A queue starts on the corner of Long Street and spirals all the way up to the second floor of The Manila Bar. My first thought is echoed by the casual, time-killing small talk of the people around me. Where did all of you come from? And where the hell have you been every other night that rock n’ roll has transpired in our city? I can only guess. There’s no reason to be hung up on that tonight though. Many of Cape Town’s best musicians (too many to mention here in full) are offering up their tribute to The Queens of the Stone Age and we all want to know if they will be playing our favourite song.
When you finally reach the top the heat is immense and it bears its weight upon the audience. Manila is near capacity. The night starts off slowly with Kieron Brown (Bam Bam Brown) and Nicolai Roos (The Sleepers) laying down ‘This Lullaby’, a thick, atmospheric ballad. The crowd seems coiled spring-tight and ready to explode and when ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’ starts things truly kick off. Hundreds of people shout “Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy and Alcohol” and stutter along on “C-C-C-C-C-Cocaine” in messy unison. As it ends Jeandre Swanepoel (De Wallen) quips, “I hate it when you start a set off with your shopping list.” The crowd erupts, and will continue to do so all night at the slightest provocation.
Dave Van Vuuren (Southern Wild) follows with a powerful rendition of ‘Vampyre Of Time And Memory’ baring his teeth against the backdrop of deep blue. He makes it clear that he considers this one of the greatest songs ever written and shows an ironclad knack for translating that conviction into sound with his ever-recognisable timbre. You can feel the goosebumps forming on people around you.
All the QOTSA staples have their turn, but B-sides are thrown in for good measure. One of the most obscure is a cover of ‘New Fang’ by Them Crooked Vultures sung by Kieron Brown with no vocal punches pulled. Seeing as how the original band features one member each from Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age it’s an ambitious move. Fortunately everyone on stage proves themselves to be up to the task time and the crowd stays ravenous.
Short and sparsely spaced breaks serve as the signal for everyone to light their cigarettes at once. The murk of nicotine, marijuana and a touch of flavoured vaping, mingles with the undeniable stench of sweat. It reminds me of the iconic clubs that fictional shows like Vinyl are constantly reminding us existed, but that most of us have never witnessed. It’s a fantastic experience. I consider that this must be what religion feels like.
Chris Bornman (Stoker) belts out the lyrics for ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like A Millionaire’ and brings with it the first of many crowd surfing moments. As the first song on “Songs for the Deaf” there’s a lot of sentiment here. Most QOTSA fans remember the first time they heard the maniacal screams erupt from what I’d assume was their mini Hi-fi at the time. Near the front someone shakes up their Windhoek Lager and sprays the foam up into the air and now there’s gold on the ceiling. A small red shoe is flung from the front, narrowly missing my face, but no one emerges to lay claim to it – evidence of the evening’s priorities: Music first, fashion second.
What made this night special was that this show was not about simple emulation. Firstly, it would stand as Exhibit A in the case for local musicians and their incredible talent. Secondly, those hard-earned abilities are channelled into some of their favourite songs with personal twists to all them. The evening elevated music that most of us have only heard through speakers to a real world setting where it lives and breathes through our rich community of local musicians and fans in equal standing. Clearly there’s a massive love for rock n’ roll in this town and one of the evening’s great objectives was to encourage support for our local scene and attend more shows. With a show of this calibre, I have no doubt that will work.
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