aKING’s "Against All Odds" album launch, OR "The Boredom That Beats You"

I want you to look at the above and think about what Andy Warhol is saying. Note the use of the term “the idea of”. He’s not saying that “waiting for something makes it more exciting”, because even he knew that that was a load of crap.

In my role as “journalist” for the University of Johannesburg’s English language campus paper – the UJ Observer – I have turned in a handful of reviews; mostly of clubs and restaurants. I’ve never been asked to do anything more than that; never been asked to do anything that was truly worth waiting for. That, I felt, might change when I was asked to attend Cape-based ‘spin-off’ band aKING‘s album launch and review not only that gig, but also their new album: Against All Odds.

Not particularly a fan of their music, but willing to let myself be impressed by what I’d heard was a fantastic live performance, I accepted the “assignment” to attend last night’s gig, hosted at Back2Basix in Westdene. Before heading out I recruited a close friend, whose opinionated interest in local music I was keen to zero in on. Besides, entrance was free+1.

Once we’d arrived, the night took on the mood of a scene straight out of Waiting for Godot.

aKING’s mission statement as a band apparently involves creating a pop rock sound that sells. Marketable music as opposed to, I suppose, the Afrikaans punk-inspired sounds of other associated bands like Fokofpolisiekar. By writing English radio-friendly music, I suppose aKING is trying to tap into whatever South African market exists beyond the Afrikaans rock scene. And good on them for trying.

Ironically, the band seems to rely more strongly on the fanbase they’re attempting to escape, as was indicated when opening act Wrestlerish’s lead asked if there were enough Afrikaans-speaking people in the audience for him to get away with speaking Afrikaans on stage. The response seemed to indicate that, English or not, aKING is drawing the same old fanbase, competing, in part at least, with itself.

The gig was set for 8pm, which was probably an unrealistically early timeslot. Everyone knows bands take forever to set up and, hey, I was willing to give them an hour and a half before the opening act took to the stage. Two and a half hours later and Wrestlerish climbed the stairs to the stage, did their soundcheck and did whatever the opposite of taking off is.

Their songs grew increasingly repetetive and three songs in I hoped they’d do me the favor of stopping. Unfortunately, they had more to say, so by the time they were done it was approaching 10:30 pm and still I hadn’t seen any indication that aKING was planning on taking to the stage. Despite everyone else enjoying a good few beers to get in the mood, I – armed with my empty water bottle and snarky sense of humour – was less than impressed. If I’d paid the 50-odd bucks everyone other than the ‘media’ needed to get in, I probably would’ve been offended that the band I came to see hadn’t surfaced. I didn’t even get the feeling they were around, though that might have more to do with the fact that I don’t really have much of an idea of who/what I’m looking for at these things.

When aKING eventually appeared, their performance was your standard “pretty good”. Impressively same-y and consistent, but still showcasing the band’s talents as musicians. Their songs are, as they themselves admit in their Facebook write-up, “pop rock”, and so it depends how much you like that kind of thing. Nicely enough, some of the intelligent lyrical depth one might not expect from other pop rock acts seems to have filtered into their songs. They’ve described their sound as “an audio diary of life and survival in the suburbs”, which is probably a suitably bland description of what they’re selling, though every other song on the album is catchy enough to get you at least tapping your foot. It’s nothing I’d slap on in the car, but if I accidentally passed it on my way through radioland in the car, I might – maybe – stop and give it a listen then.

I now have to take what I’ve put up here and translate it into a short, 300 or so word piece summing up the album launch. Then another for the album. Wish me luck.


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