HARD AND HEAVY: CONCERT REVIEW

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It’s the 14th of March and I am making my way to my first ever gig this year. This one was announced without prior warning but I just had to attend. Characteristically christened, this event featured the quintessential Swahili Rock Band “Rash” and frontrunner Heavy Metal Bands Last Year’s Tragedy and Mortal Soul. Most of my friends haven’t showed up, actually none of them did. No sign of the likes of ‘Chief’ and Ian Thiongo so I’ll have to make new acquaintances. A few cameras have been set up and the stage is ready. I get some news that a documentary is being recorded for France 24, the Tv Station, which will supposedly air in June and will be on the internet for 8days. This day just keeps getting better and better!!!

I Chill around for a while surveying the establishment. I realize its much smaller than I had imagined but it’s perfect for this kind of atmosphere. Not much is going on so I continually check my phone to pretend I’m busy. The club is packed mostly with friends and family of the bands and a few enthusiasts. I get to chat with Max, Abedi and “Gakosh” from Rash, they are a lively bunch these fellas. I enjoy their company for a while and Max gives me a few updates on the progress of their upcoming debut albums before they are whisked away for an interview.

Half an hour into the event the DJ checks in. Its DJ Hueskillz and he’s playing mostly Breaking Benjamin. But what intrigues me is that a few minutes into his mix he starts playing some familiar Kenyan tunes. He plays two Parking Lot Grass songs, Etched on my Heart and Speedchaser, a bit of Murfy’s Flaw, then Rash, Doveslimme and finally Last Year’s Tragedy’s “Generation Light”,  interspersed with a bit of Avril Lavigne and the like. I decide to get myself a drink which by the way isn’t cheap but I need something to wash down the inhibitions before the bands start performing. Judging from the crowd there’ll be no mosh pit, at least not enough bodies to make it work.

Mortal Soul are first on stage; and my oh my isn’t it just nostalgic to see these guys back on the grind again. Almost brings me to tears…almost!! They do some sound check and this reminds me of that time they released that “Solace” play through, they are as calm as cucumbers but still skull crushing as they always have been. Celeste looks healthy and is still a beast on the drum sets. He’s shaved off his fro though, don’t know what to make of that! Pete is mercurial with the guitar. The crowd at one point cheekily insists on him playing a solo. So yeah, he did that with grace as you can imagine. They start off with one of their better known songs “Bankai” and I can’t imagine why I haven’t listened to this song, I make a mental note to review this song next. It has the same vocal aspects that made “Burst of a Nova” really visceral. (that song isn’t by Mortal soul but it features Leon Malu on vocals. Be sure to check it out) with just the right amount of harsh growls and singing. Next they tone it down a little bit with “Living” which I suspect is a new song. They go on to play some more new material which I am now expectantly waiting to be released. They finish off with a drum solo from Celeste and the crowd is left ecstatic. A short and sweet performance!!!!

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The DJ takes over and I’m back to my drink, which as I mentioned was expensive so I’m taking it slow, don’t want to run out before the night is over. There are a few crazies (one or two I believe they were) slam dancing and hand swinging and shit, they almost spilled my drink so I hold it close, take a few paces back and decide to take it all in one boisterous swig.

Next on stage is Rash. Tts already 9:30 and I figure Last Year’s Tragedy won’t be performing which the good old and evidently wasted “Chizi” (their frontman) confirms to me later on during the show. I give my bemused disappointment because this is the second time I’ve been out to see them and they’ve failed to perform!!! There’s no escaping it on the 28th. We’ll have your heads if it has to come to that. They’re a bunch of jolly lads all the same.

Rash begin with a few covers starting, if I recall correctly, with Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”. The drummer seems to be in his own psychedelic dimension as all drummers seem to be. Sebastian, on bass, engages the crowd on the far right, high-fiving them and doing a few fist bumps The next cover they do is of Bob Marley!!! Yeah, right, I said it Bob Marley. And they did a thoroughly spectacular job of it too, got the whole crowd off their feet with that one.  The one I was particularly waiting for was Darkness and Witchcraft. The first song they ever recorded. First borns are always cherished and I, particularly hold this song close to my hear.  I seem to be the only one enjoying myself; I’m not afraid of making a fool of myself being the only one charged that that they’re playing it. They characteristically play AC/DC and Black Sabbath covers before they continue to play some unreleased songs. I’ve heard “Sons of Robots” before at Ward 7 last year. That time though the sound equipment wasn’t that good. The lyrics to the songare really well thought out. Sam’s Vocals are bordering on the spectacular, hitting really high pitches and then with classic Rob Halford gritt reigning them in like a purring Ferrari engine. I don’t know who writes their Swahili lines but whoever it is deserves a medal.  They even make use of Swahili sayings and every time they do it, it just feels right, always!! They also play another new track called “Siku Mbaya”. With those songs, I am within perfect reason to buy their album once it comes out. If the rock scene needed any miracle, these guys are a godsend. Even “Chizi” in his drunken stupor manages to find a moment of clarity during Rash’s performance. He sings along almost providing some sort of unsolicited backup vocals.  His signature growl gives perfect contrast to Sam’s voice and Max’s wailing guitar. It gets me thinking that Rash and Last Year’s Tragedy should work on a collabo.

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As I leave the establishment, I note how I am slowly becoming addicted to live music, whether it’s Rash, Void of Belonging or, (where it all began, watching the now defunct Bedslum. You get to listen to new material. When the songs are released, its a pleasant feeling akin to comic book fans that have read  the Civil War comic book before the film is released. It’s like witnessing you’re imagination coming to birth. It is a primary and crucial way of supporting the scene too. You get to interact with the bands and they get lots of feedback this way too.

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For all you that missed this one, clear your schedules for the “March for the Underground” on the 28th of March. Rash will be there again performing alongside the Imperial Parking Lot Grass, Last Year’s Tragedy and the new kids on the block Irony Destroyed and Deowa.Recent information has reached us is that Mortal Soul will also be gracing that stellar line up. Tickets go for 500 bob!!! Get ready.

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