Review: We Came To Build 2016

We Came To Build 2016

Cape Town, South Africa Local podcasters, Build Your Scene, hosted their first live music event under that name on Friday. It was ambitious in scale for the type of show – being an all-ages welcome event – as well as in the scope of the mission. According to one of the organizer’s facebook status following the show, they nailed it!

“Always surround yourself with people who are better than you at what they do best. Works for me – thank you to everyone who put so much in to making it a great success!” ~ Kyle Puller (podcaster/organiser, Build Your Scene/We Came To Build)

Of course, we’re not just taking it for hearsay. I also attended last Friday’s concert, wearing my metal4africa face at the legendary city-owned Claremont Civic Hall where I was once just a fifteen-year-old kid watching Lithium and experiencing my own first moshpit some twenty years back. It was a strangely nostalgic evening, and somewhat sobering – and I’m not referring to the absence of alcohol sales, though further mention of this will follow – but sobering to realize how far I have come since learning to bop my own head back and forth, and in measuring the gap in years since the last time somebody put in this amount of effort to make it possible for kids to come and fall in love with what so many of us now take for granted.

Juiced Robot also attended to capture some of the magic and produced this tasteful audio-visual summary:

So, my early arrival was greeted by great smells from the Wahine Food Truck parked outside – which is becoming a regular sighting at many of the more “alternative” sort of events around town because, apparently, we enjoy some good food! – and a promising babble of folk already gathered. Having known what some of the effort the organizers had gone through in preparing for this and also having some idea of the kind of expense attached, I felt a nervous flutter on their behalf. That feeling of anticipation where you can see everything is in place and the work has been done, but now that the thing steps out of gestation and into the waking world of action; has it all been enough? But even as I went on a quick reconnaissance mission inside to see what else was afoot, more and more people were arriving. One whole side of the hall consisted of stalls for merch and goodies. Build Your Scene and Burning Tone Records took up a stretch of almost half the length of the hall, along with the Monster Energy bar/tuck-shop, and a presence by 7 String Studios and some of the bands performing taking up the rest. On the other side, the Legacy School Of Music had set up a display as well. Although it looked a little sparse, the stage set-up was tidy and well-arranged with a Paul Bothner Music sponsored backline, lighting and some branding. The stage itself was a glorious school-hall/theater-styled thing of decent dimensions. It was just a matter of the show getting started…

Which it did with Build Your Scene presenter Kyle Puller welcoming the audience and introducing Cape Town newbies The Alpha Sequence, also starring Build Your Scene co-presenter Nathan McClure as a guest vocalist in the first track. For a guy who does not get out as much as he used to, I’ve somehow managed to see this promising band a couple of times already in the last couple of months. Following the ever typical career trajectory of just about any local metal band, they greet the listener with an aural assault of relentless brutality – the way we like it, of course – and keeping it up until the closing of the curtain. I’ve been impressed with these guys before, having only emerged very recently, but still managing a tidy delivery of their creations for short months of performance experience. If they keep this up, I believe we can expect great things from The Alpha Sequence as their songwriting and stage act evolves further.

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The second band was I Became Nothing. This one was a first time viewing for me, although they seem to also have been around for about a year or so. If I had to be completely honest, I’d say that this was my favourite feature for the night. This does not mean that I think they were the best band, as it was clear on the night that other bands who particpated have gained much through many more shows and stage experience to stand to their credit; but in terms of balance, I Became Nothing brought something different to the line-up. And whats more: my kind of “different”! The name suggests something a little more… introspective, and indeed delivered. With darkly melodic guitar passages and spellbinding interludes, but all the while maintaining a satisfyingly heavy constant throughout, the crowd began to show some fervor after what seemed a bit of a slow startup until that point. Yet the hall gradually gathered more feet, and those in attendance became more relaxed with themselves and more involved in the music. Although there was no moshpit yet, rows of headbangers had begun to line up and bob in delight and unison along with I Became Nothing and myself. It has to be said that the inclusion of this band on the line-up made a significant impact on my enjoyment of the concert as a whole.

