Auslese has a buzzer on its gate – an addition which makes the low-key elegance of the Hope Street venue feel all the more exclusive. After the hassle of finding parking (and parking like a boss on the pavement) the gallery-like interior proved to be a sanctuary of calm.
The band looked nowhere near to starting, to our relief; and were chatting to the scattered guests and drinking wine. We took hungry gulps of our welcome drinks, the Peter Falke Blanc de Noir, possibly the most delicious rosé I’ve ever had, a fresh, well rounded blend that wasn’t too dry or sweet, with hints of strawberries and cream. The starter was a pretty bite size morsel of a clean tasting cheese and asparagus ravioli with pine-nuts which went down a treat with the rosé. Somehow I’d expected chairs and tables, but instead there was a circle of seats around the band area, putting the heat squarely onto the band’s performance.
As it turned out, they loved the heat. Within the first five minutes, it was obvious that Simon and the Bande à Part comprises three of the most experienced, comfortable, confident, skilled and chilled musicians in Cape Town. From the first note, the music flowed seamlessly.
Simon van Gend’s voice is clear, unfaltering and real, while his acoustic guitar work is so smooth as to be unnoticed. Eric Michot’s bass is an extension of himself, and blends with van Gend’s guitar to create a sound so obvious and natural that it feels right at home in one’s chest. Drummer Ross Campbell is spot on time every time, keeping the pace consistent throughout, and with a confidence that is truly beautiful – alternately energetic and sensitive.
In trying to pin them down, I first found myself likening them to REM. One song on and it was UB40, then Simon and Garfunkel, but then came a deep and very satisfying plunge into Nirvana and Soundgarden. Folk happiness bobbed up here and there again reassuredly. Six songs in, the audience was theirs; never mind what genre it was, it was delicious.
Van Gend and the others chatted easily with us, sharing more and more jokes every song break, but not in a bad way. The best were those that involved pastry. Ask Michot for more details.
The main courses were meaty. Meatballs, mussels and roast pork with tasty vegetable and nutty accompaniments provided a satisfying, tasty and interesting meal which I would categorise way beyond the advertised “tapas” description. The Glenelly ‘Glass Collection’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 was also amazing, smooth but flavourful with blackberry notes, a perfect match.
The second half of the performance followed with more vigour, and took us deeper into the tapestry of beautifully put together songs with an impressive complexity of chord uses. Evidently real care has been taken to construct these songs and to create interesting progressions, something of great value in contrast to the “three chord theory” often employed by folk artists.
Dessert was a delectable plum tart with an ice cream so creamy it should be winning awards. It matched the evening: rich, flavoursome and indulgent. With their concert series, Auslese has moved beyond its aim to perfectly match food and wine, and has brought music into the fold. As with food and wine, music not only needs space, but provides it. It takes us to our own world a-part.
Simon and the Bande à Part at Auslese took place on 27 March 2014.
Marie-Claire de Villiers
Marie-Claire de Villiers is a singer/songwriter at www.soundcloud.com/marie_e, and composer, producer and music sourcer at Imagenheart Productions.