By Marley

14 years ago Nelspruit was a very different place. It was the year 2000, the supposed ’space age’ all those 80’s movies prophesied about. 2000 saw the end of the first and only rock venue in Nelspruit, G-Spot (situated close to the old Nelspruit airport), but it also saw the start of a venue that put Nelspruit on the map – Blue Moon.

Many kids now in their teens grew up with the name Blue Moon, it was a place to go and yet just another thing to do. But for teenagers at the time like me (I was 18 in 2001) this was the first place of its kind that offered us more than just a local bar and local bands, they brought the outside world into Nelspruit. There were other places that came and went which catered for local musicians too – The Trap Door (that was at the top of Anderson Street), Lloyds (or the old Ziggies at Pick ‘n Pay in town), Scruffey’s (in Nelcity building) and Personalities (in Anderson street). But Blue Moon stood the test of time.

I remember our town being so closed minded (in a way it still is) and the thought of going to watch a band that played rock music was sinful in itself. But team Blue Moon had something completely different in mind, it wasn’t only about Rock, but bringing to our little neck of the woods top quality bands that were making waves at the time. That first rock show brought out Not My Dog, Jimmy 12”, Jo Day and few bands I’m probably forgetting. But from that OBS infused night, I became hooked on SA music, it took it a while to become the loving relationship I currently enjoy, but that is where it all started.

One story that comes to mind when thinking of our conservative town was when Fokofpolisiekar performed at Blue Moon for the first time. (I think it was after their famous fight outside of O’hagans) There was a big Blue Moon banner up on Prime Corner (close to Crossings Spar). Oh my, the debates and fights that raged in the media and community over just the name of the band: “Fokofpolisiekar” shook the roots of our humble town. Churches wrote letters to the local newspaper saying how the band is responsible for misleading the youth, and parents restricted their kids from listening to that “kak music”. Some Tannies nearly drove off the road when they saw that banner. What it did do though – other than causing a mini uprising in our conservative community – was it gave the gig a whole bunch of free publicity, and it worked because the Moon was packed! I was there, and as things go in youth I don’t remember much of the night, but hell what a saga that caused.

The next time they visited, Blue Moon decided to only put “Polisiekar” on the banner and still the kids came pouring in with their back then R60 entrance fee and got their punk on all night long. Makes me wonder if the boys of Fokofpolisiekar had to play a gig there now, if people will support them still or if there will only be the odd, now grown-up angry Afrikaans kids that attended back then?

In 2009 I went to Blue Moon (I think it was a Parlotones concert) and asked Pete van Halderen if he needed a hand behind the bar. It was then that I became part of the team at Blue Moon and it became evident to me that there was a general lack of reporting on the events that took place there. Between myself and Minette Brink we took a lot of photos that got posted on Facebook but there were not many reports in the paper. So I bought a notebook (a paper one) and began to journal my experiences there. That, dear reader, was the humble beginnings of the blog post you are now currently reading.

When I paged back recently evolved into more of a memoir – (a scrapbook of some of my best memories) I came across an entry I wrote about how I saw Jack Parow for the first time and thought “this guy is a douchebag”, but my opinion changed when I actually got to sit down with him and have a chat, I realized that he too was just another hard working muso as much as the next guy was. Christine Rossouw (bless you friend) was working at the Lowvelder and her passion for reporting came through covering Blue Moon gigs. Man, I saw many bands in my 5 years of working there and 14 years of supporting them. I moved from the bar to assisting with marketing ideas and eventually to even “band shopping” at festivals. It was also the start of my festival going days, being Up The Creek and STRAB.

The author with Hunter Kennedy
(Photo by Vasti Lourens)
The author with Hunter Kennedy
(Photo by Vasti Lourens)

Enough about me, this blog post is about a venue that many people love, and some even call home, it’s about the family I made there. I consider Anthony, Pete and Anna Mart my family. Pete gives the best hugs in the world and is one of the sweetest, most intelligent people I’ve met in my life. Anna Mart who is like a mom to everyone, her blue eyes have seen so much of what has happened there and she has become a great friend to me. Anthony with his colourful taste in clothes, grumpiness, chef skills in the kitchen and fantastic storytelling ability (you must hear him and Francois van Coke have a conversation). Then all the kids that have grown up there – Sune, Lichen, Beany, Eddie, Minette, Anne Marie, Niel, Keri-Lynne, the No One’s Arc group, the 10c Short group, the Induo group – not to mention all the now grown kids of the kids!

We all laid down our allegiance to this place that was so close to our hearts. We laid it down with the trees, the grass and the concrete that Blue Moon is made up of. With the spirit of an old legend that whispers to us the songs of our hearts during quiet, lazy afternoons. With the rocks that let us climb up high, and feel like we were on top of the world, at our favourite sanctuary, where we were safe to be and appreciate a beautiful sunrise (or sunset) to the sounds that filled our hearts with joy.

Hell, I’ll be honest here and even ask the question, how many of you got stone drunk at Blue Moon and fell on that bittersweet rocky uphill? I did plenty of times and I still have the scars to prove it. I know so many people that have many a drunk tale to tell of that place, and it’s enough to fill 3 books. My best friend and I (who passed away 9 years ago), went to so many of their concerts and I still have (and treasure) the ticket stubs – some being from Watershed, Cutting Jade and Karen Zoid concerts.

