Teenage Bottlerocket - Live in Cape Town (Cover Artwork)

Teenage Bottlerocket

Live in Cape Town (2019)

live show

South Africa is more than a bit off the beaten path when it comes to international tours. For decades, North American and European bands of all sizes have crossed the Atlantic to tour each other’s well-trodden paths. It’s easy for American punks bands with a bit of a following to pull off a respectively successful tour, hitting up festivals and clubs in multiple countries. South Africa, on the other hand, is a bit of a stretch. The country’s settler-colonial history means that there is a substantial population of music fans who are tuned into the global DIY/punk/metal/indie scene. The only problem is that, aside from a dozen or so sizable cities, there isn’t much touring potential across South Africa’s borders. Let’s face it; there’s just not much demand for pop-punk in Lusaka or Harare.

But for the bands that do make the journey, they are rewarded with a sea of fans, ravenous to see the international acts who the internet has made so accessable. Teenage Bottlerocket’s announcement of a three-date ZA tour was naturally met with lots of curiosity and excitement from the local scene.

The first stop of the tour was scheduled to be at Prison in downtown Cape Town. After a few months of sales, however, the demand for tickets was great enough that the promoters upgraded the show to a larger venue, Mercury Live. A good sign.

Having just arrived in Cape Town that same day, TBR was in for an exhausting whirlwind tour of the country. Sadly, I doubt that they would get to see much more than venues, hotels, and airports during their brief jaunt. Which is sad, because there’s a bunch of wild stuff to see in South Africa.

The evening opened up with local bonehead punk act Lat Patrollie. They sang mostly in Afrikaans, which was pretty cool and strangely uncommon here. They channeled straight-forward 90’s skate-punk like Pennywise and Lagwagon. They played well, and had a lot of energy, but it sounded all too familiar.

West Coast Wolves played next. They were a bit more interesting, playing a brand of ska punk that was reminiscent of golden-era RX Bandits. They even played an unnecessary, but enjoyable, ska-punk cover of “Haile Selassie, Up Your Ass” by Propagandhi.

Finally, TBR took the stage. By this point in the evening, the crowd at the venue had grown to its peak of about 200. The band opened with “Freak Out” which was an odd choice because it’s definitely not one of their stronger songs. Having just landed in Cape Town early that same day (after 20 hours of travel from the States), it was apparent that the band was exhausted. When the songs got louder and faster, their energy levels picked up a bit, but in general, when the tempo dropped, their jetlag shone through.

Luckily for everyone, TBR has lots of loud, fast songs. They band plucked hits from the back catalogue and gave the crowd rousing jammers like “Skate or Die”, “Fatso Goes Nutzoid”, and “Crashing”. Even new songs, like “I Ray did most of the talking for the band throughout the set, stopping every few songs to thank the crowd or crack a joke. Some of the jokes, however, didn't translate well or seemed to have been formed in a state of jetlag delirium, and fell flat.

The set ebbed and flowed for the rest of the night and the crowd response was proportionate to the energy from the band. Many people were calling out song names and singing along with the more well-known tunes. There was sporadic moshing and crowd surfing throughout the evening. Some of the best reactions came for cuts off of 2005’s “Total”; “Stupid Games” and “Blood Bath at Burger King”.

To close things out, Corey thanked the crowd and launched into “So Far Away”. It was great to get to see TBR again, especially since they had made the trek to Cape Town. I hope that their time in South Africa was profitable and enjoyable enough to get them to make the journey again soon. And maybe they will stay a little longer next time.