photograph by Kelly Berold

In the grungy yet infamous watering hole of Cape Town’s Brass Bell the crowd chats over drinks and dinner as nine o’clock strikes – the gig should be commencing. Some drunkard is seemingly unfamiliar with the term ‘Africa Time’ as he tries his hand at a crowd-rousing chant; “Where is the band?” He fails miserably. Yet sure enough, the self-proclaimed “assassins of pop” take to the stage – THE BONE COLLECTORS have finally arrived.

The black ocean hugging the building’s walls balances out the altogether strange setting of the surfers corner ‘Bikini-Bar’ that dark and bluesy misfits are now stomping around on. THE BONE COLLECTORS are a collation of five men, however tonight there are only three. Roland Hunter in his button-down takes the lead in vocals and guitar, with Gawie du Toit on bass, and Ryk Otto smashing away on the drums.

These Bone boys could be compared to the likes of 80’s artists such as TOM WAITS with his dark and sinister ramblings or the earlier work of NICK CAVE. Locally I would place them somewhere near the more alternative sounds of DESMOND AND THE TUTUS. Combine this with foot stomping swing and boogie melodies and you have THE BONE COLLECTORS. They describe their sound as “a light evening shower of hammers and anvils”, not something one envisages as background music to accompany the remaining dinner-eating patrons. Roland embraces this saying during a chat after the gig, “I love the fact that we are stomping around while oldies try and eat their Caesar salads.” It does indeed add a whole new dynamic when compared to their performances at the Jolly Rodger or Mercury where the crowds come prepared, making this glorious performance even more entertaining and obscene in every positive sense of the word.

As the Caesar eating oldies filtered out, a small group of bearded, studded and dreaded locals took to the ‘dance floor’ matching the bassist’s energetic head-banging. They were further fuelled to dance about by the bands QUEEN-like theatrics. Their songs were all up-beat and adrenaline building and I, like the bearded locals, couldn’t help but spaz out to the party pack combination of jazz, boogie, rock and swing.  When songs are titled the likes of “The Unholy Groovy Voodoo” or introduced as “a cheery little song about the end of the world,” one cannot help but be curiously captivated by this atypical group.

THE BONE COLLECTORS offer a refreshingly original sound and performance that many gathered at this Kalk Bay hang-out, were not too sure what to do with. Roland with his arbitrary exclamations including him greeting the ocean creatures with “Here’s something to keep the fishies awake. Hi fishies!” and the drummer’s manic smile were enough for the audience to question the sanity of these three individuals. It was wonderful.

 It needs to be said that the technical ability of the group was superb. What with Roland’s hands a blur up and down his guitar and du Toit leaving a good few spectators open mouthed with his amazing base slapping. “The Great Otto” treated the audience to smashing drum solos scattered throughout his performance that ensured the swaying of heads and stomping of feet across the low-lit room.

Dark, twisted and sincerely strange THE BONE COLLECTORS not only deliver with phenomenal musical skill but also bestow upon their audiences a stimulating originality so lacking in music of late.