Barleycorn Music Club, Villagers, Claremont, 12.09.11

The last time I visited the Monday night Barleycorn Club Music sessions was about 5 years ago when it was still held at the Rygersdal Sports’ Club in Rondebosch. A friend was playing a guitar duo set with his brother so we went along to support. Unfortunately it was a pretty painful evening because the artists were so amateur needless to say, I hadn’t been back. So when I was invited back this evening to the new premises, Villagers’ Rugby Club in Claremont, I was VERY hesitant to attend.

With a promise that it wouldn’t be ‘that bad but rather good’ I decided to be forgiving. Being a rainy day I was told the slap chips were rather tasty so if the music was horrible, I would at least enjoy something! Well I have to say that the music was FAR better than I had anticipated. Not far better, far far far far far far next galaxy better! I know amateurs need to play in public but the truth is, no one wants to pay to see people who aren’t any good! That’s why professional musicians exist, we pay to see their hours of work through their music!

Well today’s gig was really great with a variety of artists, all up and coming, who were playing with the most important reason, passion. They’ve practiced and applied themselves to their music and although they aren’t South Africans greatest bands (yet), they all delivered a very respectable, creative performance. Starting with the Manny Walters trio (apparently from Somerset Set) John Legend is the first influential artist to come to mind. The three piece, 2 guitars and a sax gives the group their own unique touch. The trios sound was also beautifully balanced which added to the pleasure of listening to them. Ironically, the lead single from his EP ‘Pictures’ wasn’t actually his best song, the others were far more entertaining and concise, definitely check him out if you like neo-soul music.

Next up was Emma Du Preez, WOW! Captivating is the only word I can use. I suspect she has spent a lot of time playing with lyrics, not only in writing but in delivery. The intonation and dynamics of her music made listening to her seem a breeze as she playfully sang the words with as much delivery intention as a monologue. Really well executed, the Mouldy Peaches and Eva Cassidy come to mind as possible influences especially after her duet with Stanley Zine on an ukelele. Usually one is painfully aware that a new artist is playing their own music, not in the case of Emma Du Preez. MORE young artists need to spend time playing with the sound of their words and not fall back on the cookie cutter delivery so many fall back on in order to sound ‘professional’ and first world. Emma sang with joy, not taking herself too seriously and absorbed the audience into her sweet tweeky voice, humour and quirky style. (LMG solo female singer favourite Natasha Meister: look out!)

Unfortunately one of the bands was unable to attend the gig tonight due to a broken hand bone so Jasper Dick, one of the organisers, stepped in with his solo guitar act. I was intrigued by this lyrics, speaking of farming and war time, I wondered if he’d been inspired by some classic novels or if he had actually grown up on a farm or experienced war at some time? None the less, his folk music story telling was told through his ample guitar skills.

Finally the evening wrapped with with blues roots group Sixgun Gospel, not a gospel group but rather a southern inspired blues band. They all seemed to be having a very good time but so much so that I thought perhaps the lead singer had had a few too many toots by the time she climbed on stage! She danced with such enthusiasm from the first song, I’d wondered where the party had started! None the less, after ignoring the over enthusiasm, it was fun to watch a South African band taking such joy in exploring the Southern American style.

Overall, my first and last Barleycorn Music Club experiences couldn’t be more black and white (Thank God). It is also important for new bands to up their game by playing with other competent bands. If every group plays the abc’s of grade 1, 2 & 3 then their art isn’t forced to improve quickly, which is what is required to be a successful band. Audiences aren’t interested in waiting forever for your group to improve, there is too much competition. I am happy to say that I will certainly be back in the near future to enjoy some more up and coming proudly South African music.

P.S The chips at the kiosk were more than delicious! Burgers, simple calamari, schnitzels were all on the menu at ridiculously low prices. Very fresh, clean and tasty!

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