SURVING A CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL
1. You are the Media. Media is the King. Down with the King.
The girl in charge of media registration has a personal vendetta against us – not only is she refusing to give us two press passes, she has also arranged interviews for us with bands we have never heard of. The sour reality of this assignment begins to set in and nasty question arises: Why did we come here again? Our gutter-rock approach to reporting clearly will not fly in this land of demarcated interviews, concentration camp-like access to the artists and insane media saturation. It seems that every second person you meet belongs to this publication, that radio station or some never-before heard of social networking site. And they all strut around with their cameras and a sense of purpose, squabbling and bickering over scraps of coverage, bent on blowing this event out of any respectable proportion. We medicate heavily and come to the conclusion that this pro-environmental circus has been rigged; and not in favour of any kind of honest reportage. The recipe is simple – invite as many media outlets as possible, make them feel a little special via an utterly useless 'media area' and they will, spurred on by the presence of so much competition, trip over their own feet to sugar-coat and praise the event. If a thousand people say that it was shit, it only takes one article to prove them wrong. We are not fooled by this kind of trickery and swear to each other a blood oath to say things as we see them, up to the point where we are no longer able to see at all.
[caption id="attachment_8068" align="aligncenter" width="442" caption="The pretty and decietful face of the media"]
2. When in danger, always head towards the water.
The second day begins with miserable heat and a brutal hang over. The previous night's line up left much to be desired, but the drink was cheap so it all evens out. We struggle to keep down our Breakfast Burritos, nothing more than eggs and bacon in pita bread, as we stake out one of the few shady spots near the reservoir. The festival crowd rouses itself slowly, appearing first in staggering groups, then in a steady stream. Soon they all learn to fear the heat and the grassy banks become a metaphorical blood bath. As everyone shoves and scrambles for space, a group of guys brave the waters. Male bonding is so not on – the sight of grown up men splashing with the delight of five year olds nearly parts us with our burritos. Spurred on by this spectacle, the crowd plunges in – girls in bikinis, guys in bikinis, an over-zealous lifeguard on what appears to be a paddle board and perhaps the hottest girl of the festival, on a old school wooden surfboard. Of her, we take a picture, and scurry away before things turn ugly.
[caption id="attachment_8051" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Male bonding is SO not on"]
[/caption] [caption id="attachment_8069" align="aligncenter" width="443" caption="The hottest girl of the festival"]
3. At a good festival, children are never far and always a good idea.
The psychedelics kick in, the festival picks up and suddenly we are surrounded by children, children, children. It's like a bad zombie flick spoof. We aren't talking about hippie children, those abound everywhere and are a lost cause – born with glands that secrete LSD as soon as they hear trance. Normal looking kids, from toddler to annoying brat, they are running around as the adults guzzle beer, smoke dope and generally act like kids themselves. Why would anyone sane bring their impressionable offspring to such depravity? Amid rumours that Roman Polanski is prowling the festival grounds in search of fresh victims, we scream in our heads: 'The horror, the horror!' We meet a couple with a pram and wonder if they are smuggling drugs in it or if they, just like the rest of those who came here with children, are clinging onto their fading youth a bit too desperately.
[caption id="attachment_8053" align="aligncenter" width="407" caption="Even Optimus Prime hates children"]
4. When the music starts playing, all you will hear will be 'vagina vagina vagina'.
We stand amazed at the fields of blooming pussy around us. It seems that every pretty and semi-pretty girl from around the mountain has made a pilgrimage here. Admittedly the only reason to actually come here, unless bound by journalistic duty, is to get ass. The tent next door is crammed full of virgin, eight of them, though the number fluctuates. Doing some quick math, that puts anywhere between thirty and sixty-four semen receptacles within a fifteen meter radius of our sleeping grounds. Hunting in the daisy fields is much like hunting in the savannah: locate the weak one in the herd – usually swaying a little too much to whatever crap band is playing; approach and begin lying – how much you love this band, how you know them personally, how you were actually in the band at some stage; flash your media pass and, if you work for One Small Seed, drag the meat back to your magazine's snazzy tent, club it into submission with pumping house music and have your way. Clean up. Repeat. Glorious.
