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Close Encounters of an Adult Contemporary Kind

2008-03-04 11:25
Last weekend’s gig wasn’t the concert series’ finest moment. Which is not to say that a line-up featuring Arno Carstens, Louise Carver and Harris Tweed isn’t respectable, if not incredibly inspiring. It’s just that other incarnations of the event look more impressive on paper, with past and future events featuring high-calibre international acts such as Michelle Shocked, OK Go and Senegalese pop legend Ismael Lo - although the latter’s performance was ruined when hail stones the size of rugby balls had the audacity to descend from the sky.

Harris Tweed kicked the event off at around 3pm. Once a four piece but now stripped down to a more economical duo, they are one of the few acts I can think of who successfully straddle the gulf between the young, hip indie scene and the more middle-of-the-road, mature market. You may hear their songs on Highveld FM but their music has an arty edge that ensures it remains accessible to the ‘cool kids’. Musically, they are more interesting as a duo than they were as a foursome, with bassist/multi-instrumentalist Darryl Torr showcasing his versatility by laying down electronic beats and soundscapes on top of his own bass lines.
The main reason I like Harris Tweed, to begin with, though, is that singer Cherilyn Macneil is really cute. When she opens her mouth and sings like an angel every man - and probably lots of women - in the audience fall in love with her. Sometimes when she’s singing she seems to be singing specifically to me. No really. But when I mention this to other men they get all upset. “No bru, she was singing to me” is the usual retort. Making everyone in the audience think she’s having a musical converation with them alone is a feat that few performers can manage. Am I gushing?

Next up was Louise Carver. Her set was solid enough. The most interesting thing about it, though, is how many songs I recognised from radio and television, without knowing that they were hers. Her music has a generic radio-rock feel that makes it difficult to discern from the music of other, similar folk-pop-rock singer-songwriters. Personally, I’m not too sure how anyone could feel anything but ambivalence towards Carver. She seems like a sweetheart though, and she connects with her crowd well, having a laidback conversation with them in between songs. I find her more likeable than her music.

Then it was time for Arno Carstens to take to the stage. He kicked off with that track from the car commercial, a good tactical move that ensured the audience was on his side from the get-go -other than me, who suffered through the grating power-ballad silently. Very few local rock performers are greeted with the pure adoration resolved for Arny. I remember watching him as lead singer of the Nude Girls when I was 16.

That’s over ten years ago - and you have to respect the man for maintaining his privileged position at the top of the local white music scene for so long by making music for a more ‘mature’ audience. He is lucky enough to be backed by some very skilled musicians, his band New Porn rock surprisingly hard at times considering their adult-contemporary bent. But a rendition of "Bubble Gum on My Boots" would not have gone amiss.

All in all it was a pleasant enough way to spend a Saturday afternoon, although next time I think I’ll borrow someone’s laaitie so I can bring the little blighter with me and fit in a bit better.

- Daniel Friedman

The logic behind 5FM, Old Mutual and Oppikoppi’s series of summer concerts at Emmarentia dam is sound. With a primary target market consisting of parents who don’t get go clubbing much anymore but who still want to see bands, the concerts have a family vibe with plenty of relaxed looking urban professionals and cute kids running around and jumping up and down to the music. You have to wonder why more promoters don’t cater to this crowd and offer more family-oriented daytime concerts. With picnic
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