Gardens, and Shortmarket Street, where The Mix is. It is a Friday or Saturday night and Ella Mental are playing live. I can barely contain myself. The band starts up and a new wave/spidergirl/chameleon/warpainted/cousin of Adam Ant/jerky dancing magician arrives on stage. And then there is the voice. That voice.
Ella Mental sang out my youth, my South Africa, my creative passions. Ella Mental was the band version of what I wanted to do on stage. Heather Mac was exactly who I wanted to be.
Today I have just come back from a rehearsal with Heather Mac and her new band as they put final touches to the show that launches her new album, Within, tomorrow night at The Baxter. And, I was standing in a doorway, listening to them, and I got that feeling again. I can only describe it as sheer inspiration connection. Obviously, the songs are much more grown up, the mood has shifted, some stuff is mellower, more layered, more loaded. But, there was a moment, with even her back to me, I was transported. I went straight to that magic, Heather Mac of my youngness, and I fell in love all over again.
Join me when I celebrate tomorrow night at The Baxter!
It goes with working in the industry; I have amazing and talented friends. Trevor du Buisson happens to be one of them. He is a superb musician who I have had the privilege of working and playing with for over 15 years. He is a brilliant composer, fabulous performer, amazing accompanist, backing track maker, in fact, he can do most things musical. Most recently he made a brilliant and hilarious backing track for my latest industrial theatre show.
He has also entered a submission into a competition on indaba music where he remixed a track. I have listened to it and voted, because I think he has done a great job. And now, here is my experiment. I want meganshead readers to check it out and vote for him. It isn’t complicated. Go to the link. Vote for Trev. Make me happy.
I swear, if it wasn’t for Big Friendly I would be a forty something music heathen; one of those people who last bought and listened to music in the early nineties. He is amazing. If I say I like the sound of something he’ll find out the who, where, when and how for me, even if it’s an obscure song, in a soundtrack of a movie.
Last night we were channel surfing and we watched a bit of Jools Holland. There was this amazing, weird band with the lead singer singing in English and Italian, a piano accordion player and strange percussion, and it was fantastic. I heard a weird Russian sounding name. That’s all I had to go on, and off Big Friendly went, to find me the band. Not two minutes later he was introducing me to Devotchka, my new favourite band.
They are described in Wikkipedia as a four-piece multi-instrumental and vocal ensemble that fuses Romani, Greek, Slavic, Bolero, Mariachi music with American punk and folk roots. How brilliant?
I feel like I am being musically reeducated. There is so much stuff out there that I am discovering, connecting with and absolutely loving. It’s inspiring. Music has a way of going directly to the heart and soul, and this kind of music speaks a very ancient soul language to me.
Big Friendly also introduced me to Wolfmother, an Aussie Rock band with good vocals and a nice clean rock sound. Now I just have to get over calling them Motherwolf, in that embarrassing totally uncool way that old people mess up the names of bands, the interweb, movie titles and other hip cool stuff!
One of the upsides of having a job related to the 2010 World Cup is that I am finding out some amazing things. I am doing quite intense research and am full of facts, figures and interesting bits and pieces, giving me huge insight into a world I know little about. The great visuals on youtube are really inspiring, but it’s the music I have fallen in love with! My absolute favourite is Algerian Cheb Bilal’s Bafana song. I love Arab/Middle East/North African music with a passion, and this one is a classic; and it’s called Bafana.
I’ve wanted to see this guy for ages now, having heard so much about him, so last night Big Friendly and I went off to the Kalk Bay Theatre to check the Ha!Man out. It was one of those times when you realise that all people, even your most loved ones, occupy different planets. When the lights came on at interval, I broke my rapture and turned to Big Friendly. His look was pure acid. “What total shit!” he said.
I had to take a moment to deal with the shock! I had sat, listening to the Ha!Man improvise vocally, make music, dance to images of grape vines and girl, play his instruments and tap computers, and I had gone into an almost trance! All the while Big Friendly had sat seething beside me. Different strokes. Ovias. I let Big Friendly leave and I scored a lift home with my china, who loves the Ha!Man so much, she had been to the show three nights in a row.
The Ha!Man is very, very interesting indeed. His performance is mostly improvised, and you literally see him looking around at times for inspiration, the what of his next bit. Of course improvisation is exactly what I am passionate about, so it was very exciting to watch that process. I think that what is quite different about music/sound improv is that as an audience member you are much more passive. Which totally worked for me last night; I just sat back and tranced out. But I can see where the potential is for ‘some people’ bf bf, to find it all a bit self-indulgent.
