Four Areas To Consider When Conducting A Website Audit

Web Audit

To ensure that a website’s on-page SEO is an order, a website audit is required. Not sure how to do a website audit? Here are a few basic elements to guide you.

Navigation and internal links

Navigation should guide the user around the website easily and effectively. It should tell the user where he or she has been, currently is and where to go next.

Navigation best practices:

Navigation menus should be clear and easy to follow.

Sub-items under the navigation menu should be logically displayed and filter information from broad to narrow.

A clear footer at the bottom of the website should include major links to other parts of the website so that the user doesn’t need to scroll up again.

The brand logo should be placed at the top left-hand side of each webpage and link back to the home page.

Common page elements should appear on every page including links to, for example, ‘contact us’ and ‘about us’ sections.

Links are usually underlined and a different colour to the rest of the sites text. Links that have already been visited on the site should be a different colour to show that they have already been clicked on.

Website copy

Web copy needs to be easily scanned, clear and logically structured.

Things to keep in mind:

Sentences should be short and to-the-point.

Use bullets or numbers for lists.

Correct spelling and grammar is crucial.

The tone of the copy needs to be in line with the brand’s communication style.

Compelling calls-to-action should be included where necessary to guide users on what to do next.

Visual layout

This is the most subjective aspect of a website. The layout is important for first impressions. It should be clear, eye catching and user-friendly.

Elements on pages should be in places that the user is familiar with. For example, a search function on the top right hand side of the page.

Spacing is important and content should be neatly laid out.

The main purpose of the site should be clearly illustrated above the fold of the home page. Above the fold refers to what the user sees on a web page without having to scroll down.

The communication style, logo and colour scheme should be portrayed throughout the website and be in line with the brand’s corporate identity.

SEO considerations

Website copy needs to be written for users but optimised for search engine spiders. Keywords need to be integrated into your website’s copy so that search engines can recognise your content as relevant to the users search terms.

Each page’s URL should be clean and include a key phrase relating to the page.

The page title tag is the most important element of your on-site SEO as it tells search engines what the page is about. Make sure that it is no more than 70 characters.

The Meta description is the text that appears under the site link on the search engine results page. While it doesn’t affect your rankings, it should entice the user to enter the site and improve your site’s click through rate.

Headings or H-tags should include key phrases and be logically structured.

Alt text is the name of an image file and acts as a description of an image. It is important to have alt text present to tell users and search engine spiders what the picture is without looking at the actual picture. Remember, search engine spiders can’t see images and rely on this information to index images.

A site audit is a great way to rate a site’s on-page SEO. If your on-page SEO isn’t correct, it will be nearly impossible to rank for your desired keywords or phrases.

Published: http://www.hellocavalry.com/blog/entry/four-areas-to-consider-when-conducting-a-website-audit

 

Has your business gone mobile?

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With more than 650-million mobile phone subscribers in Africa alone, we are deep within a mobile revolution. You don’t have to look far to see the explosion in smartphone usage. Forecasts suggest that tablet sales are set to surpass desktops and laptops by 2015 and businesses just can’t ignore the ‘head-down’ generation and the profits that they stand to gain from leveraging this platform.

Your website

The buying-cycle has gone mobile. With consumers investigating products and services on the move, it has become crucial that your business’s online presence is optimised for mobile consumer behaviour.
Consider this scenario: After weeks of research, a potential customer who is looking for your product or service has narrowed down their options to two companies – you and your competitor. You lose the business because your mobile website usability is terrible: The web page doesn’t fit the screen of the user’s device, links are broken and important information is unreadable. Sound familiar?

Having your website optimised for mobile devices just makes sense if you want to penetrate the millions of consumers making day-to-day purchasing decisions while on the go. No one can really forecast what motivates a customer’s buying decisions, but you can make the pathway to your products and services easier with the device in their pocket.

Mobile advertising

With our eyes firmly fixed on our smartphone and tablet screens, mobile advertising is another powerful and measurable way for businesses to engage with consumers during the online buying cycle.

It’s all very well to have a great mobile site with all the bells and whistles, but you need to generate traffic. Luckily the age-old method of SMS advertising has mostly been buried. Rich, targeted media can be delivered directly to the relevant consumer using tools such as:

  1. Search engine marketing, where consumers use search engines to research products and services before buying.
  2. Display marketing such as banner ads on websites related to your product.
  3. In-app ad placements promoting products, services or special deals.

