Chris de Bruyn, manager of the Artéma Institute for Art Management and Development on the Potchefstroom Campus was at the forefront of arranging the very first rock concert.
Student newspaper Die Wapad of Tuesday 20 August 1991 asked students what they thought of the rock concert and these were some of the responses.
• Cinema was very good, not too bad for a South African band. Little Sister was stunning, the best South African band. They gave a very good performance. One was never bored.
• It was phenomenal and should definitely be repeated in future. *Patricia Lewis can be used as dancer next time. The next rock show should be held in summer because it was extremely cold. I hope the Puk keep their good spirit.
• It was a wonderful idea. If the Pukke’s spirit was so good, I would like to see how it will be one day if we win the rugby.
• It was really great. Except for Patricia Lewis who should have only swayed her body because her singing was pathetic.
(*Soon afterwards Patricia Lewis became one of the best-selling female artists in South Africa.)
At a time when groundbreaking national and international events were happening, a historical event of great significance to students took place at the former Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (PU for CHE).
The NWU & U spoke to Chris de Bruyn, manager of the Artéma Institute for Art Management and Development, and one of the organisers of the first ever rock concert in the university’s amphitheatre on the Potchefstroom Campus.
It was the year 1991. The winds of change had started blowing all over the world. Across the sea, the year marked the end of the Persian Gulf War, the advent of the World Wide Web and, in South Africa, the signing of the National Peace Accord, which ushered in a new era of democracy.
It was not only on the political and technological fronts that things were changing. At the former PU for CHE, a group of students had a vision. They wanted the university’s amphitheatre to be the scene of an exciting and energetic rock concert.
Up until then, concerts were only part of road shows and rag, but were alien to the heart of the campus and the organisers wanted this to change. Their labour of love paid off on 10 August 1991, with the rock concert taking place on the Saturday night as part of the Intervarsity celebrations.
Chris was at the forefront of arranging the event. “At that stage the amphitheatre didn’t have a roof and was much more open on the sides. We knew we would face challenges such as ensuring safety and containing the crowd,” Chris reminisces.
However, no challenge was too big or daunting. “We wanted to stage an event that would bring big names to the university, and nothing was going to stop us.”
Permission to hold the rock show or Intervêr Jol, as it was billed, was given after many negotiations with university management and the student council. There were certain conditions however – Chris and his co-organisers, Gerhard Jacobs and Thinus van Rensburg, had to raise all the funds to finance the concert and also had to organise all aspects of the event.
Another condition was that the student council had to receive a percentage of the income. “We realised that the concert was not going to make anyone rich; we barely broke even,” Chris chuckles.
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In 1989 the two sisters, Jenni and Debbi Lonmon, formed the band Little Sister. In 1990 “Dear Abbie” became their first song to reach number one nationally.
Long hair and young bands
The line-up for the concert included two of the most popular South African bands of that time. The groups Cinema and Little Sister had big fan bases after becoming household names with hit songs such as “My kind of girl” and “Dear Abbey” respectively.
“Together with the two bands we could also secure Patricia Lewis, who was at that time an up-and-coming South African star. It was the year before her debut album was released. With her flowing blonde hair and catchy tunes we knew she would appeal to a certain group of the student population.”
The event took place without any major incident.
“The students who acted as bouncers did a wonderful job. I remember that there were some students who tried to get on stage when Patricia was performing. A small group of students trampled the barbed wire fence we placed in front of the stage and a few very brave and happy students were escorted from the stage.”
Chris remembers one of the bouncers, Jurie Kasselman, saying afterwards that while they were focused on keeping students off the stage, he saw a long-haired young man running towards Patricia Lewis as she was preparing to go on stage. “Jurie immediately confronted the guy but was promptly stopped by Patricia who yelled: “No, it’s my drummer!”
The rock concert was a wonderful experience for everyone who attended and Chris says they received many compliments. Although many similar events have taken place in the amphitheatre since 1991, Chris believes that it was this first event that opened the doors.
“I am convinced that it proved to the university management that events such as these contribute positively to the rich tapestry of student life. I remember sitting in the deserted amphitheatre after the show, heaving a sigh of relief that everything went smoothly. At that moment I realised that although organising it had been a big challenge, it was truly worthwhile.”
NWU & U