Who can tell what the night will bring. Will it be a slow burner, or will the bar be jammed up with people? It’s almost always a surprise, sometimes a good one, other times it’s like visiting your Kazakh dentist who trained on horses in Mongolia.

Tonight, I have no idea what to expect. Experience has taught me that Facebook and Cape Town audiences are as fickle as President Zuma.

Mean Black Mamba has been booked, and I have my doubts if we will be able to gather a crowd to come and see them. The last time we booked them, we had two people in the audience – me and my long-suffering partner. Would have been three if we had a sound engineer. Four, if the tourist that popped in didn’t leave when he learnt there was an entrance fee. Admittedly I shouldn’t have booked them at all, because they had just finished a monthly residency a House of Machines, a nearby bar which has a policy of not charging admission fees; the Blah Blah was about 3 months old; people had no idea what went on inside, and neither did I.

Now it’s 2 years and 3 months later, and I’m a lot better at booking the right bands, even though that feeling of not knowing what to expect has never grown less. It’s a weird thing. There are nights when you know it’s going to rock, the vibe building slowly the moment the staff start pulling in around four, and becoming almost tangible by the time the bar opens. The crew’s energy mysteriously attracts the punters, who are infected as they enter the joint. Other nights, you just know the clock’s gonna tick slowly. The jury’s out on tonight though, and it can go either way…

The skies are dark, dogs are out

shadows crawl, you can hear them shout
Mean black mamba sliding over my floor
Mean black mamba slipping through my front door
Mean black mamba, mean black mamba
Mean black mamba sliding over my floor

Outside, the skies have darkened, and shadows are indeed crawling. Slowly a crowd of rockers and rollers gather around the bar, a couple of regulars propping it up, but there’s a lot of new faces too. Mark and Lizzie, the slinky new bar lady too sexy for her own good, are doing their thing behind the counter, a cloud of bonhomie gathering above their moves. They’re good together, like a well-oiled if slightly naughty machine, and I can see that tonight is going to be a tequila–shots-and-beer-chasers evening, with everybody getting really wasted.

When the time is right, Mean Black Mamba slide over the floor and up onto the stage, just like their song says, and the night starts showing its true colours. I decided to set the band up downstairs, and this decision is paying off, people being pulled inside with that invisible thread called “vibe”, and before we know it, we have a party on our hands.

Band is pumping, juju groove
Crowd is jumping, juju move
Mean black mamba sliding over my floor
Mean black mamba slipping through my front door
Mean black mamba, mean black mamba
Mean black mamba sliding over my floor

It’s hard to believe that Mean Black Mamba is not a full band, but a duo. Guy Collins is a mean guitarist, and James van Minnen an even meaner drummer. And I mean, mean. Their sound is raw and gutsy and dirty and big, in spite of Collin’s guitar being the smallest acoustic number I’ve ever seen. Sporting a Rickenbacker pick-up, Collins manages to avoid an acoustic sound altogether. Van Minnen’s drumming is something else. Somehow simultaneously sparse and busy, he takes control of the beat like it’s a living thing, slapping it about with little or no concern as to what is possible, or not. And to be honest, the audience doesn’t care either, me included, as we make the dance floor our own, jiving and reeling and rocking and wheeling…

I’m doing all right
Boogie all night
Shake the meat on your bones
Do the black snake moan

They play an unbelievable 2-hour set, and the audience doesn’t move except to get a refill at the bar. The joint is heaving, and it’s taking the bar tenders a while to get everyone serviced, but once they do, they’re back on the floor like a rim shot in the heat of the song

I have an admission to make — not really being a lover of the blues, South African style, I think twice before booking blues-rock acts. It’s hard, because there’s a lot of them, and some of them can pull a crowd. But it’s very much a case of the same ol’ same old. I love American blues and its down to earth idols and non-heroic heroes like Howlin’ Wolf, Lead Belly, Bukka White and Blind Willie McTell. I even dig the great British imitators like Eric Clapton. But somehow the local blues scene is like a little sharp-edged stone in my shoe. Maybe because it’s an entirely whitey affair. I cannot for the love of money come up with the name of one local black muso that plays the blues, not one, while whitey blues bands precipitate like weeds — there are literally dozens of them, many of them exceptionally good. And if you had to go back a bit, to the seventies and eighties, you’d find that most whitey musicians grew up on American blues, despite the genre being completely absent on the radio.

