Events, Reviews

Live Review: Nomadic Orchestra. John Wizards. Bateleur.

As one the most confusingly warm autumn weeks came to a close, last Friday served as perfect timing for the…


As one the most confusingly warm autumn weeks came to a close, last Friday served as perfect timing for the last dance-and-sweat inducing Nomadic Orchestra show for a month. The timing was, of course, by no means random; concluding the recent ‘Find The Nomads’ campaign that’s kept them busy for over a month now. The campaign, which was headed by fellow musician and band buddy, Ryk Otto, and accompanied by filmmaker, Tash Montlake, saw Nomadic Orchestra take to the streets of Cape Town, flash mob busking at different unsuspecting spots throughout the city. Their audiences included surprised Jammie shuttle passengers, M3 commuters, late-night-petrol-station patrons and more. They utilised their social media pages to provide fans with clues as to where they may be playing next and document the numerous status updates and photos uploaded by fans and curious onlookers via #FindTheNomads.

“After a month of ‪#FindTheNomads secret shows we wanted to celebrate by having a killer gig with some killer bands.” Cue John Wizards and Bateleur. The Clique organised the event and while The Assembly was left disappointingly untouched by any party-specific additions, those in attendance were clearly excited nonetheless for a line up that boasted three of the best, if not the three best bands in Cape Town. Bateleur was up first and delivered a tight set which featured a great balance between new and old tracks and left a considerable amount of first-time listeners completely in awe. The mix was warm and crisp and provided an accurate reflection of their dynamic and intricate sound. Off the back of their City Soiree show the previous weekend which received high praise throughout the week, Bateleur managed to translate the captivating and enchanting qualities of their performance from the intimate setting in Observatory to The Assembly without fault.

Bas Fish jumped on the decks and played some great tracks to keep the crowd entertained as John Wizards set up – which in itself is entertaining when considering the equipment that goes into their performance. While sound has never been a problem during any John Wizards set that I have seen thus far, this one was riddled with issues. As one of the premier nightclubs in the country, one wants to assume that these were no fault of The Assembly’s. However, sound issues are never really anyone’s fault and the majority are immediately forgotten and forgiven if recovery is swift. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case as Alex Montgomery’s Korg was rendered unavailable for the first half of the set. He managed to play all his parts on bass guitar without ever having practised them and the rest of the band followed suit to make for an enjoyable albeit disjointed first half of their set. Once the Korg had been restored and other sound issues dealt with, the set really came together as they closed with some of their more tech-heavy and dance-y tracks and finished with a personal favourite, ‘Limpop’.

Nomadic Orchestra’s set up is a lot simpler and therefore quicker than that of John Wizards or Bateleur which meant that once John Wizards had cleared the stage, they were virtually ready to go. From this point onwards it was clear that the majority of the crowd had come for ‘The Nomads’. What was also clear, although it always has been with Nomadic Orchestra, is how music that is played sincerely with skill and without pretence doesn’t require a context to be genuinely good. In the case of Nomadic Orchestra, this holds true time and time again. Their stage presence never attempts to achieve anything more than being musicians playing music that they love and having the best time. This is personified by saxophonist and frontman Gabriel ‘Gawie’ du Toit who approaches the mic drenched in sweat and delivers lines to the crowd with an effortless Tom Waits flair which leaves one wondering if they may have even been rehearsed – but they probably weren’t.

A refreshing addition to their performance was the side-of-stage visuals supplied by The Grrrl. She had attached a camera to her laptop and was alternating patterns and animations over hazy live footage of the band creating an effective cheap-90s-music-video aesthetic. The band carried their dance crazed audience through swinging jazz sections, slow melodic passages with rich, enchanting harmonies from the sax and trumpet and right back up to wild and heaving double time sections. It was a memorable performance and everyone in attendance saw them off, not without an encore, to a well deserved month’s break as Simon Ackermann took over on the decks until close.

In this current era of music abundance, if one can rely purely on the quality of their music and excel without having to tune into a trend or generate a gimmick factor, then the rest is bound to follow as sustainability and timelessness are actual possibilities. Not everyone is into jazz or Balkan music, but it’s difficult to watch Nomadic Orchestra and not appreciate the integrity of their dedication to music and what it means to them. The event was a success and while there was no attempt to create an experience from a promoter’s point of view, it played host to three bands which excel in what really matters – the music.

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