It seems more and more independent promoters are bringing out indie acts – definitely something to get excited about! When Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s visit to South Africa was announced a mere few weeks before the dates of the gigs in JHB and Cape Town, I was torn to say the least because I already had plans to see some of my favourite local bands that night. I’m really glad I ultimately chose to watch CYHSY but the whole event was just a bit strange.
The gig took place in a really cool alley-way kind of thing, with a great edgy industrial vibe, and of course was teeming with hipsters in no time. More on them later. The first support band was the phenomenal Desmond & the Tutus. It’s been ages since I last saw this band and I really liked them back then….now I’m a little bit in love with them. Their set was nothing short of amazing – a wonderful combination of tight sound and fluid stage presence. They played for around an hour and I could have listened to them for much longer.
Next up was Spoek Mathambo, and this is where the evening started to fall apart a little. We should have known what was coming when the DJ, who had been playing fab indie tunes prior to Desmond & the Tutus’ set, started busting out the bad house and hip hop tracks. To be fair, the crowd displayed a lot more enthusiasm for this band than they did for the opening act but all I could think was why the hell would you put a hip hop band on the same bill as two indie acts? I’m all for a bit of variety but it just didn’t gel at all. From an objective perspective, these guys were good at what they do and are probably super talented, but I really don’t get the whole screaming into the mic vibe (er, it makes your voice louder already guy, there’s no need to shout!) and frankly I enjoyed them about as much as I enjoy sticking a sharp metal object into my eardrums. Thankfully their set was cut short and it was back to indie happiness.
I hate those annoying MC guys who try and get the audience to do a little dance, while the left and right sides of the room shout out different phrases. Ugh. That being said, there is a need for some kind of introduction to the bands….at least for the main act who have flown all the way from the States to play here. Apparently not in the mind of these event organisers. CYHSY ambled onto the stage and just started playing – I think they even took the sound and lighting people off-guard as it took a while to switch off the house lights, and the sound that was perfect for Desmond & the Tutus (and obnoxiously loud for Spoek Mathambo) was suddenly dismal. Sadly it stayed that way until at least halfway through their set. We eventually gave up our prime spots near the front and moved towards the back, where the sound was softer but at least a little crisper. Of course, at least 80% of those hipsters I referred to earlier turned out to be nothing more than gig tourists. This was indeed the biggest WTF of the night for me. I don’t think there are many things I dislike more or understand less than a gig tourist. Why the feck would you spend a small fortune on tickets to see a band you have no intention of watching and in fact have never heard of before?! Don’t get me wrong – I have no issue with going to watch bands you don’t know – how else do you discover new music? But then watch them for fucksake! It’s a phenomenon I seem to be seeing more and more (and it drove me nearly crazy at Kings of Leon) – this desire to just go to a gig because it’s been deemed cool, and then stand around talking the whole way through the performance (or fall over drunkenly at random intervals). It’s incredibly disrespectful to the poor bastards on the stage trying to put on a show, and it’s helluva annoying for those of us who actually want to hear and enjoy that show. Rather go to Billy the Bums and talk over a cd, seriously.
All bitching aside, CYHSY were fantastic. They ooze cool on stage and Alec Ounsworth’s voice is the stuff indie dreams are made of. You either love it or you hate it, and we were loving it. They played for about an hour, and it was a wonderful mix of songs off all of their albums. Those of us who were there to actually watch the band were singing and dancing to our little hearts’ content, and it was interesting to hear how much faster they play their songs live – I guess in an effort to make them more danceable. Gig tourists and weird support act decisions be damned – it was an epic indie razzle and a great night out. I’m crossing all crossable body parts that the independent promoters will keep bringing out acts like this, and maybe one day soon we’ll get to see bands like The National and Bloc Party. A girl can dream.