It was a few months before the turn the century and a corporate was once again breaking ground on prime V&A Waterfront real estate to build boring offices. However, the power tools were soon downed in favour of excavation tools (in my mind it’s a million UCT archaeological students with fine brushes) when the ruins a 17th Century battery was discovered. The Chavonnes Battery is now a nerd fabulous museum where one can wear a tricorn hat and experience a sliver of Cape Town’s history that was almost lost under concrete and overpriced suits.
On Wednesday evening we were versed on a slightly newer chapter of the Mother City’s history, as Francois van Coke along with Arno Carstens and Jett Kossew opened Acoustics Underground with fokofolisiekar’s Hemel op die platteland.
The set was a retrospective of tunes from Francois van Coke (fokofpolisiekar, van Coke Kartel and solo) and Arno Carstens’ (Springbok Nude Girls and solo) projects peppered with a few covers of songs that inspired them. Carstens also debuted a few new songs off his Afrikaans album, so brand spanking new that he used sheet music.
Though the show had elements of van Coke and Carstens’ Blood Brothers performance last year where the duo teamed up with 8 other South African legends for the Vrede Foundation, the stunning venue added to the performance like no commercial space can. Acoustics Underground is the bottle of moderately priced wine you reluctantly share, to Blood Brothers’ shot of Jose Cuervo with a slice of orange*.
The cover of the evening was ACDC’s Highway to Hell reimagined as a ballad. Just as Carstens had the crowd whipped up like congregants receiving the spirit with his take on Hozier’ Take Me To Church at Blood Brothers, I could see quite a few people ready to call shotgun if he announced a road trip on said highway.
When I looked at how the three musos interacted with each other (at that point I had a unique top down view of the stage standing on a walkway) the word that came to mind is not often associated with rock n roll, mindfulness. Like when Carstens quietly swapped microphones with van Coke while the latter seemed to have mild technical difficulties during Toe vind ek jou. The 2 lead singers respectively stepped back, in a manner of speaking of course as they were seated, as the other took the rein of their respective treffers.
After being buried so many years, Underground Acoustics concert series gives the Chavonnes Battery a masterclass in the local music scene, pulling it into the 21st Century while still respecting the integrity of its hallowed walls.
The next Underground Acoustics features Judith Sephuma and Camillo Lombard on Wednesday, 18 August.
* Catch Blood Brothers at Carnival City on 9 of September 2016 with new recruit Zolani Mahola (!) replacing Arno Carstens. Unfortunately, there won’t be a Cape Town gig this year