Thursday, June 26, 2014

Nirvana, a Tribute to the Legends

The weekly column on South African bands and live shows.
 by Omri Ismail Cassiem

Show this week: Vamp & Progcrast Present: Nirvana Tribute @ The Bohemian

I’ve been putting off writing this article for a while. Partly out of fear, partly out of not wanting to let go and mostly out of a deep feeling of inadequacy. How can a young upstart music journalist like me portray the once-in-a-generation brilliance that is Nirvana in words? Those of you who don’t know who Nirvana is, stop reading this! Seriously stop it, open a new tab and go to and start streaming one of their full albums then come back… I’ll wait, seriously go do it then come back!

Welcome back. I am sure as you are reading this your entire knowledge of good music is crumbling around you. The walls are falling in as Kurt Cobain sings to you in his raspy voice that influenced bands such as Kings of Leon and Seether. The floor is disappearing from under your feet as you hear the simply brilliant musical compositions and you are realising where the entire Alternative Rock genre came from. You are listening to the genesis, the beginning of a musical era that has touched the lives of so many people from that generation.

That, dear readers, is Nirvana, and a couple of months back I attended a show that was a complete
tribute to their brilliance, where five South African bands paid tribute to Nirvana, the gods of this generation of rock. In this article I will be covering all five bands. Beginning with Acoustic Groove Machine: I’ve already written a full review of them, so briefly all you need to know about them: Acoustic Groove Machine has haunting vocal harmonies, a very folk-centric style of music and two bombshells in the band.

The next band up, and I really wasn’t surprised at them being there, was Burning Blue. With a lead singer whose voice sounds like the love child of Kurt Cobain and Sean Morgan, them playing at a Nirvana tribute show was inevitable. I’ve also written a love letter… Uh excuse me, I mean review of them. What I do want to say about them at this show is that I have never before seen 200 people at a bar all sing the lyrics to a song that a band was playing; I had goosebumps the entire time. These guys, as I have stated before, are one of my two life-changing bands, and definitely worth watching in any setting at any time.

The third slot was taken up by the Castellos; these guys produce an eclectic sound that has a feeling of acid Jazz to it. In other words, if acid trips came with scoring music you would probably be hearing them while turning into a fish. Their band also has a female drummer; I thought that was worth mentioning because the other two bands that played so far had solid female musos playing key roles in the band. Keep that in mind as you keep reading.

Next up we had a young band from Durban (when I say young I mean under 20) called Black Math. With solid guitar riffs and a sexy female drummer, what can go wrong? Oh, you want more, do you? Well I’m glad you do: their guitarist is also a lead singer with a very post-grunge inspired voice. Happy now? For people so young, they really have a stage presence that outshines their years, and in the future I can see them doing really cool things.

Finally we had a band called Trash Mogal, a three piece outfit who has not one, but two beautiful woman up front, a drummer who has the ability to run, and a lead singer whose vocal prowess was highly appealing. Their rhythm section was solid and the guitar made oh such beautiful noise.

What did Nirvana mean to all these young South African musicians? Well, the interviews after the respective shows basically told a story of inspiration, a story of young people wanting to make rock music because they heard this one band when they were younger and it changed their lives. And simply, they wanted to be able to make such a change in the lives of others. This event was truly so inspiring that all throughout I was filled with a feeling of hope and joy for the class of musicians that are being produced in South Africa. I honestly don’t even hate on people who quickly dismiss South African music as sub-par anymore. I just feel sorry for them, because they are cutting a level of experience out of their lives that I honestly doubt anything in the rest of the world can add. Their loss, in other words, not mine.

At the end of the evening, walking back to my car, I felt like I was coming down form the best, most profound trip of my entire life. But like all comedowns, I was hit with the sad realisation that at some point in the future the memory of that event would fade, and all I would be left with was a deep sense of emptiness that I wouldn’t be able to place. Much like the music world is unable to fill the gaping void left by Kurt Cobain’s death.

If you are interested in future gigs of this nature, follow Vamp_ES on twitter or go to The other organiser of the event was, made up of people who are doing amazing things for progressive rock in South Africa. Go check them out. And as always follow me on twitter at Omri_Cassiem for news and information about what’s happening in the South African music scene.