My favourite local bands were 10c Short and Induo, with No One’s Arc cropping up just after them and the rest is history. I never thought in a million years that my road with NOA would be so long and adventurous. I drank warm Jagermeister with a mix of members from Polisiekar, Heuwels and aKING after we made a delivery to their room with alcohol. I met the Black Cat Bones in 2009 and fell in love with them, had long chats with Hunter Kennedy (FOP, aKING, DHF) about life and Cape Town. I once bumped into Arno Carstens and couldn’t place him. I got confused between Die Heuwels Fantasties and aKING (they all had curly hair at the time okay) but I learnt as I went.

There are many “what happens at the Moon stays on the moon” stories that I can tell you but I won’t, shame I have to save the rock stars their dignity but I can tell you some of my highlights:

Seether – when they played on the 30 of December, my word what a show and what a party (and one of their biggest turnouts). Everyone was there and everyone still has a Seether story. I took photos on my 35mm film camera (it’s lying somewhere in the cupboard quite dusty no doubt).
Springbok Nude Girls final tour – that too was an electric night.
The Playstation Sing Star tour – The Parlotones, Prime Circle and The Finkelsteins played. A friend and I had a singing competition with the 3 crazy dudes from The Finkelsteins and they whipped our asses.
The Bittereinder/VCK show – goeie donner it was 4 seasons in one that day. It hailed in the middle of the Bittereinder show cutting off the electricity and they just kept going.
Soundtrek – what a week that was! Doing gigs at random places around Nelspruit and having the big album launch of Tweak (aka Crash Car Burn) at Blue Moon. I had a babelas that lasted weeks after that show.
Prime Circle, Innibos 2008 – that show was so freaking awesome. There were so many people that the bars ran out of alcohol. I would love to see that same show again today from Prime Circle, but with the support, they had that night.
No One’s Arc at 1am in the morning – it was a long day of work, music and support. Dylan, Lee, Robby, Goohpy, Bongs and Mimi got onto that stage at 1 am after Southern Gypsey Queen and played harder than anyone before them. The late Paul Wilson jumped up and down with us to “Stanley”.

But readers I want you to remember Blue Moon as it was, and guess what? It’s still like that. It’s still there, on the mountain waiting for your presence, waiting for you to show it some love. Don’t continue following the flock, remember your rebel days and you will see it’s a part of you as much as it’s a part of me. The Blue Moon that has seen so many different musicians over the years and so many people from around the world, it’s still the same place. So if you were a passerby or a regular to Blue Moon I really do invite you to come the weekend of the 22nd & 23rd of March 2014. Come re-live it just one more time, one last time.

One more time without the masses from the dustbowl that is Innibos, the Saturday night is a classic rock-out with your socks-out lineup. If you are now a parent, organise a baby sitter, but if you can’t then please bring the kids on Sunday, just come and enjoy the daylight and the music at our very own legendary venue. We are never going to get the chance to see or experience something like this again. Your excuses of not knowing the bands, not knowing the musician or the dirt road (drive carefully – the dirt roads are actually better maintained than some of our pothole ridden streets) just come. You always made a plan when you were younger, the road has always been that rocky, it never changed and it is still the same length.

I want to see the old familiar faces there, I want to see your kids there, and I want to see people there that have been meaning to go all these years but have still never been there. And if you are an international reader, old friends now living overseas (the Houck family in the USA, the Ferreira family in Australia, the Van Zant family in Canada) take one more ride with me to Blue Moon. I have compiled a playlist named “Swanesang” on Sound Cloud. Made up of bands that have played at Blue Moon, bands that are on Sound Cloud too. Maybe you can re-live some musical memories with me.

Listen to the Swanesang playlist – click here

Thank you to all the bands – too many to mention – who played at our home. Thanks for travelling shit far to come and play on our mountain top. I know of songs that were written there (looking at you guys: Kobus and Andre, Lee and Dylan), babies that were conceived there, wives that were met there and even a live proposal once. Music is a living breathing thing, it’s about fucking time people start respecting it again.

I’m not yet ready to say goodbye to Blue Moon and all its creatures, and I get tears in my eyes when I think of it, that I’m losing a home. Blue Moon and its ever gentle smiling face, its beautiful face still has no worry wrinkles, only laugh lines. The moon will continue to rise over Nelspruit but not quite as spectacularly as it did over the granite koppies of Blue Moon’s valley.

We will be running a competition here at STM where you can win two weekend tickets to The Last Waltz and other awesome goodies (some band merch!), and one of the clues is in this article so stay sharp and keep an eye out for it.

If you want to buy R 80 tickets (or R 160 for a weekend) ticket from us you are more than welcome to drop us an email or visit our Facebook page for more information.

Marley is the founder and owner of Small Town Music. Born and bred in Nelspruit aka Nelsparta. Marley loves music (rock being a firm favourite), tattoos, festivals, animals and South Africa. Self-taught photographer and writer.