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.
This weekend past the KONGOS killed at Park Acoustics. If you were there, good on you. You’re part of a crowing number of people joining the movement. If you weren’t able to make it, perhaps you’ll join us next year for a Sunday picnic with great music in our beautiful city.
The KONGOS are four brothers: Danny, Dylan, Jesse and Johnny (Kongos) from Phoenix, Arizona. Their song “I’m Only Joking” has been cutting through the airwaves everywhere recently, and I suspect their new single, “Come With Me Now” might do the same. Their dad John Kongos is a South African who looks a little like John Lennon and wrote a few international hits in his day.
The KONGOS debut album ‘Lunatic’ is so much more than the sound of “I’m Only Joking” though, and so is their live performance. You can expect everything from world music and folk inspired melodies to foot-stomping, powerful drum-driven rock.
Check out the snaps I took of their gig at Park Acoustics below. Since they’re here they’ll be doing a few shows, so while you’re checking out their tour dates on www.kongos.com sign up with your email address. The KONGOS are such nice guys, they’ll give you 5 free tracks! Win!
They also did a great interview with Blimpfilms for us!
Park Acoustics have an event every month at the Voortrekker Monument. Unfortunately this was the last one for the year, but join the conversation with us at www.facebook.com/park.acoustics
And by sneaking, I mean I wasn’t actually allowed to, but I couldn’t help myself. I mean, I was about to see Paul Friggin’ Simon, the awesome legend. C’mon.
He played an intimate gig tonight at the SABC, which was recorded. It’s my understanding that this is for the 25th anniversary of Graceland (which is next year). It was pretty much a Graceland reunion gig with Hugh Masekela, Ray Phiri, Ladysmith Black Mambazo…all the greats. It was incredible, and even included a tribute to Miriam Makeba. The atmosphere was electric.
“Boy In The Bubble” was my personal highlight, but nothing beats singing along to “You Can Call Me Al” with 300 other people, including Paul Simon.
He released a new album this year, “So Beautiful Or So What,” and I think it’s his best since Graceland. In many ways it actually reminds me a lot of his debut album, check it out at his official website.
It was a beautiful day at our new venue, the Voortrekker Monument. There were people of all ages, shapes, sizes and colours and it was beautiful. Then the rain came down in buckets. After a frantic effort to get everyone inside and set up, Die Heuwels Fantasties finished their set with an incredible performance. All the excitement and energy of a hot African day listening to Rock was in the room. You had to be there, it was legendary.
I’ve just come back from the Voortrekker Monument and tomorrow’s gig is going to blow Pretoria’s hair back! There are awesome braai facilities, shady trees and a lot of lush green grass… This time around there will also be a full bar, food for sale as well as a loaded merch shop. All ages are welcome as this promises to be another brilliant family friendly Sunday picnic with good vibes, smiles and of course, excellent live music!
11:00 – 12:30 Gates open
12:30 – 13:30 Toby Benko
13:30 – 14:30 Tim Burns
14:30 – 15:30 Die Tuindwergies
15:30 -16:30 Die Heuwels Fantasties
Tickets will be sold at the gate:
R65 Adults, students, pensioners
R45 Scholars (valid ID needed)
Children 6 years and younger get in for free
The Howlin’ Shibanski is a rootsy, energetic blues band, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. Check them out on Facebook: http://goo.gl/NwQA5
It was also my first time at Pandora Art House, and it’s a great venue. With a view out over the Pretoria city skyline, this big old house is the perfect place to have an intimate yet loud evening. Unfortunately, it seems as if they won’t be around after the end of this year, so check them out while you still have a chance. http://www.pan-dora.co.za/