KONGOS and Anti-Retro Vinyls

As anyone that has turned on MK in the last month knows, KONGOS are touring our fine country. Friday night saw them playing to a packed Unit 11 crowd with Anti-Retro Vinyls. Russell Grant reviews the show.


The Anti-Retro Vinyls recently changed their name from The Otherwise, because it was shared by a band in the states. It was under this title that they were playing when I last saw them at Burn some years ago. I enjoyed them then; they had a definite old My Chemical Romance thing that they did completely unashamedly, and while they weren’t the greatest songwriters on the planet it was still fun and genuine and completely without pretense. Unit 11 was the first time I’d seen them since then, and while most of what they were doing back at Burn was still there, a few things have changed, as one would expect.



One thing that hasn’t changed is their songwriting ability. Their opening song saunters in a slightly pedestrian fashion, a tendency which shades most of their set, unfortunately. Their style and performance have retained the dark melodrama of their MCR influence, while their music has slipped into a more straightforward pop-rock niche. Almost every song has elements of genuine catchiness, but they tend to spoil it with traditional radio friendly rock progressions and deadening dance beats; the kind of aural cud chewed over wors and Castle. It’s clear they’re still having fun though, and I think still do what they do without too much pretense, despite some rockstar posturing.



I’d never heard KONGOS before hearing about this show, and after running the mandatory Youtube search I was keen for what they had to offer. They mix genuine musical talent with an appealing image (the good-looking brother factor a la Kings Of Leon; the urban-rustic machismo) which saw Unit 11 full to the brim with faces I’d never seen before; weekend warrior music fans who only venture out to watch bands with an MK or 5FM stamp of approval. It was a tragically ironic sight to see Unit so engorged with human bodies mere weeks before their closing for financial reasons; the invisible hand of Durban apathy giving it the finger. Nonetheless, the show was great. People stood on chairs and walls and railings stretching for a glimpse of these undoubtedly talented South African Americans delivering their precise and eclectic blend of folk, prog, celtic jig, maskandi jive, and heartfelt ballad. Their Beatles covers were a standout for me (there are few bands who can do a non-cringeworthy Beatles cover). Their only weak point was perhaps their slower ballads, which came across as slightly twee, but which had most females in the audience swooning. It was great to see a band so well received commercially with gallons of actual musical talent.



With the for real closing of Unit on Tuesday, who knows where we might be in the coming months. Perhaps the sudden rise in live music attendance is a sign of good things to come. Knowing Durban… probably not. Whatever the case, the music scene will find a way to thrive.


*All images © Gareth Bargate

One Response to “KONGOS and Anti-Retro Vinyls”
  1. Sophia says:

    I completely agree with you on the Beatles covers. Covering the Beatles always ends up badly – this was a true exception to that rule. Come Together was literally a whole new song with the same lyrics. I loved it.

    The slower songs were lacking, the first of the two in particular. Regardless, it was my best, sweatiest gig for 2011 and a glorious way to say toodaloo to my favourite haunt.

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