From the outside, The Assembly does not look promising. The outskirts of the upcoming ‘Fringe’ district still look pretty dingy at night and, set amongst a cluster of run-down buildings, The Assembly would be an easy place to bypass altogether. Upon entering, one would be forgiven for assuming that this is not the kind of place you would want to be found hanging out on a Saturday night – the place is dark and creepy, graffiti adorns the walls, and a staircase seems to lead to the middle of nowhere… but climb these stairs and all initial misgivings are sure to vanish. It’s an absolutely amazing rock venue.
And that’s an important point; The Assembly is better defined as a live music venue than a club. The stage is the main focal point of the room, and the floor is not so much populated with drunk revellers bopping to the latest dance tunes, as occupied by serious music fans who in the case of Vanfokkingtasties were already lining up their front-row spot a good two hours before the bands were even due to start.
In place of bar tables and benches, comfortable couches line the walls of the venue, and are dotted around the rest of the room seemingly at random. The darkness is broken only by a few coloured lights set into recesses in the walls – and of course from the iPhone screen of the occasional bored hipster. The DJ’s playlist is also impeccable, ranging from Gotye to The Gaslight Anthem, and other bands that one feels cooler just for having heard of.
But we were there for Vanfokkingtasties – a conglomeration of four somewhat incestuous Capetonian bands. Take Van Coke Kartel, Fokofpolisiekar, aKING and Die Heuwels Fantasties – and you are left with the oh-so-eloquently-named Vanfokkingtasties. And having come up with such an arguably brilliant nomenclature, it’s a happy chance that they more than live up to it.
First up, talented rock band Die Heuwels Fantasties opened the set. Let’s face it, Afrikaans music has a reputation for being cheesy, but these guys should not be dismissed by English-speakers simply because they sing in a different language. Regardless of whether you understand the lyrics this band makes good rock music, end of story. They were joined on stage at one point by aKING frontman Laudo Liebenberg, whose vocals added to the power-rock emanating from the stage.
aKING then opened with a slightly slowed-down version of their older song ‘Facebrick Constellations’, then upped the tempo with a couple of more rock-infused songs before launching into everyone’s favourite, ‘Safe As Houses’. They were the only one of the four bands to sing in English, but the Afrikaans rock fans present knew all the words to the songs and seemed just as excited as when they had been listening to songs in their mother tongue.
Van Coke Kartel are surely the absolute highlight of this tour. Lead man Francois Van Coke’s passion for his music, is matched only by his fans. There were times when Van Coke did not even bother to sing, but simply held out his microphone and let the crowd get on with it. They had no problem with this, the lyrics spilling from their mouths as though they’d been singing along to these very songs all their lives. VCK ended their set with the head-banging tune ‘Vir Almal’, which had everyone in the house jumping, singing and screaming.
At one point during Van Coke’s Fokofpolisiekar set, the stage became too small to hold the personality of this manic frontman, and he promptly dived headlong into the waiting arms of the fans for a spot of crowd surfing. Whilst the chant of ‘Fokof, fokof, fokof’ might have had a rather different meaning under other circumstances, here it was a chant of adulation and a plea for more. And indeed, Fokof returned to the stage several times, much to the delight of the legions of fans.
Whether you are English, Afrikaans, Zulu, French, Spanish or Chinese, I would urge you to take in a Vanfokkingtasties show. The 13 men that make up these four bands understand what makes good rock music. By 2am, when Van Coke had finished swinging his microphone around by its cord, when bassist Wynand Myburgh had stopped just short of smashing his instrument against the stage, and when darkness had taken over from the flashing lights on stage, a couple of hundred audience members were left milling around with happy grins, swapping detail of the next fix of this fantastic local music.
Vanfokkingtasties played at The Assembly on 26 May 2012.