I’ve been to plenty of music festivals all over South Africa but my favorite festival has always been the dusty, tune-packed one: Oppikoppi. I made my way to my 14th Oppikoppi festival this past weekend and this My 2 Cents About it.
My Oppikoppi 2012 Sweet Thing festival already kicked off on last week Wednesday. After a semi-boring and almost-uneventful day at work my friend @sarajbarker and I made our way to the farm near Northam in the Limpopo province. We arrived at the farm at about 9 PM on Wednesday and proceeded to equip our tents. I had to bribe @BaasDeBeer an undisclosed amount of cash to pitch our tents (while we were still working during the day on Wednesday) but it was well worth it.
Thank goodness we didn’t have to pitch our tents in the dark again. Blowing up a camping mattress in the dark was a challenge but our festival hungry minds and livers encouraged us to attempt carrying mattresses whilst navigating through thorn bushes and trees in the dark. Luckily no one got hurt.
Wednesday night was quite uneventful apart from the fact we went a bit apeshit with the bottle of Strawberry Lips (what my friends @vredekind_09, @blommekind16 and @TheAnkePanke call “Alcoholic Nesquick”) and a few beers. I also had the privilege of playing navigator for @Jaczer_SA (an Oppikoppi virgin who got a little bit lost on the farm and almost lost his car keys). It was particularly proud of myself for NOT getting lost on the first of Oppikoppi again. Me and @sarajbarker’s record of 6 hours still stands and I don’t think that I’ll top that in the near future.
Thursday started quite slowly with some morning beers and light snacks in the camp site. I made my way to the stage area to get some cash onto my festival card and to catch rock sensation Aidan Martin’s performance at the nearby Bruilof stage. I got a text letting me know that @BraaiBoy would be braai-ing at our camp (AKA “Baas Se Plaas”) in the afternoon and I swiftly made my way there. The next 2 or 3 hours were a Black Label, Lovoka and Boerewors roll enduced affair and I had some really good times with @tatibble, @vredekind_09, @blommekind16, @GigiGumDrop, @Liesldb, @charlsiebun, @ladyrockerSA and others at our camp site.
Eventually I made my way to the James Phillips stage in the late afternoon on Thursday to catch the Black Cat Bones performance. These Pretoria based rockers impressed the growing Oppikoppi Sweet Thing crowd. They rocked out to the max and their stage presence was just simply amazing. After grabbing some grub and a cold beer at the main stage bar I dragged my photo-taking arse to the Wesley’s Dome stage to catch Southern Gypsey Queen 10 year tribute show. This completely blew me away.
There were so many guest artists jamming with them on stage. Gareth Wilson, Paul Wilson and Tammy Wilson were joined on stage by Jacques Moolman and Louis Roux (from Shadowclub), someone from Boo!, Dave Van Vuuren (from Idols fame), someone from Chromium, Jaco Mans and Jacob from Tidal Waves, the trumpet player from Fuzigish, Tamara Dey from Flash Republic, Shotgun Tori and Albert Frost.
I will probably remember this set for many years to come. It really was something special.
The alcohol proved to be a bit too much for me after watching Southern Gypsey Queen. Unfortunately I passed out in my tent and completely missed Taxi Violence and Tidal Waves (much to my disappointment). But I made my way back to the stage area in time to catch Shadowclub, Bittereinder, Boargazm, BEAST and Pestroy. Shadowclub were a crowd favorite at Wesley’s Dome, Bittereinder played one of the best sets I’ve seen them play this year on the James Philips stage and Boargazm surprised me with their pig masks and heavy metal vibes at the Skellum stage.
BEAST completely blew me away at the Bruilof stage. The drummer (who also jams for The Plastics), Inge Beeckman (of LARK fame) and 2 of the guys from Taxi Violence played their hearts out and completely grabbed the attention of the rock loving crowd. It’s not every day that you see and hear a band with 2 bass players after all.
I took in some of Pestroy’s tunes, said hello to two of my friends (who were working for Google over the weekend) and eventually @BaasDeBeer and I finally retired to our camp site at about 2 AM. Some camp fire talk with a guitar-playing girl from a neighbouring camp site and a few night owls from my own ensured that I only got some sleep at about 3:30 AM.