Whether you are trying to create awareness for your business, or are competing for site traffic, having an effective mobile marketing strategy in conjunction with your mobile site is a must.

Get mobilised

With the arrival of mobile technology, the buying cycle, from being blissfully unaware to typing in your credit card details, has moved online. This has made an already competitive business environment, even more so. Every sale counts, don’t disregard what the mobile era can do for your bottom line.

Published: http://www.hellocavalry.com/blog/entry/has-your-business-gone-mobile

JoziFest

I made my way to JoziFest on the Saturday night to commit a few of the cardinal sins and watch some of my favourite bands in Newtown. Most of the chatter around me was about the line-up. It was grand. “It’s like Oppi in one day” I heard.  Straight to the bar is customary, and with beer in hand I headed to the Monster Stage. I didn’t leave. There was plenty of activity happening all over the place, but my focus was on the stage where my personal musical heroes lay waiting to entertain.

340ml began their set with atmospheric feed-back from Tiago’s guitar, which induced squeals of excitement. As they broke into ‘Regents Park’ the crowd chanted the chorus in unison which spread through the streets of Newtown. It was going to be an amazing set from the dub-reggae-fusion foursome. I could just tell. And with whiffs of anonymous joints, the songs rolled on and the crowd lapped them up with voracity. There was an enthusiasm from the band that I haven’t seen in a while. They seemed rejuvenated. The drummer, Paulo, makes drumming look effortless while playing his seemingly discordant grooves and simultaneously hyping up the crowd throughout songs. The guy standing behind me kept repeating: “This band is just so fucking good”. I wholeheartedly agree.

It was like a musical wet dream when Tidal Waves, in my opinion S.A’s tightest band, came to the stage directly after 340ml. The rock-reggae band from Pretoria is impossible not to love. The lead shredding machine, Jaco Mans, was absent from the show but the lead man, Jacob “Zakes” Wulana kept things together and pleasantly surprised me with his guitar solos. “Original music for original people!” is the band’s mantra and is consistently chanted by both the band and their adoring fans. Tidal Waves have amassed a true following of fans that have come to learn every song lyric regardless of its language. They have consolidated their fan base in a way that not many other S.A bands have, and at Jozi Fest they delivered what their fans have become accustomed to, song after song of pure magic.

And so it was the last ‘Dans’ for Joburg as Foto Na Dans played their last Joburg show ever. I am still having denial fuelled thoughts that it’s all just a publicity stunt. South Africa needs bands of that calibre and it is certainly a loss to the scene. I’ll be honest; being their last Joburg show I expected mayhem and madness from the crowd, maybe some sort of sentimental frenzy. All I saw was a bunch of inhibited, confused Jozi kids listening half-attentively, bar a few hardcore fans near the stage. I’m not sure of the band’s history of playing in Joburg and maybe the lack of connection between Joburg and Cape Town is more apparent than I thought. Perhaps their reach did not extend to the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg.

Not much needs to be said about Lark, especially if you know them. If you don’t,  stop reading this and go look them up immediately. The wildly talented Inge Beckmann’s voice pierced right through the very existence of the crowd. She jumped and crouched and slithered across the stage, belting out one song after the next. A Lark show is always guaranteed to be special and even more so due to the rareness of them.

Taxi Violence is my favourite South African band and I am unforgiving about the oodles of bias to follow. If all of my favourite bands were to engage in a massive musical orgy, the product would be Taxi Violence. That being said, their show was exceptional. The rock n’ rollers from Cape Town blew the heads off of every single person watching. The Joburg crowd disappointed me once more as it contracted at certain points of the set, receiving appropriate sneers from me. Inge from Lark joined Taxi on stage for ‘Devil n’ Pistol’ and it was explosive. Perhaps collaboration is on its way? It would definitely work and hopefully speed up Taxi’s album output. The rock world is starving for more.

To end off a mini-festival with one of the most majestic line-ups I have ever seen, was Fokofpolisiekar. Thunderous performance: check. Frenzied crowd: check. Francois’ indelible rockstarness: Check. Enough Said.

