Eight Legs Kick up Dust

Among the latest wave of bands to emerge on the national scene, including B- World, Urban Creep and Nine, one in particular stands out as a potential voice for our time - Eight-Legged Groove Machine. These four musicians take forward the subversive tradition of great South African bands like The Cherry Faced Lurchers and The Genuines. It took a while for the word to spread when they did their recent tour of Cape Town, but even the very small audiences were treated to a full evening's entertainment, because what most bands joke about doing in the pratice room, this band does the consummate style on stage.

The first night I saw them they came in schoolgirl uniforms with their hair in pigtails, the next night they were comic book - type heroes dressed in capes with socks stuffed into the crotches of their tights. But the costumes are just the beginning of their appeal. What Eight - Legged Groove Machine do best is enjoy themselves immensely, and the feeling is contagious. As guitarist Martin Scofield says, " We're serious about what we do, but we try not to take ourselves to seriously." There's evidence enough of this in the way the band sends up the dumb poses of the rock world, and with such glee in the process. There was a sublime moment when one song was stopped midway so that singer Martin Otto could answer his cellphone and have a quick word with Mark from B- World, doing a gig down the road at The River Club. Musically, too, the band really delivers. Otto and Scofield are both good singers with great stage presence. They also complement each other well, with Otto, originally from New York, int ense and mock heroic, and Scofiels witty and energetic.

Wade Williams gives the lie to the notion that bass players are shy and retiring and show some nice melodic touches, and Damian Potter has the feel and groove of a fine rock drummer. One thing the band should pay more attention to, and this goes for most of their contempories as well, giving their lyrics more clarity in the overall sound mix. What one can hear sounds that are intriguing and provocative, like the song No Left Turn Unstoned, about a band manager who died living life to its extremes.

In a broad the songs are about testing our newly won "moral " freedom and living it out for ourselves on our own terms, which is something Eight- Legged Groove Machine do in exemplary fashion in performance. Talking to the band, one gets the sense of a close-nit group of friends who've done some level headed strategising in amonh all the fun. They're dismissive of the "development contracts" that other groups have signed, and are prepared to hold out for a decent deal. Hopefully that wont be kept waiting for too long, because a band with this much spirit deserves a break.

Johnny de Goede in the WM & Guardian, 10/02/05. Currently playing at Wings in Braamfontein