Uprising Festival 2008

2008-07-23 11:00
It all started at the Bat Centre. In 2000, fifteen year old Sibling Rivalry bandmates Steve Jones and Matt Wilson organised a little show in the outside foyer that people started calling Punk Uprisings; four bands, 100 people, a R200 budget, and one blown speaker. Steve and Matt were hooked. And no matter what else was going on in their lives – school, puberty, adolescence – the young punks never missed a year.

The festival evolved from Punk Uprisings, to Uprisings, to The Uprising Festival. It moved from The Bat Centre, to the Mishi Jones Baseball Park, the Berea Rovers Sports Club, and finally, "The Royal Palace of Youth Culture", The Wave House, at Gateway Shopping Centre in Umhlanga.

This year, by spreading the event out over four shows, and leading up to the main event at Wave House on Saturday, Steve and Matt have transformed their all-day punk rock show into a diverse, week-long festival of music, from Umhlanga to Kwa Mashu. Their only challenge: would Durban audiences respond with the same kind of creativity?

By the time I got to the Bat Centre on Friday, the usual suspects were already downing beers on the balcony and talking about the seal-breaking prospect of heading into Kwa Mashu. Around them, angry young hip hop heads penned lyrics on exam pads and hippies talked about the state of the world over Black Labels and cigarettes. Two young black girls walked up the stairs behind me.

"Evening ladies. Are you going to be joining us in Kwa Mashu tomorrow as well?" asked the friendly doorman. "Why would we go there?" they sneered in unison. It's a tough stereotype to break. Shit, if there wasn't an Uprising show going down, I'd never go...
This year's line-up is Uprising's most diverse and deliberately not-just-punk-rock list of names so far. And, after another fiery display of Angry Durban hip hop by the Lifecheck crew, local lounge crooners South Jersey Pom Poms were the band that broke the Uprising cherry.

Vocalist Eva Jackson has got an interesting-sounding voice. Inspired by her band's smokey lounge blues and her World War 2, French Resistance trenchcoat, I pictured Nazi troops walking by a little cafe. Sung in German, French, and English, the Pom Poms music is theatrical, and smacks of drama students. They're a classy band, but, in the dim light, their gentle coffee shop lullabies were putting me to sleep.

Squeaky clean Durban hardcore band The Rising End were up next. The hardcore kids set up camp near the front, and their was a feeling of anticipation in the air. The Rising End haven't played for a long time, and their powerful Christian anthems have got a diehard brethren of loyal fans. As usual, the self-proclaimed founders of dweeb-core were tighter than Gandhi at mealtimes. And their raw passion was almost tangible. The sound was good all night, but The Rising End's crunchy distortions and trebly pterodactyl screams showed off just how good it was.

Outside, police supervision was surprisingly non-existent, and the not so squeaky clean music fans indulged in another fine Durban tradition undisturbed. In many ways, it felt like the much less branded, uncharted-territory Uprising shows of old. And all around, excited new fans were discussing the first hardcore band they'd ever seen.

Inside, Durban indie rockers Gonzo Republic were onstage taking full advantage of the sound. And their stripy-shirt, painted-on-jeans, funky indie rock has never sounded so convincing. Bassist Jonothan Cumming led the charge with a liquid legs display of fiery bass playing. And frontman Clayton Human has become a commanding, and much less whiny-sounding frontman.

You know he's going to say it, but hearing frontman Jacob 'Zakes' Wulana saying "Tidal Waves... Original music, for original people", with that friendly look in his eyes, and a smile that could melt even Robert Mugabe's heart (surely?), is just part of a Tidal Waves show. With Jaco Mans' suitcase-of-pedals, cloud-splitting solos, Charlie Mathop's graceful basslines, Sam 'Drumbo' Shoai's hard-working beats and pained vocals, and Jacob's love-your-brothers-and-sisters, soulful front-manning, Tidal Waves were nothing short of amazing.

It was an unusually sophisticated and 'mature' Uprising opening ceremony – no members of Half Price spilling beer on the floor and taking their clothes off – but Uprising '08 was officially up and running...

[NEXT: Saturday's Uprising in Kwa-Mashu] [page 1 of 2]

The other side of the railway tracks and left towards the harbour, The Bat Centre is a hub of new African creativity. You've got to allow for the odd guy in a Lacoste shirt pushing past you at the bar, but mostly, it's good folks having a good time – renaissance people, drinking beers under the watchful eye of Sipho Gumede and trying their hand at poetry. And if you know your Uprising history, Friday night's kick off show was a welcome back, my-how-you've-grown homecoming, that showcased how fa

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