Sure, in between the lines there were many beers consumed, giving way to deep and meaningless conversations, eardrums close to bursting, pushing and shoving, laughing and dancing. But that night was all about the line-up. It wasn’t like Oppi in one day; it was the best of Oppi in one night.

Published in YourLMG online and 340ml’s Reverbnation page under “press” (http://www.reverbnation.com/340ml/press/)

Blk Jks and Shadowclub The Bohemian, Johannesburg 17 February 2012

“Are they not letting any more people in?” was the first question I asked the door lady as I finally managed to get to the front of the line outside Joburg’s favourite crusty venue, The Bohemian. I’d arrived at that question with valid reason. Inside was way overcapacity and outside was home to an anxious bunch hovering around the pavement. Surprisingly, they were still letting people in and, when I got near the stage, Blk Jks surfaced above the sea of heads in front of me. These experimental rockers don’t play music, music plays them. They seem like agents through which a musical exorcism is taking place when they are on stage. They are brilliant musicians, but they tend to break into nonsensical improvisation a little too much, the kind of self-indulgence that can become a bit overbearing. It’s cool to be experimental but for me, this time they just seemed inaccessible. The mighty Shadowclub were up next and proceeded to cause “The Boh” the bar to drop to its knees with their “king-of-cool” blues rock. “This is where we started and we will keep coming back until we die,” blurted Jacques Moolman, Shadowclub’s front-man. I never want to see them play there ever again. Not only because they filled the place to an unbearable level, but because it would be a massive disservice to humanity if they don’t chew and spit out every major festival around the globe and reach a level of stardom that will burn them out within ten years. They are the perfect blend of rock n’ roll integrity and commercial viability, which is particularly rare for a South African band. It’s also rare for a bar to run out of beer, which happened too. Best prepare for when these two bands are in your town.

-Jake Rubinstein Published: Your LMG Magazine

Sowing the Seeds Music Festival: Published in Your LMG magazine online

It lacked the milky glaze of its bigger sibling, Rocking the Daisies. But then again, Magaliesburg comes nowhere close to the serene beauty of the Cloof Wine Estate. Sowing the Seeds was an irresistible chance for the kids of Gauteng and the surrounding areas to get wasted and frolic about in the shrubs. (Perhaps rocking the Shrubs is a more apt title for the event?). I really do hope that the objective of the event was not to gauge the interest of us “Vaalies” for future music festivals in the area, because the mediocre turnout says differently to our thirst for quality event organisers to put on quality shows. Regardless, it got me interested, and I was excited to see what Seed Experiences was to conjure up in the North.

Sowing the Seeds was a charming little festival, filled with the all the right nuances. The handpicked line-up was a refreshing change from the one-dimensional crowd-pleasing strategy that we see at most of these mini festivals. The line-up on Saturday was like a ricocheting bullet, the direction unexpected and uninhibited, bouncing from oddball revolutionaries (The Brother Moves On), to heavy-white-Afrikaans-electro-rap (Bittereinder) and finally settling on the preppy goodness of Goldfish. Apparently P.H Fat made a surprise appearance as the last act for the night, but by that point I was lost somewhere in the musical wilderness.

With a crisp Gypsy hangover after Friday night, courtesy of Toby2shoes, the excitement surrounding Shortstraw’s set provided the momentum to get to the stage. Now there’s a band that is lacking the necessary attention from the festival circuit. They were given an early slot, but proved once again that they can handle a big stage with ease. Towards the end of their array of infectious tunes, the crowd was eagerly chanting their lyrics back at them. But their set was cut short due to some sort of mismanagement and miscommunication from what I understand came from festival’s side, which was highly disappointing.

During The Skabenga’s set I began to indulge in various hangover remedies provided in the bar-area. I found myself torn between the tunes from this highly talented fusion act, and fighting with the idea that not only was Black Label the only beer sold, but was also the most expensive of all the drinks provided. Now I am very well acquainted with the laws of supply and demand, but this was just ridiculous. Nevertheless it didn’t stop me from buying litres of the stuff throughout the day (The tent is so far, and imagine how warm the beers must be by now!).

