Lisa van Wyk
Lisa van Wyk

All yesterday’s parties

It was almost a year and a half ago that, after months of travelling between Jo’burg and Durban with little more than my dancing shoes and a toothbrush, I packed everything that mattered to me into my little car, drove up the hill, and made Jo’burg my home. I don’t know what I was expecting. I know I was slightly frightened by the prospect of having no excuse (now that I would always be around) to miss out on any of the gigs and parties that, before I moved, had made me return again and again like a moth to a light. It was an exhausting prospect, but an exciting one.

I’m not quite sure what it was that appealed so much. I know that the fact that I had found a group of people that shared my musical tastes, who organised parties where I knew that the music mattered above all else, was part of that appeal. My musical tastes are not madly avant-garde, but Durban was a very difficult place to find anything appealing to do, if, like me, your tastes strayed from the mainstream. With my ex I had organised a few parties in an obscure little venue; nights where we could play and promote the music we loved, and they were successful. Beyond this, there were few places to go. Since leaving, the situation has improved somewhat and there are events taking place in Durban that I would have found appealing two years ago. But it is too little and far too late to draw me back there.

So I came to Jo’burg and found my niche. I spent the first months running on empty, with very little time to catch up on sleep between the weekly work routine and weekends that were crammed with activity from start to finish, not to mention the regular weekday events I refused to stay away from. From art shows to gigs to club nights to parties, there was always something to do, somewhere to go. The events that stand out for me are the events that seemed to be fuelled with excitement for the city I had made my home: art parties at the Lister building where bands would play as we gazed over the Jozi skyline, the Deconstruction parties that embraced anarchic creativity (including the ApartLove party at the Apartheid Museum), the Secret parties that seemed to set the whole thing rolling right at the beginning. These were the events that had kept me coming back for more when I still lived in Durban and had made it clear to me that I had made the right decision once I got here.

But after a while something changed. The bright lights that had drawn me here seemed to fade as I got used to them and soon I found myself becoming a cynic. The same old DJs, the same old bands, the same old crowds. Jo’burg may be a big city, but it didn’t take long for it to start seeming limited. I tried to put it down to my own exhaustion, my own fussiness and snobbishness, but with few exceptions, it seemed that the city had run out of ideas.

Sure, there was always something happening. There is always something happening in Jo’burg, where people support events, where people know that their event will pull a crowd. It’s one of the things that makes me love this place. But the parties I had loved so much had come to an end, or changed so much that it left those of us who had embraced them in their original form feeling irritable and discontent. The venues had become bigger, the music didn’t matter as much and they had lost the sense of excitement that had been an element at the beginning, when the partygoers had felt like they were part of something subversive and new. It just wasn’t the same anymore.

Despite my moaning, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are a number of new events on the horizon that have piqued my interest. The first is Chairkickers, taking place at the new Tokyo Star in Greenside on a monthly basis (starting on January 30), and billed as a night of “new” music (meaning anything from recently released tracks to long-lost treasures that haven’t be aired in a club for a while). It’s hosted by Marc Latilla (of the Cellardoor parties) and, while it may be aimed at musical geeks and anoraks, it’s not all about chin-stroking and serious discussion. It should be a good party, and it’s free. The DJ line-up may seem a little familiar for my liking, but I’m going to approach it with an open mind. See you there.