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Life Is Boo!tiful

2010-08-10 10:39

I remember seeing them on Live@Five with John Vlismas. Then live at the BAT Centre with Sibling Rivalry. Chris Chameleon spoke a weird language on stage, translated by his octopus-limbed, instrument-hopping sidekick Ampie Omo. Then Chris Chameleon went off and became the Afrikaans version of Barry Manilow.

Now they’re back. Just like that. With a new album and a new drummer. Tonight’s the first time they’ve played Durban since their big RamFest reunion. And Origin’s filling up fast. The crowd’s an unusual combination of older alternative types, young Durban hipsters and double Jameson-swigging Origin regulars.

Around 10:50pm, the bass starts fading in. By 11:00pm my eyeballs are pulsing. Suddenly, Ampie Omo’s on stage in a signature flaming Evil Knievel outfit and matching Spice Girls shoe moonboots. Chris Chameleon slinks his way through the crowd unannounced. And new drummer Riaan van Rensburg looks like Leisure Suit Larry in pink and pastel blue.

It’s a bummer that original drummer Leon Retief, aka Princess Leoni, couldn’t make the reunion. Especially seeing as how the new album’s called The Three Of Us. But van Rensburg soon wins me over with an intense combination of high tech beats and smug-faced enthusiasm.

“Is there anyone here that still likes the Bee Gees? That still likes Nirvana? Does anyone here still like… Elvis Presley? Then this song’s for you,” Says Chris Chameleon, in a Japanese-looking outfit, body glitter and unmistakably Miss Chameleon makeup. They don’t make bands like Boo! anymore.

Chris Chameleon does his best to scale his larger-than-life diva performance down to the small Engine Room stage. And some songs pack more punch than others. Overall, the show’s a fun blast down memory lane. Chameleon’s a talented bassist. Ampie Omo’s all over the place. And van Rensburg’s a shredder. I’d call him a beast, but he’s wearing a pink shirt and a glittery Boo! cap.

Well-known Durban DJ Coco Loco takes over and the dance floor morphs into a throbbing mass of funky house. Arms. Legs… Four young-looking girls dance on the speakers, lifting their shirts, waving neon glow sticks. An older dude feels them up. Cool dudes in Ray-Bans look like they’re nodding out. It’s a blurry time warp.

The bass cuts through my brain like a cattle gun. Loco’s an intense guy. Point a camera at him and you get a middle finger. I head upstairs and pass a loose sole on the floor. Shit, someone danced so hard their shoes melted.

Upstairs, everyone’s still talking about Boo!. I overhear a conversation at the bar.

Guy: There were these two lesbian chicks in front of me and one of them said, “Now that’s one man I would have sex with.” Girl: There’s just something irresistible about him…

During the show, a woman came up to me saying she’s Boo!’s manager. “You have to give me a copy of EVERY photo you take,” she said. “Don’t just stand there, move around.”

“He’s a local celebrity, Chris Chameleon, like Joost and Amor,” explains a friend of mine. And it’s true. Chris Chameleon is “quite a big deal around here.” He’s won awards and gone platinum. But tonight, he went back to his monki punk roots: sweaty club, bass guitar, lipstick and Ampie Omo. Rolling with the punches.

Upstairs they’re playing LCD Soundsytem. Downstairs, with Budhu and Udhit in charge, the engine room’s a sauna. Outside, the road’s lined with taxis, like tow-trucks at a broken traffic light. Time to go…

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Boo! was the first cool band I ever saw.
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