It’s an interesting thing chewing gum brand 5 Gum does a few times a year: get everyone squealing over a musical act, make tickets available only through a competition, then announce the winners at the last minute and pack the lucky few thousand people into five buses headed for a secret location. Throw in an extremely successful social media campaign, and you might just have the winning formula.
Bitter though I may still be about the Two Door Cinema Curse (don't get me started on this one), I was quite impressed to have won myself tickets to see The Kooks. Did I even know who they were though? Uh... OK, quick check-up on my music library and I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire album on their's. OH, these guys, of course. Sorry, Luke and company. Much fanfare later, plus a constant rotation of The Kooks setlist on repeat all day every frikking day for about a month, I was prepared.
Let's hit it.
So off we pop to the 'secret meeting point' ie Maitland Secondary School - all the while acutely aware of how easily some creepy axe-man could get all of us in one go - and board the buses (*shudder*) to the 'secret location' ie Salt River Studios. It's a warehouse - totally called that ages ago.
The trickle of hipsters becomes a flood by the time we get inside, how many people won tickets anyway?! Now, I must clarify my use of the word 'hipsters' here: they weren't jocks. No one looked like they'd stumbled in here on the way back from a surf or Tiger Tiger. These were the kind of people who were on social media often enough to know about the gig, and that could be bothered to enter. If there were any jock-types here, they'd clearly been dragged along as a plus one to a out-of-place friend.
Anyway, ain't nobody got time for three opening acts, so we decide to chill in the food court for a bit, only to be constantly enticed by the smell of artery-clogging fried potatoes on a stick. By 10.30pm though, it was time to go and find ourselves a spot in the crowd for the main act. I am so unaccustomed to being anyway but holding onto a barrier for dear life, and being so far back was definitely a change.
In all honesty, I was surprised at the amount of enthusiasm for a band such as The Kooks. Brits who had never toured SA before managed to pack out a venue as large as this, whilst still leaving those unlucky enough not to have won tickets feeling upset. Perhaps music is not doomed after all.
And they sure proved they were worth all the hype! Opening with the ridiculously catchy “Ooh La”, they sped through a catalogue of their hits, from first single “Eddie’s Gun” to the extremely popular “She Moves In Her Own Way”, they got the already excitable crowd jumping and bopping and singing happily along to every word. For a band without much significant so called commercial success, they sure do have fans. Although crowd interaction was minimal – hey, they didn’t fly all the way over here for a chat – when curly-haired frontman Luke Pritchard did engage with his adoring audience, no one cared that his accent was so strong that the only word we managed to understand was “OK.”
In a performance that was so pitch-perfect that it could have been a CD, The Kooks outdid any expectations that I had. Highlights of their set were most definitely the acoustic version of the sweet ‘Seaside’, the audience going crazy during ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’ and the massive singalong during encore song ‘Shine On’.
Ending off with The Kooks classic ‘Naïve’, Pritchard thanked the crowd enthusiastically for coming out to support them. The South African fans had clearly made an impact.
After such a fantastic event, the only thing on anyone’s mind was getting back to the parking lot with haste, but a disaster surfaced in the form of the buses back. Absolutely no queuing system was enforced, leaving some of us to wait for over an hour for a bus, whilst others took only minutes. and small riots nearly broke out with people fighting so hard to get on to the buses, that things got very dangerous. I would not have been surprised if someone had been run over by a bus, or managed to topple one of the buses over. I don’t appreciate being made to feel like I'm a contestant in The Hunger Games whilst waiting for a bus.
Transport issues aside, it was a well organized event, and a brilliant band. I look forward to the next #5GumExperience.