Saturday night saw the second instalment in the crowd-funded initiative City Soirée featuring a…
Saturday night saw the second instalment in the crowd-funded initiative City Soirée featuring a collaboration between Prog-Razz (Rock and Jazz) instrumental five-piece Bateleur and writer/spoken word artist Toast Coetzer at a secret location made known to the limited few who pledged and bought tickets for the gig. The concept, spearheaded by Gerhard Maree, is one which seeks to connect fans directly to the musicians and artists they love and wish to support in a unique and memorable setting which is unlikely to be repeated.
Arriving early to a house in Observatory, the setting immediately puts one at ease. A homely and warm incubator of a lounge opens up into the small front garden and patio. The walls are adorned with a variety of odds and ends, ranging from an archipelago of eyes above the mantle to an antiquated pair of ice-skates hanging up near a makeshift workstation. The band’s gear is set up in one corner of the room while a wrought iron chandelier hangs from the ceiling. A rubber bat is attached and needless to say the low-hanging Bateleur puns caught on fast. The place starts filling up and people start claiming their bit of the hardwood floor. What followed was a performance which, as a critic and as a fan, I wish I could effectively convey, but it was something special shared by all of those people in that small lounge – something that simply just had to be seen and heard for yourself.
Prior to the show I was completely unaware of the history behind Toast Coetzer and his long line of artistic endeavours (The Buckfever Underground etc.) and as such I had my reservations concerning a spoken word gig, never mind a spoken word collaboration with one of my favourite bands. Perhaps because I’m fairly uninformed on the topic: my knowledge is limited to some Gill Scott Heron and Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everyone’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’ (I’m not even sure if the latter really counts). Or rather because that spoken word which I’ve been exposed to in a live setting has often been too much of the undergraduate philosophy student variety. Either way, the idea of spoken word had always irked me but after what transpired I’m converted.
The idea of adding lyrics to Bateleur’s music is an intriguing one, but nevertheless has the potential to go horribly wrong. Adding a singer over the complexities the group conjure would immediately appear superfluous. There just isn’t enough space for it to be a constant feature, save for the occasional cathartic yell. Toast Coetzer’s essays however fit perfectly. His pieces are a combination of realist narrative describing the commonplace that every so often deviates into wild unexpected metaphor and simile. What’s more the comparisons and imaginary situations Toast puts forward are measured, composed and devoid of pretence at a rhythm and pace which channels Kerouac’s stream of consciousness style. They serve as a tour guide through the dense haze of imagery Bateleur’s music evokes, pulling them out of abstraction and manipulating the sounds perfectly to curate the experience both Toast and Bateleur are trying to evoke.
The two hour long gig saw Bateleur soundtrack Toast’s work with both new and old material. The new stuff ought to be released very soon and is showing how Bateleur continue to grow as a band sounding more unified and tight than ever before. What is even more promising is that the new material blends seamlessly and is entirely at ease with old stalwarts like ‘Thanks, India” and “Twins”.
After the performance, it was apparent that the show had taken a toll on the crowd’s emotions. There was a visible cathartic exhaling; the gratitude flowing after the gig was immense – most likely because everyone knew that they weren’t likely to see anything as special as that again.