Jeremy Loops composes songs from scratch using a Loop Station pedal. I have seen it done before, but he does it right. He beat boxes or taps the microphone for the beat, uses guitars to build up the rhythm and sings over the product of various layers of sound. When he started playing the novelty and theatrical nature of what he was doing started to draw the crowds in, out of curiosity if nothing else. The news must’ve spread quickly because within minutes he had the better part of the whole festival mesmerised. On the festival flyer the act was advertised as Jeremy Loops & Co. That “Co” was saxophonist Jamie Faull and rapper M.O.Lecko. Now I don’t know if the guest artists are permanent fixtures or perhaps guests for his bigger shows but I think that’s the act right there. That should be the band. Those three together is where the magic lies.

I decided to give Wresterish a miss in order to take a tour of the surrounds and soak up a bit more of the festival. I had a look at the VIP section (which was dubbed “Very Important Poo” by the festival goers who did not have the luxury of fancy toilet facilities) and leaving quite unimpressed I walked on and was fortunate enough to come across Deep Fried Man and his unidentified sidekick. It was hysterical. They insulted the audience and passers-by with the kind of relentless brutality that would make a person want to crawl into their tent for the rest of the festival. Hell, they even had a go at me! I was honoured.

The ‘heavyweight’ bands took the crowd into the night. Tidal waves bought their watertight reggae-rock grooves as they always do and it was good to see Desmond and the Tutus playing new tunes, which usually happens around election time. I like where they going with their sound and their live performance seemed more beefed up and professional than usual. Shadowclub once again proved that they deserve all of the attention that they are getting as they gave a flawless and powerful performance and left the crowd looking like blood-hungry maniacs.

From then onwards things steadily declined for me due to the fact that my birthday was the next day and 12 o’ clock was nearing. A few Jagers down and my next experience was waking up at daybreak and literally feeling the inane conversations around my tent. The kind that were probably so interesting and profound to me just hours before.

The Shortbus tour

My band Columbus and our buddies in Shortstraw embarked on a mini-tour last weekend. Titled the ‘Shortbus Tour’, we were going to play in Clarens, Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Shortstraw’s bassist, Russell, is currently on holiday in New York so I filled in for him. This brief story details our adventures and misadventures on the tour.

The first stop for the Shortbus was in Clarens, a quaint, arty town snugly positioned between the abundant mountains of the Free State. It is hardly the kind of place that would be considered inviting for a couple of eager rock bands from Joburg to spread their seed, but we thought it would be a nice way to ease into the tour. The place that we would play at was called Rock Bottom, an ironic title for an oddly positioned club in the heart of one of the most ethereal places in this country.

We strolled inside. “I hope you okes aren’t thinking about playing here tonight. It’s going to be empty” sneered one of the locals at the bar, before turning back to his guilty, two-in-the-afternoon beer. I ignored him. We were greeted with a wall full of signatures and band titles, obviously painted on the wall by previous acts that had played there. We were comforted when we saw the names ‘Shadowclub’ and ‘Cortina Whiplash’, two bands that are also from Joburg and that we have had the honour of playing with. We dumped our equipment and decided that it was about the right time for the beer drinking to commence. We headed over to a micro-brewery in the town and proceeded to gulp down a few draughts and play cards, chatting away about the adventures to come, with an electric buzz and tangible excitement wafting in the smoke-filled air.

The ‘studio 1’ television performance that Columbus did the previous week was to be aired that night so we went on a mission to find a place that that had DSTV. After a few unsuccessful attempts, we landed up at a restaurant called ‘Friends’, a place well known in Clarens. We were in luck. Not only did they have DSTV, but they had a bar and great food. So the barman switched onto MK89 for us, we ordered some grub and a few beers, and anxiously waited for the show to air. It came on and we were extremely impressed with ourselves; straight-to-the-bar-for-a-couple-of-tequilas impressed. That gave us a good boost and we were ready to play, not caring that, of the entire population of Clarens, about 60% are retired, nor that it was probable that we would only be playing to the barmen.

Photo by Jono Wood

Off to the club we went and were pleasantly surprised by the amount of people that were there. We took to the stage and prepared to start our set. It was refreshing to see the crowd stop what they were doing and concentrate on the performance. We started our set and after the first song we were greeted with hearty applause and wolf-whistling from a very appreciative audience. The songs rolled on and the applause escalated. Jake Patlanskyor ‘Patlov’, Columbus’ guitarist, turned to me and said that he was having one of the best gigs of his life and honestly I can say the same. That gig was special. To play to such a humble, entertainment-hungry audience was great and their appreciation made us want to return the favour.

