[REVIEW] #AbsolutBlackBox Transformation Vodka Party

I never like to read other bloggers’ reviews, before writing my own, for fear of having my opinion or experience influenced. However, when I saw Chris from the Whale Cottage‘s blog post, “#AbsolutBlackBox Cape Town Launch an Absolut no, no, an Absolut disaster” I couldn’t resist reading it. (That’s a great title for you!)

The reputation of Whale Cottage is one I’ve always been curious about as I first learnt of the blog whilst hearing how horrible the people were who ran it! Coming from a radio background, I took it with a pinch of salt. It’s always one person’s word against another in the blogosphere. As far as I’m concerned, “there’s no such thing as bad press” and with 25 000+ Twitter followers, the Whale Cottage is obviously doing something right.

Vodka bottle on ice, white swizzle sticks, absolut vodka bucket, black box on blue counterI’ve never met Chris of Whale Cottage but whilst at the #AbsolutBlackBox event on Friday night I recognised her and thought, “That’s the Whale Cottage lady. She looks a bit on the old side to be here but hey, maybe she’s just rock n roll! Good for her.” It’s a free country after all, isn’t it?


So I was I was intrigued by her post but after reading it I was shocked, curious, disappointed. I don’t believe the “Perez Hilton” method of blogging where bloggers slate people online in order to create hype and publicity. And I feel the Whale Cottage review was a bit like that. I mean, to call the event a “disaster”, where people killed? Was there a lack of booze at an alcohol event? Did the tent fall down? ACTUAL disasters? No. So let me share my experience of the event as well as address some of Chris’ observations.

Firstly, I loved the venue. Yes, Chris is right, there were pot holes in the tar mac and the tent was white. But I loved parking in a place where I didn’t have to walk a million miles to get back to my car; it was safe and convenient. I liked the little canal bridge and enjoyed the square blown-up tent. It reminded me of the EDM floor at Rocking the Daisies, it’s fun. Whilst I appreciate having a white tent at a “black box” event is a conflict in branding, it’s such a “first world problem” that I can’t be bothered to write more about it.

Artist CollageUpon arrival, as Chris said, my name was also excluded from the list. Simphiwe from Capacity Relations was at the front door and knew exactly who I was and gave me a warm reception. Since Capacity Relations only confirmed my competition winners at 6pm I thought I’d better check they were on the list. Simphiwe knew the exact names and happily confirmed their place. Bloggers aren’t invited to events because PR people think they’re interesting, they’re invited for their audience. I could be a leper and they’d still invite me as long as I was Tweeting about it. But if you ask me for my time then I expect yours and by Simphiwe being at the door, immediately knowing where I fit in and confirming my guests, I was happy.


Chris also made the observation that it was like Johannesburg had come to town. This was 100% correct but, once again, it was a branded party. What did she expect? Although I agree it would have been nice to have spoken to someone from Absolut, these events are always what you make of it as far as I’m concerned. I expected nothing less than a “Joburgesque” type event with lots of people worrying about everyone knowing who they were. And with Chris name dropping in her post, I wonder if this wasn’t what she was after? If I wanted to have a party then I wouldn’t have spent my Friday night at a PR event.


AbsolutBlackBox DJsAs the sun set more and more people arrived but by 9pm I had decided that the party would fail to launch. Irrespective of the free vodka, I wasn’t disappointed, as it was a networking event. If they had other intentions then they would have extended their guest list or made it open to the public. As I said, it’s a brand activation, not the party of the year. DJ Mighty played an all vinyl set and perked things up after non descript deep house set the tone.  In an unexpected twist Spoek Mathambo did manage to kick the party off. The dance floor filled and people were making a good time of it. I could see they weren’t really music fans and didn’t know what most of the songs were but, again, I wasn’t surprised as it wasn’t a music event. These people are there to network, not rave the night away.


Chris had mentioned that the food had been pretty terrible and that serving noodles in a polystyrene cup wasn’t pleasant. Now if I’d bought tickets or paid for a meal I would have been livid! But they’re free snacks! Not the Taste of Cape Town. I loved the fact that I could eat something that wouldn’t end up all over my hands. I was intrigued by the cottage cheese rolls that kept being doing the rounds untouched and whilst standing with a chef I learnt the tomato gazpacho was nothing to write home about. So do we want free food or no food?


My one disappointment was that the press release had said, “…watch [the] night transform into a party…” which didn’t really happen. Each artist had their own corner in which to perform their art and that was it. I had hoped Falko would be spray painting the walls and floor whilst the photographer took shots from the ceiling! I didn’t quite get the transformation I had anticipated. None the less, I enjoyed the art factor and liked the model skulking around between attendees without having our attention drawn into an actual fashion show. 


White square tent, people silhouette in front of cityChris made mention of the lack of celebrities – thank God! I can’t stand going to event and having to pretend to care about some over televised pop star. I enjoyed that there were more “real” people there than playing “J&B Met-J&B Met”. I thought it was a good space to meet people and have real conversations. I spoke to Irma G and Tapfuma Makina of Heart 104.9FM as well as Falko, Hyphen and other media types. My thought is, “It’s a free party, “If you don’t have anything nice to write, don’t write it at all” when you haven’t actually paid for anything. Do bloggers reserve the right to slate events that are free opposed to just viewing them for what they are?

Overall, I enjoyed my experience at the #AbsolutBlackBox. The drinks were enjoyable and no one got hammered, there was ample seating, the music wasn’t too loud, Frank Latter on visuals, photographers working, friendly door staff, the toilets were clean. Food’s always a bonus but not a necessity. Really, for a work event, I couldn’t have complained. Perhaps this is where I’m wrong? Maybe Chris is correct in expecting it to be the best brand activation and party of the year? I’d expect a +10 to make that happen 😉

Perhaps Chris’s expectations are too high and perhaps mine are too low? As someone who spends their life in clubs, I know these events are never about the music or integrity of the artists, that’s why I don’t bother writing about it. Perhaps because Chris comes from the marketing and hospitality background, she has higher standards for what brands should be representing? I’d love to live in her world where those standards are exacted! But for now I won’t hold my breath and simply enjoy the events for what they are. I enjoyed my night at the #AbsolutBlackBox and thank Capacity Relations for having me.

1 Comment

  • Stu Shapiro says:

    I'm not one for words, I'm more of a visual person. Photography specifically. So in a short, sweet and to the point manner, Thank you for the good read and review


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