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A festival where the family’s welcome

It’s been six consecutive years that I haven’t missed the White Mountain Festival. From the very first year this small but fabulous festival grew on my heart like a woolly moss you might find growing in the mountainous area.

Originally started in 2006 as an alternative for the more sedate Splashy Fen fans, and organised by the same group, C-Weed Productions, White Mountain, situated at White Mountain Lodge just outside Estcourt, was intended to cater for families and folk fans.

Word spread almost immediately after the first festival and soon it was attracting a healthy crowd of around 2000 music-lovers, which is about as big as it will get. I couldn’t help but compare my latest visit to my recent trek to Oppikoppi. Though White Mountain may involve music and camping, it couldn’t be further removed from its’ northern counterpart.

For one thing, you can replace the hard, red dust with green verdant pastures and picturesque mountains. The setting is truly stunning. You get a feeling of peace as soon as you drive into the main camping area, which is equipped with basic ablution facilities – also unlike Oppikoppi. (If you’re lucky you may even score a hot shower!)

With a single main stage where the majority of the action takes place, the pace is leisurely. There’s no need to rush around to see your favourites. It’s best to grab you gear and get comfy in front of the stage for the day.

Around you you’ll find people napping, sipping on cold Craft beer from Notties Brewery or coffee to keep off the mountain chill. You’ll see toddlers shaking their nappied tushes to the tunes. You’ll see old friends laughing in camping chairs and new friends being made around the bonfire. The food selection isn’t huge but what’s there is hearty – homemade potjikos, delicious shwarmas, vegetarian curry, pizza and giant burgers! Continue reading

New venue plays its cards right

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. Continue reading

KZNPO’s mobi hits the high notes

In an age where classical music seems to be dying out and national orchestras not always well supported, it’s exciting to see that the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO) has a mobisite. Embracing digital media to market their brand is a major step in bringing classical orchestral music to the masses.

The overall design of this mobisite is great. I like the look and feel a lot. The colours and images chosen really suit the KZNPO brand of class and sophistication as well as creativity. The buttons and tabs decorated with music notes especially are a cute touch that endeared the site to me immediately.

As far as content goes, there’s quite a lot going on here. That said, it’s all valuable. The About Us section details the history and current state of the KZNPO, lists the musicians and staff, advertises vacancies by instrument and gives all relevant information on booking the KZNPO for functions.

 

Under the World Symphony Series, you’ll find event listings for all up-coming performances in the series. I was impressed that this was kept up to date and each event had comprehensive information on the works to be performed etc. This is definitely one of the most important areas of the mobi. This is the info music-lovers will most likely need on the go. That said, there’s an ‘Featured Event’ button at the top of the Homepage too. When clicked, you won’t find anything there. This led me to believe there were no performances, until I looked under the World Symphony Series section. In the same area is a Photo Gallery button, which also currently has no pics. Granted, pictures probably aren’t high on your priorities for this mobisite, but I’m of the opinion that, if the button/tab exists, it should take you somewhere/ serve a purpose – otherwise, get rid of it.

The Community Engagement area is also chocabloc with valuable content from their youth development strategy to (very interestingly) and invitation for new scores!

Under subscriptions, you’ll find everything you need to know in terms of buying season tickets, including a full price model and benefits. This, to me, is also an extremely important area. Maybe so much so that it needs a flashing ‘Buy Tickets’ button on the Homepage? Just a thought…

Overall I think the KZNPO mobisite is well designed and contains a wealth of information – though sometimes I feel like it’s a bit wordy for a mobile platform. They should consider reworking some of the blurbs so that people don’t need to read quite as much to get the point.

8/10

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Tuks Student Buzz – Uni hangouts in PTA

Each student town or city has a unique learning environment, just as much as they have a particular after-hours party scene.

Pretoria is no different and historically, the hub of that party scene has always been located in Hatfield.

Close to most campuses and within walking distance of most res accommodations, the popular Square continues to attract young learners from all facets for regular entertainment from concerts to parties and festivals.

Still, as the city sprawls outward toward the East, students are travelling as far afield as Passion & Ridgebacks in Centurion to find a good time!

Top 5 Cape Town Music Venues

When it comes to live music in Cape Town there are a handful of excellent venues that have emerged over the years to become renowned for showcasing local, national and international talent, in genres ranging from rock to acoustic, electronic and even jazz. Some of them have long since established their reputations for top quality shows, while others have arrived with a bang on the local entertainment scene.