A Price On The King’s Head brought us our first proper moshpit for the night, and once they began to play, there were no surprises why. Also a relatively fresh name on the scene in the greater scheme of things, but no longer “newbs” by any stretch, I had last seen them perform roughly a year before. The strength they have gathered within themselves as performers since then was staggering to behold! Rather than being a band who one can tell at a glance have progressed through two or so years of live performance, A Price On The King’s Head hit with the stage with the confidence and force of a band who has been doing what they do for twice as long. Of course, they also include many favourite flavours into their aural recipe to whip up a crowd, including anthemic vocal lines, In Flames-esque guitar licks, and a couple of floor-thumping breakdowns. The sound coming off the stage also seemed to reach a new high-point for the night; perhaps improving with the hall filling up, or the sound guys finding the sweet spots. Who knows. As long as it was working, and it was!

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It was then time for Betray The Emissary who have returned in 2015 from hiatus to resume gigging. The last time I had seen them was probably around 2010 or thereabouts, so they were quite a draw for me to attend the show in the first place. I got everything as much as what I had been expecting from what I remember of them. I have to admit that in growing up I was never the biggest hardcore/screamo fan out there, but being close to “heavy” music myself for most of my life, I’ve long ago learned how to spot a diamond in the rough and so very much appreciated Betray The Emissary when they first emerged some ten years ago. Seeing them play again after all of this time served as a reminder that they’ve always had something special to offer, and my heart is glad to see that the band has come back together to continue their journey of self-discovery all this time later. What’s more, they’ve not lost any of their former edge, but seem to have refined themselves somewhat. They also paid respects to the thing which probably more than just a few were thinking on the night, but remains a painful topic to speak about too casually; but the absence of Take Hand from the line-up following the recent untimely passing away of their guitarist Mike Dowson. Members of the band, however, were in attendance, greeting fans and showing high spirits in celebrating the memory of their fallen brother-in-arms.

Atlantic South had the honour of closing the show, and they delivered a mighty closing at that! Yet another new-ish band who have made a strong impression in their relatively short time, including already having released an EP and engaged two inter-city tours. I think that the thing which set them apart was their combination of great stage personality coupled with an almost-cliche approach to writing. Every song seems to contain that ‘familiar’ magic little element which gets people reaching for the stars and then racing back to earth in majestic headbanging glory! In short, Atlantic South giving people exactly what they want – no sideshow nonsense, no distracting embellishments – just straight from the drawing-board Metalcore, and expertly delivered at that. This concert could only have served to build them up towards embarking on their current tour which sees them visiting Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, and Pretoria.

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Between each band I would walk a bit of a circuit to see how the general state of things were looking, and to catch a breath of fresh air. Whilst the hall never really filled up to it’s capacity, it had filled up enough to give a nice atmosphere of “shit got real” for the promoters and participating bands. A promising start to what I hope can become at least an annual staple. I was happy to see that not only the kids had responded to the call, but even despite there being the lack of a liquor dispensary (all-ages, after all), there was a strong turnout of my peers and other people I more often see sucking on a beer in dark and dingy clubs; all behaving themselves properly with a Creme Soda or Monster Energy Drink and showing a salute of support for efforts of the organizers. I would say that We Came To Build 2016 appeared to be a very worthwhile venture for all involved and one which was well-delivered by it’s organizers. They graciously made a lot of noise on behalf of their various sponsors and affiliates and radiated a very genuine sense of purpose in what they were trying to achieve.

I think that the only critical analysis which I could really put forward was that, although their choice of bands was well-considered in terms of quality/ability, what was exhibited could have been more dynamic. It seemed by the end of the night that most of the bands come from a very similar place in terms of approach to songwriting and musical style. If we’re talking about building our scene, this factor lends itself to the question being asked: “which scene is that, specifically?”; which we know is not the kind of marginalization the podcast wishes to represent. However, it is early days and for my part at least, I realize that this first step by the Build Your Scene brand into the live show arena was probably a little more provisional and in the spirit of “testing the waters”, thus drawing from those resources which lay closest to themselves. With what looks like a solid foundation laid, I very much look forward to seeing how they navigate across the broad spectrum of “scene-building” in the foreseeable future, and; perhaps the next stop will also see inclusion of more diverse sounds ranging from the heaviness of bands like Megalodon, right through to the bouncier likes of Set For The Sky. In South Africa – just in Cape Town even – we really do have it all!

Photographs by Grant Mclaghlan: courtesy of Monster Energy

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