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Gees Fees in Stilbaai

2011-01-11 08:25

It's December 31 and I am down to my last panty.  This is not a euphemism; it's a warning.  The road show I'm on – the freak show – has torn the night, eaten my backpacker’s wardrobe, and completely buried the end of 2010 in a haze of busses, tents, stages and sound checks.  That’s another way of saying I went on the MK 5de Avontoer. Let’s backtrack.

Under the influence of De Plate Kompanje (now nicknamed "D.P.Queue" for the long lines outside the venues, our showers, toilets and kitchen) we are, on the eve of 2011, able to:

-          get out of bed and on the road in five minutes flat,

-          sleep in any position and any situation,

-          shower in cold water on cold days (very quickly),

-          walk barefoot in the rain,

-          nurse lingering flu and boomerang hangovers with equal aplomb,

-          and survive on a high protein diet of flesh and flapjacks.

To cope, we have ingested a daily dose of live, local music.  Five doses over six days from a bevy of bands only aids an already compulsive habit of sonic inebriation, a habit I hope I never break. Here’s why…

Gees Fees in Stilbaai  - 27 December 2010

Day one. Flu. Sun. Flusin. We convert from brick and mortar to zip and water. The tents are tucked right behind a big stage, making music dreams a reality, and behind that, over many a mild horse pat, is a river. It’s one of two days out of seven when the sun shines. So we swim. And the songs start. And the day deepens.

Backstage, it feels like something Dylan would understand. Artists of all kinds mill about, tweaking instruments, passing smokes, telling jokes. Over the security fence we spy, slowly, slowly, pale bodies and tan ones speckling the thorny field until it is freckled with faces.  We wander into the open, mingle, meet friends from afar, and vodka and vine juice find their way down thirsty throats. 

The line-up is lovely for an annual day-fest.   From rock reggae to rof rap rhymes, Groot Gees has diversified this year to make more of DPK than a Stellenbosch umbrella org under which bands can bung around until they find their feet – it has made it a visionary of mobile music productions, one we hope will soon include more than just musicians, media, fans and photographers to encompass all the arts. It's the only way to survive after the global economic crisis, after all. 

As ever, we've got the original instigators of awareness and gees, Zinkplaat, as well as tour newcomers No One's Arc to show us what post modern pop-ska means. We've also got uncle Jack Parow, the spellbinding Isochronous, the emo show-and-tell of Wrestlerish to wring our hands and sing along to, Die Tuindwergies to make us feel big (and remind us what really nice guys are like), and the latest teen dream-team, Glaskas, to give us reason to scream. 

But the best of the fest is the raw, dirty bruise of The Pretty Blue Guns. Why? Because they're brave. Sliding on stage with new material in the company of respected industry peers on the first show, their usually sexy set is suddenly spicier, yet more solved. Without being a departure from the form we love, it's stronger and dirtier than the melodic blues-beaten garage rock they're renowned for, and it's right on time.

Front man Leo is, behind the scenes, quiet, stylish and prone to sudden bursts of witty wisdom. Onstage, he transforms into a diva with burning emerald eyes and a message from the skies. Completely encompassed in the music, he smacks variously of Jagger, Bowie, Waits, and Cave from fingertip to tongue tip, but his persona and performance is his own, ultimately, and he easily strips away all assumptions to leave the stage speechless. 


The set is a little shaky in places, as virgin voyages often are; it's also disarmingly vulnerable, the material old and new charged with stylistic conviction and emotional frustration, the delivery well-ventilated by the rhythms and responsiveness of four musicians who have found their mojo together.

It's not a showy set, but it’s seductive, honest, and open, and it is this that upstages everyone else on the line-up tonight. Those au fait with the Guns' sonic track record will appreciate the gesture. Those into slick and stiff and safe simply sip on something icy as it sails right over their cutting heads. No sweat; music with madness, depth and dirt is not for everyone.

The show is over, the hips have swayed, the hands have clapped; they’ve left the stage.  Now all they’ve got to do is deal with the devil in the details. By nightfall, those details blur, the sound system cranks up as the night cracks open with the rest of the first, and biggest of the tour's offerings – Die Tuindwergies, Zinkplaat, Tidal Waves, Jack Parow and Isochronous. We dance, we trance; we pass out and pass through each other while the wild mistress of music moves us and makes the moon our witness.

Next:Embraces and enclaves – Hartenbos goes bos

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