Monday, October 14, 2019

Gig Review: Hardcore Help Benefit Show

This was one of the biggest shows this year no doubt. And the first time that we got a live European Hardcore band visiting. Four Kenyan bands were also playing, beginning with ParkingLotGrass, then Rock of Ages, Rash and finally Last year’s Tragedy.
And with that roster of bands there is a great deal of expectation that builds up before the show. The promotional team does its rounds of putting up posters and getting people hyped. There was short promo video (which is just 20seconds of A Traitor Like Judas proving to us that most Europeans think Africa is one big village) , similar to the ones that were done when Boargazm and Skinflint performed here a while back.
As I’ve noted before shows are some of the most unexpected things. You go in expecting one thing and get something totally different.
About this time last year we were wading ankle deep in rain water, drenched in vodka and our heads and clothes on our backs even more heavily drenched by the free falling rain of March. But we marched on, inebriated and all, our minds weren’t our own and we got to Marabou, the gig was much less shinier than the present one, but we got there and it was as if we were in some sort of trance, slaves to the music, recognizable tunes blaring out on the speakers.
Today it is a different story, not half as drunk as Id wish I was(Editor’s Note: it was Dani’s fault). The show starts really late but the small talk was really edifying, in the way that small talk can be edifying. And the long expanse of time, the few hours of waiting, they were in fact eons disguised as hours. In those eons, I lost my hair in impatience, went sober and got drunk again. Those moments of tarrying, for other people, are whiled away playing pool and buying the HHF and ATLJ merchandise that was on sale.
The thing with shows (especially the big ones) is the rare opportunity it affords, to see a familiar face. My own face lights up and it reminds me off those long Christmas holidays back in primary school. By the time it got to November you were so fed up with school and couldn’t wait to go away. you went away for nigh on two months and by the time it was january you were literally bursting at the seams to see the old school again. You wanted to see the old faces of your friends again, spot them from a far, lock arms in that iron hard handshake, break out in raucous laughter and show off your new uniform. for the lucky ones! and tell stories of how the holidays went, who got what for christmas. and it was also tons cool, to see that girl you’ve been crushing on since the year before. She smelled like cherry and her hair was never messed up. Deep down in your heart of heart where you entertain that poisonous fantasy, you know it’ll be another year of unrequited love and endless longing because you’ll never have a chance with her. Some deadbeat with terrible manners and bad breath will probably have a go with her, and make you feel even sorrier for yourself. I guess shows are like that too. An old haunt, the excitement of meeting up with old friends and that one girl that you are too chicken to make a move on! Her hair isn’t messed up even in the pit!
Please Be DJentle!
First on stage was ParkingLotGrass who on occasion are inconsistent. Its really hard to tell how they’ll play. They’ve parted with their producer Nick Wathi as drummer, whose exploits on the drums I’m comfortable with but not really slobbering over with glee, so it was interesting to see what kind of performance this would be. And might I mention the sound was absolutely majestic, regal in the way it purred like a newly minted German luxury car, straight out of the production line. And on this night PLG sounded like they’d been working out, really tight set list, mosh worthy  (although in the case of people like Bizzaro and this newly discovered moshpit daredevil “Djentle Man” every performance is mosh worthy) this is by far the heaviest most pristine PLG performance in a long time helped by no little measure by a new flavor of drumming that is evidently unabashed, fun and full of energy, I wanted to get on that stage and plough away at that drum set with my bare hands because it was so fucking exciting. And you’d have to give it to these guys for making things interesting, they switch things up by having their new drummer,,,,wait for it, take up the mic and sing! Can you believe it and sing he can, like the frigging angels. I was in tears which no one could see because it was obviously dark and hot and my face was also full of sweat. But granted I was in tears. My face wasn’t just wet with sweat but tears too. And Duncan Muriira can also drum, fancy that. The crowd demanded a goddamn drum solo too which he was forced to do, while pretending to be shy! You can never say no to the crowd can you?
Why don’t Rock of Ages have more recorded material??
The next two bands that came on stage did justice to themselves. Rock of Ages, have gradually returned to the stage. This is their second performance this year. I watched them for the first time ever at this year’s platform 7 and some of that awe I had when I saw them first has washed off. What once seemed uncanny  doesn’t faze me and I’m left with a more objective perspective of what this band brings to the table. Others like Max of Rash are still amazed and we wonder together why Rock of Ages, with their distinct and mature style, doesn’t have more recorded material. We hope that that oversight will be rectified soon. Rock of Ages plays a lot of cover songs, and they play them very well, in a way that is recognizable but also idiosyncratic, particularly the Creed and Daughtry ones.
Rash band come on next. Right before they hit the stage a few of their newly released songs are played by the Dj. I have to admit I have a problem with the way these releases were done. It didn’t give people the opportunity to pay attention to them and that is quit a shame considering how spectacular those songs are. More fanfare should have gone into the release, make a bigger deal out of them. Even the consequent showcasing of the music video to the song ‘Msafiri’ was done as an afterthought. In the future there should be more that goes into releasing singles and music videos.
Talking about music videos, I ran into the guy that starred in the most jarring two minutes of video footage that is ‘Usiku Mbaya’ (I reserve my fuller comments on that particular piece for another occasion). Apparently this fellow, calls himself Karris, has known Rash from its fledgling years, and he’s the one that connected them with their drummer Gakosh.
Jonah Mwendwah’s big red Bass Guitar is back in the fold, haven’t seen that monster since the first platform 7 last year at Daas. Apart from a few off key moments, we get the same tight performance from Rash band.  I wasn’t happy with the pace at which some of the songs were done, especially Darkness and Witchcraft which I’m disappointed to say is always rushed and we don’t get to relish it as much. Something that I must commend however is the effort Sam Warui makes of changing things up vocally, every time they play live, that dynamism makes every show for us regulars something of a new experience, which I wish bands would do more. Sometimes when you’ve been going to shows a lot, you wish bands would bother to add in some variety to their performance and not just belt out the same shit every time.