1. The Assembly

There is no other venue like this in South Africa. Not content to simply supply the city with top quality local and international bands, solo performers and electronic artists, The Assembly goes a step further. It’s not just a venue. Their website is crammed with awesome content that elevates its’ status to an institution that takes the time to really promote the artists who perform on their stage and continue to entertain their patrons outside of the venue.

2. Zula Sound Bar

Over the years Zula has hosted some of the country’s top artists. After a major relocation to larger premises at the end of 2011, Zulabar, as it is fondly known, has stepped up its’ game with bigger shows, better promotion and more support for artists. Add to this the fact that it’s located in Cape Town’s buzzing Long Street district and the fact that you can also enjoy a tasty (and/or healthy) breakfast the morning after and you have a winning recipe!

3. Mercury Live

Mercury is a bit of an institution in Cape Town. Many of the country’s greatest music legends played their first shaky chords in this grungy spot. If the walls could talk they’d tell you tales of Jack Daniels benders in the backstage and Black Label hangovers on the dancefloor. Mercury is still a breeding ground for up and coming talent and a good place to knock back whiskeys and listen to dirty blues.

4. The Waiting Room

Cosy and unpretentious with retro decor and lighting, the Waiting Room is situated above the well-known Royale Eatery – famous for its’ gourmet burgers and such. Originally intended simply as a holding area for the restaurant’s overflow, this laid-back meeting space has become a venue in its’ own right. Enjoy a diverse array of sounds from local DJ’s every weekend or sample some (mostly) acoustic sounds from South African bands and artists every Tuesday.

5. The Brass Bell

Not quite inside the city centre, but a legendary spot in its’ own right, the Brass Bell has a bit of everything, from delicious food, served from one of 5 different areas, to magnificent ocean views. After 30 years this venue continues to expand and develop, but regular live music has been part of its’ repertoire as far back as the 80s when greats like Johnny Clegg and Wendy Oldfield graced the stage.

Oppikoppi aint for the faint of heart

It was Thursday morning and the town of Northam was already swarming with would-be revellers collecting last minute supplies from ice to toilet rolls and wetwipes and making the most of that last toilet stop. (Boy, if I’d only known then…)

It was clear from the onset that this was not just a gathering, but a full-scale production. From the massive entrance to the moneyless cards we carried all weekend, you can be sure it was all Oppikoppi branded.
After collecting our armbands in an orderly fashion, we proceeded to get lost for the first time on the campsite roads. We had a map. We tried bravely to follow it. But the map and the corresponding bushveld are just not as compatible as one would hope.

Fast-forward about 20 minutes of blasphemy in the bushveld and we found our friends and the campsite. After hacking through thorn bushes and massive tufts of stubborn grass, we cleared almost enough space for our accommodations. Time to get lost again on the way to the entertainment area. You’d think it would be easy. The koppie is visible from all around, but somehow those sneaky, dusty roads kept getting the better of us.

Getting into the festival area involves crowding through one of three underground tunnels, which can leave you, at best, gasping for air and at worst, in the midst of a claustrophobia-induced panic attack. Not my first clue that Oppikoppi aint for the faint of heart.

With two stages requiring fairly substantial climbs to reach and the other four stages (yes, SIX!) spread out in a long row around the base of the hill, physical fitness (something I’m not familiar with) is a definite bonus. The performances are excellently scheduled so that there are minimal clashes. At this point I must mention the incredible Oppikoppi smartphone app, which I downloaded a few days before. For as long as my phone had battery, it was a total winner! After marking all the bands I wanted to see, the app would send me little reminders before each show. The map and stage schedule were both put to great use. Continue reading

Live brings new life to Durban

Durban is often criticised for its’ seeming lack of live music venues and support of local (and international) acts. But it’s not as simple as opening venues and marketing them to the right people. Even successful venues have folded due to issues like noise complaints, licencing concerns and people who refused to pay entrance fees. Recently a new venue has appeared on the local landscape and has been getting all the right kind of buzz from the difficult Durbanites.

Live The Venue has turned the traditional idea of a nightclub/ live music venue on its’ head by creating a blank canvas dedicated to live performance of any kind – a concept that may be just the remedy for the struggling artists of Durban.

We spoke to Bronwyn Kingsland about this family business with a difference!

Safindit: Who are the people behind Live the Venue?
Bronwyn: Live The Venue is a family business owned by the Kingsland Family. They also own their own professional sound company called Kingston Sound which specialises in live performances.

