There are few things in life that beat the mind-blowing experience of an epic rock concert. I’m not sure how other cities react to the concerts of highly-acclaimed international acts with the stature and fame of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but, in Cape Town, saying it causes quite a stir would be a tremendous understatement. The entire city springs to life and is ignited with concert fever. I happened to have spent the day of the concert on the beautiful campus of the University of Cape Town, where hundreds of students were strolling around for the annual society and sports clubs exhibition. The Chili Peppers were in the air – everyone was talking about it, stands were blasting their favourite tracks, and those who had not managed to snatch up tickets for the sold-out concert met those who did with death stares that would put Lord Voldemort to shame.
By about 14:00, the first Facebook posts of people already waiting in line started popping up, but for those living in the real world (aka, those stuck at work until 17:00 or 18:00), the Chili Peppers quest only started a little later. By this time, traffic had already come to a near stand-still, as millions of cars (perhaps a slight exaggeration) were moving along at a snail’s pace along the steep hills of Cape Town’s inner city. An eternity later, the Cape Town Stadium was finally in sight. The stadium was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Apparently FIFA had requested the stadium to be built at its present location to have the picturesque Table Mountain in the background. The view is astounding, but now the stadium is generally regarded as Cape Town’s white elephant, sucking up tons of money to be maintained, but not really having much purpose beyond the occasional soccer game. But it does make a good spot for a concert, and with ample seating and a massive standing area, the stadium has hosted a variety of international acts, including U2, Neil Diamond, Linkin Park, and Lady Gaga.
Having left for the concert at a time suitable for real-world people, then being stuck in the horrendous traffic and having to wait forever at the security checks, I ended up missing the first bit of the opening act – South Africa’s oddly famous Die Antwoord. Their music is classified as zef rave, but I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean, and I think of them as a weird mixture of … well, actually, I wouldn’t know how to describe their music, so maybe zef rave is the perfect description after all. For some bizarre reason, Die Antwoord has made it internationally with tracks like ‘Enter the Ninja’ and ‘I Fink You’re Freaky’, and has come to shape international perceptions of the South African music industry, though they are certainly not the norm. Nonetheless, they have a massive fan base both locally and internationally, and their tracks are undoubtedly unique and catchy.
After Die Antwoord warmed up the crowd, the Red Hot Chili Peppers finally took to the stage, and, very unlike the usual concert experience, they were actually on time. Life really is full of surprises. I found myself right at the back of the general standing area. I don’t like being squished, and I’m also quite little, so being at the back tends to give me a better view. It seems to be a bit of a contradiction, but it certainly works, and in contrast to some of my friends who found themselves in the middle of the crowd, I had a perfect view of the stage and the two massive screens next to it. And I still got a good workout from standing on my tip-toes all night.
Concerts always seem to be a bit of a blur. I always desperately try to remember and treasure every single moment, but I spend more time realising that I don’t know the lyrics as well as I thought I did, wondering why there are so many songs I don’t know even though I’m such a big fan, and hoping that my absolute favourite tracks will be played next. Fortunately, when my favourite Chili Peppers track was played, none of those things happened. Enter ‘Californication’. I feel guilty excluding all my other favourite tracks (the Chili Peppers are too good to only have one), but ‘Californication’ is the song that ‘made’ the Red Hot Chili Peppers for me. And it seemed like I wasn’t the only one. The song’s characteristic opening played, and the crowd cheered louder than it had all night. As everyone cheered and sang and watched the video of ‘Hollywoodland’ (as Hollywood used to be called) playing in the background, time stood still and everything was perfect. It was just me (and the tens of thousands of other people in the audience) and the tunes of ‘Californication’. I travelled to California recently, and listening to the song brought back all those wondrous memories of Santa Monica, Venice beach, the Hollywood sign, the steep hills of San Francisco, and the stunning Golden Gate Bridge. It also brought back the images of the song’s astounding music video which so shaped my younger years, and I was lost in thought and memories, lost in the music, lost in some place of Red Hot Chili Peppers perfection. And listening to the song now as I’m writing this, I’m transported back to that wonderful moment. There really are few things that beat the mind-blowing experience of an epic rock concert.