LIVE REVIEW: Past Haunts, The Shabeen and Claude @ Club Med 30/04/2016

Photography credits go out to Laura McCullagh

I don’t go to gigs very often especially not gigs of bands firmly embedded in the alternative scene. I don’t really have a reason. Part of it is linked to the fact that I live on a meagre student budget and the other is because university is no laughing matter regardless of your particular degree. I love supporting local music but by the end of a long week of commuting from Stellenbosch to Durbanville, I would rather hack my way through Dark Souls 3 than slog my way through a draining weekend of gigs. Thus, I am always grateful when a long weekend comes around as I get some breathing room to let my hair down and go take in some live music. This previous weekend saw me visiting the smoky interior of Club Med,  a dive bar nestled at the bottom of Loop Street that has clearly seen one too many hardcore shows, to witness the launch of Past Haunts’s new EP Afterthoughts.

The dingy interior instantly won me over which is probably strange to say, but there is a certain kind of authentic charm to dive bars. They are not venues that try to hide the fact that people probably do cocaine in their bathrooms (or at the bar). They are the kind of venues where you’d expect to see hardcore or post-hardcore performing. A barrage of hardcore music assaulted my ears as I climbed the stairs to the live performance part of Club Med. The venue was already bustling with energy as people settled down in front of the stage. The stage was really just a tiny raised platform with a horde of instruments crammed onto it. Part of me was wondering how a four piece band could even fit on such a tiny thing.

The choice of hardcore music was strange because the first opening act was an acoustic performance from Claude – the frontman of now deceased post-hardcore outfit tonightwedie. However, it did foreshadow what was to come later, but first – I was lulled into cathartic bliss by his acoustic emo musings. It is the kind of music that is very much missing from the South African music scene but unfortunately “emo” is a bit of a dirty word in South Africa. All we’ll be left with is this one glorious 45 minutes of acoustic bliss.

Frank Turner started bursting out of the strained sound system as The Shabeen began setting up. This EP launch definitely boasted an interesting amalgamation of genres as acoustic emo, folk punk and post-hardcore rubbed shoulders the entire evening. The Shabeen eventually strode onto the stage and was greeted by a much rowdier crowd as the beer and tequila had been flowing throughout Claude’s set. Also, how else is one meant to experience folk-punk? The band powered through a raucous and dance-worthy set that clearly got the crowd warmed up for Past Haunts. One of the most memorable moments was when The Shabeen dragged Past Haunts lead singer Brett Allen- White onto the stage to accompany them on “Swords” – a song dedicated to friendship.

The Shabeen - South African Music Scene

Touché Amore immediately began playing as soon as The Shabeen closed off their set. Past Haunts spared no time getting onto the stage. They opened with “Questions” – a song that I was curious to see how they would execute it live due to its piano and string section opening. This was done via a backtrack, but the rest of the song dripped with raw authenticity as Allen-White’s voice transcend into something utterly brilliant during a live performance. His studio vocals are already dripping with raw emotion, but the unrefined nature of a live performance yields an even greater rawness to his vocals. It suited the emotionally heavy nature of “Questions” incredibly well and set the tone for an evening of head-banging melodic post-hardcore that would do justice to the immense crowd that their show pulled. The attendance was surprising for a post-hardcore – a genre that is often torn down in public discourse, but the support for Past Haunts is a clear indication that the nonsense spoken on Facebook is just misguided hot air from jaded music critics. The crowd’s energy was outstanding as they were clearly grooving to Past Haunts sweeping melodies tempered by an abrasive and aggressive edge.

Past Haunts - South African Music Scene

It is impossible to fault Past Haunts’s live performance. The band consists of musicians that have already honed their teeth and flexed their muscles in the industry and are not just out to have a good time. I left Club Meb incredibly satisfied and humming Brand New on my late night drive back to the Northern Suburbs. This show shall always haunt my memories and I’m okay with that.

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