The muffled sound of a late sound-check sounded like a depressing song for a despondent scene in a low budget movie in which audience members were made to stand outside, while organisers busied themselves with things they should have busied themselves with days earlier, writes ART STATE Senior Writer Thato Rossouw in review of OddZ’s Lights Out show.
This too won’t end well
It was 18:00, the night was indeed still young, but the show at which I found myself on that chilly winter night seemed a bit odd and familiar. It was draped in the same cloth and was set to follow a similar route as the many other shows I had been to since making Bloemfontein my temporary abode in the beginning of the year. It threatened to induce in me similar emotions as its predecessors, and I was ready to leave it feeling the same way I feel when leaving any art show in Bloemfontein – angry and disappointed.
Not a good first impression
Firstly, allow me to let honesty reign and admit to the fact that, before that night of the show, I did not know much about the show’s history and relevance. All I knew, as I stepped into the doors of the icy hall that would host the show for the night, was that it was OddZ’s second annual Lights Out art concert and that, with the way the night had begun, it promised to be a chilling and bewildering roller coaster ride for me and the people who had gathered there to experience it.
To jeer or to cheer?
As soon as the organisers had their eleventh hour minutiae ducks in a row, and audience members were allowed into the spacious and bleak Artec Hall at the Central University of Technology, Bloemfontein Campus, the lights were dimmed down low, and the show finally began.
But, as if in continuation to the hour of confusion that preceded it, the show, once the cogs in its slow engine reached a rhythmic fluidity in their movement, became an orgy of acts that, on the one hand, ended abruptly in the middle of their sets (leaving some of the audience members confused as to whether they need to clap in celebration or shout in anger) and, on the other, were moments of pure genius and perfect artistry. It became a procession of confusing acts that were, at times, made bearable by the coffee and cupcakes that were on offer.
To kick things off, and hopefully bring some warmth into the hall, the audience was treated to a rather phonetically confused (and equally confusing) musical act by rapper-cum-poet Tshiamo K. But soon after the noise settled, Kwena Peu in his usual brilliance, and as if to cleanse us from the din that came before him, rose from his seat to bring calm to the stage with a rendition of his epic poem, Soul Twins. The two acts were the first in a string of from-bad-act-to-good-one transitions that would make up the show.
Go siame, fashion will save us!
After what was an unnecessarily long break, the third act of the night, and the first of two fashion shows that would happen on the night, took to the stage accompanied by the man responsible for the phonetic dissonance we experienced in the beginning of the show, Tshiamo K.
While the combination of the two art forms had its lows, and the abrupt endings of Tshiamo’s songs in the middle of the show disturbed the flow of it all, the fashion show, because of the brilliant clothes being displayed, had its moments of pure aesthetic and sensory pleasures. The clothes on display were by MUMA Couture, and were a contemporary imagination of the traditional attires of the Basotho.
Traditional Basotho blankets were reimagined as new and fresh jackets for both women and men, and featured a new look at their antiquate patterns and bright colours. Other clothes were also displayed during the show – showing off the designer’s versatility when coming to working with different fabrics.
Show me the funny!
After yet another unnecessarily long break (which caused the ebb of the energy that the audience had built up from the last performance, and left a majority of them buried in their phones), poet and comedian Hlox Da Rebel graced the stage with a 45 min stand-up comedy routine. Like most comedians in the country, Hlox’s set touched on a number of issues, ranging from religion, sex, police brutality, fees must fall, and the President.
But, unlike other comedians in the country, his routine reached an insurmountable zenith early in his set, and resulted in him spewing out a string of stale and vaguely funny punchlines for almost 30 minutes of his entire set. It was a tragedy to both listen to and experience.
Strutting on words
Soon after him came the second fashion show, which displayed clothes made by Dolz Clothing, and was accompanied by the poetry of Kwena Peu. Unlike with the first fashion showcase, there was synergy between the artist’s performance and the display of the clothes, and the resultant performance was, on many levels, one of the highlights of the night.
The synergy was created by the harmonious connection between the lyricism of Kwena’s words, and the elegant strides of the models as they walked down the ramp, displaying the beautifully tailored clothes of a talented designer. Like with the first tailor, the tailor for the second show also dabbled with the reimagining of traditional Basotho attire, and worked with a number of other fabrics.
Wonder and wander
With radio personality Portia Sebothelo having comfortably driven the show to this point as the MC, the night then swiftly swerved past two musical performances.
The first performance was a wonderfully rendered performance by vocalist and beatboxer P.Y.G.I, and the second one an out-of-tune, highly animated, and phonetically confused vocal mish-mash by CUT FM radio presenter and claimed vocalist Mellow Daey.
But a highly energetic and well-choreographed performance by dance group Chetyre redeemed us.
Points to ponder
All in all, my night spent at OddZ’s Lights Outs show was one laden with confusion and doubt. Like mentioned above, to claim that the show was a complete train-smash would be doing an injustice to some of the aspects of the show that were laudable. But, on the other hand, to completely focus on the laudable aspects of the show, and sweep under the already full carpet of art shows in Bloemfontein some of the dirt we were made to ingest, would be to leave my conscience tainted with lies, and whatever honesty I have left wanting.
To successfully host an event of this magnitude, and with such a diverse line up of events, is going to take a while to achieve. So, until then, until the people of OddZ reach the Promised Land, it would do them good to continually improve the experiences that their audiences have to go through every year.
Hopefully, in future the show will start on time, with a solid programme, in a much more intimate space.
Thato Rossouw is Senior Writer at ART STATE. For his idle babblings on Twitter, follow @Thato_Rossouw
Photo credits: OddZ