How did they get to know this shit? Did they pass it on to one another, like a privileged suburban chain gang? The blues comes from black suffering, originated in West Africa, and on the way back across the ocean, it somehow morphed into a white thing. Weird shit, in my humble opinion, but this anomaly seems to bother only me.

Having said that, somehow this Mean Black Mamba has converted me. Sweating and a bit surprised by my grooving to the Mamba, I step back out of the melee, and just then spot Bob Geldof walking in. I blink, and shake my head in disbelief…who?? Has Bob Fucking Geldof just walked into my bar? Stringy greying hair and all, slightly schwarmy expression, shades, not quite pulling of the attempt at arriving incognito. Is it really he? I think, the midnight shades finally convincing me.

Watching him out of the corner of eye, I start strategising. Lemme tell you, at this moment, strategy is everything. Last time I spotted a celebrity I was in Paris, sitting at a coffee shop, with two seats open next to me, chatting to my film producer friend, when I checked Woody Allan and his wife Amy Whatchamacallit wandering down the road, looking for a place to park themselves. Amy spotted the open seats next to me, and started heading for them, pulling Woody along. I froze, sodden croissant halfway to my open mouth, thinking, Woody fucking Allan is going to come and sit next to me, Woody fucking Alan is going to sit next to me, when Woody spotted my gape, veered sharply, and left me with naught but the thought of what could have been.

So I am definitely not going to make the same mistake again.

Bob is enjoying himself, I can see. Apparently no one else has recognised him, and he’s starting to move to the Mamba’s irresistible beat, huddling with the small entourage that drifted in with him. Now, Bob is Heidi’s hero. Heidi is my partner, and many years ago, in the Eighties, she met him in London somewhere, and had a chat with him. Or was chatted up by him. Or chatted him up. Whatever. Passing time, and the large amount of tequilas I’d been offered tonight, and declined to decline, has clouded my mind somewhat and I just can’t remember. But she is simply is not going to believe it when I tell her I spoke to Bob.

Three songs or so pass, and I’m still watching, strategizing, but somehow the strategy is not taking shape. Fuck that, I think, just go up to him and say, are you who I think you are? If he says yes, well that’s it. If he says no, insist. Take the bull by the horns.

I start moving towards him, but then an inebriated person (we never refer to someone as “drunk” at the Blah Blah Bar) with a tray of tequila shooters cuts me off and offers me a shot. Again, against my better judgment this time, I decline to decline. I throw my head back, the tequila burning its way down into my stomach. When I look again, Bob fucking Geldof is gone. Disappeared into thin air, as if he never was. Fuuuuuck!, I holler silently, not again, man…

At this point, the Mamba, now at their blackest and meanest, shift up a gear, and the floor erupts. I get pulled into the melee, still looking around for Bob. Is that him over there? But the moment has disappeared along with Bob, and there is nothing left to do but to go along with it all. Which I do. With gusto.

When the end comes, as it must, just after midnight, it finds me leaning against a pillar at the entrance to the bar, dragging at my smoke while inside money is being counted and counters are being cleaned, mulling over some thoughts, but returning to the big question — was Bob really here? Because if he wasn’t …

Thank you, Mean Black Mamba, I will never doubt you again….as for myself…

She’s a juju princess, she’s a gypsy queen
Snake doctor, love burns like gasoline
When the black snake poison in my blood runs wild
She’s my midnight angel, well I love that child
Mean black mamba sliding over my floor
Mean black mamba slipping through my front door
Mean black mamba, mean black mamba
Mean black mamba sliding over my floor

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