”Written byNick Trethowan
“Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once.”
– Robert Browning
While we have started setting focus on the variety of collectives that co-create SmallTown Beat, there is one particular group of artists with a goal that strikes a deep chord in us. Live music in Cape Town has increasingly taken a backseat as venues become substantially less prevalent and available. COVID was a death blow to venues that had been previously struggling to keep up with the city’s skyrocketing real estate prices and rent. While most have dealt with this blow with a shrug and have wondered what to do to see live music again, some have their eyes right on the prize of an interactive and booming live music culture and are poised for its return.
Alive Lounge, led by Dan Gregory (a CT musician, guitar wizard and soulful crooner) with a collection of passionate and driven musicians and creatives, focuses on creating intimate performance experiences to showcase local talent. With deep care and appreciation, the team approach their curation with an intrinsic understanding of the importance of this community sharing of experience and art.
Having recently had the privilege of sharing a stage with Dan earlier this year at Kunda Valley Festival, I saw first-hand the beautiful way in which he interacts with an audience and his incredible artistry in accompaniment to the powerhouse performance of Giuliette Price. Spellbound I watched the two of these performers create a beautiful tapestry of sonic journeys atop a floating stage as the night settled in around us. The smooth way in which I fell (like most of the audience) into an almost gentle stupor, carried gently by the harmonies and melodies, stories and experiences that wove out from the stage. With the crowd seated in a natural auditorium, we watched down on the two artists as they bounced from Dan’s silk fingers on the strings to Giuliettes spellbinding voice, latticed with Dans soft and smooth supporting vocals. I cannot WAIT to see what the Alive Lounge team have in store for us this year at SmallTown Beat.
I caught up with Dan to talk about Alive Lounge’s conception and the things that make live music so vital as well as tease out what STB holds for us this year.
With deep care and appreciation, Alive Lounge approach their curation with an intrinsic understanding of the importance of this community sharing of experience and art.
- What is the story behind how Alive Lounge came to be? Are there any people, in particular, you would point out as having been essential to the establishment of your collective?
“We started as a project for AfrikaBurn in 2018. We did all the fundraising that year and set up a live music stage out in the desert. The space held jams with musicians, poets and performers from all over the world. There are memories I still hold very close to my heart. Later that year, we curated the live music at the first STB and have been proud to be part of the family ever since.
The ALive Lounge wouldn’t exist without the following people: Liam Blackstock, Baxter Juds, Leonardo Potgieter, Robbie Perrott, Izabeau Pretorius, Malek Pople, James Nevin, Athena Haggiyannes, Dean Thorne, Tadhg Dewar, Jamie Gregory, James Minkley & all the musicians that have shared their music with us on the stage.”
- How would you describe yourself as a collective? What are your goals and what motivates you?
In essence, all we set out to do is create intimate spaces for people to enjoy live music. Our main objective is to showcase local talent. I’m constantly blown away by the talent here in Cape Town. This year’s line-up at STB is our best yet, it’s going to be special.
- With live music venues becoming harder and harder to find, how important are live music and live performance spaces today?
To me, there is nothing like the energy and atmosphere of live music. Live music allows us to experience what philosopher Alfred Schütz called a “mutual tuning-in.” This term refers to the phenomenon where we experience the passage of time and emotions with others. This is part of the reason humans need social interaction to thrive. When we attend a concert, we’re experiencing the tone of the music—fast, slow, happy, sad—with others around us. This creates a sense of intimacy with the crowd around us. That connection is why it’s so important.
The lack of spaces in Cape Town is seriously worrying. At the moment, it feels like there is a lack of community within the Cape Town music scene. The more worrying pattern forming is the low rates that are being offered to musicians for their performances. Promoters need to understand that they are booking professional musicians who have invested years into their craft. When you book a band, you are not just booking them for an hour but also for the years of dedication it took them to get to that level.
- What have been live performances you’ve watched that have influenced you and possibly how you see the industry?
There are too many to name, but in Cape Town:
- The Cape Town International Jazz festival shows what our industry can be. It is truly a spectacle. My favourite performances there would be: Alfa Mist, Gretchen Parlato, Tom Misch, Kamasi Washington, Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles; and R and R = NOW.
- Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse in De Waal Park. It was a free concert and the sense of community that day was so tangible. They played Burnout for over 10 minutes and I know for a fact the whole of Cape Town was dancing that day.
- Bongeziwe Mabandla at Gallery 44. This was one of the first gigs I watched during the latter stages of the pandemic, and it was so special. It felt like a soothing balm for the hysteria of that time.
- Assembly (RIP)
Most recently though, Kujenga at Hanks. There was something in the air that night, they really tapped into something special.
- Is it harder these days to find new and exciting live musicians and acts?
“Not at all. There are gigs every day. Just look it up and you’ll find something you will be interested in. Also, take a chance on that artist you’ve never heard of before. A live experience is totally different from any recording. You may just find your new favourite artist.”
- Who would you shout-out for being instrumental (punny but not intended) in the live music scene?
“These are only a few but off the top of my head: SOUND ENGINEERS!! (unsung heroes); The Commons in Muizenberg; Concept Records; EVOL; The Armchair; Selective Live; Gorgeous George; Foul Play; Loneliest Monk Jazz jams; Tourmaline Berg; Bedroom Tour Experiences. Show them love!”
- With many local artists getting more attention abroad than locally, do you think it’s important to encourage local recognition?
“100%, South African sounds are taking over the world. We are so lucky to be in such proximity to these authentic and innovative sounds originating out of SA. I think more emphasis needs to be put on local talent in SA. ”
- With a variety of incredibly talented musicians, your previous space at STB is regarded as being iconic, can you tell us a bit about that?
“We are just so lucky to have such great musicians come and share those moments with us. It will be the same this year. Shout out!
- The Loneliest Monk
- Well Done Sun
- Paz Shina
- T-Shirt Material