Photo by Jono Wood

Shortstraw arrived after our set as they had left Joburg much later than us and it was time for me to play my first gig on a bass guitar. We started playing and I trembled a bit throughout the first song but managed to get going as the set progressed. We played a musically eloquent set, as Shortstraw always does and were met with a continuously appreciative audience. The set finished and without mincing words, the drinking began.

Photo by Jono Wood

We proceeded to attempt to deplete Clarens’ alcohol stock until the early hours of the next morning. During that time both bands sold a good number of CD’s, definitely boosting us to ‘platinum’ status. At least by Clarens’ standards.

The next morning was filled with stories of foolery and fun from the previous night. After some ‘hangover treatment’ at a local breakfast place, we were off to Durban to play Unit 11. We took the scenic route through the exquisite Golden Gate National Park. After about four hours we found ourselves in Durban. In all honesty the inner-city of Durban is repugnant. It’s dirty and crude. If that is ‘South Africa’s playground’, then the children of South Africa need to be defended from toxic poisoning.

Photo by Jono Wood

Unit 11, a club in an industrial area in the city, was the venue for the evening. It is one of the coolest music venues in this country. The stage is spacious; the sound is great and nestled in the corner is a table tennis rig fit for a champion. We were vaguely worried about what the attendance would be like, but that worry vanished as we arrived at the venue. There was a decent amount of people huddled together on the street outside, which I think instantly provided an inner burst of excitement for all of us.

Photo by Jono Wood

Columbus started off the night and was greeted with a warm response from the crowd. We were comfortable and tight and put on an extremely energetic performance, definitely one of our best. Shortstraw were on directly afterwards and I felt the first sensation of ‘I don’t know how I am going to do this’. I had played hard the previous set and I had another coming my way. I thought a tequila shot in a Redbull would be my saving grace and indeed it was. We took to the stage and there was definitely an exciting energy from the crowd. The Shortstraw set was tight and fun and I was surprised to see people singing the lyrics to the songs, seeing that this was Shortstraw’s first show in Durban. The next band on was the Anti Retro Vinyls, previously known as The Otherwise. I loved them. They were polished and professional and I soon learned that they are really nice guys too.

Photo by Jono Wood

After the show we partied quite intensely, in true Shortbus spirit. We carried on as jovially as ever and finally decided to pack up the car and call it a night. I picked up some of my gear and headed towards the exit, when Shortstraw’s drummer, Ollie, came up to me, looking quite pale, and told me that I shouldn’t go outside. There was a shootout right outside the club. Curiosity and denial got the better of me and I popped my head out the door to see what was going on. I saw a man shooting down the alleyway right outside the entrance of Unit 11. I was shocked and disturbed. I knew that a couple of my band members had already made their way to the car so I went outside to see if they were ok. As I got to the car I was overwhelmed by the frenzy that surrounded me and was relieved to see that everyone was ok. The guys involved in the shootout were still running around and jumping into cars, but they didn’t seem interested in us. It was between them, but it was still pretty unsafe to hang around there so we packed the trailer with vigour and got out of there as quickly as we could. If that isn’t indicative of the degradation of Durban then nothing is. To see something like that in the flesh was one of the most sobering experiences of my life. Back to the hostel we went and by the time the sun began to rise it was time for bed.

The next day we decided that we had to, on principle, go to the beach. The weather was miserable but we ventured towards North Beach anyway. The experience was short-lived and we decided to leave for our next destination – Cliffy’s in Pietermaritzburg.

Photo by Jono Wood

I had never actually been inside Pietermaritzburg before. It had always been a name connected to a feeling of being close to Durban after a long journey. Perhaps after a couple of nights of playing and drinking, exhaustion had crept in and this might have played a part in the negativity that I felt towards the place. If you are reading this and have any connection with Pietermaritzburg, I request to be excused for what I am about to say.

