Driving along Ou Kaapse Weg towards Noordhoek for the first time you would be forgiven for thinking that you were being led, well, up the garden path. A long and winding road, framed on both sides by nothing but mountain, the road removes you from the confines of city life, only to deposit you firmly in the suburbs, where large lawns and white picket fences abound and every second house plays home to the perfect 2.4 children.
And indeed, Noordhoek’s Cafe Roux remains undiscovered and undisturbed by the trendy youth of Cape Town, hosting instead a down-to-earth older crowd in search of some quiet music and good food with which to while away a Saturday afternoon. Set in a quaint, old-style farm village, the cafe is half restaurant, half outdoor music venue, and classy enough to impress on both counts.
In throwing live music and food together, you risk attempting to combine the concert crowd and the foodie crowd, with potentially disastrous results: “I wish everyone would pay attention to the band!” from the die-hard music fans, versus “I wish these guys would shut up so that I can eat,” from those more concerned with the food. This makes Cafe Roux’s music sessions all the more interesting… and surprising. Because somehow they manage to work.
The menu boasts a range of very Capetonian-sounding meals (where else would you find a gorgonzola burger, rather than just a cheese burger?) but for me the dessert was the lip-licking best: a chocolate brownie served with lashings of vanilla ice-cream – the perfect antidote to the heat of a January afternoon.
And who better to enjoy an afternoon meal with than one of South Africa’s all time great bands – Watershed. Widely known for their biggest hit, ‘Indigo Girl’, way back in the early 2000s, the band have been quiet on the new music front since the release of their 2008 album Staring at the Ceiling, though they now assure us that they are working on a new single and album due for release later in 2014.
After a quick warm-up act by none other than Watershed’s own drummer, Howie Combrink, Watershed took to the stage around 4pm on this warm summer’s afternoon, just as the audience members were filling their stomachs with the cafe’s exquisitely-presented meals.
It was immediately clear that time away did not mean they’ve lost their touch. Quite the opposite, in fact. Although there have been some changes to the original band line-up, frontman Craig Hinds still leads in the most natural way possible. Starting off with ‘Wrapped in Stone’, they soon launched into one of their most well-loved songs, ‘Close My Eyes’, and continued the first half of the set with ‘In the Meantime’ and ‘Yesterday Again’.
After a joke about playing 45 songs (much to my disappointment. Why couldn’t this be true?!) the band took a short break, before returning with a real set of crowd-pleasers including ‘Letters’ and their stunning cover of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s ‘Southern Cross’ – my personal highlight.
Not afraid to let loose and have a bit of fun, Watershed also covered Carly-Rae Jepson’s infuriatingly catchy ‘Call Me Maybe’, and Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ before ending with their own ‘Indigo Girl’, ‘Fine Way’ and a reprise of ‘Letters’. If you are ever alone in a different country, ever somewhere where you don’t know a soul, turn up your Watershed CD. This band is so inherently South African that the first few chords of ‘Indigo Girl’ alone are enough to transport anyone back to a happy place under the African sky.
Just one thing to remember if you’re a concert fan and feel like making a trip to one of Cafe Roux’s music sessions: this is not a typical concert. There will be no dancing in the aisles. There will be no screaming for the lead singer to lose his t-shirt. This is a civilised, laid-back affair, and a wonderfully relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I will definitely be making the pilgrimage from the City Bowl to the suburbs more often. It is more than worth it.
Watershed played at Cafe Roux on 4th January 2014. Cafe Roux also hosts more intimate mid-week concerts, usually on Wednesdays.