GANGS OF BALLET EP LAUNCH – REVIEW

Written by Dee Theart (@deetheart)

Photography by Stanley June Photography (@StanleyJune_)

Since claiming a piece of land in the local musical landscape in 2013 with the release of their award-winning debut album yes/no/grey, Durban-based band Gangs of Ballet’s name has become synonymous with epic live sets. To celebrate and officially launch their new album offering, the three-piece ventured to all the big cities’ Barnyard Theatres. This latest offering is titled Form & Function Part 1 and is a 6-track EP. I was happy to experience their new (and old) tunes at Barnyard Theatre’s Cresta branch. Even a Monday didn’t stop an enthusiastic Jozi crowd to pull through for a festive night.

I love it when established acts give lesser known acts an opportunity to showcase their music at these big events. To the general public Josh Wantie was a stranger before he joined the Barnyard tour alongside Gangs of Ballet. And now he has definitely become somebody to keep an eye on. Gangs of Ballet added him to the bill and we can’t help but trust their expert opinion.

Combining electronic elements with melodic vocals, acoustic and electric guitar and powerful drums (by drummer Bryn Scott), this fellow Durbanite is bringing something unique to the table. Although a bit reserved at first, the 24-year-old Josh opened up and his stage presence started to tickle the crowd’s fancy. Here and there, his vocals became lost amidst the heavy layered musical compositions, but he will definitely appeal to the mass market. Keep an ear out for his first single, “Go Under”. He regrettably decided to include The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face” to his otherwise refined set. Aiming to sound too much like the original, the moment tumbled down fast. A rookie mistake I hope he won’t repeat.

 

Josh Wantie - photo by Stanley June

Josh Wantie – photo by Stanley June

 

When big theatrical sounds and bright red spotlights filled the Barnyard announcing the start of Gangs of Ballet’s set, I just knew we were in for an audio and visual spectacle. Brad and Josh Klynsmith and Jonny Rich walked to their respective performance spots wearing T-shirts with plain, yet striking shapes on (cleverly linking to their EP title). The guys looked kitted out and ready for action.

The (X-) factor that these three musicians possess (this is where up-and-coming bands can really take note), is the band’s pure joy in what they do. There is a certain urgency in their performing style, which makes it clear that they really love sharing their musical creations with everyone in a fun, accessible way. They are present and in the moment the whole way through.
And the best part of how they share their music: their live show doesn’t sound like their albums. “What?!” I hear you shriek in disbelief. Let me elaborate. If you wanted to listen to the album, you could have stayed at home, right? A live show is all about bringing what people hear on an album alive, with “wow”-moments, extra frills and trimmings that makes the live show an extraordinary showcase of what the albums have already established. Gangs of Ballet have honed their craft up until the point where they are able to rely on their well-rehearsed set when performing live. Truly admirable!

Their over an hour long set kept the crowd enthralled the whole nine yards. The term “technical brilliance” is what kept on coming to my mind watching them perform. Every aspect of the show was so well polished and their ability to layer different textures of sounds is remarkable, especially for a three-piece band. They swiftly and comfortably moved from electronic driven rock tracks to stripped down, acoustic style songs. Popular songs from their debut album kept the crowd singing along, while the new tracks were smartly woven in in an introductory manner as to not alienate the fans. And I must add, the new tracks sounded superb.

 

Gangs of Ballet - photo by Stanley June

Gangs of Ballet – photo by Stanley June

 

A highlight was when the two brothers performed a few songs as a duo, both on guitars. Their synergy and brotherly banter was a delight to witness and their rendition of Radiohead’s “High and Dry” created the good kind of shivers. On the down side: I would have loved if Jonny was drawn more in by the other two. He is such a passionate member of the act and contributes greatly to their overall sound, so it would’ve been amazing to see him more in the spotlight.

The night ended all too soon and an en core (hundreds banging their fists on Barnyard’s renowned wooden tables) was inevitable. Brad returned on his own for an epic version of Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer”, followed by Josh and Jonny also making their way back to stage to end off with the iconic “Hello Sweet World”. Every hello is sadly, but inevitably, superseded with a goodbye, so with a majestic bow, the three-piece bid goodnight to the crowd.

Judging by the long queue in front of the merch stand, Form & Function Part 1 is now on repeat in many a sound system. And I’m definitely no exception to the rule.

 

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