We arrived in Pietermaritzburg and headed straight towards the hostel that we would stay in that night. As I walked inside the initial thought that I had was that it seemed less like a hostel and more like a haven for runaway teenagers and, judging by Pietermaritzburg, there are probably many. Pietermaritzburg is the most dull and lifeless place I have ever been to in my life. The people are extremely odd and seem to be a product of years of illicit inbreeding. We made our way to Nando’s for some lunch and it seemed to be the most buzzing place in the whole juiceless town. After the nausea and sweating had subsided from our extra hot peri-peri dishes, we left for the next gig venue.

Photo by Jono Wood

We arrived at Cliffy’s, a pub right next to the house of the owner, who is, not surprisingly, Cliffy. Cliffy is an old man with a long, white Father Christmas beard, and would later request both the bands leave his venue. As we arrived we were greeted by a lady by the name of Tracy, a heavily pierced veteran rocker, the self-titled manageress. Before we could even get trivial introductions underway, Tracy descended upon us with the most aggressive and condescending speech imaginable about how she does not appreciate people with ‘rock star attitudes’ and disrespect for her extremely reputable and famous music club. I think she lost us all within the first ten seconds and left us eager to get away from the mindless drab that she was spewing. Reputable would be the last word I would use to describe Cliffy’s. Although the staff had good intentions, it was by far the most unprofessional environment I have ever found myself in.

Photo by Jono Wood

Photo by Jono Wood

Nevertheless we played the gig to all 10 people, including a five-man bachelor party. The bachelor actually had a ball and chain around his ankle, along with some ironic t-shirt detailing something about how lame it is to be married. Firstly, to have your bachelor party at a place like that is weird and in bad taste. Secondly, if you are so easily manipulated by your peer group that you would actually wear a ball and chain around your leg, something that epitomises childish stupidity, you are probably nowhere near ready for the responsibility of marriage. Anyway, we had fun, so much fun that by the end of it our rowdiness caused Cliffy to kick us all out. Not cool, Cliffy. I don’t think that we were bad enough to warrant being kicked out, but we were, perhaps, too colourful for Pietermaritzburg.

Photo by Jono Wood

The next morning we indulged in a vomit-inducing Wimpy breakfast to ease the hangover. Ollie picked up the local newspaper and said how badly written it was. I thought back to the bachelor and his ball and chain. “Yeah, it’s like a vicious cycle of mediocrity,” I said.

Photo by whoever had Jono Wood’s camera

And that concluded the Shortbus Tour. We came, we saw, we judged and we rocked out. Music was made and friendships were consolidated. Devon, Tyler, Jake, Tom, Al, Gad, Ollie and Jono, if you are faffing now, stop it.

Photo by Jono Wood

A Brief History

I was neither here nor there  in my school years, never a particularly adept athlete (partly due to apathy and partly due to the sickening notion of reaching a level of camaraderie with a sports team that warranted ass slapping with wet towels after practice. Perhaps unrealistic in what would have been my circumstance, but the fact that it still exists is enough to put me off). I did not excel academically nor did I get involved in cultural activities. I can confidently say that this was not due to lack of ability on my part. I can generally get good at whatever it is that I apply myself to. The root of the cause of the scholarly mediocrity that defined my school career was Tom Revington.

I often playfully tell Tom that the day I met him he ruined my life. The path that my school life took after meeting him turned out to be the kind which can be described as lesser-travelled by a comparable pimple-infested teenager. Here is why:

There I was, a fresh-faced fourteen year old with a severely over-sized school blazer sitting in the school hall of Greenside High, when I was approached by an unknown, equally fresh-faced boy. “Do you play a musical instrument?” he said in a rather aloof manner. No form of attempt at any formal greeting. In retrospect it is forgivable for a 14-year-old boy to lack basic sensibility. I am not certain about what my reply was, but what I do know was that a week later he and I were jamming in his room. Tom on guitar and me on a make-shift drum kit constructed from empty paint containers and ice cream tins. I vividly remember using popcorn seeds to create the rattle of the ‘snare drum’. Before I continue I just want to state outright that the drums were not my first choice of instrument to pursue, but Tom wanted a drummer and faced with a guy who was on the verge of drawing all the cash out of his bank account to buy me a drum kit, I was not forced into a corner, but I was forced into a corner. A week after that I bought a second hand kit called “The Odyssey” (the drum kit was really called that) and we were ready to start a band.

