Passionate about SA rock

2008-02-01 00:00

Although an unlikely guardian of local music, Vlado Sipcic, the Bosnian co-owner of Durban's newest live music venue The Thunder Road Rock Diner, is particularly passionate about both the rock virtuosos who have stood together since the 1970s and the emerging talent throughout KwaZulu-Natal.

He is a fount of information and has a virtual archive of rock history, including a photograph of a '70s rock concert enjoyed by “hippies, communists and ducktails” under the watchful eye of the security police, who had their fingers in their ears.

This is the spirit embodied in the Thunder Road Rock Diner. “People just come. I give them a stage and do the sound. This place is not a money spinner,” he says of a venue that is fast becoming a hangout for the who's who of Durban music. They jam on Tuesdays. Patrons of the Thunder Road Rock Diner with its Jimi Hendrix, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and Jim Morrison posters, guitars on the wall and drums behind the bar, describe it as upbeat but not pretentious.

Sipcic is an interesting character with a colourful career. Leaning forward in his chair, he plays a short tune on the blues harmonica. He also plays guitar, drums and percussion. He grew up in Sarajevo and remembers a musical education in a society where music was an active part of daily life. The only downside was that one couldn't simply walk into a music shop and buy a Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple album. These were only available on the black market.

At 22, having “lost everything”, including friends and fellow musicians, in the Bosnian war, Sipcic landed in South Africa, working as a waiter in Johannesburg. He moved to Durban in 1998, still as a waiter. From there he went on to be a manager at top hotels such as Zimbali and the Beverly Hills, and then turned advisor to various restaurateurs. His dream was to open a blues café. When helping business partner Paul Dinsdale remodel his Bistro 136 in Florida Road, they discovered a shared passion for South African music. Bistro 136 became the Thunder Road Rock Diner.

Last week, the diner held a wake for Durban guitar legend Ken E. Henson, who died on May 24. It hosted a benefit concert for him a few months ago. Gigs for June include Gonzo Republic on the 15th, Rob Stories on the 22nd and Clock Struck June on the 29th. Major events in July include Brian Finch, Up Close and Personal, and Neil Solomon and Piet Botha.

• Contact Sipcic for more detailed gig guides on vlado@thunderroaddiner.co.za

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