Tour diary: South Africa 2013, part 5
It’s been a month since the last show of the tour. Memories have blurred into one kaleidoscopic frame. I’ve recounted our adventures many times over. I find myself saying I need to get back there soon; that I felt safer than I had prepared myself for and that South Africa was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had through our music.
5 October, Live, Durban
The six-hour drive to the coast was restful: sporadic dust devils churned either side of the highway and an 80s playlist lulled us into intermittent dozing. Somewhere in the unchanging, dramatic topography, we woke to see The Narrow negotiating a fine with a dubious traffic officer. Settling the debt upfront is preferable to going to the local station, though everyone understands it’s unlikely the municipality will receive the payment. Best to keep some cash on hand.
When we arrived in Durban, we were behind schedule. GPS errors led us down dimly lit streets and past crowded taxi ranks; the contrast of our SUV coasting by depressing scenes of poverty startled us. Quite suddenly, it seemed, we rounded a corner and were at the venue - a huge space with a theatre-like stage, mezzanine floor and a wall of framed live photos of commercial rock bands that The Narrow assured us sucked.
Our last show. Everyone was tired - surely Hanu most of all, having played multiple roles as booker, promoter, tour manager, band manager, driver, host and performer. I found him backstage slouching absently in an uncomfortable-looking chair, having just returned from checking us into the hostel to learn that half of an unconfirmed two-man opening act had turned up unannounced and was presently setting up on stage. There was a deep well of “I don’t care” in his eyes at this news. And if Hanu didn’t care, neither did we. If anything, the labourer sound check and amusingly irreverent performance allowed us all additional time to summon the fortitude to leave everything we had left to give to South Africa on stage that night.
When the mics were turned off and the house music faded up after our second-to-last song, I was furious. An honest mistake considering our set wasn’t familiar to the engineer and we hadn’t provided explicit directions beforehand; but as the band exchanged wild glances our exhausted bodies surged with the frenzied energy of a cornered animal. I yelled to the back of the long venue over the swelling noise. I waved and stared. I wouldn’t be robbed of the last thing I wanted to say to South Africa.
Thankfully, the room returned to silence - then we utterly and completely filled it. For five minutes we packed it full of our effort, our aspirations, our friends, our family, our jobs, our sweat, our bruises, our asthma, our hunger, our riffs.
This tour was the highlight of 2013 for us and one of the most significant experiences in our career. It was made possible by the generosity and support of Hanu De Jong and The Narrow, the De Jong family, Monster Energy South Africa and Jägermeister South Africa. We are also grateful to Turning Tricks Entertainment and the musicians we performed with. Thank you to the people we met and audiences we played to who shared their amazing country with us.
Tour diary: South Africa 2013, part 4
Earlier in the week, we visited Tuks FM at the University of Pretoria, a well-known community radio station which has been significant in the careers of many South African artists and broadcasting professionals. Most of the staff are volunteers. They were eager to educate us about the local scene, describing the musical family tree of seminal Afrikaans alternative rock outfit Fokofpolisiekar - a band name that transliterates nicely into English. The station hosted a live-to-air with The Narrow and a young fan from the Reach for a Dream foundation. It was a humbling testament to the band’s relationship with their followers.
4 October, Arcade Empire, Pretoria
The anticipation for this show was high. People had described Arcade Empire as one of the top venues in the country and Pretoria is a stronghold of The Narrow’s fan base.
For a band of retrogamers like us, it was a great atmosphere: Super Mario Bros. World 1-1 wall art, Street Fighter II and Metal Slug 2 machines. While we played, the more diligent independent musicians among us set up the merch table and would manage this throughout the evening themselves, conscious of the accumulated value a few t-shirt and CD sales a night adds to a tour budget. Bassist Jow Feldtmann set a good example for the rest of us at these shows with his patience and professionalism, engaging fans (and hagglers) at the table, sipping moderately at his drink, dextrously taking the stage and quickly returning afterwards to pose for photos and sell another t-shirt.
Backstage there was a mix of home advantage sassiness and quiet reflection as we readied for a brawling show, primed by Show and Tell, Apollo 7 and Only Forever. Our set felt weighty; riffs and grooves resonated with this crowd. We were surprised by the reception but paused only to plug back in cables torn out of pedals or to suck down a couple of chestfuls of air as torrents of sweat filled our eyes. Voight-Kampff, Two Hundred Sixteen, Dihex, Helix, 11811, The Grid, Reservoir. By the end of it, I felt like I looked.
To the locals, every song The Narrow played was an anthem; they belted each chorus - some were tattooed with lyrics. I was determined to capture a moment with Vine as free and reliable Wi-Fi is rare at venues. It was difficult to penetrate the front rows.