The first time I saw Last Year’s Tragedy was at this show in January 2007: Was this the last show put on by Wiyathi Collective?
Despite being organized as a ‘last ditch effort’ the show was attended beyond capacity of the the roadside watering hole. 200 people were crammed right up to the performers and all around the sound table. I had the the good fortune of supplying the sound that day. For 6 hours, all local, all African boys and gals ground their hearts out into the hands of the entranced. We played excited witnesses to the birth of a new music scene. ROCK.
Yes it was a spectacle. This may have been when the excitement that generates the momentum that drives the Kenyan rock scene was finally birthed. Let’s just say that before this point there was a lot of foreplay between the ideas, the personalities and the materials but no conception of it into an entity.
The fact that all the bands were African, yes, was something spectacular for people to experience. – emerging from a long history of minimal inclusion rock music had definitely been a Wazungu experience, because of income disparity if nothing else… However, the real substance behind the phenomena was the interconnectedness of the experience – if you didn’t know… now you know – by being there, one suddenly became part of the experience, not just an observer. That day the scene reached a critical mass of interconnectivity – You could now know everyone and everyone could know you. The reality of this evidenced by the fact that everyone shared their gear amongst each other – a practice that persists to this day I believe. Furthermore, it was evident that the bands were playing off each other’s talents – each musician asserting stylistic niches to capture the audience’s hearts and minds.
Another point. There must have been a growing inkling amongst the bands that the context was fit for the reception of original, over covered material. This was the first rock show I experienced where the majority of songs were original. Yes it was a spectacle to see this stuff laid forth and devoured. In the middle of this excitement came something no-one could have really expected. When I saw Last Year’s Tragedy is when I got really excited about the Kenya rock scene. Just Watch these videos!
Their short crushing performance left everybody with the question just what the F is going on? Last Year’s Tragedy combined the talent from the rockers and the energy from the punks (members came from different bands) into something so original it seemed to be on the cutting edge of Hardcore/Emocore. A sound no-one had heard and expression into emotions not attempted. It looked like LYT had the potential to be a scene within a scene.
Fast forward 2 years and it looks like Last Year’s Tragedy is on top of the rock game that now routinely fills to capacity and features twice as many acts.
Things have changed over these past 2 years, despite the turmoil in early 2008. It looks as if things may even go corporate – Testament to which is the large sponsored battle of the bands events that have been staged, such as the latest Rocktober Fest at The Carnivore (who would’ve imagined this 2 years back?)
The question is now can these entities manage their own success and keep networking – can the rock scene grow to support it’s own weight? Web 2.0 presence for the scene is growing rapidly. Rock Kenya has almost 2000 fans on facebook out of nearly 64,000 in the Kenya network. What are bands like L.Y.T. going to do to continue to reach out to a fanbase whilst still preserve their appeal of authenticity?