4.5 Tour – Johannesburg, ZA – Cool Runnings, Victory Park

Review written by Max Barashenkov

The jungle parts, two gorgeous dancers emerge, a shaman stalks out from the undergrowth, he rams his voodoo stick into the middle of the stage – something bestial is about to begin – and then, with a guttural howl, Submachine erupt into an orgy of experimental punk.

The animals in the audience, urged by the shaman, lose their shit in seconds and a messy pit engulfs Cool Runnings in Victory Park. It’s like dual-percussion assault on your senses, a down-tempo dirty beauty that sends your ass grooving with unexpected guitar sounds and the tightest drum play ever. There is a healthy dash of neo-rockabilly to the Submachine madness and, according to Bruce Dickinson, just the right amount of cowbell. Ultimately, it’s the black-facepaint splattered percussionist and demon drummer that really blow your mind – at a point one of them is in the crowd, a floor tom up in the air, and he is punishing it with spectacular fury. Some might dismiss Submachine’s voodoo stage show as a gimmick, but they would be fools to do so, because, by fuck, it works – completes the band’s sound and sets them miles apart from the general pool of SA who-spilled-glue-on-stage outfits.

In the break between the first act and Gross Misconduct, while people collect their limbs and guzzle drafts, one has time to take in the venue – and why the fuck don’t we have places like this in Cape Town? Bar, restaurant, solid stage and sound, decent backstage space, a good atmosphere – not too classy, not too trashy – and, most importantly, the will to host three punk bands. Hats off to Keith McKay from Chronic Events for organizing perhaps the best show I’ve been to all year.

There is something SoCal about Gross Misconduct, almost borderline Offspring-y, but harder, darker, more meaningful. Sadly, they are too bar-chord driven to display any real songwriting ability. At times they slip into faint post-hardcore and here the vocalist really gets to show off his range. The guy nurses perhaps the best voice on the SA stages at the moment – he goes pitch-perfect high, then easily drops to a hearty growl then levels it off with throat-tearing crustiness that guides and informs the band’s general feel. It is a let down that the rest of Gross Misconduct is not on the same level, both musically and in terms of stage presence. That being said, they are catchy enough not to bore you and hardcore enough to keep you at the stage, but after the Submachine carnival, it’s just not sufficient. The people love them though, so we are really just being cynical music journalists here.

After that, it’s all down a glorious booze-tinged hill – the Hogs lay waste, the dancefloor is a mass of churning bodies and then, like a phoenix, the song ‘Crack Whore’ is resurrected as the soundtrack for George Bacon pouring booze down the throats of the skanking half-sane monkeys. The night dissolves into a rum fueled bliss…