Events, Reviews

Live Review: The Tropical Roast Live

Upon initial inspection, The Tropical Roast had everything one could wish for. The towering quarry…


Upon initial inspection, The Tropical Roast had everything one could wish for. The towering quarry walls, the impressive body of water, and the quasi-island that hosted a comfortable relaxation area created aesthetic value. In addition, attendees were provided with amenities mandatory to such festival-type occasions, such as a well-stocked bar, ample sanitation services (my sympathies to the pot plant sporting a sign reading “urinal”), a variety of food options, and a Bedouin tent accommodating an impressive sound rig. The presence of all these attributes was a promising point of departure for a great day. 

The afternoon’s music kicked off with Kimon playing an array of soul and hip hop while everyone arrived and settled into the venue. He was followed by Sons of Settlers, a rock outfit comprised of members of seemingly now-dormant bands Foto Na Dans and New Holland. At this time, the crowd was at its minimum, which led to a non-enduring audience at the stage area. Additionally, a late start from the band necessitated a short set. The guys were upset about this, and were obviously confused when the bed-music arrived prematurely. The combination of these events culminated in a disappointing set for them. 

To follow was the naas Take Over set – a 3 hour long DJ spot featuring four up-and-coming electronic music producers who have released music through the creative collaborative. The prospect of Holiday Murray and Beatenberg to follow, and Christian Tiger School and Stone Age Citizens to close off the night, meant an odd line-up arrangement that bounced back and forth between a live and electronic set up. The overwhelming success of the naas set, however, rendered this strange arrangement inconsequential. The Take Over provided the perfect soundtrack for the approaching dusk.  

Slabofmisuse offered the initial instalment, easing the listeners beautifully into the dramatic genre change after Sons of Settlers. A personal highlight was the sound of Co.Fee’s ‘Bourgeoisie’. Next up was Life Magic, who’s set exhibited a departure from the hip-hop-influenced sounds of Slabofmisuse towards a more dance and disco feel. Cutting Gems followed, delivering what was probably my favourite performance of the afternoon. The descending cold was no match for induced dancing that kept the growing crowd as warm as ever.

There was a true homogenous quality about the set; not in a way that made the three hours tedious or boring, but in a way that created a seamless flow between the different sounds from each of the artists. The structure of the Take Over (each musician playing two half sets either side of Daddy Warbucks’ hugely entertaining extended centrepiece) seemed a bit odd at face value, but it kept the Take Over interesting. Unfortunately, the set was not devoid of technical faults. The second iteration of Cutting Gems saw a disappearance of all sound when the live saxophone was introduced. The failure of the stage lights pointed towards a power problem not exclusive to the sound rig, however. Sound was restored moments later, and the crowd was once again treated to ‘Tonight/Baby’, the leading track off Cutting Gems’ debut, self-titled E.P. 

Holiday Murray were next to take the stage, building on their recent return from an extended period of somewhat dormant behaviour, marked by the recent release of their E. P entitled Puffadder Sessions. It quickly became clear that the sound rig was perhaps marginally better suited to the electronic setup, but this didn’t prevent the band from delivering a tight performance with a good balance of old and new material. Beatenberg followed with a set that clearly proved why they have recently been met with not only commercial success, but also critical acclaim. The crowd naturally responded positively to ‘Pluto’, ‘Scorpionfish’ and ‘Chelsea Blakemore’, and were not deterred when the trio opted to slow it down with a beautiful rendition of Frank Ocean’s ‘Thinkin Bout You’. The sound rig seemed to support the simpler three-man set up better than the previous, denser live acts, which contributed to a very successful performance. 

Christian Tiger School took the stage at 11 o’clock for what would be the first performance since their return from SXSW. The duo’s deliberate months of latency were brought to an end at the end of February with the release of their sophomore album, Chrome Tapes. Their sound has always held a very relevant position in electronic music, not only in a local context, but in an international market too. Chrome Tapes represents a very special opportunity to observe the evolution of their sound, which is pushing boundaries, preserving their relevance, and really proving that they belong in a world where they play alongside world-class acts at occasions such as SXSW. Moreover, it was very refreshing to see the majority presence of the less-accessible and more progressive new material in their live set. 

Music was obviously the focus of the occasion, but any music event would suffer if it weren’t for its auxiliary structures. Impressive attention to detail (more specifically investments in branded capital such as Tropical Roast parasols and spotlight) was evidence of concerted efforts to ensure that the overall quality of the event was greater than the sum of its musical parts. The below-capacity crowd may, unfortunately, be indicative of a somewhat financially infeasible event. Again, this is unfortunate, particularly since the venue is not a significant trek, even for a single-day event, and for the fact that the musical line up accommodated a multitude of musical tastes. This points to the ticket price as the primary issue, with a R200 door charge already borderline for the most enthusiastic musos, and evidently too much for many. On the other hand, the event is still young, so as word spreads and The Tropical Roast gains momentum, we could very well observe greater crowds in the future. 

This necessitates a discussion on the advantages of a single-day event such as this one. The reduced time frame may reduce venue rent costs, and the lack of obligatory tent and accommodation space means that a smaller area is required. Without delving too deep into the financial implications (particularly because I do not possess any concrete evidence on the matter), it could be said that, in fact, despite sub-optimal attendance, the event may remain feasible. I certainly hope so. The second instalment of The Tropical Roast was incredibly fun and placed a lot of attention in the places where it really mattered. It would be great if this massively entertaining event were given the opportunity to live up to its potential.

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