[caption id="attachment_8054" align="aligncenter" width="414" caption="Girls girls girls"]
5. The reason they are called 'gems' is because they are fuck rare.
Who would win in a fistfight between Johnny Cash and Death Cab For Cutie? It's a trick question because the answer is: Wrestlerish. The Pretoria-based band rocks in the mellowest of ways, yet with an underlying urgency and fever. Despite it being eleven in the morning, the people gather and begin dancing. We're too fucked to move but keep wondering how does a voice like that come out of a man-bear like that? Their show is so good that following acts pale in comparison, until Dan Patlansky takes the stage and begins coaxing out female orgasms with his dirty blues riffs. He is part of the rock n roll revival that seems to be taking place and, when we ask him what drug he is if he had to be one, he says 'cocaine', though he is clearly mescaline. Later we find ourselves dancing to the dinosaur sex music of Desmond and the Tutus, their vocalist resembling an anorexic veloceraptor as he spazzes through their set of tight and infectious indie rock. Sadly they are one of the few bands on the bill with any kind of stage presence. Thus the grand total of watchable bands, excluding the electro fiends, this weekend amounts to a staggering 'three'.
[caption id="attachment_8055" align="aligncenter" width="424" caption="The safest way to smoke dope in the daisy fields"]
6. Who brings questions to interviews anyway?
We suddenly realize that we are in the middle of an interview with The Plastics. How? Where? The whole notion of formal interviews with the bands seems absurd. How do you squeeze any non-processed information out of four strangers in a space of ten minutes, before their manager pimps them away to then next media hustler? Should we be feeling used, or they? The Cape Town indie-rock outfit before us begs for questions but the only thing going through our heads is 'you guys aren't biodegradable, how the fuck did they let you in here?' They tell us they are really excited to be here, excited to be rocking out, excited at how things are going for their band and that their favorite psychedelic is marijuana. Fruitful. They also say that their next album is going to sound like Radiohead and we are only 50% certain that they are joking. We leave and day dream about being able to spend a whole day with a band, to get to know them, to find out what their music is really about, but alas such are not the ways of modern Media.
[caption id="attachment_8057" align="aligncenter" width="389" caption="Filthy nature, dirty panda"]
7. The main stage WILL fail you.
Their religion is bass and they are currently saving our souls from the stagnation of the Saturday night main stage line-up. P.H.Fat throw down beats that break your face on the pavement outside your house at 3am in the morning. While Just Jinger and Freshly Ground bore people just 50 meters away, at the electro tent we finally put our finger on the pulse of this festival. This is where the real music hides and the hordes feel it, getting down like electro-grime animals. No room for contemporary pretentiousness or limp rock appeal here, just bass, half-sane raps about ESKOM, mushrooms and DMT, neat gin and raw energy. We lose all notions of humanity and turn into manic beasts, though still better than the beasts outside the tent, cooing radio serenades to Goldfish. Surely this is what the whole experience should be about – complete suspension of society's norms, descent into the primal, partying hand in hand with brutal human nature? Then why do the organizers flirt with sophistication, attempt at class and keep patting us on the back for 'throwing the rubbish away and helping the environment'?
[caption id="attachment_8070" align="alignnone" width="416" caption="How friendly is the environment really?"]
8. Nature is an umbrella for the soulless.
We are broken and destroyed after the two days, but not any closer to understanding the meaning of this gathering. It's definitely not good music, nor is it any kind of awesome vibe – the crowd being a motley bunch of jocks, preps, upper-class yuppies, contemporary art fags and only a smattering of real rock n roll kids. Perhaps the organizers throw the shawl of eco-friendliness over this fest exactly for that reason – there simply isn't a focal point to it, just a pretense to charge people. By the time we leave, we are so over this artificial 'nature' that on our way back we run over a tortoise. It pops with a satisfying crunch. God, we hate the environment.
Photos by Sonja Myburg