S: Tell us about the inspiration behind the venue and how it came to fruition?
B: We are in fact a platform for performing arts, and each and every event that is hosted at Live The Venue has to have a live entertainment element to it. We do not believe in simply putting a few Dj’s on stage and selling shots of liquor. Our family has a passion for the live entertainment industry and this project is one very close to home for us.
Live the venue is a converted warehouse, and the entire conversion was done by family members and members of the Kingston Sound Crew. Not one single outside contractor was bought in on this job. From building decks to the installation of new toilet facilities and the sewing of over 2000m of velvet curtaining, Live The Venue certainly holds a place in the teams heart.

The inspiration came from visiting a few venues in Durban and surrounding areas for live acts, and noticing they were other too cramped and not all the clients could see the performances, or on the other extreme, the venue would have a capacity of thousands and a few hundred would drown in its bareness. It was also noted that the quality of the sound in various venues was not up to scratch, and the atmosphere was often dark and depressing.
It was then that we saw a gap in the market. We would team up with our professional crew at Kingston Sound, and partner with Slingshot Productions to put on top-class acts in a new, vibrant, modern yet not pretentious environment . There are so many great bands and artists that have superb talent that deserve a platform to perform on, that will compliment their acts. This is what we aimed to provide.

S: What makes Live the Venue unique?
B: Live is unique as it cannot be classified into specific genre of entertainment. The venue is designed to accommodate for varying performances from comedy, cabaret, and fashion shows to rock bands and product launches. We have even hosted a 25-piece swing band on our stage. We believe this will prevent Live The Venue from getting stale and customers getting bored of the same thing week in and week out. Continue reading

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Barmy for the Barnyard – Get out, Get down!

Few South Africans are able to resist the allure of a night out at their local Barnyard Theatre.

From humble beginnings in the sleepy town of Plett, The Barnyard brand has grown to include eight theatres across South Africa and has amassed a loyal following in each venue.

Locals have come to love the familiarity and comfort of the Barnyard and can’t get enough of the variety of all-singing, all-dancing productions constantly taking place in their areas.

From rocking in the free world to the swinging 60s, 80s Icons and Disco Divas, you’re always guaranteed a fun night out, laced with a hefty dose of nostalgia!

Get your kicks in the Karoo

Want to get away from it all, but with the option of either lazing around all weekend doing nothing, or having a bit of a jol? I have just the place for you.
The Barrydale Karoo Hotel is about two and a half hours drive, without stops, from Cape Town on the legendary Route 62, which runs all the way to Port Elizabeth – a scenic and infinitely more interesting alternative to the N2. Okay, well not exactly on the route itself, but down the sudden and unexpected right turn off the wide place in the road that is the Barrydale most people know.
From Cape Town you take the N1, turn right at Worcester and right again at Robertson. This puts you on a very long wine route, one of the longest in the world, they say – which is always a good thing.

The Barrydale Karoo Hotel is one of those beautiful old-fashioned small town places where the locals all hang out in the bar and are very friendly (sometimes overly so), where visitors come to loll in the gorgeous lounge areas decorated in quirky queer style (lift the cushions on the chairs, if you’re not a prude). There are just 15 individually created rooms. Some are basic, some are more extravagant, all offer comfort, peace and the creature comforts you need, like tea and coffee. This is not, however, the hotel you come to watch TV in your room.
I’ve been there three times in the past year, each time in the company of musicians playing gigs in the bar, so by definition, they have not been entirely relaxing trips. Continue reading

Opening up the Studio Doors

There’s a chance you might wander past Openroom Productions only to spot your favourite band getting ready to lay down some tracks.

Previously based at the SABC studios, Openroom Productions made the move to an unique venue in Greenside about a year ago, creating a space where musicians and fans alike can experience the recording process.

Headed up by Darryl Torr, who has a string of accolades and awards to his name and has recorded some of the biggest names in the industry, Openroom has defied the odds in a world where traditional studios are no longer the norm.

We chatted to Darryl about his new space and the business of making it in 2012.

Safindit: Openroom Productions has evolved to become much more than a simple recording studio. Can you tell us a bit about the different aspects of Openroom Productions?
Darryl: We believe all things audio are relative and should be of the highest quality, from TV to radio including live broadcasts at different venues.

S: What did you have in mind when you decided to relocate to Greenside to a really visual space?
D: We really wanted a public friendly space that would bring something different to the way people see recording and the audio world.

S: What kind of experience did you hope to give artists in this space?
D: One that was more creative in an environment that allowed for it. Continue reading

Singin’ the blues while the lady cats cry

Who doesn’t love the blues? Not the kind most of us get on a Monday morning, but the music genre that has its roots in the deep south of the early 19th century and has influenced hundreds of musicians ever since.

