A windy Saturday evening set the scene for the Jose Cuervo ‘Who’s In’ street party in Cape Town’s East City. The Harrington Street parking lot, host to past events like last year’s successful Cape Town World Music Festival, was the location, and it was immaculately set up and decked out. The main stage seemed perfectly positioned to give the performing artists that wind-swept look of true rock stars as yellow-coloured smoke rolled past their faces and their hair flapped around wildly and fittingly. Arm-wrestling tables, a ‘wheel of chance’-themed tequila bar, trendy food trucks and a mechanical bull filled up the space in between the stages, meaning that the party’s patrons were destined to have a good time even before the music kicked off.
As it turns out, they could have gone sans the bells and whistles and the event would have still been a success for the most part. The line-up, spread across three stages including one in The Assembly, was immaculately curated, offering a glimpse of much of what’s good about the Cape Town music scene at the moment.
The Future Primitives opened the evening. Hot on the back of their month-long European tour where they played a show nearly every night and “found the best weed in Europe”, they performed with confidence and no small bit of bravado. For many in the crowd, it was the first chance to see them perform songs off the brilliant Into The Primitive, which came out just before they left for overseas. Heino Retief was electric on bass guitar and Johnny Tex, who sings exactly the way he looks, commanded the stage. They were impossible to look away from at times. It was a bit of a shame that they had such an early slot as the venue was yet to full up completely – these guys deserve a packed-out audience – but they certainly got the night off to a great start.
Following them was Beach Party who played an equally-waxed set. Before they went on stage, guitarist (and Dollfins frontwoman) Danielle Hitchcock aka Big Daddy D aka Fuck You, told us “The condition for playing in Beach Party is that you have to shit your pants without looking like you’re shitting your pants.” They certainly weren’t shitting their pants though, as they slammed out track after track from this year’s For Now We Are Young – their sequencing was phenomenal, and they had the crowd singing along from start to finish.
On the Assembly stage, Gateway Drugs performed, David Thorpe and Andrew Esterhuizen hurrying to perform their set after Beach Party finished, but not before a quick outfit change. The duo has enjoyed a massive rise in stature during 2013 and they pulled a large crowd of devoted fans who knew all the words of the songs they played off last year’s self-titled EP. They also dropped a few tracks off their highly-anticipated upcoming six-track, Hearts Break.
The event organisers had the good sense to hand over some slots on their smaller third stage to two of of Cape Town’s hottest party planners YOH! and (PLATFORM mother company) naas. Patrick Visser and Raees Saiet performed a hip-hop set as WTVR for the YOH! set and naas got two of their artists, Daddy Warbucks and Slabofmisuse, to play a VS set. Battle Beyond the Stars, Fourth and Ryan Gosling joined them on this set-up, which had crowds dancing for most of the night.
Back on the main stage, Beast, Inge Beckmann’s post-Lark band played a set of heavy-hitting rock, her famous wail filling the night sky and the nighttime hearts of the crowd with rapturous ecstasy as they powered their way through their set. It was a definite highlight of the night, and the band, filled with years of cumulative experience and savvy, are really a fantastic spectacle.
The Subways and Fun Lovin’ Criminals, British and American acts (respectively) that were the night’s headliners performed at the same time, which did seem kind of odd, but both played to the night’s largest crowds at their respective stages. The Subways, true to the title of their first album, still have a youthful exuberance eight years on from that debut. The front of the crowd formed a mosh pit and it was unnecessary for frontman Billy Lunn to sing the lyrics of their most famous hit, ‘Rock n Roll Queen’, such was the bellowing noise of the crowd singing along. The rest of their repertoire wasn’t quite so familiar to most of those present but they still performed a fun set. Fun Lovin’ Criminals, as is far too often the case with foreign bands touring South Africa, performed a ‘DJ Set’ which consisted of two-thirds of the band, Fast and Frank Benbini, playing their songs with Frank striding around stage, rapping over the music.
What ‘Who’s In’ ended up being was a well-curated evening of some of Cape Town’s finest fare, with all the bells, whistles and above-and-beyond extras capping it off to produce a fantastic experience. Everyone in attendance seemed to have a great time from start to finish, the energy levels from fans and performers alike was sky-high and it was ultimately a wonderful celebration of this flourishing local scene.
Image by Aidan Tobias