Words: Leah Solomon
Illustrations: Sarah Burger
One of the biggest catches to grace the South African music scene
If you are from Grahamstown or have ever visited Grahamstown you will know that the arts, be it music, visual, spoke, pours out of every crevice and crack you can find. Grahamstown is a small town, but it is bursting with talent, so much so that the bubble may even pop.
Grahamstown is quite skilled in pumping out fantastic music acts, who normally start their journey at Champs Action Bar, which is loudly hidden away in Scotts Avenue. It is almost a rite of passage that all Grahamstown acts need to surpass in order to be considered as the ‘top dogs’ of this flourishing music scene. Thus, as accordingly, a fairly new band has done just that. To me, they appeared out of nowhere. On an unexpected, unplanned night I decided to go enjoy a R10 single whiskey and lime at Champs instead of tending to the ever-growing mountain of work that I became so skilled at ignoring; a wise decision indeed. It was on that night that I was introduced to Fishwives, who are, in my eyes, one of Grahamstown’s finest gems.
It all started originally as duo consisting of Sarah ‘Celery’ Burger (electric guitar) and Lizzie-Lou Gaisford (guitar and Great Uncle Pat’s accordion) who joined forces in 2012. They began touring KwaZulu Natal with a band named The Thousand Hills, which unfortunately ended up disbanding. The duo trudged on, and thank God they did. Over time, the duo picked up other souls who had the same vision and spunk for what the duo were striving for. The band has grown rapidly and amazingly in just two years. Over this short but eventful time period, Fishwives have adopted bassist Cal Thompson, drummer Strato Copteros and keyboardist Nicole Germiquet. These five colourful and magnetic characters form one of the most fascinating and powerful quintets – being signed by the same guy who signed Desmond and the Tutus, Dirty Skirts and Springbok Nude Girls puts the cherry ON TOP of the icing on the cake.
The band described themselves by saying that their “combined individual generosity of all the band’s members allows for powerful, nuanced ebbs and flows in the music, which has a polished, but quirky, offbeat feel”. And no truer words have ever been said. No matter how weird, unconventional or out of the ordinary their sound may be, they always manage to pull together some of the tightest, well-rounded and impressive live performances. Their personalities complement each other so well that you start to think that they have been in this together since day one. But no. They are just a group of people who have an incredible musical synergy, and being friends doesn’t hurt either. It was this that completely drew me in and made me fall in love with the sounds they strummed, tapped, banged and sang out of the speakers – sounds that contorted into something original, something fresh, and something worth listening to again…and again.
Journalist and Rolling Stone South Africa contributor, Fred de Vries said in an article that he wrote about them that lead-singer and powerhouse, Celery, was reminiscent of the great Patti Smith. Thinking on it, I couldn’t agree more. I had just recently watched “CBGB: The Movie”, the scene where Patti Smith is doing what she does best on that grimy, little stage, and couldn’t place who she reminded me of. De Vries did it perfectly. Their whole vibe screams CBGB, a compliment I think any up and coming band would love to have said about them.
Fishwives are a force to be reckoned with, a band to keep an eye on and ear out for, and worth seeing if they’re ever near you. Hopefully this is enough to persuade you all to give them a listen – they’re one of those bands who truly have raw, untainted talent, something that is hard to come by these days. Fishwives are a real testament to the power and standard of talent that our extraordinary country harbours, sometimes in the smallest of places.