We Don’t Need No Water

There’s no doubting the impact Burn had on the Durban live music scene. Many of you that visit this site found refuge in its’ dark walls and many bands got to showcase their talents or lack thereof on Burn’s stage. Russel Smith writes an ode to the now dead venue.

It would be wildly inaccurate to call Burn just a club. ‘Just a club’ doesn’t spawn and inspire countless bands, artists and collaborations. A normal club can’t boast such fierce loyalty from its patrons that they tattoo the club’s logo onto their skin. Dave Campbell, one of the founders and former owner summed it up correctly in his speech at 12 o’ clock on Saturday night by saying, “There is no way I can relate to everyone’s individual experiences. All I can do is talk about my own.” In telling his own experience however, he touched on many of the reasons why Burn was more than just a club for so many, for so many years.

 It was exclusive and inclusive only as far as you just had to be there.

To begin writing about the demise of Durban’s longest standing fortress of all things off centre of the norm, you can’t just write about the last night it was open. The last night was, as to be expected, a mixed bag of emotions and opinions and far too many questions about what will happen now. There were numerous folk in attendance that had no real affinity for the place. They were there for the party and the allure of a couple hundred people getting sauced, making it a gold mine for sloppy flirtation with the aim of even sloppier hook ups. It was just another night to these casual observers. To the rest, the people that felt Burn’s passing personally, the ones whose faces were all too familiar sights within the black walls of Burn, they were there for what can only be described as a wake. Dressed all in black as they do, they spoke of the memories made, and shared them with others that knew Burn best, and in a way, knew them best. Trying to sum up people’s feelings about a place is a tall ask for one reviewer.


I suppose I do have the unique advantage as the reviewer of being a long time patron, and a staff member for a number of years. I watched as people made those memories that would stay with them for the rest of their lives. I bore witness as strangers met for the first time, only to go to their wedding a few years later. I also watched people drown their grief over failed relationships inside Burn’s dark, boozy embrace, or lost themselves in their own worlds wrapped up in the cathartic tunes obliterating whatever they were trying to escape or deal with on the dance floor. Ironic that Dave and Tammy’s power partnership that was Burn’s driving force for years was born out of the demise of their own marriage. I watched first hand as strangers got their Burn brethren’s backs when trouble reared its usually jock shaped head. Half the club got between me and 4 jocks looking for a fight quicker than it took me to realise they actually meant me physical harm. In its entire history, Burn was renowned for the lack of typical drama expected in other clubs. Perfect strangers that could only claim having seen each other at Burn more than a couple times were instantly on the same team. Whether you were a metal, punk, goth, cyber goth, emo, indie, hardcore or even a fucking hip hop kid, or any weird offshoot of any of those, it didn’t really matter. If you had spent enough time in Burn to be recognized by someone, you were in the circle, and no one fucked with the circle. It was exclusive and inclusive only as far as you just had to be there.


It is safe to say that without Burn, Durban’s music scene would’ve been poorer without its long standing support. Sure there are those people that will complain that towards the end it became more of a club house for a few metal bands and lost its way almost entirely when they attempted to host Dubstep parties, but before that, and for much longer, Burn was the nursery of Durban’s musical talent. In fact, creativity of any shape and form grew inside Burn’s dark interior like mushrooms. Burn’s Battle of the Bands and Battle of the Tributes were part of growing and sustaining this small diverse music scene we have on the East Coast and anyone who loves this scene has to concede that as a fact.


This year, as young as it is, has seen drastic changes to layout of Durban’s live music venues and night life. I don’t think it will take very long for us who are driven to watch bands live at every given opportunity to notice the impact that Burn’s closing will have. I think many will realise that we took Burn for granted, seeing it stay open all these years when all signs indicated it shouldn’t, lulled us into complacency. The doors stayed open thanks only to the love and the refusal to let the music stop by the newer owners, Barry and Delia, who took it over even when it was already unprofitable. Yet another testament to how much Burn meant to people. What is in store, and who will champion Durban’s musician’s cause is a concern. Whoever steps up to the plate though will have had the path already set out by the owners of Burn.


