Review: Folk ‘n’ Acoustic Music Festival

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folk n acoustic festival kirstenboschFor those who don’t know about the Kirstenbosch tradition, let me introduce you: middle class chillaxers gather under the mountain to listen to music, get tipsy, and invoke the feeling of Ubuntu. This is the lazy conservative’s version of the ‘feel-good-to-be-part-of-the-human-race’ trance-party.

If that sounds critical, it’s not: I love trance parties, but I love to be part of this too. These Kirstenbosch events fulfil all that they promise, and by halfway through, the warmth of being part of Cape Town humanity had taken over me again.

Michael Lowman began the music with a shaky start but found his feet in his second song ‘Crayon Boxes’, which was recently part of a TV ad and satisfied the sweet pop craving. Then Joshua Grierson and Inge Beckmann took to the stage and the air changed.

Bringing these two incredibly powerful solo artists together was like fighting fire with fire; dancing with fire, at the least – in a very good way. The first song was Grierson’s ‘Fighter Plane’, a love/loss/maze of perception song. Even without Beckmann’s vocals, the original song furrows a deep groove in the wood of one’s aural and emotional conscience. With her higher harmonies and almost operatic Lark voice running over Grierson’s deeper tones, I was transported; the veins of my heart taut.

Beckmann’s ‘I Belong’ is an ode to the ancient ancestors of Cape Town, written specifically for this concert. It melted its way into euphoria, and I’d prefer not to write too much about it for fear of ruining your experience when you hear it.

Josie Field and Laurie Levine brought us back to earth sweetly with their pretty, happy melodies, before Manouche got our energies up again. This swing, jazz, and gypsy band lit up the stage with an incredibly polished set and even brought in a little Afrikaans rap which somehow fitted perfectly.  Manouche is a tight act – upbeat, trained, professional instrumentalists with a lot of talent – and wow, they are sexy.

Human Highlight #1 on the lawn was provided by Woody Allen’s lost twin asking a young couple next to him if they had a blunt for him.

Albert Frost gave us a professional melodic rock set which included the “song about a chick leaving you” – with some blues humour about her coming back in a ball-gown after two months with a “How ’bout it?”. Tony Cox then offered us a break from vocals with a mostly instrumental set that was simply sublime. Smooth, beautiful melodies, seamless playing and a guitar extension of himself all happened almost imperceptibly, they were so natural.

Natasha Meister, whom I watched being born on a grimy stage many years ago, is known as the “queen of blues” to many, but she is now trying too hard to sound like Alicia Keys, in an attempt to throw something new into the mix. No doubt after playing the same flawless blues riffs with her guitar and her voice for so long, she wants to offer listeners something fresh, but her update is less original and has too much groaning. By all means she should play around with some new ideas, but personally I hope she doesn’t let go of her ‘old’ self which came across as more fundamentally genuine.

Highlight #2 was watching a few couples attempt to be less bored with each other by unpacking thyme-flavoured biltong and other such ridiculously pompous foods.

Marc Fransmann gave us the song ‘Just for You’, which was pretty, and then Jeremy Olivier introduced a song which tells a personal story of despair and hope. A baby boy, found abandoned under a bush, was offered to him and his wife who had recently miscarried twins. The song was from the two women’s perspective – the biological mother and the adoptive mother – and was beautiful and very moving.

The band Beatenberg performed a playful set including ‘Chelsea Blakemore’ which went down well. The trio of Guy Collins, Gerald Clark and Luna Paige finally satisfied those who needed blues in their bones – a real blues set! – with a banjo, country riffs and some real grit.

A two foot blondie swordfighting his imaginary friend with a plastic fork also provided me some entertainment (human highlight #3).

The last act was a duo of Arno Carstens and Albert Frost. This real, thick-textured rock was a perfect culmination to the evening and to the lighter sounds of the previous artists. They ended off with ‘Galaxy of Blue’, a big anthem that had the crowds standing, waving and swaying, while the toddler in front of me showed his old-school parents that THIS was how to headbang properly.

Marie-Claire de Villiers

The Folk ‘n’ Acoustic Festival took place at Kirstenbosch Gardens on 16 March 2014.

Marie-Claire de Villiers is a singer/songwriter at www.soundcloud.com/marie_e, and composer/producer and marketer at Imagenheart productions.

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