It is almost impossible to have avoided hearing a Zebra & Giraffe song at some time over the past five years. Be it on the radio, on television, or live at some or other festival – this band has been everywhere. They chose the Assembly as the Cape Town venue to launch their brand new album Knuckles – which you can now order on iTunes.
Upon entering the venue, it was clear that this was not your average Friday night at the popular local club. Sponsors RayBan and Honda Music had gone all out on the experience front, and created a station for haircuts (which Zebra & Giraffe frontman Greg Carlin confessed to having visited) and another where a man appeared to be having a tattoo inked on, right there and then. Surely not? Surely the tattoo was only temporary? No, it was real, all right, and the man being inked was none other than Z&G’s own bass player, Stefan Henrico – aha, that’s why Carlin was standing in a corner, having a good giggle to himself.
The opening act for the night was Cape Town’s own Reburn, who treated the gathering crowd to some songs from their second album. Although not as well known as the main act, they managed to hype up the audience very well with their interesting style, which could be described as ‘funk-infused reggae indie-rock’. Their vocals and style are noticeably influenced by certain British indie-rock bands, and indeed one song in particular reminded me a lot of Scottish band The Fratellis’ hit ‘Chelsea Dagger’. Happily the bass player’s choice of a Joy Division shirt did not fulfil its destiny with a spontaneous cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.
Fresh from last Saturday’s slot at the I Heart Joburg festival, alongside international acts like Panic at the Disco and Fall Out Boy, Zebra & Giraffe proved that a club environment is where they are most at home.
Thrashing on his guitar and moving about with as much mad enthusiasm as the tiny stage would allow, Greg Carlin led his band through a stream of both old and new songs. Of course, the greatest cheers were for the earlier, better known songs including ‘The Knife’ and ‘The Inside’, but this does not mean that the band have stopped making good music. In fact their new single ‘Dancing’ is one of their best yet. Their new style is slightly different – slower in parts, more forceful in others – but it works. They have most definitely graduated from the band that joked somewhat bittely, “No one’s here to see us” when they opened for The Killers five years ago; nor are they the same band that played to a half-empty student club in Grahamstown in 2011. No, this band has grown in leaps and bounds, and with their latest offering, Zebra & Giraffe are sure to cement themselves once again as one of South Africa’s best.
By the time the last notes of final song ‘Pariahs’ echoed through the club, Stefan Henrico’s fingers were pouring blood onto his strings, and Greg Carlin dripped sweat from his face onto his slick-looking leather jacket, but they look absolutely thrilled. And they should be.
Zebra & Giraffe performed at The Assembly on Friday 12 September 2014.