Rocker’s Diary – 5th March, 2016
It’s Saturday, and along this stretch of Westlands where in about 7 hours young adults come to search for vitality, electric sounds of a raging guitar and the thrash of a high hat permeate the morbid landscape. Rage is pounding within the walls of my chest, thinking I must be late. I dread catching a show when it’s already began (Editor’s note: We weren’t late, Dani was just being a crybaby). I prefer having the best seat to beginnings, seeing everything unfold. But most of all, I think I have grown addicted to the extended anticipation, that feeling of anxiety that gnaws at the back of the neck and pulls at the heartstrings, when you can’t wait for that great moment. I have grown addicted like many of you, before the night of the show, to the uncertainty of the day at hand, to not knowing how the turnout will be, whether you’ll enjoy yourself and what I’ll write about. And this was indeed a night of limitless possibilities. You expect one thing and you get another.
My first expectation to be dashed was that we were among the earliest people to arrive. And I tell you there’s is nothing as unsettling as staring at an empty room as large as this. The lights are dimmed except for the stage. There is no cacophony of chatter that makes you feel out of place especially when you know very few people. It’s now only uncomfortable because you don’t know what to do with yourself (Editor’s Note: See? I knew. I always know). This is where an idle hand will find its way into a nostril. Feet will dangle aimlessly from the uncommonly high stools, and the ears will trail the sound of a whirring motorcycle engine till it fades out into oblivion. Indeed the night is languid and the djs mix is a predictable and bottled sound but the show must go on.
Things kick off with seismic doing an instrumental version of a song that is easy to recognize, ‘Your Grace’. Amos Kiptoon stands in an obscure part of the stage, partly shrouded by the darkness. He is in fact a man that you will hear very little about, save for the urban legend that he can play any riff from any song just by giving it one listen. He is a bassist at heart preferring to remain unnoticed. But today he blows his cover, playing lead for this band. And where on most occasions, he will like a silent wind that sweeps across the field pollinating flowers, here his fingers flick, pluck and pull at the strings that tear through the hollow cavern of this half-empty room, like a storm through the open fields. And even in that divine position of orchestration, he breaks no sweat, there is no glint in his eyes, no unnecessary movement of muscle save for the arms, and tonight, at the edge of my hard cold seat, I feel the bare floor beneath me and the few bodies next to me feel the grace of Seismic. In the next few songs, other aspects of their performance emerge, pattering drum work, like the unexpected but welcome rain on a dry East African summer, a rhythm that quickly settles in and keyboard sound that is nothing short of orchestral. Teaming up with Rafael Sipalla on this night presents a once unexposed dynamic, perhaps a new territory that we may be keen to explore. The chemistry isn’t yet crystallized but it is an image that is great to look at, of a boisterous firework display bringing colour to an austere but imposing Victorian edifice. It is guacamole bowl of Elvis hip swinging movements with the jungle wail of Tarzan aswing on vines. One moment he melts into the audience with mic in hand, dimunitive figure lost in the haze, only his locks being visible, and the next he’s bouncing around on stage like a little boy at his own party. Even with as many words it is still hard to describe.
On stage next came Murfy’s Flaw. This is the first time I’m seeing them live and there was a moment that I was scared half to death that they weren’t going to perform. Some hitch of sorts. Mukasa, who was playing in place of Nambari Tisa had some problem with his guitar. But things went on well. I have to say that one of the best things about their performance was the drumming. Murfy’s Flaw are a band that take pride in funk music something that they have gone ahead to incorporate in their sound. And standing there watching their performance, this became more and more evident, especially them way the drums were played, taking a breath, with a spring in its step, letting loose its suave and then watching to see if you’d noticed. The band started off with a song I am very fond off, Abso-blooming-lootely, and I took every opportunity to make a spectacle of myself, singing along, out loud and making lurid gestures Reema Doshi, who by the way is a very confident dresser (she was in shorts and very long boots). You can check out the review to that song <>. The band having been silent for a year also took this opportunity to unveil some new songs that have an element of ska and swing music in them. One I remember correctly went by the name ‘Mviringo’ and it seems like most of the songs they’ll be doing for their album will be taking this cue.
Last on stage is a band that sparked quite a lot of debate between me and my editor. There was a difference of opinion on how we should portray this band, Rock of Ages. They have a song on youtube, which is fun and catchy but also cheesy in the way that it makes your face cringe from discomfort (Editor’s Note: Lies!!!). Despite that, their live performance is unmatched. I don’t think I throw that word around a lot, because I put it to you that I’ve never seen anything quite like this.
This is a band that I have also not seen perform before but being here today I must say that Rock of Ages have raptured my mental view of the world so much that when someone mentions Kenyan rock music I immediately think of this band. The guitar playing skills are shockingly intricate with every single member drawing your attention. The drums are played with a gracegul flourish,tight , emphatic and manifold. Keyboards are soaring away like a cathedrals’s organ and the guitars are at one point wailing and weeping from one chord to the next; at another instant that melodic chain gives way to a testestorone filled chugging riff. And all these aspects, including the bass which left one Mahia mutual speechless. When it became too overwhelming, we sat down in rows elbows tucked away and eyes trained on a performance that can only be compared to Michelangelo’s adornment of the Sistine chapel’s ceiling. Rock of ages are even at this point in the scene’s age,stretching out like the divine hand of God, and like Adam and Eve receiving this gift, we don’t think we will ever get enough.