Tilt Republic. Johannesburg. New York. Cape Town. London.

SynergyLive and the American Wet Dream

The crowd was thick with alcohol, anticipation, and opiates as the chill of the Pniel-driven winds coursed through their limbs. For this throng of dusty rockers, it was the epitome, the dénouement, the finale of festivales twenty eleven.

The focus of their fervor darkened as moments later the twang of distorted chords filled the air. It had begun.

As the headline act, hailing from some godforsaken village (Miami) in that Great Land across the seas, The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club appeared on stage amidst much mist, obtuse lighting and an appreciative roar from the masses.

This was Synergy Live 2011‘s coup de grâce. And simply put, it was disappointing.

Before you biker-hipster bastards take a knife to my throat, it’s not that I didn’t like ALL their music. Yes, there were parts where BRMC sounded much like the bastard child of Jack White and Liam Gallagher might if Courtney Love churned it through the American Wet Dream and regurgitated it into my eardrums, but I did enjoy Beat the Devil’s Tattoo, which, if memory serves, they did first, after which everything else blurred into mediocrity.

I think my expectations were too high. Nope, that’s not it — I clearly remember expecting them to suck. I just hoped that they wouldn’t, but they did – looking like they’d just stepped off a 7000mi flight, suffering from a lurid mix of jet-lag and tequila-induced hangovers.

As the headliners of a fest that I and 7213 other lost travelers enjoyed the balls off, they simply left me wanting more. Actually, not more so much as something different; better. Something more ShadowClub, less Justin Beiber.

I know they’re a three-piece band and the stage was probably a bit too big for them, but they NEVER moved. They just stood there, caught behind their superficially thin safety nets -cum- microphone poles. The drummer looked like someone had stuck a drumstick to the chair as a practical joke – she was that stiff and -presumably- uncomfortable.

It is with not a word of mirth that I say the lighting had better stage presence.

Now, I am quite a lover of dirty-blues high-energy rock ‘n roll in all its blistering-riffs-ground-shuddering-baselines-boom-boom-dishy glory, so that BRMC left my ears naked and unfulfilled, splayed unceremoniously before them, desperately yearning for that little bit of inner-ear-orgasm that just wasn’t to be, is quite frankly, baffling.

In a desperate attempt to save the night, I told myself that The Narrow were the headliners and BRMC were just their encore, but then again I’ve always loved The Narrow – Hano’s operatic undertones translating particularly well in their own brand of vocal-driven hard rock. To be honest, with the notes of “Lonely Lonely” ringing wistfully in my ears, it would have taken an internationally acclaimed act to truly top them… *cough*.

If I were to go looking for excuses for my melodrama, they are there. My disillusionment may be blamed on the particularly icy air that by 12am Sunday morning had all but kicked the stoke out of me; or that I had way too little alcohol in my system; or possibly, that I’m simply getting too old and a day hanging in the sun was enough to make me a grumpy little shit. But really? Who looks for rationale mid-rant?

I feel it’s pertinent to convey that, contrary to popular belief, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club just aren’t that cool. I’d even go as far as to posit – they embody everything wrong with American indie-mainstream music culture –  polished & smooth with an overwhelming stench of commercial stagnation, they made me seriously regret taking my Sennheiser’s out of my bag when I went home for a mid-fest shower (yes, I’m that guy.

Oh what I’d have done for the sounds of ShadowClub, Maylene or He is Legend.

I mean, who travels 7647.67 mi to be THIS irrelevant? Their sound was formulaic, their stage presence: horrible. They looked like a troupe of mannequins from a Harley Davidson shop lip-sinking to Britnopop, awash in expectedly awesome lighting and drowning in mood-mist.

They did have one saving grace: “Stop” appeared on one of my favorite series, Sons of Anarchy, but they went and ruined that when they gave their souls to Edward.

In conclusion, if I can leave you with anything, let it be: give ShadowClub a listen. They’re South African born-n-bred, belt their own medley of dirty, rock ‘n roll-infused ear-sex and they’ve just released their first full-length “Guns & Money“. To get a taste, check out the latest single – Good Morning Killer.

So remember kids, if you ever want some goddam filthy rock ‘n roll, lend your ears to the sounds of The ShadowClub. Let the Great Land keep their ‘Rebels.

3 Comments

  1. Martin Evans says:

    Some big words there.
    Frankly I thought they were great. But then I only watched half of the show before cowering in my van and getting some well needed shuteye.

    Having watched the bands from the side of the main stage. I was not overly impressed with every act. I thought that the sound and lighting were superb for the BRMCC. The fact they do not move around much doesn’t distract from the performance. I enjoyed Kings of Leon recently and they moved less than anyone.

    On the whole I think Synergy Live should be commended for bringing a band out that so many people did enjoy.

    Look on the bright side. Your ticket was free.

    • That the ticket was – and I really appreciate it – thank you! I probably didn’t communicate it as well as I’d have liked, but I loved the festival – just not BRMC so much.

      I agree -the lighting and sound were superb. They were polished and tight and sounded like a very loud studio recording. I simply expect international bands to at least have stage presence – to put on a show – otherwise you’d be better served sitting at home with some decent headphones. Having great sound just doesn’t do it anymore.

      If you enjoyed the music, that’s something I can’t take from you. I didn’t, but that was already glaringly obvious.

    • biker hipster bastard ;)