LIVE REVIEW: Beatenberg at Kirstenbosch

From the outset let me say that I have recently relocated from Johannesburg to the Cape. So of course it was crucial that I do this most Cape Town of Cape Town activities: attending a Kirstenbosch Summer Concert. I was keen, I enjoy Beatenberg (even though they didn’t play “Zambezi”, a travesty that I am still getting over). So I gathered my posse of white girls who ‘Wooo!’, bought some Camembert and Sauvignon Blanc and got rather tipsy sitting in a light drizzle watching a band that had minimal stage presence. My soggy Woollies crackers seemed more excited to be there than the guys in Beatenberg.

Seated on my picnic blanket, freezing my ass off, my overwhelming impression was that everyone in Cape Town is just significantly better looking than in Gauteng. Just. Well done. Capetonians must be made of sterner stuff than us Vaalies, because I saw many a blue mid-riff woefully neglected by its owner, seemingly impervious to the cold. Maybe they had the same plan I did: consume enough alcohol so that you don’t notice when your hands have frozen to your wine glass.

When the openers John Wizards came on stage my friend squealed with delight at the sight of the goofy fellow in the blue anorak and red guitar, nodding his head enthusiastically. Here was a man who could keep time and look completely like he’d just stepped out of a high-school garage band, making it big. Anything is possible if you just believe. Although the lyrics were inaudible, the sound was eclectic and interesting, though I would rather listen to Afro-jazz in a bar or club. Playing to the crowd, vocalist John Withers elicited a universal “Awwww” when he made a shout out to his seven-year-old niece, Charlotte, who was in the crowd. Ten points for Gryffindor!

The gardens were packed for the concert, made evident to me by Capetonians’ complete inability to respect blanket boundaries. Or maybe it was just the group of grade 11 and Matric girls and guys near us, larking about, pretending to be studying BAs. We can see you’ve never used a razor, sweetheart. Anyway, the crowd was a lovely mix of parents with wine spikes, some students pretending to be bored by it all and the under-18 crowd trying desperately to look older. Because I grew up in Joburg, I didn’t recognise anyone. These must have been the white South Africans I know by three degrees of separation, not just the usual two. White people love open-air concernts, it gives us an opportunity to sit in the rain and then get stuck in traffic. Perhaps this is because we think it gives us something real to complain about?

Beatenberg’s set was unexpectedly loaded with older tracks, as though they’ve gotten bored of playing their hits and decided to test out their old material that didn’t really work the first time either. They then went for a complete turn-around and played, I kid you not, Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”. Their version is of course far better, but left my hipster soul in a bit of a tangle, worrying whether I had now sold out by not only knowing the words, but also quite enjoying it. As my friend noted, “I may have to actually admit that Justin Bieber is bearable.” Beatenberg did that.

Perhaps they had realised as the afternoon wore on that it was getting colder and darker and so following the Bielieber tribute, they dug out the hits to warm us all up, getting the seated crowd on its feet for “Chelsea Blakemore”, “Scorpionfish”, and “Rafael”. Despite the cold, the invasion of blanket boundaries and the distinct lack of diversity in the crowd (crazy ticket prices much?), I can think of no better way to spend a secular Easter, surrounded by close friends, Camembert, Sauvignon Blanc and good music. Given the opportunity I’ll be there again next year. With wine spikes and a bigger blanket.

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