Desmond Does Durban

Our favourite heathen, Russel Smith, returns to gigs and writing reviews for us, bands and ladies beware. He kicks off his return with a few choice words on Desmond and The Tutus recent gig at Live.



Having been out the of the loop on the live music front for a spell, it was a bittersweet reunion to find myself surrounded by familiar sweaty bodies and some new ones all eagerly anticipating the evening’s bill of entertainment at Live the Venue. It was early, and it was already packed. A sight up until that point I had yet to witness myself. The venue far better suits a full house, as opposed to the usual half empty cavernous space that I’ve learned to expect. First impressions… Who the fuck are all these people? I surmised they were a fresh bunch of matrics and first year college students. I’m interested in seeing how long their flirtation with live SA music will last. Will we only see the true of heart and faithful returning week after week to slowly go deaf for the love of the scene, with the rest of them only on skipping their usual haunts like Tiger Tiger when bands with heavy radio play or popular MK videos perform? Who knows.

The more old school Americana style tattoos you have doesn’t make you more like the Rock ‘n’ Roll legends you supposedly idolize.

Opening the evening’s musical entertainment was Asleep in Transit. Living up to their name, I could well imagine myself sleeping through a mid-air plane collision listening to their music. They’re doing a service, filling the gap left by the likes of Durban’s own, seemingly defunct, Fire Through The Window. Whether they do it as well is up for debate. The boy/girl harmonies and teeth rotting sweetness of their songs are good enough for small pubs and smaller stages, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that they’ll be anything more than slot fillers for when bigger and better local bands come to play. I’m not one to criticise a band for using what their mothers gave them to get the attention of our jaded, shallow and cynical youth, but the good looks of certain band members, I expect, are more of an attraction and distraction than the actual music they play. Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time a band used long legs in mini shorts and bare belly buttons and boyishly handsome musicians as her back up, to win over the hearts of the masses. The makings are there for Asleep In Transit to become a good looking indie pop group, it’s just whether they become good sounding too. Break the song writing rules for gods’ sakes and give us something original and far away from the formulaic duets or cut away and strip back the sound and give us something unexpected; something not so disgustingly “mom ‘n’ pop” sweet. They played their set to a fair share of the interested punters, but the majority of the crowd got liquored up, smoked and socialized out the back paying little attention to the 2013 Durban answer to The Carpenters.


Next up were the band who, I assume, are under the impression that they’re championing good ol’ Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 031. The kind of tunes Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins would be proud of. Highly unlikely! I think Chuck, Carl, and even fat ass Elvis are wishing they could die again just hearing what’s become of what they started; from a  band that somehow manages to stick around despite my not meeting anyone that will admit to liking their music; I’m talking about Catlike Thieves. It’s a disingenuous display of recycling the past to win favour with those who gobble up the current international trend of popular music, rehashing and unashamedly spewing forth heavily retro inspired rock, soul, r & b and folk. To give the Cats some credit they aren’t a Black Keys, Black Joe Lewis or Mumford & Sons deformed clone. They’re just completely unconvincing rockabillies. The more old school Americana style tattoos you have doesn’t make you more like the Rock ‘n’ Roll legends you supposedly idolize, in fact it just makes you look like a try-harder hipster battling to put your finger on that something, and what you really have your digit pressed against is a mass-cultural bowel movement in place of a pulse. Whatever original music the Cats threw into their set, it was forgotten as soon as it faded away. Rock ‘n’ Roll in its truest sense is to dance with the Devil and lap up every bit of hell’s filth he can fling at you. The Catlike Thieves strike me as a bunch Born Again’s out to rock for Jesus.



Following the ripe, youth-fronted act and the musical equivalent of boiled chicken , were Desmond and The Tutus. Obviously this was the band that had attracted all these people to Live on Saturday night. I begrudgingly admit that from the very outset Desmond and The Tutus strike you as consummate showmen. The lead singer and guitarist seem to be equally as determined to step forward and grab the audience’s attention as they pass the role of frontman back and forward casting a spell on newcomers and tightening their grip on the converted. This isn’t to say that the rhythm section fades or hides away in their shadow. A bassist playing full bar chords and a drummer working like a machine are the thumping backbeat to the unique jangly guitars of South African bred pop rockers. Angst filled vocals that could come out of a rough London neighbourhood scream and then swing to the sweetness of a charming young lover experiencing the pain and ecstasy of fucking a plug socket. They’ve been around for a while and I think we can begin to tentatively call Desmond and The Tutus the leaders of South African indie rock, perhaps the kings, but let’s hold off on any coronations just yet, as it is still early in this year of our Dark Lord, 2013.



*All images © Jessie Singh


22 Responses to “Desmond Does Durban”
  1. Jonathan says:

    Spot on.

  2. Perlemoen says:

    I wouldn’t mind taking a size 14 pantoffel to the face of those 3 boychies without their tap-out shirts on.

  3. greg says:

    well said sir , i especially enjoyed your accurate description of asleep in transit

  4. xdoomx says:

    I’m not sure about the Desmond vocal style. It’s kinda just random yelping. Coming from a punk/hardcore background I’ve heard a lot of shocking vocal styles in my time but what this dude does with his voice is something really weird that I just can’t get a handle on – what is he trying to pull off?
    I’ve seen them a few times and elected to give the show a miss and listened to the live web stream instead . Firstly I was pretty impressed with the quality and it was nicely mixed. Sounded like they were taking a direct feed out of the mixing desk.