photo credit to ‘Dagitari Wawira’

The moshpit itself was threadbare for most part of the show. You had moments where you had the time to throw in a conversation. Sure it got crazy but I don’t think it came to life quite as much as it did when a traitor like Judas came on. There was a sort of marshalling that was going on, their lead vocalist came on, perched himself across the frontispiece speakers on the edges of the stage, and as one would stand on the ledge of a cliff, he called out, as if commanding the waves. The ebb and tide, masses of eager spirits, frothing with sweat at their crest, like the ocean waves, crashed on the short edge of the stage.      worked up that crowd, manipulatively using stage dives and circle pits to great effect. For the first time, I avoided that swirling whirlpool in the name of a circle pit after an affectionate fist connected with my left eye socket. I got torn up, slammed and spit out with little left to me but my dignity. But you enjoyed that torture, we turned into boxer dogs, on the edge of a leash, a leash that never lost its choking embrace every time we lurched forward, we endured pain for the sake of one night’s pleasurable release.
Once A Traitor Like Judas were done with us, you felt completely wearied, I myself had only enough breath left in me to shout out to two pieces by Last Year’s Tragedy, March from the Underground and Generation Light. Like a bird in a cage, id beaten enough of my wings against those iron bars enough for one night.
There was time later on for a chat with Issa Khalid and Dj Eddygrim. The latter had some choice bits of information on how the entertainment industry works. He got to answer some of the puzzling questions I had, particularly on why he doesn’t play more extreme music on his Friday show on Xfm. A lot of what he had to share was said in confidence so I won’t betray his trust. The upshot of it however is that you can’t mix passion with business. And honestly, our necks and backs still hurt, phantom as it may well be, it was a metal night. We cannot forget to thank everyone that worked so hard to put this show together, especially Rico of Hardcore Help Foundation, the sound and lighting crew, photography and the bands that came out to play. More importantly the fans that  supported and keep supporting the cause. this is just the beginning of a long journey. Long live rock and roll.

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