This is an old story, one that begins before the other music industry stories I still have to tell. It’s the one about how I missed Faithless the first time around.
In the early 00’s I was working as a waitress at a small-town grill. The tips were good but the people, not so much. My boyfriend got us tickets to see Faithless live in concert. I was looking forward to it because he was into dance music, and Faithless was the only band he liked whose songs I actually knew (and liked). Also, it was a time when South African promoters only brought out one international band a year, so best you be there.
The week of the concert, I checked the shift roster and there it was, my name on the evening I’d asked to have off. And so, after not being able to get anyone to fill my shift, I pitched up to work because I’m that person. Sad Boyfriend went to the concert alone.
That night Sad but incredibly resourceful Boyfriend got me an autograph of every member of Faithless. It’s memorabilia that I still have, long after the small-town grill closed and we broke up. My Calvinistic parents didn’t teach me that it’s okay to throw in the towel sometimes. I’ll certainly teach my son about Loss Aversion and Sunken-Cost bias, and also to just quit stupid part-time jobs if they get in the way of life.
Next month multi-instrumentalist, DJ and producer Sister Bliss will be in South Africa doing a Faithless set, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything. This is the talented woman who led the expedition into a Man’s World behind the decks, while at the same time wrote all of Faithless’ hits (there are so many). God Is A DJ, and I’ve been waiting to see her for years.
I’ve lost count of the people who have told me that I would love Up The Creek, so this year I finally hit the road with my lilo.
My wingman, the seriously talented and ridiculously hard-working photographer Henry Engelbrecht, drove us there after a red-eye flight on Friday morning. As the valleys unfolded we found ourselves in the middle of farmland with a secret ingredient: a gorgeous river. It was only knee-deep when we got there, but lilos (and festival-goers) don’t care.
Tent, mattress & bedding – check, check, check. I went off exploring the river stage, food stalls, bars and landscape. It’s such great venue and setting, everything is close together but never too crowded, and in the event of you needing to be alone for a little while, there’s plenty of space for that too. The organisers cap the event at 2500 tickets, and this number is just right.
Cashless Howler RFID armbands were a stroke of genius. I first saw these in 2016 at Panorama NYC, and have been singing their praises since. Being able to walk around without having to remember to look after a wallet or card is a liberating experience, and the process of cashing out took me less than 5 minutes (funds clear in 1-2 days). It’s a transparent, crime-diminishing feature that makes it as easy as possible for festival-goers to trust a payment system.
Liny Kruger from LK Mediabook ran the media and held a feast of a breakfast for us on Saturday morning, despite a bit of a drizzle. I kept hearing from people that Swellendam is always hot as hell, but this year the rain and clouds broke the usual 40-degree Celsius temperatures. There was always something to do, whether missioning between the stages or getting food or going to a bar or bumping into someone you know. And of course, all the excellent music!
It was a treat seeing bands that aren’t usually on the Gauteng circuit. BRYNN was a breath of fresh air, friendly and incredibly intense on stage. With Hezron Chetty on violin, it felt like the crowd might orgasm. Dave van Vuuren is also a band member in Southern Wild, and these two bands are both at the top of their game.
Fokofpolisiekar were luxurious to watch. Not only did they perform my favourite song Tiny Town (first time I’ve ever seen it live), they also audibly shifted a gear into AC, while showing people they’re the same on-stage rockers you remember from varsity. Cape Town crowds are different, and it was good seeing them in their natural habitat.
Other highlights included Retro Dizzy, a glorious hot mess of bodies and rock guitars, as well as the Sublime Tribute Project (so much fun and bouncing, don’t think I’ve ever smiled or sung as much at a festival). I missed The Shabs, but I hear they’re a hoot. Crimson House played on Thursday before I got there, and I missed my beloved Bongeziwe Mabandla on Sunday in order to rush back to Cape Town (so that I could climb The Mountain).
Leaving the festival was a piece of pie. Without an early lift back, I hitchhiked for the first time in my life. Gail, A carefree middle-age woman in a Mazda 2 piled full of lilos, gave me a lift all the way to my Airbnb in Rondebosch. I would never dream of hiking for a lift with a stranger, but the festival seemed so open and trusting that I was convinced the universe would serve up an interesting experience (it did – “It’s later than you think” is the casual wisdom tucked into Gail’s sun visor).
Next year I’ll go from the Thursday and be the last to leave on Sunday. It’s so pleasant and relaxed, you can call it a holiday, not just a festival. Cheers, and thank you, Up The Creek.