The challenge with playing an intimate show to a small crowd of people is ensuring that you’re connecting with everybody and that everybody is having a good time. A large crowd in a club or regular concert venue is slightly easier as there is a good chance that a few of the people in the crowd aren’t there to see your band, but just came out to have a good night. This means that they’re more likely to get into your music; or they just won’t care and will spend their time drinking and talking to their mates. The challenge comes when you’re playing a small venue, like a restaurant, and everybody has paid a considerable amount of money to watch your band perform live. They are expecting to get their money’s worth.
The December Streets did not have a problem commanding a sense of power and stage presence within the small, quaint walls of Cafe Roux in Noordhoek. Cafe Roux is a quaint little venue that, despite its pretentious hipster feel and pricey food, makes for a rather cosy place to play a gig in. Especially considering that that the crowd was likely loosened up by delicious food and fine wine.
The band took to the stage with a little bit of improv work from Tristan Coetzee on the ukulele, an instrument he had never played before until about three hours before the show started. He did a fairly good job of singing total nonsense and it got the crowd warmed up a bit before picking up the tempo. The December Streets proceeded to launch into their funky blend of indie rock and pop rock and eventually had the whole venue singing along to their songs, even the ones the crowd didn’t really know.
“Fire Through the Window” went down like a treat as Coetzee conducted a mass sing-along of a song that any self-respecting fan of the South African music scene should know – and if they didn’t? Well they sure knew all the lyrics to that song by the end of the evening. The band then launched into a remarkably brilliant cover of a little song that I had nearly forgotten about called “Ho Hey”. Yeah, that little song by The Lumineers that took the world by a storm in 2013 and then was eventually swept under the rug. The December Streets took an acoustic folk song and turned it into an incredibly funky and groovy pop rock sing-along. They decided to introduce the crowd to some new material which went down quite well. If the band were using these songs to test the waters regarding their upcoming new album, then consider the waters to be quite pleasant and warm. The encore consisted of staple tracks like “Slow Down, “My Name” and “Thief” which turned into a mass sing-along with a good 50 or so people chanting the lyrics at the top of their lungs.
Of course, with any show, a lot of the entertainment comes from the crowd itself. My attention was firstly focused on a group of people who clearly loved the band and were having a ball of a time. They led the encore that led to the band playing three more songs and pretty much made my evening. My favourite thing was one particular lady blurting out “For the whole night?” when Coetzee said that they had played their final song. What I really liked is that Coetzee walked up to the lady after the gig and thanked her and her friends for having such a great time. She got a free shirt and CD out of that situation, which I personally think is an awesome thing for a band to do for a fan.
With any band you are going to have the groupies. These groupies were two girls tucked into a corner who eventually turned the it into a dance space for two. That is all brilliant but at the same time it provides one with much amusement when they try desperately to get the band’s attention. Especially when they try the whole rock balled lighter thing with their phones’ lights and then they forget to put the lights on. Failure is never an option for a groupie, and they eventually got their minute of fame when the photographer took a few shots of them.
The December Streets have proved time and time again that they are one of South Africa’s best bands. With this show, they did it once again with a sound that translates almost perfectly from studio to live and the ability to create a fun-filled atmosphere nearly anywhere they go. Not many bands are able to command such a stage presence in such a small venue so kudos to The December Streets for doing so. They are most definitely one of the best bands that I have seen perform live.