On Wednesday night, I was one of the fortunate few who attended the premiere of BLVD HVNNY’s new music video, Nocturnes, and first live performance. The intimate event took place at The Bioscope, recently relocated to 44 Stanley, and it was the perfect setting for what turned out to be a truly magical evening.
BLVD HVNNY (pronounced Blood Honey) is the relatively new side-project of SA music legend, Cito, frontman of WONDERboom. While he already has two other projects, Absinthè, an alternative cover band with Sugardrive vocalist, Paul E Flynn, and El Cantante, a tribute to his Puerto Rican heritage in partnership with fellow WONDERboomer, Martin Rocka, BLVD HVNNY is something completely different. Think along the likes of artists like Nick Cave and She Wants Revenge, and you’ll be somewhere in the ballpark. As Cito himself explains, this is his opportunity to let his dark side out a little, and to explore the kind of music he and his beautiful wife, Linda, love to dance to. It’s deeply personal, and a long-awaited solo effort from a musician who is greatly respected in the South African music industry.
So it’s no surprise that there was an air of great anticipation (and some giddiness at being back out in the world again in these strange COVID times) as the small audience settled into our comfy cinema-style seats to watch the beauty of BLVD HVNNY unfold. A brief interview session set the scene, and then it was time for the premiere of Nocturnes. Let’s face it – we don’t often get our first glimpse of a new music video on such a grand scale, we probably just watch the videos of the bands and artists we love on our little cell phone screens, and that’s good enough for us. But for this sumptuous production, the grandeur of a cinematic release was absolutely right, and I’m so pleased I was there for it. It’s without doubt one of the best music videos I’ve seen in a long time, and the proof was in the complete silence of the audience for its duration, and the cheers that erupted when it ended. Again, not the standard music video experience!
Directed by Brad Devine, and with flawless cinematography from Gavin Pincus, the video features the talented young SA artist, Bianca Blanc, in a dark and devastating ode to love. It was shot at the Ponte building, an iconic landmark on the Johannesburg skyline and symbol of decaying opulence – the perfect background for a song that can only be described as hauntingly beautiful.
Watch the video here…and then watch it again, and again, because this is the balm our little black souls need right now.
The magic continued for the fortunate few on Wednesday night, as immediately after the video screening, we were treated to BLVD HVNNY’s first live performance. A host of talented musicians joined Cito on stage for this short show of just six songs – Martin Rocka (guitars), Warren Leicher (bass), Waldo Luc Alexander (violin) and Ryan Greenwood (drums) – essentially a who’s who of the South African music industry, and it showed in the incredible performance we received. Ross Learmonth also joined in for a sublime cover of Nick Cave’s The Weeping Song (I may prefer their version to the original…is that sacrilege?), and the show closed out with a live performance of Nocturnes, reminding us all again of why we were there, and leaving us wanting more. Definitely an act you want to go and see if you like your music a little bittersweet and out of the ordinary. Congratulations to Cito for another master stroke in his musical career.