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Heroes, Hangovers and Hard Ons

2008-03-27 06:10
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- Shy Guevaras
- Van Coke Kartel
- Prime Circle
- 30 Seconds to Mars
- Kaiser Chiefs
- Good Charlotte
- Chris Cornell
- Muse
- KoRn

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Almost. My Coke Fest didn’t really cater to fans of South African rock. Yes, yes, Mother City retro rockers Shy Guevaras, Afrikaans garage wailers Van Coke Kartel and adult contemporary chart-toppers Prime Circle played at this year’s festival. But why the hell were they all corralled into the pre-lunchtime slot? When will South African promoters realise that our rock bands are actually good enough to share the spotlight - not just the bloody sunlight - with their international counterparts?

Not that the Cape Town crowd actually gave a crap. Most of them had forked out their R600 for a Golden Circle pass to get up close and personal with their MTV heroes. Not some 'emerging' Cape Town act like Shy Guevaras. Still, the guavas made the best of their opening slot, belting out skirt chasers "Little Suzie" and "Talking Loud" like Jon Bon Jovi trying really hard to audition for a spot in Velvet Revolver. Yep, theirs is an uncomfortable marriage that probably needs to be re-conceptualised.

Not so Van Coke Kartel who know exactly who they are: Afrikaans rock gods. Sure, a trashy mosh pit party starter like "Elke Oomblik Tel" probably works better in a dingy nightclub than on a stadium stage. But hearing Francois and Wynand belt out gang banging renditions of "Algehele Kontrole" and "September Fools" with Fokof friends Hunter, and Johnny, and Taxi Violence’s George and Loedi somehow nailed exactly where SA rock is at the moment. Caught in that veritable hard place where fans desperately look for something to believe in – a hero, a hangover, or a hard-on. Could Prime Circle pull it off and give the crowd what they were craving? Not quite. Still, for one of South Africa’s most un-rock star combos, lead singer Ross Learmonth and crew actually rocked, their polished set of melodic chart attacks proving a more than adequate teaser for the heroes and hard-ons to come.

Cue 30 Seconds to Mars: throngs of screaming teens splitting the seams on their G-strings at the reality of seeing Jared Leto in the flesh. Not that there’s much to see. He’s a whole lot shorter than he looks on screen. Still, he makes up for being a guyliner sporting midget in skinny white jeans with his massive potty mouth. "I love you guys so f**king much! You mother***kers f**king rock!" quickly became his in-between song mantra. When he wasn’t singing South Africa’s praises to pump up the crowd that is. Still, these were minor blips on an otherwise professional set crammed with panty-moistening signatures "Beautiful Lie" and "The Kill". He also got young girls gooey when he scrambled up the three-story on stage scaffolding in a show stopping moment of rock ‘n roll spontaneity. Or not. Turns out he’d had the same 'crazy'’ impulse at the Joburg concert. Pretty spectacular anyway, as was the explosive finale which saw a storm of metallic silver confetti cannoned into the crowd.
In complete contrast Kaiser Chiefs’ set was curiously low key for a band boasting a Brit Award for "Best Live Act". No need for any pyrotechnic trickery for these British indie rockers though. Instead, some good old fashioned showmanship spearheaded by lead singer Ricky Wilson’s Ian Curtis on tik style careening across the stage, past the bouncers and onto the barricades to serenade the Golden Circle crowd. It was a pity that the black comedy boiling beneath loutish pub song parodies like "Everything Is Average Nowadays" probably didn’t really translate to a South African audience. But hey, who really cares about such cultural nuances when you can chant along to a bar ballad like "Ruby"?

One band that didn't need an interpreter was Good Charlotte. Their American frat boy brand of pop punk is so contagiously choreographed it pretty much speaks to anyone who’s ever been "Young and Hopeless". Only problem is, The Madden Brothers aren’t that young anymore. While note perfect servings of smash hits such as the "Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous", "The Anthem" and "Girls & Boys" were all crowd pleasers, if you looked beyond the bad-ass rock star tattoos, groin thrusting braggadocio, and biographical rags to riches banter you’d have heard a band more than a little miffed at being on 'warm up' duty. While this might justify the colour-by-numbers feel of some songs, nothing excused their karaoke-worthy rape of The Cure’s classic "Lovesong". Time to grow up guys.

One dude who knows how to age with class is Chris Cornell. Did he care half the audience didn’t have a clue who he was? Of course not. The former Soundgarden front man no longer needs a Jesus Christ pose to prove he’s a rock god. Prowling around on stage like a praying mantis he delivered a 'best of' set of slow burning intensity that was a welcome antidote to the in-your-face antics of the rest of the My Coke Fest acts. Whether he was riding riff-heavy workouts such as "Spoonman", "Rusty Cage" and "Outshined", crooning his way through power ballad favourite "Black Hole Sun", cheekily knocking off of a couple of Audioslave funk joints, or inviting Springbok Nude Girl guitarist Theo Crous on stage for a jam, Cornell oozed rock star cool.

Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said of Muse whose epic symphonic rock opener "Take A Bow" sounded like a bizarre Queen cover ripe with c*ck rocking guitars and layers of synths and special effects. The British neo-prog rockers' set got more conceptual by the second, morphing from the sleazy cyber-clash crawl of "Supermassive Black Hole" to the spaghetti western metal surgery of the show stopping "Knights Of Cydonia". Which was precisely when the excesses of their genre surfing conflation lost half the audience. Hearing the best bits of Radiohead, AC/DC, Queens of the Stone Age, Flaming Lips, New Order and Depeche Mode framed in a paranoid-android rock light show had moments of undeniable head candy. It just didn’t have all that much heart.

Unlike KoRn who are all aorta. The moment tonsil toaster Jonathan Davis danced on stage wearing a kilt, throttled his H.R. Giger designed "mechanical erotic" microphone stand and wailed "I'm feeling mean today/Not lost, not blown away/Just irritated and quite hated/Self control breaks down/Why's everything so tame?" that existential crisis you thought you'd left behind in grade 11 punched you straight in the face. Right, so his doomed tales of abuse, anger and apocalypse are obviously tailored towards adolescent boys only then? Surprisingly not. While deciphering the autobiographical sense of humour hiding beneath "Faggot" was probably off limits for almost anyone under 20, everyone head-banging to the polyrhythmic prog-electro pulse haunting "Freak On A Leash" or the manic depressive symphonic metal glee fuelling "Evolution" got Korn’s punch line. As Davis once so pithily put it, "if you don’t want to get hurt, don’t go into the pit."

- Miles Keylock

Afrikaans garage rock heroes, potty-mouthed 'emo' actors, indie rock lager louts, frat boy pop punks, cyber-prog scientists, a good old-fashioned rock god and some manic depressive metal freaks - yep, My Coke Fest 2008 catered to everyone.

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