The Gardens took a while to get Rocked

As I reported/reminded sometime ago, New Young Pony Club were coming to South Africa. Then they did, and I was there to see it. I liked their first album back in 2007 and have yet to check out all of their 2010 release, but I knew I wanted to see them and get down to disco. They play pop that you can dance to. I happen to like pop, and I happen to like pretending I know anything about dancing.

I bought my tickets before I’d even given the rest of the lineup a good look. When I finally did, I noticed that Rocking The Gardens would be providing me with the best of SA’s radio-friendly pop rock acts… and Tidal Waves. I wasn’t going to make it to Day Two, so this lineup was all I had to work with.

Speaking of the two day fest concept: When I attempted to buy my tickets at the local Levi’s store, I was informed by a store clerk that “they” only dropped off tickets for both days. So I couldn’t get my “Saturday Only” tickets there. This epic ball ache was, I presume, the work of the organizers, who may have felt they might not draw as epic a crowd on the Sunday as they did for Saturday, and so decided to force the hands of those who lacked either a credit card or the energy to find an alternative. Nice work, guys. Real smooth. Thankfully I rectified that (with somebody else’s credit card) and we were off!

I walked in halfway through the day, during Tidal Waves, and absorbed the usual laid back tunes they bring to the stage while preparing myself for party mode. The Dirty Skirts followed, providing everyone present with the sounds of their vocalist having a seizure on stage. Despite playing music I’m not the biggest fan of, Jesse Clegg did a pretty good job of sounding like he does on the recordings. Even if he’s not your cup of tea/coffee/beer, he’s at least not grating to the ears during his live act. Prime Circle followed, letting us in on another strong live performance to music that didn’t necessarily rock my garden. Then came Zebra & Giraffe. I stand by the fact that these guys make really fun pop music, the unfortunate side effect of which seems to be that they fail to be able to play it properly on stage. It’s disappointing to see the South African band that opened for The Killers (an extremely tight outfit on stage) still scratching at my ear area with their performances. I actually hope they improve considerably, so they can live up to their own hype a bit better.

The weirdest thing about the day’s lineup is the disparity in style and audience between NYPC and pretty much everybody else that played the event. It’s not to say that the organizers weren’t aiming for that diversity in the musical offerings, but the issue seemed more noticeable when you considered that a large chunk of the audience seemed to exit stage left after Zebra & Giraffe finished their run. Maybe this was fueled by worries about the impending rainstorm that never arrived, or maybe some people just had no idea who the last band on stage were. Did they think they’d get out while the going was average, rather than sample something they’d never heard before? The crowd that stayed behind was certainly dotted mostly with people who seemed to know what it was they were seeing/hearing. Anyway…

New Young Pony Club makes hot pop music that you can dance to. They did not disappoint to provide exactly that. At times the vocals seemed cloudy, like lead singer Tahita Bulmer was singing from somewhere underwater, although I think that had more to do with the sound engineer she spent the first few songs in constant sign language communication with, rather than a lack of talent. She displayed characteristic sex appeal, energy and foot-twisting moves during every song, slowing down only to throw a canned birthday message to someone in the audience. As far as I’m aware, South African crowds are notoriously self conscious in front of bands, and so it made for a slow start from the hivemind. Things picked up when the band played their big hit “Ice Cream“, and then pretty much never lost their pace till NYPC went off stage and left a bunch of people clapping “we want more” over and over for no one in particular.

Despite not returning to the stage for an encore, which would’ve been unnecessary fan service anyway, New Young Pony Club was still the belle of the ball. That really is what Rocking The Gardens felt like anyway: a well organized event with a dry turnout and lopsided atmosphere. Least we got another international act on one of our stages again. A good one at that. Too bad it took so long for the gardens to get rocked.

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