I recently had the fortune of meeting Liam Richards and Sam Taylor of Pablo Honey. For the uninitiated, Pablo Honey is a freeform shop space in the heart of Hillcrest. Sam, the curator, has managed to source a wonderful collection of antique furniture, neon jackets and art. Her collection is both wonderful and diverse. It speaks to her latent ability to find pretty, old things. I have a theory that whenever a gaudy grandmother lies on her deathbed, Sam apparates like a hungry Christmas-ghost and steals her cupboards. Liam is likewise a terrific soul who collects geometric tattoos and excellent taste. It stands to reason that Pablo Honey, the store, is a wonderful mishmash of ideas and stock. You need not buy anything to be entertained. The best summary of the place is that you can drink a cup of coffee and play with Lego there.
In their effort to make Hillcrest a little more “youth accessible”, the folks at Pablo Honey have started hosting events of various flavors. It really warms my nethers that at last somebody has the moxy to cater for a young crowd in Hillcrest without offering either cocaine or EDM. The Whitest Suburb in Africa™ has so far only had terrible bars as venues. Saturday nights are mostly spent in the one nightclub, fighting off divorcees with a big stick. Pick up lines err more on the, “Are you about a size 14?” than, “Can I buy you a drink”.
It is time someone acknowledged the more creative side of the community and its surrounds. It would appear that Pablo Honey is doing just that. One of the ambitions of Pablo Honey is to host live music nights. I was lucky enough to attend such a function this past weekend.
It should be abundantly clear that Sam and Liam are terrifically hip. The fact that I wrote a sentence describing people as “hip” should explain that I am objectively not (hip). I know 30 does not make me worm food just yet, but here is no denying that after about 28, whenever you go watch a live band, your first response is to ask the nice man with the microphone to keep it down. Though age is a state of mind, it is very hard to ignore you are not as tolerant of social situations as you once were. As a result, I approached the evening with a small (very small) amount of trepidation. There were other reasons as well…
A part of me is always conflicted when watching a live show. The first, really hopes to be there at the cusp of something great. You want to be able to bounce a child on your knee and say, “I was there before they were famous. The front man spilt a drink on me and I unplugged the mic… I was that close.” There is a bit of you that really wishes to touch history like that. You want nothing more than to be in the ward, wearing your scrubs, standing with your hands open to catch the next big thing before anyone else.
But then there is another part.
A very dickish part.
You want them to suck. You want that story. You really want to stand there, beer in hand, and gawp as the band destroy every notion of talent that ever existed. You want to watch the musical equivalent of a septic tank fun run. A little bit of you, far bigger than you care to admit, hopes the band rupture poor taste into their amplifiers before going home in their mother’s VW Vito. What is more, you really hope they are graceless about it. Nothing is as magical as a musician whose ego cannot see past their own incompetence. It’s a thing of beauty. I have witnessed this spectacle before. I was at a hostel on the South Coast when the entertainment (because, there is no denying what happened was entertainment) thundered out of the armpit of poor taste. One man single handedly cavity searched talent with both hands and came up wanting. He strummed feverishly, like a thirteen-year-old whose wish came true to have Parkinson’s in his right hand. Every now and then, irrespective of what the lyrics were, he would clench the tiny anuses of his eyes and shout, “KILL YOUR EGO,” before lapsing back into the shouted frenzy that was Wonderwall. Shouted frenzy that was Wonderwall? You are probably thinking, “No, that can’t be right?” Oh summer-child, his version of Wonderwall had more screaming than either of the Gallagher’s could manage playing Uno. Of course, we were in no way helpful. Our table was eight rounds down and every time he breathlessly finished another epileptic fit on his guitar, we cheered as if watching the Beatles themselves. Of course, this motivated him more. He would wipe the sweat from his brow and eye down another Bob Marley cover. The song would cower in the corner and scream as he slowly approached it, drool dangling from his unmentionables. The authorities would find nothing but a small shoe.
As it would turn out, this would not be the case.
Saturday night rolled in. I had spent the evening with my family. Dad had (typically) made a fantastic meal. So, it was with a warm heart that I set off for the venue. I arrived roughly as the first band on the set list (there were two) had begun playing.
Imagine my relief when I heard it was a band and not another six-string warbler.
A brief digression. I have nothing personally against Ed Sheeran. I am not a fan of his music but, that being said, can appreciate that he has an eye for melody and a lyrical edge. I think he has earned every ounce of his success and should enjoy every groupie that rides him like a stolen fixie bike. HOWEVER, he is responsible for something which I unequivocally hate. Hate is a strong word. Perhaps, it’s more a violent immune response. Due to Ed being that soft-hearted guy who somehow made it big with a guitar and a dream, open mic nights are now infested with whimpering idiots singing ballads about their ex-girlfriends. Not one comedy act, not one girl, just a bunch of thin dudes with guitars trying to sound like Ed Sheeran. Bands are a dying breed.
But this was a band! And? What? They were… could they possibly be? Good? That doesn’t sound right. Yes! Yes, they were! Immediately it became plain that the warm-up act (South Wolves) had more than a little talent. Theirs was a whimsical jangle of guitar effects and melodies which made the passing of time pleasant. It put me in the mind of iLiKETRAiNS with a slightly funkier edge. Sweet stuff. I seated myself outside with a cold beer and enjoyed the company of on-trend people. We talked about the merits of rolling tobacco and what everyone’s plans were for Halloween. South Wolves did not disappoint. I think if the high standard of live music is a band that plays in time and on key, then there is no doubt we were being treated to a group who really knew their craft. It was welcome, so unbelievably welcome, to listen to the art being done both professionally and well.
The amplifier sufficiently heated, Calico (the top-billed act) took to the stage. They had a calm energy to their routine, a bit like watching a documentary on Rush. The quality of South Wolves was handsomely matched by their performance. A four-piece band has the potential to fall apart, however it became very clear that they not only knew their music, but each other. The simple synergy between each musician was clear. The only thing they got wrong was leaving their front man in the tumble dryer for too long. I found myself seated for a fair portion of their act on a plush couch right at the front (Pablo Honey is that kind of a venue – this is a very good thing). They obliged an ignorant audience with a few fun covers (“I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”) as well as some genuinely well-written originals (“Fallacy” is a song I hope to hear on the radio again soon).
It was a treat to go somewhere to feel the energy of good music. I don’t know how often we step outside ourselves and do something to break the cycle of the week. Habits are easy to form but also, thankfully, easy to lose. It was a wonderful evening at a wonderful place.