Hg2 author Keith Bain wasn’t around for the Sixties, but he felt himself magically transported to a groovier time during a recent performance in what is undoubtedly the most enchanting concert venue in South Africa.
Buy Hg2 Cape Town here
An army of ghost gums rises to a dizzying height far above our heads… beyond the canopy, thousands of stars, dazzlingly lit up against an ebony sky. The final glimmers of sunlight cast their glow on the surrounding fields, and there are cows grazing in the near-distance… If I’m not mistaken, they’re edging their way closer to where we’re enjoying a breathtaking performance by The Parlotones, unquestionably one of the finest bands to yet come out of South Africa. We’re amidst vineyards and orchards, and up close to some spectacular mountain scenery, in a World Heritage area protected for its natural beauty and wildlife. It’s the countryside, folks, but not as we know it.
It’s mid-way through the first show of the new season at the Paul Cluver Forest Amphitheatre, and virtually the entire audience is on its feet. Swinging like we’re back in the Sixties, many of us dancing like nobody’s watching. Children straddle parents’ shoulders; grandmothers are getting down; and a man in his late-fifties has abandoned his shirt—here’s a Capetonian crowd that knows how to let it all hang out. There’s much Woodstock-style waving of hands and swinging of hips, and the wine—produced by our hosts, right here in the Elgin Valley—flows abundantly. Those still seated are mesmerised, aghast, hanging on every syllable uttered by skinny jean-wearing front man Kahn Morbee.
It’s a sublime space all right, and the evening includes all the best elements of a concert. And those things we all hate about live music venues—overcrowding, getting your toes trodden on, the occasional flying beer bottle, and sometimes seeing nothing more than the back of someone’s head—simply aren’t an issue. There’s room for everybody and everyone has VIP proximity to the stage. It’s an ingenious arena that thoughtfully eschews concrete in favour of naturally occurring wood, and the organic layout really works its magic on the evening. Gates open two hours prior to the show—a chance for people to stock up on Paul Cluver wines (the region produces the finest sauvignon blanc in the country), munch their way through picnic baskets, and secure favourite seats. No need for a warm-up band… once the show gets going the crowd is already raring to go. And by the end of that 90-minute set, 600 voices were howling for more, one group of fans yelling: “Repeat! Repeat!” Evidence of a successful gathering.
You don’t have to travel far to catch a delicious party in Cape Town, but this venue—around an hour from the CBD—is one that’s worth making the extra effort to get to. The Parlotones were, of course, sold out; the four-piece band had recently returned from a 70-city tour of the United States, and this crowd was aching to catch up with them. But they’re only the first act of a formidable season (that will include Cape Town-based Freshly Ground, Grammy Award-winning UK artist Imogen Heap, and sex-on-legs rocker Arno Carstens). The next performance happens early in January, so check http://www.cluver.com for programme details. A night spent at this glorious venue will adjust your attitude towards country folk and wine farmers forever…
Read the review of Paul Cluver Forest Amphitheatre here