By Ryal Newfeldt
I arrived at the venue for Shortstraw’s second performance in Grahamstown in as many years, only to be met by a line stretching from the entrance to halfway down the stairs of Union building. No surprises there. The band had drawn the majority of Grahamstown’s indie-pop fanbase, having come to an institution truly reflective of their target audience.
Having skipped past the queue, collected my media pass and entered the bar, I was met by a bass line which reached into my soul and solicited some awkward head nodding. As a hip-hop lover who had prior to this never heard of this ‘Shortstraw’. Having said this, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the sounds emanating from the lead guitarist’s amp, and was sold when I heard them exclaiming with a chorus- like melody, “she’s such a bitch in the morning!!”, at which point a good portion of the crowd jumped to their feet and started jamming. I assumed this was a snippet of the much talked- about hit single, Bikini Weather.
The sound check was under-way, the vibe electric and the venue slowly filling up to maximum capacity. With the night still young and the drinks still full, the crowd gathered around the outskirts of the dance floor, waiting for the first group of tipsy and over-zealous girls to start showing off their archived fancy footwork in front of the stage.
The band headed back stage after about 20 minutes of various bass guitar solos interjected by awkward jokes from the band and high-frequency microphone noises characteristic of a standard sound check. Moments later, Rhodes’ very own indie-rock band The World took the stage as the opening act, and transformed the crowd from this…
….to this, with a brilliant rendition of Outkast’s Roses:
At around 9 o’clock, Shortstraw graced the stage. The half-full Guarana’s and Castle Lite’s had done the job, leaving the band with the simple task of entertaining the Rhodes crowd with performances from their third album, Youthless.
The band’s energy and enthusiasm showed that they are definitely amongst South Africa’s indie powerhouses, as myself and the owner of the bar were in all likelihood the only people in the venue that did not sing along to at least one of their recently released tracks.
Despite it being a successful evening, I can’t help but feel that the night wouldn’t have been as dope if it wasn’t for The World’s gracious opening performance, although Shortstraw did leave both the Grahamstown fanatics as well as the band themselves thirsting for a return.
The performance racked up a decibel rating of 65db on my decibel gig- rating system, with 100db being the most insane, migraine- inducing, party /gig /performance to grace the Grahamstown clubs.