It’s a strange crowd in Hout Bay, I’ve been told. Well, either I haven’t been for a dop at a bar in too long or the rumour is true. I lean toward the latter.
What a weird mix of Saturday night punters at La Cabane. There’s the group of pumped up okes with testosterone hitting the red thanks to the 2:1 ration of high-maintenance models hanging with them, the old dreadlock-bearded hippies, the Michael Jackson-smooth-mover who shamed all but the tights-wearing young woman drinking with her mom and aunty from attempting to join him on the dancefloor, the far-too-drunk blond who had the decent okes concerned and the not-so-decent okes figuring how to get into her panties, the fishermen been drinking too long.
The cruisers, the losers, the backstop bruisers. We were there for the Fishwives. An actual band playing their own original music in a bar is a rare enough Cape Town occurrence to have dragged us all the way over the mountain from our deep south hideaways to brave the perils of the secluded and depraved social scene that Hout Bay embraces.
We were rewarded on both counts: The band was damn good and the social scene depraved.
We left after the first bar fight (thankfully after the band had finished up for the night) but I later heard there were three. What kind of a place has three bar fights in one night? That’s giving Bruce Springsteen’s hometown a run for its money.
Perhaps it’s the fact that the Fishwives are fronted by three damn fine women (four actually but one wasn’t there) who have no problem singing about cunnilingus which led to the men flailing and falling about.
They certainly are sexy. Subversively so. Far from the in-your-face MTV hotpants shite we’re force fed by the pop-culture purveyors of false phat, the Fishwives are genuinely sexy. The only flesh on show is their arms and perhaps the convex curve of a shoulder or two – these gals favour long skirts and beaded blouses. Their appeal is no cheap visual trick. No, no,no. These are educated women who’ll probably fuck you up in a current affairs debate. They’re more interested in books than booty, in painting than porn, music than makeup. And that is sexy.
Their rocking rythmic driving drummer, the only guy in the group, is also sexy.
Actually, I don’t even know why I’m using that adjective. It’s kak. Mostly because being sexy or not is something that probably doesn’t cross their minds, which is what is so damn refreshing.
Their interest in literature and poetry and abstract ideas is evident in their lyrics, with some of the tracks conjuring up worlds created by the Blackheart gang, or the land the Pied Piper took the children too – one of my favourites with it’s intricate build up through acoustic folk beginnings and fantastical imagery which moves imperceptibly to thumping hip-swaying blues.
But don’t be thinking they’re a bunch of cerebral coots. Being intellectual does not mean you can’t rock. Think Jethro Tull, of which there are some unintentional echoes. The Fishwives are equally capable of getting raw and dirty. I certainly wouldn’t envy any of the “dirty blond bitches throwing pussy” at their boyfriends.
There’s also none of that “I’m the lead vocalist and I’m the lead guitarist” crap. They swop vocals, swop instruments, they may even go full Fleetwood Mac and swop lovers. With Strato like a dark wing at the back taking them off on bass drum and snare, they’re an exhilaratingly egalitarian front line.
This band has got it going on. They just need to drop the “we’re-from-Grahamstown” self deprecation, step forward and own their shit, because it’s good shit. They’re holding back somehow, hitting those strings with a hint of hesitation, almost as if they’re asking “do you like it, is this okay?”
Fuck yeah! It’s more than okay, much more, stop asking and let it go.
I’d certainly brave far worse than the Hout Bay bar scene to see them again. And that’s saying some.
Band is Cal Thomson on bass and keyboards, Lizzie Gaisford on guitar and accordian, Sarah Burger on guitar and Strato Copteros on drums. There is also Nicole Germiquet (who was not at the gig at La Cabane) who plays keyboards, cello and anything else.
Follow them on facebook.com/thefishwives for gigs and so forth.
— Steve Kretzmann