Up The Creek music festival (which is held every year near Swellendam in the Western Cape) has been rocking since 1991 and has become a must-go-to-festival for every lover of good music in South Africa. Up The Creek (also referred to as UTC) is not a big, crazy, flashing festival with a dusty glamour like Oppikoppi. Neither is it the wet like Splashy Fen or trance hippy infected like Rocking the Daisies – it’s nothing like any other festival.
Being a bovine creature and not being able to walk long distances, I’ve only done two, but my owner has done four and Henno Kruger has done one of them, so I figured it’s safe to treat those ‘first timers’, ‘old hands’, ‘fresh musicians’ and ‘veteran Titanic drinkers’ to a little UTC survival guide, so brace yourselves.
Camping: Game and Makro probably had a raise in camping gear sales since music festivals really took off in our country and of course a tent is one of the most important things you need at one. Tents are not just for sleeping, shagging or snoring but also to keep yourself dry and ideal when you want to wear a shirt saying “your tent or mine?”
If you have a tent you need a mattress – you’re welcome to ruff it out by sleeping on the floor, but chances are that your back won’t make it. I prefer hay but since it will make some sexy guy’s hot but itch I prefer the good old blow-up mattress (it’s not a sex doll, so get your mind out of the gutter). If you are lucky to live close to Swellendam (like Cape Town) then you have the option of taking your fold up camping mattress with, but music fans that fly in for the festival find that paying extra for that kind of thing is a waste of good drinking money.
Remember a sleeping bag, pillow, torch and your tent cover sheet. No one wants to see your hairy ass naked so early in the morning and you definitely want some privacy if you’re planning on doing “funky monkey dance”. If you can afford to be lanie, book yourself an already pitched tent with bedding at the Heartbreak Motel and they will throw in some breakfast, warm showers and toilets with the deal. Check the UTC website for details if you’re interested.
Your ticket: If you are going to go to a festival like Up The Creek then put your ticket in your wallet, near your car keys or if you’re packing the car, in the glove compartment. You are not going to like yourself if you have traveled all the way there and you forgot your ticket – it will suck donkey balls. Tickets are selling super fast so make sure you buy yours. No day ticket passes are allowed and if you can only rock up on Friday because your boss has a fanny wobble, then you deserve to be there. Just buy a damn ticket beforehand.
Cash: I’ve seen festivals going in two minds about money on site. Nowadays they’re going the card way or the cash way. The folks at UTC are cash only – so no debit cards and no credit cards. You can draw cash in Swellendam at any of the ATM’s of your choice (most of them are located near each other) or you can draw cash at the Standard Bank satellite ATM on site. My human had no problems last year with the ATM. She suggests that you draw your cash in your home town or in Swellendam before heading out to the festival to be safe.
The Bar: “A good bartender is hard to find, but an Up The Creek bartender is even better”. Well that’s what I’ve heard anyways. The bar at UTC is truly awesome. They open around 10 AM and close around 2 AM (if at all). The first thing you have to drink is a Titanic. Not a beer, not a cider, not a brandy but a Titanic. This vodka infused drink will have you going back more for, will change your tongue’s colour to blue and will let your mind sail to the mysteries of the world while listening to some awesome music. It’s never too early or too late to have a Titanic, you will miss out if you don’t have one (unless you’re pregnant or non alcoholic).
If I can give a tip about the river bar, take a zip lock bag, put your money in it and lock it up. Then it stays dry and it’s on you. If you lose it in the Breede river some fish is going to be rich. The river bar is such a blessing, especially on Saturday when the music is really good. If you have a water bottle, it will work lovely when you’re having fun in the water while you enjoy Phuza Saturday.
Support the bar in full, tip the bar tenders, they work hard. And if you see Pete Halderman buy him a burger and a shot. That man is the master of operations behind the bars and truly deserves some credit. This cow will hug him if she could (but that’s just me).
