“Gauteng’s Emalyth have hosted the eighth installment of their regular Arts Expo fixture at Wolmer Bush Lounge, featuring alternative and metal bands from around South Africa (and sometimes beyond) as well as exhibits from various visual artists whose material centers around the dark and alternative. Arts Expo 8: Infiniti took place over the weekend of 29-31 January 2016. Written independently by Zain Domo of The Unscene who visited from Cape Town, here is a first-hand account of the experience.” ~ Darkfiend, M4A
If ‘Lord Of The Rings’ has taught us anything, it’s that partying alongside mystical woodland creatures and traversing great disproportionate distances in the name of discarding valuable items into a fiery pit of stirring hot molten liquid… is a perfectly satisfying way to spend one’s weekend. And so, on Friday 29th January 2016, that was kinda how I felt. Catching a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg’s OR Thambo international, I found myself doused in a misplaced sense of cautious apprehension and thrust into the unknown with my trusty sidekick as we embarked on our very own special quest. The objective: to hang with the wise ones of Wolmer Bush Lounge and indulge in a ritualistic gathering that has gained much momentum over the last few years, spearheaded by the Emalyth events crew and greatly enriched by a spellbinding concoction of alternative artistry, musical splendor, and a host of friendly faces beckoning one to let loose and bask in the Pretoria wilderness moonlight.
Being typical Cape Town folk, we nonchalantly arrived at Wolmer Bush Lounge late, having already missed Gorous, Desolation and Raptorbaby, but just in time to glance the full extent of the Arts Expo‘s tasteful jabs at molding arts, culture, and the live music scene into one grand affair. Here, you would encounter an array of breathtaking artsy pieces while occasionally witnessing a drunken metalhead streak across the bushes in the hopes of either eliciting a response or reveling in the realization that there was none. You could flip a donkey on its head, or loudly proclaim that Amon Amarth were an Australian foosball team; nobody would care! Because at the Arts Expo, you’re always warmed to the feeling that we are all here for the same reasons, and going ape shit was just part and parcel of the experience.
Before turning in, I caught a quick glimpse of Red Helen strutting their progressive stuff on stage one, then floating on over to stage two for a dose of Dark Matter. One thing that immediately stood out was the immense quality of sound on display. Being an “outdoor” fest, I had my doubts, but they had quickly been laid to bed with the sound guys on point at every turn, allowing each treble and bass line to majestically be liberated into the warm South African night sky, to great effect.
But another aspect of the Arts Expo I had not been anticipating was the friendly nature of attendees. Sure, I’d been warned about the overly friendly behavior of Jozi metalheads, and yes, I’ve been urged not to make eye contact at the bar in fear of attracting a free drink or the genuine company of a curiously affectionate Sepultura-shirting metal enthusiast; but I could not help myself and fell in love with the vibe and each and every soul I encountered. This fest was more than just the sum of its parts, but an intangible reverence for the whole; an enchanting song and dance of underground culture; and this was before they even unpacked the slippery slide.
The next morning I woke to the sound of Pollinator in the distance, rippling through the air into my hungover body. But after eventually rolling out and catching my piece of eggs and bacon from the conveniently positioned kiosk, I found my recently acquired herd of bff’s, shared a morning ‘dop’ with them, and missioned through to stage two for a taste of Demogoroth Satanum.
Black Metal, or any face-painted band for that matter, gigging in broad daylight is always something of an oddity for me (there’s just something about Demons plus Vitamin D that doesn’t seem quite right), but ‘Demo‘ just never let up! Pummeling the crowd with a range of inaudibly blackened instructions to a happy lifestyle while calling on a bit of mayhem and synagogue burning for good measure, a mosh pit ensued. I was raked in, until a twisted ankle forced me to reevaluate my own life choices at base camp for an hour or so.
My time on the sidelines was short lived though, and a Boargazm / Riddlebreak sandwich was next on the agenda. With the sound perfectly tuned once again, Boargazm were wowing the audiences with pole dancers and a little piggy brutally grinding sparks into the crowd; whilst Riddlebreak were thrusting audiences into a blood-soaked frenzy of mangled bodies and stage skull-butts that would make HBK proud. Oh, there was so much blood! Soooo much blood and that slippery slide.
I later caught a bit of NervoChaos, the Brazilian crusaders, who put on a brutal performance and also got some of that more familiar Cape Town metal with Infanteria and Zombies Ate My Girlfriend rolling in to add more spice to an already well-seasoned lineup of South Africa’s top underground talents.
However, my highlight of the day, and indeed the entire festival, was undoubtedly Theatre Runs Red. I’ve always heard about these guys but never had the pleasure of ever hearing a single track or witnessing a live performance. But when I eventually did, it was nearly life changing. They’re the kind of band that makes you want to call up your primary school English teacher and say “you were right”. The shear magnificence, the brilliance, the darkness – that fucken black stuff they had coming out of their mouths while summoning the spirits of the underworlds to stomp and chant alongside us as a whirlpool of flesh opened up to swallow me into the pit of death and relinquish my soul unto them – was just utterly breathtaking. Their set capped off one of the most splendorous evenings I’ve experienced since stepping into this underground culture, and to a certain degree, also reignited my passion for it. I am not worthy, and encourage everyone to check them out whenever the chance presents itself.
The Emalyth Arts Expo: Infinity was truly a grandiose experience, especially for a Cape Townian ‘noob’ like myself. I met some of the craziest, friendliest, drunkest people I’ve come across in quite a while, beheld a Tour de France of local metal with a sophisticated touch of the alternative arts and crafts spread across the two days, hosted at one of the most naturally open venues I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. The transitions between stages one and two was particularly impressive, seamlessly chugging the Arts Expo from point to point, not skipping a beat and leaving audiences only with the headache of which alcoholic beverage best goes with which band?
Overall, everyone brought their “A” game. And kudos to the guys who setup that brutal slippery slide thing. There’s nothing more metal than a bunch of bleached bodies charging down a watery runway of rubber and dirt with death metal echoing through the background. The Emalyth team spectacularly rolled out another successful event, one that shall be remembered for years to come and has surely cleared the tracks for many more in the near future. Roll on to 2017? Definitely.