With its basic 12-bar chord progression and repetitive narrative lyrics, it’s a sound that comes from the heart and soul. There is a certain amount of gut-wrenching sadness in the blues, but it fulfils one of music’s most essential requirements: it makes you feel something.

Not only are the blues the foundation of many other genres like jazz and rock ‘n roll, but it lends itself so well to collaborations and jamming between like-minded musos. If your blood runs blue, you can get a regular fix of this magic in action at Mercury Live, on the second and last Thursday of every month.

The Bluestown Sessions have been running regularly since September last year, organised by Charlene “Charlie” King, herself an accomplished blues singer, songwriter, promoter and all-round hard-working tireless champion of the blues.

The venue, Mercury, is of course also something of a legend, a decades-long supporter of the local music scene. Everyone who is anyone has played that stage, and crammed themselves into the tiny, dingy backstage area with its graffiti-covered walls, tatty couch, guitar cases and bottles of Jagermeister.

There have been nights when we have packed in there like sardines for some of the biggest names in South African music – and some internationals too; and others when it takes on a completely different atmosphere and vibe. Like for the Bluestown Sessions. Continue reading

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Rocco de Villiers Favourites – for the finer things!

Rocco is far more than an instrumentalist. This dynamic pianist and composer has built his own brand around his music and lifestyle.

Fans of Rocco might spot him lingering around his exquisite dreamhome in Parktown, Johannesburg more often than not, but when he does leave the house, his tastes are equally fabulous. As a self-confessed cocktail connoisseur, Rocco loves nothing better than to relax in luxury at the Mount Nelson with a decadent drink in hand.

When he feels the need to escape from the city, he does so at the rustic Tambotie Tented Camp in the Kruger Park and when it comes to performance time, he likes nothing better than stepping up on stage at the Theatre on the Bay in Camps Bay.

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On the Jol in Durbs – Your guide to Durban Nightlife!

In Durban, new clubs and venues spring up like colourful flowers in the holiday seasons to accommodate & entertain the many tourists and July season is the most manic!

As we speak thousands of people are descending on the sunny shores of Durbs, putting the final touches on their designer outfits and making sure they have the perfect matching killer dancing shoes for a weekend of non-stop partying.

In that spirit, we’ve put together a collection that July revellers can use as a party guide for the weekend. We found out where all the biggest parties were happening and, whatever your taste in music or vibes, you’ll find a venue in here to suit your tastes.

Use our listings to connect via Twitter and Facebook to get up-to-date information on this weekend’s festivities!

Fans will Follow the Empire

Arcade Empire stormed onto Pretoria’s live music scene in April 2011 promising something fresh and they have continued to provide just that. After more than a year of hard rocking and partying, the club will be moving into even bigger, better premises but not before two more massive blow-outs this weekend with PHFat and Desmond and the Tutus.

Fans can look forward to the Grand Opening of the new venue on 20 July with FREE entrance and performances from Van Coke Kartel, Taxi Violence and more.

On the eve of their big move, we speak to Robert Perreira about the journey so far…

Safindit: Who are the people behind Arcade Empire?
Robert: Well, it’s truly a very long and very interesting story, but the basic answer would be, Robert Pereira(the catalyst, I Love P-Town, M-Pire Music) and Chris Rautenbach (Hotbox Studios) started this concept and have recruited a rad team to help make things epic. Another man we cannot forget is Mr Etienne Ehlers, without whom this would never have been possible. We’ve had awesome people get involved throughout the club’s short existence, such as Henk van der Schyff who is co-bookings manager at the moment, Christo von Mollendorf who makes sure the bar gets people partying, Zelda van Staden who administrates everything that needs to be on paper, since guys suck at it and from outside, we have had great projects with the guys from Doktrine OntwerpGriet, Tomorrow Never Happened, Postbox and… if I’ve missed a few, sorry!

S: Tell us about the inspiration behind the venue and how it came to life?
R: Another long and interesting story question! Well, basically the whole idea was to create a hotspot for artists and musicians to perform and entertain without having to give in to sub-standard infrastructure and promotion, and to give the public the benefits of the aforementioned. We always try to keep things changing and fresh to keep people entertained as much as possible, which is part of why we are moving to a bigger, better venue in the very near future.

S: What factors did you consider regarding the location of the club?
R: The current location has always been great for us as there is not much to disturb with our “loudness”, and it has a big enough space to really go all out in the parking lot! Continue reading