Just the other day I sat listening to James Brown’s I Feel Good and mourned the feeling that today’s music makes you feel like constantly rushing somewhere instead of buckling down and having a good time.
Be patient though and the diamonds in the rough will be uncovered. The December Streets are one such diamond. Hailing from Pretoria, the band is made up of Tristan Coetzee on vocals and guitar; Nico van Loggerenberg on lead guitar; Gideon Meyer on bass and sax; Corneil Clasen on drums and, for a truly inspired touch, Waldo Boshoff on trumpet.
On a surpsignly balmy winter night I headed down to Zula Sound Bar in Long Street for the launch of The December Street’s debut album This Is. I met Tristan and Corneil and was instantly buoyed by their warm charm. Their faces light up at the excitement they feel at playing in the Mother City, which they have done before on many occasions including gigs at Assembly, Cornetto Wine Estate and, of course, all over Stellenbosch. They enthusiastically proclaim their love for student life, which naturally abounds there and is also rife around TUKS where they studied. Now they are back for the triumphant launch of their debut, with a self-picked line-up of acts including No One’s Arc and Farryl Purkiss. No strangers to the road, they have also played Durban, Joburg and Pretoria and contributed their talent and time to Rocking for Rhinos.
Well known for their feel-good music and upbeat tempo what is it that drives them to focus on an approach that is lighter than the sometimes cumbersome electronica yet with more substance and style than bubblegum pop? “We try to keep it upbeat both lyrically and musically” Tristan says. “There are enough people trying to make political statements” Corneil adds. What music makes them feel good? “This song” says Tristan referring to The Killer’s Mr. Brightside, which is playing in the background. “I know it just happens to be playing, but it’s definitely one of them”. These are guys that are clearly always in the moment, taking advantage of it and allowing this positive attitude to inform their music. They cite The Kooks as inspiration as well, a name that pops up a lot. If they could support any act it would be them, as well as bands such as Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party. Their own success is evident and the crowd’s reaction is a testament, as every Capetonian goes wild when they start playing – they have clearly left an indelible mark on the nation. If you haven’t heard of them, you will still instantly recognise their music when you hear it. This is a real talent – they are not a fly-by-night act trying to impress with wild antics or a brash sound that make their name bigger than their music. Rather, their sincerity mixed with playful charm taps you on the shoulder, winks and says “have a good time”. They create a vibe that moves your feet and puts a smile on your lips.
What really made me smile though was the reaction to their performance. I cannot remember the last time I saw a crowd so swept up and carried away with enthusiasm. There are no feet listlessly shifting about, no glassy stares and aimless nods. Instead people are jumping around as if the floor were a trampoline, arms raised and singing along to every single song. It was generally quite a young crowd, indicative that today’s youth do have a thirst for music that is both fresh and innovative. The band has a broad appeal and defies categorisation, describing their work as “rock music [that] met pop music and had a baby. The baby of funk and reggae met that baby and their baby is what you could be listening to right now”. This is music that is inclusive, collective and never leaves anyone behind.