Live Review: December Streets and The Vanilla at Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts

Photography by Shae Frank

Cape Town’s winter is coming in fast, making this last Sunday an apt time to draw the Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts’ season to a close. Just days in the wake of the momentous performances of Jungle and Of Monsters and Men, a gentle wind-down was needed to quell the fizzing energy still lurking in the Gardens. This comes in the form of The Vanilla and December Streets, who drew a fairly decent crowd in spite of the chilly weather and somewhat dampened spirits.

As the sun dips behind the mountain in a burst of lavish gold we make our way up to the rolling lawns unfurling from the foot of the stage. The ground is dewy and we huddle inside jackets, feeling the damp seep progressively through the rug beneath us as we wait for The Vanilla to take to the stage. Since their inception barely a year ago, this indie-pop foursome gigged extensively throughout 2015, punting their music extensively around the country and earning themselves a River Stage slot at Up the Creek this year – a remarkable feat, coupled with their Kirstenbosch slot, given their short time on scene.

The Vanilla 2016

They meander onto the domed stage dressed all in black, with the slightly hesitant confidence all too familiar amongst up-and-comers. They needn’t be concerned. With a sound which exhibits a fresh take on the indie genre The Vanilla has built their way up in this short time span for good reason. They launch into their grooving set with ease and despite our hesitance to abandon our snacks they soon have a cluster of more ardent fans gathered at the foot of the stage. Their energy is palpable – if not slightly overdramatized with regards to the bassist – and infectious. Lyrical hooks worm their way through the crowd and I find myself humming along to the questionable, although endlessly catchy, chorus of “I’m in Love With Stacy’s Mom”. In a slightly ill thought decision, the band close off their set with a cover of Friends’ theme song “I’ll Be There For You”. Don’t get me wrong, everyone loves a good cover, however as a band it is important to end with a bang in order to make an impression and signing out with someone else’s tune is a weak and unnecessary conclusion to an excellent set.

December Streets 3

Within minutes December Streets have taken to the stage, brimming with grins. Set to head over to Europe next month alongside fellow indie-rockers Shortstraw and Al Bairre they have just flown in from packed Sowing the Seeds performance, set to finish off the long-anticipated weekend with a bang. It takes a little longer than it should to coax the chilly, dampened crowd from their picnic blankets. Indeed the turnout is decidedly smaller than would be expected given the hundreds who flocked the lawns in the preceding weeks. It’s disappointing to see, however the thirty or so who have gathered on the cobbled strip in front of the stage are as animated as ever.

December Streets 2

Their familiar, energy-saturated sound spills across the lawns as they belt out their collection of up-tempo tracks. Polished and simply bred for both radio play as well as live performance – a tricky feat to strike a balance between energy levels in a song in order to make it appropriate for both platforms – it is impossible not to get caught up in the cheery tune of “I’ll Try”. Intermittent falsetto vocals earn frontman Tristan Coetzee a ripple of murmured approval, while progressive electro-synth work contribute the heady dance element so prevalent in their sound. Late last year Coke Studios initiated a collaboration between December Streets and DJ Qness: steeped in African-influences “Can You Feel It”, even performed without Qness, carves itself a secure position amongst the standout tracks of the performance. By the time the set draws to a close the damp grass beneath my feet has been danced into a muddy marsh. It takes little persuading to draw the band back onto stage for an encore and are whipped back up into a final frenzy before dissipating with an almost relieved sigh.

Kirstenbosch, we’ll be back in November.


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  1. Pingback: December Streets and The Vanilla at Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts

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