Back at Burn on Saturday night/ Sunday morning, Dave shared the philosophy behind Burn, “The cheers philosophy: born out of the 80’s TV show…” With all the people that had played a role in Burn’s history up on stage, and many more in the crowd, electricity charged the air when they began chanting what had become the theme tune for Durban’s own longest running sitcom. I don’t think anyone there was lost on the significance of the lyrics. Though maybe destructive and nihilistic in its origins, they took the place of an anthem for a group of people that found a home in Durban where everywhere else they seemed out of place. Burn wasn’t a club or live music venue, it was the symbol, the physical embodiment of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll that burned in every mother fucker, threatening to burn everything around them down.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!

We don’t need no water – Let the mother fucka’ burn.

Burn, mother fucka’, burn.


*All images © Kevin Goss-Ross

16 Responses to “We Don’t Need No Water”
  1. Skeg says:

    Sick article Russell! Stirred up some serious emotions…

  2. Pascal says:

    Rad review. And KILLER photoset Kevin!!!!

  3. Nick says:

    Excellent photos, Kevin.

    I was never Burn’s biggest fan, but it’s still sad to see it go. My favourite memory of there was on a strange weekday night party, the DJ decided to play Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady”, and the entire place went stupi. It was then that I learned that, under the bad make-up, the awful costumes and smog of cigarettes, everybody there just wanted a decent time. Nothing wrong with that at all.

  4. mynameisgrant. says:

    sick set kevin! fuck yes! sick article! fuck fuck yes.

  5. Steve says:

    Nice one dude!

  6. Ollie Walker says:

    Very sad, however very well written article!! brilliant job! Burn R.I.P

  7. Prometheus says:

    Fuckin ay Russel! Totally owned it man

  8. andrew says:

    awe…what a dick..

  9. Ozzie says:

    It’s really sad to think Burn is over. I hadn’t thought of the early days of Burn for quite a while until this article …
    Some really good times man. Made lifelong buds there, enjoyed many years of Halloween nights there, jammed it to death with Lowprofile, and even got together with my wife there 🙂

  10. Daisy says:

    Whoah Russell- amazing article, haven’t been to burn in years, but this summed the place up and seriously made me so sad! R.I.P. Burn! (Oh and really cool pics Kevin !)

  11. TTT says:

    A place that inspired many to spread their ashen wings and take fanciful flights of discovery into the lower realms of music, chaos and mayhem. My memories of BURN will always be the institution long-side the Winston, late nineties- early naughties, student life… learning to take the Alphabet with R1 first watch whiskey shooters, black label beers and good music to push through the energies of a spawning youth. We rocked! We rocked hard! We had the best times with the best bands, personally Max Normal and sharing a spell-binding dance off the floor, was a highlight back in those days, now a decade ago, where puff passed the magic dragon on the swings and flowers we plucked in the back of beetles. Burn moved on and changed, I spent a night at the new venue with some seething sarin gas, getting drunk and high on an interlude from the desert mud-island… tea-cup headed wall effigies migrated with the club and the ethos continued and will continue forever…

    BURN is DEAD

    Long LIVE BURN

  12. TankGrrl says:

    Got together with my husband there, 8 years ago now!

  13. Sarah Dee says:

    Aahhh sheym Russel! :'(

    And I only counted 5 cuss words. You must be feeling pretty emo.

  14. Katon Elite says:

    Ahh Club Burn..the place of memories..i watched as my borther Ross took his band to new heights..Tree Houses on the Sea..good times..Met alot of friends in there..had alot of nights i walked out that club wobbling like an old sailor..but this club served as the musical inspiration for the lovers of of all metal..im gonna miss it much.. This club was THE PLATFORM..for many artists who have worked hard and peservered through it all..either gaining the glory or giving in…SALUTE!

  15. Swimmington Ndlovu says:

    I blame hipsters.

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