“The place is kind of hard to find… like it normally is with G-spots,” laughs Lulu le Roux, Amberblack’s vocalist, as she organises lifts to the esteemed muso hang-out in Wynberg. And indeed, it is hidden away in the heart of the ‘burb in an apartment complex. Once there we head into what is actually the owner’s lounge and the band starts setting up their instruments, transforming the place into a joint where musicians exchange ideas, share skills and, of course, jam. In fact, the spot has become so popular that bands have to book in order to perform in the dude’s living room.
The place is soon filled with old-school rocker types and Amberblack start the first part of their set. It doesn’t take Lulu long to dazzle the crowd with her charismatic charm and husky blues voice. Despite complaining of toothache minutes before the gig, she exudes an energy reminiscent of legends such as Janis Joplin. It feels like I just popped out of a time machine into a smoky underground bar of the 1960s.
Yet the band proves that they are more than just a facsimile of past legends. The reggae song ‘From Me to You’ demonstrates that they are innovative and diverse. Lulu’s voice gives it a bluesy touch but the styles of the rest of the band allow it to transcend into a beautiful blend of genres.
Another song that stands out is ‘Gypsy’, which the band had a bit of difficulty with in rehearsal. But at the gig everything seems to run smoothly. The song could quite possibly become Amberblack’s signature melody. It’s not hard to believe Lulu when she sings: “It’s a gypsy experience that only you and I know” with her red wig and furry hat.
A lot of their lyrics are romantic, even corny. “We only want to sing about positive things,” says Lulu. Performed with vigour, however, the corniness is quickly forgotten and the songs turn into bewitching ballads of emotions that many of us are dying to set free.
After the visibly talented drummer Joerg blows his listeners away with a one-of-a-kind drum solo, Amberblack take a break before they play the second part of their set, which consists solely of cover songs. Hearing this I feel apprehension steal over me as I wait for the band to start again. What a disappointment it’ll be if it turns out to be a load of wedding band sing-a-long-songs! Happily, the energy of the first half is quickly resumed… though this could be due to an increase of alcohol consumption. And soon almost everyone is dancing on the carpet between the couches on whatever space they can find.
Amberblack is a healthy mix of individual talents and characters. Lulu charms with her deep and dirty voice, Keith adds some funk with his creative guitar riffs, Pete keeps everything steady on the bass and Joerg makes it interesting with his experimental drum beats. Definitely not your hip student band, Amberblack convinces with sincerity, musical genius and a classically infused style. After the gig I leave content and feeling special, because I was at this “spot” that is so hard to find but so full of pleasures once discovered.
Amberblack played at the G-Spot (a secret location in Wynberg) on 22 June 2012.