It was the last installment of the 2015/2016 Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts, and the usual crowd of beer-drinkers and champagne-sippers had trickled onto the grass when The Vanilla opened the show to warm daylight and the buzz of concert-goers’ chatter. Their music is characterised by distinctive vibey tunes and a spunky, almost African sound that’s definitely pleasing to the ear.
The four-piece band from the Northern Suburbs is still young in terms of both age and performance technique though, so although they confidently strum their guitars and sing their own songs, they have yet to master the balance of connecting with the audience while enjoying the show. It’s not that the band made no effort with the audience at all – in between songs, Tyan Odendaal (lead vocals and guitar) gave shout-outs to the crowd and occasionally prodded the concert-goers to clap along. The audience tried to be enthusiastic, but the lack of familiarity with The Vanilla’s music meant there were only bursts of energy when they played covers such as ‘You Can Call Me Al’ and ‘Stacy’s Mom’. They also decided to end their act with the ever-popular theme song ‘I’ll Be There for You’ from the comedy series Friends. That said, the mention that the band’s latest single, ‘Out of Here’, was produced by the December Streets’ bassist shows confidence in their potential.
When the December Streets took the stage, lead vocalist Tristan Coetzee, with his mint-coloured guitar and laid-back style, called for the crowd to make their way to the front of the stage before their set even began. By now everyone was clearly more comfortable and the group in front slowly grew. The Pretoria-native band surprised with their cool sound and interesting use of instruments. A trumpet and saxophone made an appearance alongside the usual keyboard, guitar, drums and bass. They played some of their new songs like ‘Young Love’ and ‘Santa Fe’, which was particularly enjoyable for its jazzy rock sound. Their most popular song of the night, ‘I’ll Try’, almost failed to create the right impact when miscommunication between the band members resulted in a miss of the drop beat. However, they handled it like seasoned performers and did not disappoint the concert-goers singing along and stomping their feet.
By the end, darkness had descended upon the gardens and the cold air swept the crowd back to their cars for warmth. It was a good show and not a bad way to spend the last hours of the weekend, but perhaps because of the slight disconnection between the crowd and the bands or the realisation that it had been the of the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts, the night ended on a sombre note with the knowledge that summer days have passed for now.
Jana du Plessis
December Streets and The Vanilla performed at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden on 3 April 2016 as part of the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts series.