Crash Test Dummies Gig Review: Nostalgic Rain

Denim shorts, scorching heat and okes peaking.


All photos by Henry Engelbrecht

Hillcrest Quarry. Scorcher of a day. Mid-to-late afternoon. Got the festival backpack on with a few essentials, or so I thought. Then some guy walks past me with a CHAIR that doubles as a backpack. Now, I feel vastly unprepared. My mind wanders to thoughts of disappointment. He’s probably got six different kinds of cheese in that chair bag, biscuits I’ve never seen before made out of seeds or something and spring water in a concealed Camelbak within said chair bag.

Nevertheless, I continue my descent into the pit of live music. I catch a glimpse of the crowd below and everyone seems super mellow. Lots of denim shorts. Note to self to get some denim shorts,  seem to be all the rage. I see blankets and people scurrying around on said blankets. I can hear Wonderboom. Almost picture-esque.

Hillcrest, for those that haven’t been, is a sick venue for live tunes.

Then I get a whiff. A small one, albeit, but unmistakable.

Nostalgia.

Arriving at the end of Wonderboom’s set was disappointing. Having followed them for the last few years I’m sure it was a quality way to open-up the evening. Everyone seemed to be well on their way through their picnics and beverages.

Another whiff of nostalgia. This is definitely a 90’s skop. I’m pretty sure I saw a pair of LA Gears and Lee jeans shuffle past me, but I couldn’t be sure. As I said, lots of denim.

aKing then entered the fray and brought their usual sense of attitude to proceedings. ‘Catch Alight’ always gets people to stand up and have a headnod, myself included. The bar was particularly well received during their set. It was slick though, easy to handle and navigate. This is important to me, as I’m sure you.

To the point, I heard some oke say to his mate – during aKing – “Jassis bra maar ek’s peaking”. This was about 17h30. So, yes, the bar was running well and aKing’s performance got people pretty amped and pretty sloshy for upcoming events.

Bed on Bricks. Clearly not their first rodeo. Hell, these guys were / are as tight as ever. Ridiculously tight. Slapping bass, staccato nommers, clinically-timed pauses and this underlying essence of Chili Peppers meets South African angst. Flippen cool. More people dancing. Bar two or three deep. Still slick. People leaving their shoes in piles on their picnic blankets now, tossing away the confines of decorum, the city and safe feet in lieu of letting go. Handing themselves over to the tunes, man. Nostalgic odours have very clearly been replaced by Vodka-Red Bull’s and the odd wacky backy at this point.

I was super impressed with Bed on Bricks. Those guys cranked up the afternoon in a big way and the peeps responded. Def a repeat visit to one of their gigs. Tight as f***.

With everyone sufficiently warmed up, the man of the hour, Brad Roberts, appears like an enigma. The band was made up of South African session muso’s, barring Stuart Cameron, the guitarist, that came out to SA with Brad. They did a damn fine job, so we can be proud. Brad’s voice is unmistakable and I’m sure just hearing that, “Hey!” did enough for the nostalgia-laced fans lining up in the front row to feel 20 years younger. Still the same powerful bass-baritone we know, which is assuring.

A few tracks in and Brad made it pretty clear he’d be playing a few more of their lesser-known tracks before they get into what everyone was waiting for. Instead of the nostalgia waning, it only spurred it on.

Once we heard the opening guitar for ‘Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm’, the nostalgia peaked. Sing-a-long of note. “Waaaaaaoooonce, there was this kid who…” Mass satiation.

Bringing Brad to remark that he felt most of the people in the front knew the words to his songs better than he did. It’s been a long time since the fame of the song and he was probably right. ‘Afternoons and Coffeespoons’ also elicited some chorale, and ‘Superman’s Song’ is always a heartfelt, ‘gaze into the distance and look thoughtful’ kind of tune (note – Quarry walls with projections happening – pretty sick).

A fake ‘thanks for having us’ and then extended encore made the die-hards even happier. But after a long day in the sun where ‘el vino did flow’, some of the younger members of the crowd started their trek out of the quarry to avoid traffic. Back in the 90’s, things weren’t so clinical and I think Brad knew that. People were more mellow. So, the encore really was for his original fans from the early 90’s I guess.

Mr. Chair Backpack got a little stuck in the crowd on his way out (I mean, the chair frame does stick out a bit) and had to do that weird side-on walk-shuffle thing. This isn’t the 90’s anymore pal. People travel lighter these days. Even if it’s good to go back there from time to time. This was one of those occasions.

So, I suppose Mr. Chair Backpack was warranted and I may have been a little jealous. My back was sore. Perhaps I’m showing signs of secretly being a 90’s child at heart. This was a 90’s jol. Should have brought a chair backpack.

Good on you, Brad. You’ve still got it, some 25 years later. However, Bed on Bricks almost stole the show. But nostalgia reigned supreme and you brought it.

Now, anyone heard anything about Pearl Jam coming out? That’s a 90’s trip worth petitioning for. Someone start a movement before it’s too late.


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