One of the things that was amazing about this experience was how the Ha!Man flies solo. Improv has always been such collaborative work for me; it has always involved more than one person, even if it is just having a stronger, more interactive relationship with the audience. The Ha!Man’s final moment last night was using the audience’s clapping ovation and playing with, and that was really very cool. Up until then it had been much more just watching him do the stuff, which I found both mesmerising and quite inspiring.
A weird little side note: Haman is the bad guy in the Jewish story of Purim, which was celebrated last Sunday. On this Jewish holiday one of the things you do is when the congregation listens to the reading of the story, every time the name Haman is said people make huge noise, with rattles and their voices, so that the sound of his name is totally drowned out.
I am still recovering from the cricket world’s most exciting test draw! I managed four and a half days of it live, at Newlands, left on the fifth day at 15.10 when I could not contain the ants in my pants, and less than two hours later things went ballistic. I must share my opinion. The Proteas gave that game away. Too little too late.
Anyhoo, it’s back to the orifice for me, where I am writing an industrial theatre script and longing for Newlands. What it also means is that I have to be serious about going back to gym properly, which I did yesterday.
Only, last night I went to the Balkanology Fiddle East party, here in Woodstock, at the Albert Hall. I have been to one other Balkanology party, the one that was held at The German Club, off Hope Street; the one where they raffled a pig, and it was a crush of people, but seriously good fun (although I couldn’t get inside for most of the night).
Last night’s one, with the promise of Middle Eastern music, was directly up my alley, and also geographically in my back yard. I wasn’t going to miss it.
My friend and I did what all old people do; we got there 20 minutes after the door opened, and nobody (except for a few over-exciteds like me) was there. We got served at the bar (without waiting 40 minutes like my other friend did an hour later) and even had a place to sit and chat before we started dancing.
First up as dj was James Webb, and I was like a pig in pooh. He played my music. Music like Rachid Taha. I have fantasised about dancing to Rachid Taha at jauls but have never thought it would come true. There I was. (He looks like a mad, Algerian version of The Boss, no?) I went a bit insane, I have to say. By the end of the set the place was full and I was drenched and out of breath! (I can’t tell you how stiff I am this morning!)
Next up was a dj who played more Egyptian sounds which was also fantastic. By then I had become a bit of a policeman with people smoking inside. Then it was the more Eastern European true Balkan gypsy, circus sounds from the next dj.
It had suddenly become very, very full, and it was too windy to be outside. Not long after my friend came back with drinks we decided to call it a night. I had got what I went for; a big, fat skop to my soul music! As we left we noticed the hip and trendy, in a long queue, waiting to get in. Oh, my ancientness paid off.
What could be better than spending New Year’s day afternoon on the trailer park rooftop garden of The Grand Daddy in Long Street?
We were packed on top of the roof to watch and listen to the funky sounds of lone man Dave as he looped his beats, breathed living soul into his suitcase of harmonicas and rasped over the mic. Sexy, sultry and very hillbilly chic. I love Dave. He just gets better and better, and even though he said it had been a long night and day (he had performed two sets at the New Year’s trance party yesterday morning) he got up in front of us and blew us away. White Girl is my favourite.
The rooftop gig seems to be a regular Friday arvie thing. Get there early and grab a spot. We were too late for a really good spot so we had to squat on somebody’s trailer’s stoep. They were very nice about it. The gig is free, but the costs are made up for it in the drinks! I did have a really delicious chili popper on a stick though. The weather was perfect up there and it was a big, fat jaul. See you there next Friday for an early afternoon sundowner?
So Big Friendly and I trekked to Muizenberg last night (I always find it so funny that Cape Slownians find the 20 minute drive a trek) to go and listen to Heather Mac and The Brills (Mark Harris, Tonia Selley and Ian Cohen). And what a lekker gig it was. Heather was so in voice and the others are fine musos. Heather’s new song is fantastic and one or two of the older ones still klap me and I ended up smearing my mascara.
We were properly in Cape Town, with aging hippy jollers, and more than half of those I recognised were grey, or fat or spectacled. We are all getting old. But in such a delightfully Cape Town way. We must get out more.