LIVE REVIEW: Belly of the Beast – The Assembly

It’s always exciting when the Hellcats are in town. Since their rollicking Campsite Stage set at Rocking the Daisies last year, the Joburg-hailing two piece rock outfit have drawn a significant amount of attention to themselves, with their frenzied heavy-rock sound and infectious energy. Add to that The Tazers, fellow electric Jozi rockers with an EP hot off the press and local surf-rockers Retro Dizzy and you have a psych-rock line up worthy of a heaving, hand-banging throng.

Apparently not.

It really seems like I have ventured into the belly of a beast as I emerge into the gloom of the Assembly’s deserted dance floor, lit by the dusky hues of the stage lighting, which throw the equally empty stage into dim relief. A handful of thirty or so of – apparently – early arrivals and band members mill quietly in the bar area while, in an attempt to get into the swing of things, a guy heads over to the foosball table and energetically slams the handles towards his opponent, hitting him in the groin. I make my exit and head to the bar for a drink.

By the time I have returned from a prolonged visit to the bathroom, spent reading the newly scribbled additions to the walls – some are impressively poetic, I have to say – several of the braver attendees have ventured into the dimly lit depths of the Assembly as opening act In Bloom stride onto stage with little fanfare and launch straight into their set. The foursome hailing from Observatory is brimming with excitement to finally have scored an Assembly gig. Bassist Tanner Michell, long haired and lively as all hell, revs up the little crowd with intermittent bouts of hair-flicking coupled with throaty roars. There is a girl in six inch stilettos getting down on the dance floor, and despite my mild disapproval the feat remains undeniably impressive when the band you’re dancing to is rippling with this sort of electric energy.

After a brief reprieve it’s time for Retro Dizzy, the Hermanus hailing trio who have been set on making waves since their relocation to Cape Town. They are wild ones, these three: their lively set peppered by passionate bouts of cross legged rock ’n roll moments, thanks to a broken guitar strap. Their psych infused surf-rock beats causing the little crowd to once again flock to the stage but aren’t enough to keep there for long.

One of The Tazers’ members is wearing a Hellcats t-shirt in endearing alliance with the following act. The Jozi based psych rockers dive straight in, heady baselines and slick guitar riffs filling the air. Their rugged sound is effortless while their rather clichéd lyrics let them down somewhat. The Hellcats don’t disappoint as the duo belt out their old school style rock ’n roll anthems. Raw and real the band pull out all the stops when it comes to their live performance.

In Cape Town, with so diverse and active a music scene, it is always something of a disappointment to see so great a line up draw so few. However, what may have lacked in numbers was certainly made up for with infectious tunes and unwavering energy.

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