Jim Beam Welcome Sessions- Fuzigish and Hellcats Live At Hells Kitchen

Reviewed By Matthew Nijland

Last Saturday night, 23 July, saw Hell’s Kitchen Melville jam-packed for the latest instalment of the Jim Beam Welcome Sessions, a series of live music shows hosted by the famous Jim Beam bourbon whiskey company at various popular music venues around South Africa, featuring some of the country’s finest bands.

This time, we were entertained by arguably the loudest two-piece in the country, the Hellcats, as well as ska-punk legends, Fuzigish, who dropped their self-titled sixth album back in April in celebration of the band’s 25th anniversary. I had never seen either band live or been to Hell’s Kitchen Melville before, so I was even more excited for this evening on top of it being my first opportunity to review a live show.

Word had clearly got out far and wide about this free show, as by 18:30 when I arrived at the venue, the sidewalk was swarmed by masses of music fans eagerly awaiting the 20:00 show start. As a small and intimate venue, Hell’s Kitchen Melville was made even more intimate as we fans were crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the stage area to watch the bands. It was mind-blowing to witness a venue packed beyond capacity now that covid-19 regulations and masks are no longer mandatory.

The Hellcats kicked off the evening with a bang, delivering a fiery and ferocious set. The sonic onslaught of guitarist Warwick Rautenbach’s cranked-to-11 fuzzy guitar riffs, backed by the barrage of Alessandro Benigno’s crash cymbal-heavy drumming, had the crowd in an absolute frenzy from beginning to end. So much so, that a spontaneous mosh pit broke out in the midst of their song, “Black Stabbath”, a homage to the godfathers of heavy metal, Black Sabbath. The never-ending energy, stamina and crowd interaction displayed by this powerhouse duo is on another level, with Warwick even jumping into the crowd several times, even once right at my feet!

 

Their set was only briefly paused when the band noticed that a female fan had fallen in the mosh pit. They stopped mid-song to ensure she was attended to and accompanied by crew members to the side stage door to get some air, cautioning the crowd to look out for each other before continuing with the show. I felt this was an extremely responsible and admirable thing to do to ensure that the fans were safe as possible while having the most amount of fun, setting an example for how other artists should handle similar situations at their shows. Good on you, lads!

After the Hellcats’ set, my friends and I weaved our way through the chock-a-block crowd to get some air while Fuzigish were doing their sound check. On the way out, I caught the eye of a former bandmate from my first serious band who I hadn’t seen in years and had an awesome long catchup session with him. Earlier in the night, I had also bumped into another old friend (a huge Hellcats fan) who I hadn’t seen for a long time either and watched the band with him and his friends. These serendipitous moments of bonding with people through live music, just like everyone else at the venue on the night, truly reflected the apt philosophy of the Jim Beam Welcome Sessions: bringing people together through “the merging of artists, venues and music lovers”.

Fuzigish also kept spirits high and the drinks flowing, having whipped out their signature upside-down branded orange road cone with a pipe attached to it to get their fans to chug drinks, with people screaming “chug, chug chug!” around them. I knew in that moment that the band were warming up for a very exciting performance!

Unfortunately, trying to get back inside to watch Fuzigish’s set proved nearly impossible as the crowd had since swelled in size to literal wall-to-wall capacity. To put it mildly, if you didn’t stay inside before the set started, there was no way you were going to watch it inside. Certainly, it was a sign that fans were extremely eager to see the band perform live once again, backed by their new album release.

I initially tried to worm my way through the crowd to get a few pictures, but the place was so crammed that people were even sitting and standing on the bar to get a glimpse of the band. I instead opted to watch Fuzigish from the doorway but thoroughly enjoyed their set regardless.

The crowd who did manage to get inside were having an absolute blast to the band’s signature reggae-punk infusion, bopping and dancing along in place to the upbeat tunes. The band played a variety of new material and old favourites, having just as much fun to be rocking the stage again and bringing some sorely missed “gees” back to the local music scene. My favourite thing about the band is their incorporation of trumpet into their music, giving it a relentlessly feel-good vibe on top of their punk-at-heart energy. I mean, how can a trumpet with rock music NOT sound great?! Anyway, here’s to the next 25 years, boys!

Overall, the night was a roaring success, and the party showed no signs of slowing down even after the bands had finished. Jim Beam Welcome Sessions are doing a fantastic job at helping to inject energy and spirit back into the South African live music scene, just as much as they are in the rest of the world, and I sincerely hope they continue this concert series for a long time to come.

I can’t wait to attend the next one, enjoying our local music with a Jim & Coke in hand!

 

Be Sure to keep an eye on the Jim Beam Website for further updates on when Jim Beam Welcome Sessions will be appearing at a venue near you

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To stand a chance to win a trip to see Muse in Kentucky. Go to the Jim Beam website to find out how to enter

 

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