At that stage we viewed nirvana as quasi-gods. The thought of being a depressed heroin addict had never had so much appeal. If you weren’t part of the ‘27 club’, you weren’t worth listening to. We would jam ‘Back in black’ by ACDC until blood seeped from our fingertips. ‘Hey Joe’ by Jimi was also one of our favourites to attempt. We became consumed by rock n’ roll. In the days where Friday night social agenda meant going to the Rosebank shopping mall and watching movies, we used to skip the movie and head straight to (an unnamed pub in the surrounds that would sell booze to a 14 year old) and talk about music. I distinctly remember Tom saying that we should rather spend Friday nights jamming. What ensued was a series of Friday night jam sessions in my room, much to the displeasure of my neighbours.

Retarded Martha was our first band name. The logo was a picture of a haggard lady who I presume was ‘Martha’. She had grossly disproportionate facial features. I remember us being decidedly chuffed with Martha. As time progressed we started listening to more blues. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy Waters and the likes. Being impressionable young musos, we started jamming 12-bar blues songs. So we gave the rock n’ roll a brief break and focused on the blues. At that time we decided that finding a suitable bass player was necessary. We went through a string of bass players, none of whom actually liked playing the instrument, or perhaps spent too much time entertaining the notion of playing and didn’t spend any time actually playing.

One bass player stuck around for a while. A chap named Greg Abrahams. It is with him that we started playing the local blues club scene, or any place that that would afford three novice youngsters the opportunity to play repetitive 12-bar blues jams. Our first gig was at a place called ‘Toninos’, a Portuguese pub and restaurant in the heart of Orange Grove. It was on the corner of Louis Botha and Nigerian-Loan-Shark-This-Place-Is-Scary Avenue. It is the kind of place where Joburg’s single and lonely Baby Boomers congregate on a Friday night. We managed to play there quite a few times after that. It is the best possible place for a band to start as the only direction that you can go from there is up.

We called ourselves ‘SouthBound’. We played BB King’s ‘Thrill Is Gone’, Jimi’s ‘Red House’ and ‘Voodoo Chile’, Eric Clapton’s ‘Have You Ever Loved a Woman’ amongst others. We gradually became better and started playing more prestigious gigs. Our first big one was opening for the illustrious Dan Patlansky at the Blues Room in Sandton, Johannesburg. I was 14-years old on that day. The Blues Room was a real inauthentic, would-be-American-style smokey, dingy shithole which managed to be portrayed as a classy and elite music venue. It served its purpose at the time and is now apparently a JuJu-Style hangout for the nouveau rich. We did our thing in the blues/jazz club scene for a while until Greg left us for some or another reason. From what I remember Tom and I took a break from playing with one another for a while after that. A few years later Tom gave me a call and said that he had found a couple of guys to jam with. A guitarist and a bass player. These two chaps went by the name of Mark Wright and Matthew Gidlow. The fruits of that phone call led to what would be a the most prominent musical journey of my life until now

‘The Uncut’ was born and what a feisty baby it was. It broke out of the womb with a bottle of Jack in one hand and a Fender Strat in the other. The four of us got together to jam and it was electric, it was authentic, it was we-don’t-give-a-fuck-n’-roll. I loved it, we all loved it. We all became friends and progressed into brotherhood with an uncontrollable force and seemingly inexhaustible talent. We took a sweet concoction of catchy swamp blues rock to every music venue in Johannesburg for approximately four years, with a couple of out of town shows in between. What we left behind was a ‘what could have been’ phenomenon that saddens and frustrates me to this day. A beautiful and deplorable gift.

Photo by © Deborah Rossouw | One small change

The Uncut in the early years
Photo by Jess Sutherland

As I write this Tom is on tour with his new band, the excellent and revered ‘Shortstraw’ and I am currently playing with the heavy-rockers ‘Columbus’ the masters of elaborate and magnificent song-endings as well as ‘Caution with the Devil’ famously quoted as “Probably the best acoustic black metal trance band you will ever hear.” by Rolling Stone Magazine, of course. It is fun and an element in my life that I can positively say that I could not do without. My next brief memoir on my musical escapades will hopefully include some kind of majestic musical feat that will deny me the time to even write about and which of course would have to take place before the age of 27.

Photo by Brett Steele