Acoustic Café showcases Grahamstown’s community of musicians

By Dave Mann

If you think of an acoustic café, a particular kind of scene comes to mind. A low lit venue with a few tables and chairs, maybe some couches, a small group of music lovers, and a centre stage mic stand with a musician behind it. Now add good food, good booze, a lot of people and a great musical line up and you’ve got Acoustic Café at The Vic.

With what may have been their biggest crowd yet, the Acoustic Café delivered a line-up of local and out-of-town acts this Thursday 21 August. As soon as the doors opened, people started to filter in, buy their drinks and position themselves around the musicians, still busy tuning their guitars and setting up amps and drum kits.

James Fourie, along with his partner, Nicky Cockcroft started Acoustic Café about one and a half years ago, with the musical evenings taking place at La Trattoria (now Saint’s Bistro).

“We wanted a night for music lovers to gather and just listen to great music,” says Fourie, “More than that, we hoped to provide a platform for local musicians, young and old, who just want to put their passion for playing music out to an audience.”

Last week’s acoustic platform saw bluesy rock ‘n roll guitarist, Duncan Parks take the stage first. The singer songwriter from Limpopo played all of his own songs making use of basic, old school rock ‘n roll chords and blues styles strings. Parks’ onstage confidence and conversational performance style set the mood for a night of great acoustic music.

Next up were The Syringa Quartet with their distinct blend of Latin and African style music. The group played a combination of original songs and some notable covers including Miriam Makeba’s ‘Pata Pata’.

After a short interval, Steve Prevec brought the crowd back with some blues and folk style guitar. He was followed by Port Elizabeth’s Tim Hopwood. While Hopwood played some of the best guitar of the evening, his lyrical content bordered on offensive most of the time and left an unwelcome 1980’s Afrikaner mood in the air.

The mood picked up shortly however, as Route 67 took the stage. Making use of signature blues instruments such as guitar sliders and harmonicas, the band set out to give a chronological account of the blues throughout history. Besides some obvious nerves and a few false starts, the band did a great job of wrapping up the evening, with a number of audience members getting up to dance and sing along to hits like Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe’ and B.B. King’s ‘The Thrill is Gone’.

Perhaps the best thing about Acoustic Café isn’t the style or quality of the music, but the stories you hear as a result of such an intimate setting. There are no set lists, the musicians play what they want. There aren’t any pushing crowds or drunk fans, you can take in every note. You just get to sit back with a drink and listen to the stories in the music. Like how Prevec’s father worked in the Johannesburg gold mines before they were turned into dump sites, or how Hopwood worked as a photographer for the Sunday Times, covering the xenophobic attacks around the country.

“These evenings really are a community event where you get to know your local musicians,” says Fourie, “We get people coming from PE and Bathurst to attend the nights and all of the proceeds go towards furthering the Acoustic Café sessions. None of the musicians get paid, it all goes towards new equipment and sound.”

Acoustic Café takes place every second Thursday at The Vic (New Street). Join their Facebook group, The Acoustic Café for details about their upcoming shows.

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