  5. Daniel says:

    I always thought the vocal’s for Desmond were slightly inspired by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!. I also agree with the descriptions of Catlike Thieves and Asleep in Transit.

  6. G says:

    Great review!

  7. Mehul says:

    It is obvious from your review, that you didn’t actually listen to Asleep in Transit or Cat-Like Thieves play but were more concerned with looking pensive and melancholic for “the-fans”while nervously adjusting your overly tight skinny jeans. I can only guess your psyche is persistently nurturing your life-long existential crisis with thoughts of true meaning, things most adolescents grow out of.

    It is also quite apparent you have no ear for any tactfully engineered sound other than what I can imagine is only an embarrassing bland palette of what has the rough appropriation of kittens puking in a side alley.

    Seemingly it seems you have most probably just broke up with your on-again off-again girlfriend of 2 months, and spent the weekend so far crying to Bon Jovi albums, with soft dappled light from (I’m betting) black candles. This only could explain your embarrassingly bitter banter.

    Who makes retarded comments about people’s own tattoos, how immature and pretentious – reminds me of the Nihilists on The Big Lebowski – “We don’t believe in anything Lebowski, We are Nihilists Lebowski” **YAWN**

    Anyway as a reader of this blog I would greatly appreciate more aptitude an effort going into band reviews – I am totally uninterested in your slanderous and boring opinion of Durban’s talent. If you do feel the need to contribute to the world of live music please make sure you take the grace and decency to educate yourself.

    Anyway I could be wrong, maybe all you needed was a slip of a R100 or so. LOL

  8. Jolling! says:

    It’s quite aparent you are clearly friends with the bands. Shame. You should pick better company.

    This review was spot on. Desmond were great, Catlike Thieves are the worst band ever and Irina’s short shorts are the only reason to watch Asleep In Transit.

  9. VUYO says:

    Asleep in Transit rocks

  10. lillian says:

    Asleep in transit is AWESOME!!!!

  11. Alexia says:

    Mehul, i know you are trying to sound smart but it’s not working. If you want to defend the band then you should explain why they are good or why your experience of them was different rather than personally attacking the reviewer and the social life & musical taste you imagine for him. You just come off as petty and plain wrong. Also your grammar and sentence structure is appalling. ‘Seemingly it seems’ ? At least the reviewer knows how to spell and proof-read a sentence. If you like bad music that’s your business. Russel can say what he likes about the bands without it meaning he’s an adolescent, an existentialist, or worse – a Bon Jovi fan.

  12. Gerard says:

    Calling the reviewer pretentious and then quoting from ‘The Big Lebowski’, it’s only cool cause you saw it on the interwebs you cretin… Cat Like Thieves are SO shit I can barely stand them in the same pub when they aren’t performing… Not much of an opinion on Asleep In Transit… I love the way whenever someone harshly critiques the review they hide behind a user-name and try and take personal low blows at the reviewer… You obviously have some inclination as to who Russel is, who the fuck are you Mehul?? Lets see how bold and scathing you can be when we all know who you are, cunt!

  13. luke says:

    are asleep in transit managing to clap in time yet?

  14. luke says:

    i remember when cat live thieves were a ‘punk rock’ band. chameleons of shit music.

  15. “Take a fresh breath of something so sweet you’ll believe you need nothing else to feel complete. Take all your joy, love and good times and transform them into this very moment….

    The moment you found the music that takes you back to those very memories you love to share, the moment you found understanding, comfort, and great “make-out” music. Catlike Thieves, the soundtrack to your life.

    Stealing fans since mid 2008, rising to ever distant highs, The boys residing from the sunny shores of Durban have come up with a fresh outlook on what people should call music. With a target audience ranging from the trailers in Benoni, to the Lofts in Cape town, their “Old-school” meets “Britney” vibe reaches way beyond the roots of good old “care-free” Rock ‘n Roll. ”

    Old-school meets Britney was a personal favourite of mine from the Cat Like Thieves Site. Confirmed, Mehul, you are a cock bag.

  16. Jimi says:

    Twatlike Queefs.

    End Statement.

  17. JP says:

    Mehul u poor sad looser with little to no life.. Dig a hole and die. You won’t be missed.
    As to Asleep in transit , a big up to you guys !! Another show u guys rocked fuk yeah !!!

  18. AnalogueGirl_ says:

    I was at this show and heard these guys for the first time. I was absolutely blown away. I have not ever been that active and sweated that much for any other band. They are most definitely my favourite band (for now) and I am already eagerly awaiting their next stop in Durban. Plus they have cool mustaches.

  19. Ugh says:

    I really really wanted to enjoy Asleep in Transit. I tried so hard to. Unfortunately it was just boring. The most standard pop vibes ever. I don’t like to make a habit of being negative (there is enough of that in Durban already) but, in this case, I think the reviewer was pretty accurate in his description of all three acts.

  20. TheLappies says:

    Aiy yai yai yai yai, always an entertaining read!!!

  21. Rob says:

    Had a quiet chuckle after reading both this and the WKRB review of this show. Nice to see how utterly different opinions can be formed of the same event actually.

    Good review Mr Smith. Very entertaining read, and in my crust opinion, pretty much spot on.

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