I started Friday with renewed energy, having my first cider at 9 AM. I grabbed my camera bag and missioned to the Cuervo Deck at 11 AM for the @JoseCuervoSA #TweetUp. I bumped into a few old friends and also made a few new ones. I also found out what a Meat & Chilli Cuervo shot tastes like and it evaporated all forms of sinus from my nasal cavities. The food and the vibe was great. It was also awesome chatting to folks like @SchweppsRocka (who had made his way to Oppikoppi all the way from Australia), @WeeRickyDee, @bangersandnash, @gevaaalikdotcom, @texxonfire and others. Kudos to @Rudi_Cronje and the guys from Brandsrock for making this happen for a second year in a row.
After the #TweetUp it was back to the festival. I caught a glimpse of Oopmond (fronted by a guitar-jamming Jaco van Der Merwe from Bittereinder) and Valiant Swart assisting comedian Melt Sieberhagen in a comedy set at the Klein Bar stage.
I distinctly remember Melt mentioning a slogan for an advert for condoms that went something like “Kondome – Want jy kan nie ‘n stort in jou beursie dra nie” and other one for whiskey going something like “Whiskey – Want lelike mense wil ook spyker”. After this I made sure that I catch Shotgun Tori playing at the James Phillips stage. I was impressed by her stage presence and her voice.
Next up were Indie act Bombay Show Pig from The Netherlands (who had impressed me at Arcade Empire a week before Oppikoppi). They played an excellent set and impressed the crowd at Wesley’s Dome. It was the perfect way to end of their tour of South Africa, but I’m pretty sure that they’ll be back in the near future. After this I was off to the Skellum stage again to catch the chilled out vibes of Janie and the Beard. This too was particularly impressive. I’ll be keeping a close eye on these two folks in the future.
The next artist on the stage at Wesley’s Dome was Cape Town loop-master Jeremy Loops. He seemed quite nervous when he started playing his set in front of a huge crowd (probably the biggest that he’s play in front of) but he quickly eased into it and completely blew the Oppikoppi crowd away. I also caught a bit of the Catlike Thieves on the Bruilof stage before making my way to the James Phillips stage again for Albert Frost and Friends.
The folks in front of that stage witnessed something quite unique. Besides collaborating with artists like Gareth Wilson, Tammy Wilson, Andre Kriel, Lanie van der Walt (of Not My Dog fame) and Livy Jeanne (from Canada), Albert Frost also did one of his legendary songs, Kamakastig Land, with Van Coke Kartel and Fokofpolisiekar frontman Francois van Coke. It was something special that I’ll never forget.
After a quick refreshment session at our camp site I made sure that I catch Oppikoppi legend Valiant Swart on the Skellum stage before I made my way to the Klein Bar stage again for Josie Field. Both these artists played excellently, much to the delight of the music loving fans. aKING were up next on the James Phillips stage and probably played in front of the biggest crowd they’ve ever played. They concentrated on songs from their debut album which got the crowd going in no time. Babylon Circus (from France) entertained the crowd at Wesley’s Dome with their sing along tunes next, followed by Desmond & the Tutus on the James Phillips stage. The stage presence by both of these acts were simply mind-blowing and extremely entertaining.
The final act for the evening were Western Cape Afrikaans rockers Fokofpolisiekar. They played one of the most memorable sets that I’ve seen them play.
The 18,000+ strong crowd at Wesley’s Dome sang along to almost every single song the played. At one stage Shaun Morgan from Seether joined them on stage for their song Skyn Heilig.
The only word that I could use to describe this is “Epic” and I’m pretty that all of you who were there will agree with me.
After this I made my way back to the camp site for more camp fire tunes and melktertjies (courtesy of @halololah and her sister) and eventually crawled into my tent at 4 AM.
