I haven’t had much luck with live music. During high school, it proved cost-effective and adolescently satisfying to define my tastes, myself, against the blockbuster pick-of-the-late-90s alternasomething concerts (Live, anyone?) I didn’t attend. After a year and a half of American hiphop and r&b gorging, I found my way back to local ‘urban’ music. Just in time, it seems, to witness South Africa’s own burgeoning hiphop scene making noise in clubs, venues and radio playlists. (The dynamics between this stuff and Kwaito, I’m still thinking [and hopefully eventually posting] about). Soon enough a trusted acquaintance tells me there’s a good group playing in a small venue, and I think: ‘it’s high time I attended a gig‘.

So I handed over some money in return for The (unfortunately named IMHO) Volumes. Contents: a better-than-okay MC (the kind that syllable-stocks every line) backed by guitar, cello, flute and maybe zither. The secret weapon, though, was the drummer- all toothy grin and elastic arms, his Bez-ian charms betrayed only by his actual possession of chops. Weird? Well (In much-despised [x] + [y] terms), think The Roots’s Black Thought fronting A Silver Mt. Zion and you’re close. Put the word ‘world’ in there and make an instant value judgment and you’re closer.

Now, the nearest I’ve gotten to loving a jam record is Hot Shots II (do I get points for paraphrasing Tom in my first entry?), so you’ll not be surprised when I tell you I found the band least intriguing in Grateful Dead Prez (sorry) mode. The most affecting moment came when the live instrumentation was pared down to a slight, spectral keen while the MC waxed cold, lonely and rain-soaked about urban spiritual isolation in Joburg (I think). Another highlight I almost forgot while writing this: rapper invites a girl whose name I can’t recall at present (this was months ago foax!) to be the Kelly to his Nelly, and her jaw-droppingly gorgeous voice (I’m no Dan Perry, but I know good pipes when I hear ’em) just swallows up everything else happening in the room.

However, when it came to pointing out the bounce, The Volumes were somewhat less adept. The give-it-your-all encore saw some vigorously plucked bows, pounded guitar-fx pedals and even rapider rap, but it took a lot of encouragement for the audience to unseat themselves. I’m biased, I’ll admit it: Everything I Needed to Know about Dancing to Hip-hop I Learned from a Timbaland Banger. Sometimes, a little sadly perhaps, even the sweatiest kind of ambition can’t make up for a well-programmed drum. (I should note that I heard a snippet of their recorded output, and everyone who wasn’t the MC sounded all but deleted. There were even jungle breaks!)

So results of experiment no.1 in reconnecting with the concert experience? Nice, but I hoped this wasn’t as good as it got. I’d have to wait for the new year for my real revelation.