A week ago saw the first ever Cape Town Band Festival taking over the V&A Waterfront. Postponed due to weather, the few light morning showers were enough to give me heart palpitations but they cleared in time for the first sound check. The largest band of the day, Orah and the Kites, arrived to soundcheck a little after 10.30 am. From the first few notes of their check I knew that the day was going to be a success. The Waterfront is a hub of tourists and Cape Townians alike and both flocked to the amphitheater the moment the powerful speakers turned on. I swear some people stayed in their seats from sound check until 5pm when the day ended!
The first performance of the day was by the legendary Bam Bam Brown. Lead by wondering songwriter/musician, Kieron Brown, the Bam Bam Brown project has performed across South Africa. I first watched them at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown/Makhanda and was blown away by their energy. In the weeks leading up to the Cape Town Band Festival Bam Bam Brown had also performed at Texx and the City’s After Dark concert series at the V&A Aquarium (so we were at least assured that they knew their way to our stage).
Every festival has to have at least one hiccup and ours was that Bam Bam Brown’s drummer was unable to make their starting time of 12pm. Undaunted, Kieron cooked up another plan and, with the help of Well Done Sun’s Hanno Van Den Berg, we were on track. By the time their drummer arrived and snuck onto the stage the crowd was eating out of their palms. I was not alone in wishing that the band could have played for another hour. Kieron’s originals are something special and his voice, highlighted by Kozi’s (Orah and the Kites) harmonies truly stood out in a way that I had never heard it before. There was something very intimate about the entire performance and in the way that the band, all seasoned musicians and friends, interacted.
Next on the lineup were the Stone Jets. They had agreed to perform at the festival as a last stop before their first international tour to Ireland (where they are currently recruiting fans as you read this). Before last Saturday I had never had the privilege of watching a Stone Jets performance and I will tell you first hand that I was missing out! Cape Town knows good music when they hear it and the crowd response was amazing. After kicking the set off with a cover, lead singer Given launched into an all original set that included a slow blues number, some afro funk and a lot of impressive high notes! The best part of the performance was watching Given’s mother sing every word and demonstrate each vocal run with hand gestures.
From halfway through the performance I took my place at the merch table and was swarmed by eager consumers. The Stone Jets have just released an album, Memory, and it sold much quicker than I could workout the maths behind how much change I needed to give buyers. Luckily the Frances Clare band t-shirts were also selling so I was able to grab a Stone Jets album myself (it’s currently in my car and my favourite track is “How Can You”). Thank you Stone Jets for the awesome performance!
After teasing the crowd with their sound check, many audience members had sought me out to ask when “the band with the harmonies” would be playing. I have watched and performed with Orah and the Kites on several occasions and each time they have grown (in both members and talent). There aren’t very many bands in Cape Town that can boast six part harmonies and I was very glad that our sound engineer, Niel of Thundabird Productions, is so experienced.
Orah and the Kites have one of the most amazing effects on a crowd that I have ever seen…it’s almost as if the band creates its own time and space vacuum. Passers by stopped mid step and a hushed sense of awe fell over the crowd. The band performed several goosebump-inducing a capello pieces as well as a mixture of originals and covers. Lead by the beautiful voice of Ntokozo Mzimela, the Kites captivated the audience not only with their voices but with the beautiful instrumentation of the band. Vocalist Teagyn Gracey moonlighted on the saxophone and a notable mention must go to Chris Hopkins (The Askaris) who’s skill and expert feeling on the trumpet made the experience just that more incredible. For someone who has watched Orah and the Kites before, it was amazing to see the eight piece in action on a stage that actually has enough space for them!
By now the Festival was in full swing. This could have been because the rugby was over or because everyone who had enjoyed their Friday night a bit too much had finally woken up and joined the crowd…either way, the amphitheater was jam packed by the time the Poor Princes took to the stage. One of the newest bands on the lineup, the Poor Princes was started by Bradley Bath and consist of drums, bass, electric guitar and Brad’s vocals (as well as little bit of synth here and there). Their funky and often blues sound went down well with the crowd who listened eagerly and tapped their feet. The whole goal behind the CTBF is exposing the Cape Town audience to the amazing, ever-growing talent of our music industry so it was awesome to see the positive reactions that the crowd had to all original music that most of them had never heard before.
As well as exposing new talent, the aim was to showcase the variety and diversity of music in Cape Town. When we curated the lineup we tried very hard to ensure that the acts all brought something new and different to the platform. The last act of the day was the Medicine Dolls and they were the very embodiment of this goal. Taking to the stage in their old school rock n roll get up the dolls brandished McDonalds cups of liquor and broke the no smoking rule on the wooden floored stage. At one point lead singer, Greg Allan, climbed off of the stage and performed his way through the crowd. Some audience members were shocked (I saw three elderly people hurrying off in the opposite direction with their hands over their ears), others were delighted and then there was a third group who looked on as if they had to see the whole performance to decide what they thought about it.
The first day of the Cape Town Band Festival was, in my opinion, the perfect soundtrack representing Cape Town’s diverse and beautiful original music scene. I left feeling exhausted but also content and exhilarated at the possibilities that future events could hold. Thank you to all of the bands who performed, organisers who assisted and, especially, to the public who kept their minds and ears open!
Part 2 coming soon
Fran and the Frances Clare Band