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The Springbok Nude Girls vs Trans.Sky (with Massive Attack as support)
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October 1998 It wasn't really a contest, just two bands playing in the same city on the same Saturday night in October. At the cavernous Three Arts arena in Plumstead, the nondescript suburb lying behind Table Mountain, a mixed bunch of Cape Town fans were treated to the spectral beauty and huge dub-hop sound of Massive Attack. Not renowned for their touring, this Bristol musical collective had chosen South Africa as one of the few stops on their 'Mezzanine' world tour and the importance of their presence on our shores was lost on too many people. Fortunately, the savvy Cape music lovers lemminged Computicket so an extra show was added for Saturday night. This sadly clashed with the Cape Summer Rock Festival which was being held in a breathtaking venue in Oranjezicht, cradled in the foothills at the base of a tableclothed and lit-up Table Mountain. This festival was sponsored by Ticketweb (.co.za), whose new online booking service is aiming to compete with Computicket's virtual monopoly of the ticket-purchasing market

We caught Massive Attack's overwhelming and trippy 'Pink Floyd in Dub 98" (UBFloydy?) onslaught on the Friday night so were free and able on Saturday night to stroll the two "teenage wasteland" blocks between our house and the Cape Technicon rugby fields where the festival was being held. The festival offered a dynamic all-SA bill with Colourfields, The Led, Boo, Blunt, Battery 9 and the Springbok Nude Girls. We watched The Led in the late afternoon and they defied the daylight and smallish crowd with a confident and zipping set. They've been around long enough to handle these outdoor gigs with aplomb, humour and a melodic and rocking set. Boo have a drummer, a wild-haired blonde brass expert and a bass player in a dress who speaks in a convincing gibberish; and they're all men and play a hard-driving ska-based set that keeps the moshers happy despite the shortage of memorable tunes.

But there's two important rock bands in South Africa at the moment and the first, Trans.Sky, was supporting Massive Attack across town. Although they added a drummer and a gorgeous, bald and mini-skirted female dancer and vocalist to their 'attack', the focus of the band is still Brendan Jury on vocals and viola and Warrick Sony on guitar and marimbas. If I told you they resemble the unlikely (and impossible) pairing of Billy Idol (Jury in peroxided spikes and shiny, grey leopard skin print pants) and Ian Curtis (Sony in regulation drab black shirt and brushcut), that would take care of the visuals. Their sound is basically the Kalahari Surfers (and some Urban Creep) back catalogue redone as late 90's Afro-techno. Jury has a Bowie-like quality that keeps this music interesting even when it isn't. He looks like a young Ziggy and sings in that familiar low whine. They definitely need a fresh new batch of material to really do their sound and act justice. 'Dust And Bones' and 'Killing Time', (the title track off their new album), ripped along nicely and they didn't close, as usual, with their Erasure-head glitzy version of 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' due to the surprising shortness of their set.

As usual, Trans.Sky were given a puny system to work off which made the opening songs of the main act tower by comparison. But like France in the recent World Cup final, Massive Attack would have blown any support act, or any other musical competition, right off the stage on the night. Their latest album, 'Mezzanine', is darker and less immediately accessible than their first two. But played in large searing chunks through a thundering sound system, with a light show to match, it moves slowly and inexorably towards you, confident in its own strength and quality. Alongside the three original members of the Wild Bunch were Horace Andy, the legendary reggae artist given a Travolta-like comeback by his Bristol buddies, and Deborah Miller who handled (the absent) Shara Nelson and Elizabeth Fraser's vocal contributions with a cool and sexy aura.

But, back across the flat mountain, Arno Carstens was leading his Nude Girls through a sparky set of power, poise and noise. They still litter their set with some speedy and tuneless punk thrashes, to placate their older purist fans, but they can't help but consistently write these polished and perfect little songs ('Blue Eyes', 'I Love You', 'Baby Murdered Me'), that glitter throughout the set, even when being manhandled by the manic exuberance of the band. Despite having all the "instrumentalists" in this band constantly pushing the sides of their collective envelope, they are still the most complete band in South Africa and have attained that next level of confidence and self-belief that sees them producing the most exciting and assured live performance by any act in South Africa today, and that includes the competition across the mountain. There were times during the Nude Girls set when their sound and intensity sealed this awesome venue in a cloak of pure rock majesty. I stood with my daughter transfixed at the spectacle before us. Arno said that this was the most beautiful venue they'd ever performed in, he should have seen it from where we stood.

As with Trans.Sky, the Springbok Nude Girls need to focus their visions and write material that can take their sound to a wider audience. Trans.Sky need "chewns", and lots of them. The Nude Girls need to drop the grunge and fill the gaps with the stirring rock they seem to turn out so effortlessly. Massive Attack need to be thanked for deciding to grace us with their imperious music. But let's conserve our enthusiasm for the gems on our doorsteps. Springbok Nude Girls are De Beer's Knees! Stephen "Sugar" Segerman

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Lots of SA CDs to buy online at One World.

There's also the Two Oceans Trading online shopping mall where you can purchase Springbok rugby merchandising, SA books, jewellery and CD-ROMs, amongst many other items.

Any thoughts, requests, problems, complaints, praise or interesting and relevant SA music news, please email it immediately to: sugar@cd.co.za

editor: Stephen "Sugar" Segerman, webmaster: Alan Levin, maintainer: Brian Currin

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