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Written byMatt Visser

Exploring the Live Music Scene in Cape Town through the lens of Foulplay Presents

Live sound is raw, it can be devastatingly beautiful and surprisingly personal. It allows artists to convey what they’re trying to communicate, as some would argue, with an even more realistic sound and reflective experience than the actual recordings. It could be a live recording; it could be a live show and it could even be a friend you barely know strumming some Oasis song on Capo 2 in a tiny kitchen. I am perfectly comfortable with my obsession with live performances, I often find myself enjoying live albums even more than the original, clean predecessors that paved the way for their subsequent live recordings. 

If you have ever had the pleasure of listening to Cage The Elephant’s “Unpeeled” album, you may know what I mean (if not, go right now and do yourself a favour). I understand that the differences may frustrate some listeners as they struggle with the different sound to the originals, the certain parts of the song that don’t come out the same and therefore affect the feeling they originally fell in love with. That’s fine, music is about feeling, but if I can offer any advice, try, and experience live performances as entirely new songs, go in with zero expectations.

That’s fine, music is about feeling, but if I can offer any advice, try, and experience live performances as entirely new songs, go in with zero expectations.

My personal favourite live album happens to be “Strange Drugs” by the War on Drugs, I usually put it on while cooking something that takes time, maybe a lasagna. I’ll pour a glass of cheap red, plug in my overpriced earphones and get to it. The moment I hear that chorus-filled, reverb-laden guitar dance through a crowd, I honestly feel like I’m listening to it for the first time. I’m back in my kitchen in Kwa-Zulu Natal on a humid day, board shorts on and an old dog waiting for food, this is live and very real.

Each performance is completely unique, and the experience is no different, sometimes you can be taken back to a memory, sometimes you can go somewhere you’ve never seen and other times it might be the cheap bar you go to for a local open mic. Although recorded live performances have come phenomenally far, the real thing is where we all want to be. Cape Town has been heeding that call. I came across the term “Rock Show” in a Parks and Recreation episode (If you have not had the pleasure of witnessing Andy Dwyer in full action, I would highly recommend a binge) the other day and my subconscious screamed “FOUL PLAY”. 

Foul Play is a newly born, exclusively South African experience that has hosted some of the country’s best, doing a superb job in showcasing local talent for willing crowds. It goes fast and loud, sometimes soft, and gentle, there’s a slight taste of tobacco in the air and couches, a hint of whiskey on arrival and the warm face of Josh (the absolute fucking legend running this chaotic masterpiece) waiting to greet you as set-up takes place. I have had the pleasure of playing and watching and I’ve never not had fun. “My music taste is really weird, like I listen to a lot of different shit” said every person who was once told that they have good music taste because you played Tame Impala at that Grade 10 party when your eventual chance on aux came around.

Well Foul Play could be the place for you after recently expanding their usual rock-based line-up to accommodate other South African sounds such as Giuliette Price, for lovers of extremely smooth Jazz as well as Hip-hop artists on occasion and soon to be Indie-Pop too when Coasters take the stage to show off their debut EP.

Live sound gives music the piece of soul that record labels seem so set on to destroy, a direct link to artists, a certain degree of uncertainty, are they going to drink too much, make a statement, get angry or call a fan on stage to play? I love it, I think we all do eventually, it just takes time. Paolo Nutini performed a live rendition of “candy” at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2015, changed my life for the better, Lauryn Hill resuscitated a crowd in the late 90’s with an iconic freestyle and Prince once performed one of the best guitar solos of all time for “while my guitar gently weeps” at the George Harrison Tribute concert.

Please for the love of God go a listen to that Prince solo. So, what makes these performances so iconic and real? I am no expert, I am an average guitar player, shaky vocalist, I have more knowledge about DNA replication than music theory, yet I believe I am fully qualified to answered, I am a fan. That’s what this is all about, it’s for you, feel it and feel it again. Live Sound is what it is because of the imperfections, maybe that’s why we resonate with it, maybe we see tiny pieces of ourselves in it all and maybe I don’t know what I am talking about, but when I see live shows, I feel something. Something happening must be right.

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