Welcome to the North Sea Frustration Fest - North Sea Jazz Fest

2006-03-29 10:56

Does it annoy you when you're sitting watching a movie and the person next to you chats to their friend, talks on a cell phone or keeps getting up to leave?

I feel the same way about Jazz. Which is half the reason why I listen to it on rainy days, on my own, with a pot of coffee.

But this weekend, I bent the rules. After all, the North Sea Jazz Festival featured some of the greatest names in jazz. Notably Archie Shepp - his classic-with-a-twist, bluesy, sublime stuff had many fans shelling out and queuing up for Rosies' - the most "intimate" of the festival venues - on Saturday night. Downing drinks and switching off cell phones, we waited eagerly for the hero to appear. A once in a lifetime experience beckoned.

Well, 30 percent of us, anyway. The rest of the audience didn't seem to appreciate the gravity of the occasion. As the show began, many started talking, got up and left, or even let their bloody cell phones ring. This despite the fact that the MC had specifically announced there'd be no talking, walking, smoking, drinking or use of cell phones allowed during the performances.

Now, I know why they all got up and left giggling and chatting. They're musically ignorant. They believe Sade is jazz (it's NOT.) They're rude. They don't understand what's socially acceptable. Or they just don't care - at least not enough to sit and think about something else while waiting a lousy 30 minutes for their musical "torture" to end.

What gets me is that the security guards manning the doors not only allowed them to leave, but also opened the doors to allow new people to come in. Despite the fact that the audience was screaming at the guards "close the F**king door!" I was angry enough to kick someone in the head. And if I were as inconsiderate as the other punters, or as unprofessional as the guards, I would have. But I wasn't raised to behave that way (Look Ma! No criminal record!)

To make it worse, Rosies' was so badly soundproofed that we could clearly hear the Andreas Vollenweider performance taking place outside at Mannenberg, even when the doors were closed.

How did Archie Shepp handle it? With cool, with such gorgeous, wry cool. With a lot more cool than his incensed fans. And he brought (what was left of) the house down.

Archie Shepp's show at the North Sea Jazz Festival should have been one the high points of the live music calendar. Instead it felt like a missed opportunity, a big disappointment. An embarrassing botch up that'll mean next year, many big names will have heard what goes on, and will simply refuse to come to South Africa.

What a pity.

South African jazz crowds... rude, noisy, and just plain ignorant.

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