The Food: Whenever I go to the Western Cape I love it, but some stuff is really expensive. I always feel as broke as a church mouse after a trip there, but not when I’m going to UTC. The food is actually very affordable at the festival. Last year we had bunny chow, nachos (which was awesome), toastie saamies (we lived on those), Oom Andries se tent (try his killer Sunday Lunch or brekkie), chip ‘n dip and more. The organizers know that no one can function without coffee and that’s why there were two coffee stands available last year. For its size, UTC has a pretty decent setup when it comes to food stands.
Support them as much as you can. If you are taking camp snacks with you make sure it’s not fruit. It will be turn into mampoer by day two in the hot sun (unless you are fancy and you got your own fridge hiding in your girlfriend’s handbag).
The Music: If you are a first timer to UTC and the whole other side of SA music then well done on you and welcome. If you have never heard of any of the performing musicians make sure you watch them, you’ve traveled this far after all. A cool thing about UTC is that they have 3 stages but not all of them run at the same time, giving you the opportunity to watch all of the artists at the festival. You can have breakfast on Sunday morning while listening to Lyzyrd Kings or to stay up way late to jump around to the sounds of The Black Cat Bones, the choice is up to you. Music is truly the base of this festival and it really does revolve around it. The Saturday experience in the river is properly the highlight of the whole weekend and you should not miss that.
A Float: And by this I don’t mean a ‘floatie’ but a device that is made to float on water like a giant tube or dolphin. Yip the “Anything that floats” competition is one big colourful ingredient to UTC. You can build the most romantic float or the biggest float that can host the most people. The winners get some awesome prizes too (like tickets to the next UTC, vouchers and more).
If you are not interested in building a float then just bring anything that floats. My human and I have a working relationship when it comes to that since I’m the master of floating in water. But we’ve seen giant dicks, pirate ships, palm trees, whales, sheep… you name it. Taking a float with you is prefect to laze around in the cool waters of the Breede River while the music plays.
Other stuff: Well I can tell you from a girl cow the bathrooms are always spotless. There are lots of portable and permanent toilets. The showers might not always be in supply of hot water (especially on the Saturday when it’s busy), but that is okay. There are outside showers as well. The only advice that I can give girls that like to apply makeup, pluck their eyebrows or whatever is that do it in your tent. There is nothing wrong with a handheld mirror. You will just block up the basin for those that just want to brush their teeth, comb their hair and be out of there. Leave your hair straightener at at home honeys, no one is looking at your hair when they watch good music.
Bring something warm for the night – this only applies if you are not from the Western Cape. The days are amazingly warm, but once the sun goes down it gets a little chilly. Jeans work the best, but if your butt is small enough yoga pants will do too.
Remember other things like condoms, flu meds, snacks, clothes, a swimsuit, sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen & after sun (AKA miracle stuff), flip flops (the road to the river is quite rough and super hot in the UTC sun) and some sneakers. There is fresh water availible in the big water tank at the top bar so just bring your water bottle and stay hydrated. There is a medical tent, so if you have a boo-boo there is someone with a plaster or if a bee decided you look like good target practice they can help you out as well.
There is almost zero cell phone reception at UTC (it’s in a farm area after all) so switch it off and lock it away in the car or somewhere safe unless you use your phone to take photos. Why do you want to type up some drunken message on Facebook? (unless it’s saying “Having a blast at UTC”). Oh yeah, and switch off your alarm. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up way too early because of a neighbor’s alarm that goes off. You are at a festival, you don’t need it and when you passed out then you definitely not going to wake up at 6 AM or whatever time you usually need to get up at.
You don’t have an excuse to miss Up The Creek – I travel +/- 1200 km to attend this festival. So if I can do it so can you. It’s definitely the musical fun you’ve been missing out on and it might become the musical home you keep on going back to. My human always says that it’s her family Christmas and I agree with her.
Hope you’ve found this advice and tips useful and hope I say many of you at Up The Creek 2014 at the end of January this year. Feel free to comment if you have more tips. Also feel free to share this article if you need to let your friends know about this on Facebook and Twitter. Remember: Sharing is Caring.
Watch this space for regular updates in the Music category on Running Wolf’s Rant.
A green cow, part of a heard of plastic / latex cows, spread between Nelspruit, Sabie and Cape Town. My owner adopted me when I only could speak Chinese, now I’m fluent in Afrikaans, English second language and cow.