Saturday started with a bang. I made a quick trip to the band camping area and I must say that I was quite impressed with the Rayban campers and chill out area. Next I rushed off to Wesley’s Dome to catch The Stella’s (who impressed with me with their glam style of rock ‘n roll), then it was off to the Skellum stage to catch Yoav (which was also an awesome set) and I also made my way to the James Phillips stage again to catch one or two songs by the Blackhanded Kites.
After them it was time for Dance You’re On Fire at Wesley’s Dome. They attracted a huge vibrant crowd and they played an excellent set. I see big things in these okes future. I caught a glimpse of Corné and Twakkie next. These okes had the crowd gathered under the trees in the stage area in stitches in no time.
I also swung into the Liquorice All-sorts tent and sipped on a cocktail whilst checking out the tea-cup ride. After all of this, I finally headed back to my tent for the first since 11 AM on the day.
After a quick refresh session at our camp site I rushed off to Die Klein Bar stage to catch Die Tuindwergies’ performance. They pulled it off royally and it was well worth the 10 minute climb up the hill. I caught a glimpse of Vusi Mahlasela (featuring Karen Zoid and Valiant Swart) after this. It’s a pity that I could not see more of this, the sun was setting fast and big things were on the way.
The 18,000+ strong crowd in front of the James Phillips stage was very pleased. The frontman (Jesse Hughes) was one of the coolest okes that I’ve ever seen on stage. What a dude.
Enter Shikari (the second international headliner) made their way onto Wesley’s Dome at 7 PM. These okes delivered an excellent live performance. I have to say that
I’m not a huge fan of them, but I must also say that I was quite impressed with their vibrance, stage personality and how they interacted with the crowd. I expected a lot less from them beforehand.
KONGOS were up next on the James Phillips stage. Unfortunately there was a slight issue with the sound and they had to start 45 minutes later than scheduled. The KONGOS did a good job of keeping their fans entertained and it actually worked – the crowd in front of the stage did not budge. They pulled off yet another excellent live performance, I must say.
Up next was Jack Parow at Wesley’s Dome. There’s no doubt in my mind that this set was one of the highlights of the festival. Jack Parow and his band (which has a pretty hot drummer I might add) just has a way of getting a crowd going. At one stage he was joined by Rufio Vegas, which just made it more sweet. Wesley’s Dome was the perfect setting for this, there must have been more than 18,000 people there. It was a set that I’ll never forget.
After this it was Seether’s turn to make their way onto the James Phillips stage. It was the first time that I saw them live since the Saron Gas days, and I was completely mind blown. Shaun Morgan just knows how to rock out on a stage. They were also exceptionally louder than I though they would be. Four words can describe them: “What a fucking band”. Shaun’s Afrikaans quirks on stage just made their performance more special. It just shows you that you can be a band that sells more than 5 million records and still remember your South African roots.
The last act of the festival were Bullet for My Valentine. These okes were way better live than I expected they would be. They played a kick-ass show, plain and simple. Hearing the capacity crowd sing along to most of their songs was just bloody awesome. Their version of the SA National anthem and the 3 simultaneous moshing circles in different regions of the crowd were definitely two of the highlights of the festival. Like most people watching them on the night, I was just completely mind blown.
After this I packed away my camera and put on my party shoes for the final party of the festival at the top bar. This was a fun-filled affair resulting with me crawling into my tent at 5:30 AM on Sunday – a fitting end to weekend packed full of tunes and good dusty vibes.
In retrospect: Oppikoppi 2012 Sweet Thing was huge – the biggest festival that I’ve been to in SA. It was a lot better organized than last year if you ask me. The card system was a lot faster and there were enough bars to cope with the increased capacity. There were also enough extra food stalls to cope with demand.
From what I could pick up from fellow festival goers there were some issues with the new tunnels to the stage area, the incredible amount of dust (which saw tons of festival goers wearing dust masks and bandannas), the bathrooms and the sound on the James Phillips stage. All things that could be improved if you ask me.
Kudos to Hilltop Live and everyone else that was involved in organizing this festival. You pulled it off and you did in style. See you next year for my 15th Oppikoppi. Things can only get bigger and better from here.
Watch this space for regular updates in the Opinion category on Running Wolf’s Rant.