Aces ‘n’ Spades is the newest place in Cape Town to throw itself on the mercy of the fickle herd which determines who makes it in the nightlife scene, or who breaks.
It officially opened last weekend, following a very special first night event at which former Just Jinger front man Ard Matthews launched his new solo album.
Let’s talk about the venue first. It used to be Boo Radley’s. Little has changed in terms of layout, but the redecoration is extensive. It’s a long narrow place, with a bar almost entirely down one side, with a seating area on the other divided by a wall with faux stained glass windows depicting iconic sugar skulls.
In this seating area, there are leather ottomans and banquettes, wooden barrel tables, and comfortably worn Middle Eastern carpets. One wall is wood panelled, while the other is painted black, covered with a collection of stunning and striking black and white photographs of different sizes, in different frames. Upside down table lamps hang from the ceiling.
Above the bar, lights are incorporated in to a looping tangle of thick ropes, and the centre piece on the leather-upholstered wall is the head of a wild boar, or warthog; my knowledge of such animals is sketchy, as is my familiarity with models and the like. Apparently Kate Lovemore, Playboy Playmate in March this year, was at the Ard Matthews party. I know this only because a photograph was posted on Aces ‘n’ Spades Facebook timeline. In fact, I know less about models, clothed or not, than wildlife; heck, I can’t even recognise Heidi Klum unless she is with Seal.
The other celebrity I spotted that night was Masterchef SA judge, restaurateur, chef, consultant, author, teacher and long time friend Pete Goffe-Wood, who is a big fan of Ard’s. He and more than a 100 other fans packed themselves in for this momentous occasion, which was his first performance in Cape Town with his new backing band, The Ard Matthews Affair, comprising John Ellis (Tree 63) on guitar and Josh Klynsmith (Gangs of Ballet) on drums. Ard of course handles vocals and bass guitar.
The new material from the album First Offerings once again reiterated what a superb song writer Ard is. Just for fun, they threw in a brilliant reworking of one of Just Jinger’s biggest hits, Shallow Waters. The intimate setting allowed Ard’s personality to shine as brightly as his songs as he chatted easily with the audience, explaining why he has branched off from JJ, the reasons for playing the music he loves, and sharing anecdotes about a certain major music radio station which we all know plays favourites when it comes to local music, despite what the listening public wants.
Before the show, we were hanging out in the back alley smoking cigarettes (which is not as bad as it sounds – there are chairs, tables and a pretty chandelier and it’s a darn sight better than hanging around on the pavement out front where you can’t take your drink – and Ard said he had had an early night in preparation. “Yes – asleep by 2.30am, I am amped!” he quipped. So rock and roll, dude.
It was a great night with a much loved musician playing to an appreciative crowd in a gorgeous new venue. My only concern is that it might teeter on the edge of becoming a hipster hangout, but only time will tell.
Photos: Ian Skene