At the end of last month I was one of the fortunate music loving pilgrims who made their way to the 2015 edition of STRAB Festival in Mozambique. It was the fifth time that I made my way to this festival (which had its 11th annual edition this year) and I have to say that I was not disappointed at all.
We left Pretoria at midnight on the Wednesday night and made our way towards Kosi Bay. The journey was a dark, misty and at times a little nippy (especially on the Highveld), but we arrived in Kosi Bay around 7 AM on Thursday morning. It was the first time that I embarked on this journey in the dark and I have to say that I prefer this to leaving at 3 or 4 AM. There aren’t many cars or trucks on the open road and the small towns in Mpumalanga and KZN are very quiet (which means that you get there a lot quicker).
We made our way through the border around 8 AM and I felt the Ponta Malongane sand between my toes at 9 AM (thanks to a skilled Mozambican driver who’s able to switch on the diff-lock on his bakkie, while driving nogal). After setting up camp the friendly blokes from Barbosa Experience (who had played a set on the beach on Wednesday night) invited me on a mini booze cruise to Ponta Do Ouro. I hopped on the back of the bakkie, even though I slept very little during our journey to the border.
We stopped at Fernando’s and hit the beach bar for a brew or two before heading off to Come to See and making our way back to resort. I remember thinking “there are people in Joburg and Pretoria sitting in front of PC screen right now” as a took the sip of first beer for the weekend.
What ensued was a mini party in the campsite, filled with cold Black Labels and wine and a shot or 5 of Jagermeister and Tequila (thanks to Harry, Sledge, @BaasDeBeer, Jaxy, Lizzy, @TheArneD and @BraaiBoy), but I made sure that I caught my first glimpse of the beach and the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean before heading off to catch Vana’s set on the deck.
Sadly I missed Klopjag and Akkedis’ set (because the lack of sleep finally caught up with me and I chose to nap on a camping chair for 2 hours), but I was back at the main stage in time to catch to catch a brilliant by Ann Jangle. This talented lady (who recently relocated to Berlin, Germany) mesmerized the crowd with her stunning vocal skills and set the pace for an awesome evening of live music.
She was followed by the soul soothing Greg Georgiades & The Ultra Natives, the amazing Monkeys in Boots, the extremely talented Bark (a band made up of Franco Schoeman, Emile Swiegers and Jean Swiegers) and Bitches Brew. The rest of my Thursday night was spent partying up on the deck to the sounds of King Down South and DJ’s Beavis and Butthead. I think I crawled into my tent around 3 AM (but I’m not 100% sure).
Friday morning started with some breakfast at the restaurant and before you could say “R&R” I was on the deck watching Greg Georgiades and The Organics and enjoying my first cold beer of the day. Next up was Chiba (who displayed excellent didgeridoo skills) and Kabaal Klankbaan (who entertained the deck crowd with this catchy lyrics, Bob Dylan covers and stories about ex girlfriends who chose guys with Sega Megadrives over him).
Tuin were up next, playing the one of the best sets at the festival. If you haven’t heard Tanya Schoeman’s voice yet, you should make a plan. This Pretoria duo mesmerized the deck crowd with an epic set and the school of dolphins who decided to arrived the minute they were finished just made it more memorable.
Stakesby entertained the crowd with some acoustic tunes before it was time for one of the highlights of STRAB 2015: Josie Field & Laurie Levine. These SA queens of song amazed the crowd with an excellent performance before it was time to catch Shotgun Tori’s set on the main stage. Having followed her live performances over the past year I have to admit that she is definitely one of my favorite artists on the scene at the moment. Getting a full band to play with her was one of the best decisions she has made (in my humble opinion).
I grabbed something to eat and before I could rub out my eyes it was time for Azurdee & The Blue River Band. This lady (who is originally from Kentucky in the USA) set the pace for another amazing evening of live music. Crystal Park had the crowd dancing before someone could say “Benoni”, Justin Serrao impressed the crowd with his interesting blend of songs, Naming James reminded us not to take life too seriously and 7th Son had the crowd putting on their best ska dance moves before it was time for festival favorites, the Black Cat Bones to make their way onto the stage at Ponta Malongane.
“Die katte” played one of their most memorable sets to date, throwing flour onto everyone (including us photographers) and had the crowd rocking out to songs like “I Gotsta Get Paid”, “Old Man Malone” and other favorites in no time. The last of act of the evening was State Society (who entertained the crowd with an energetic set) and DJ Baas De Beer had the deck rocking out into the early hours of Saturday morning. I crawled into my tent around 4 AM.
Saturday started slowly with tunes by Rob Edeling on the deck. He was followed by the Castellos, up and coming Pretoria act Sea of Green and Marcia Moon. There was a slight interruption due to a power failure at some stage (yes, South Africans can’t escape Eskom in Mozambique it seems), but it was sorted out quickly by the STRAB team.
Next up was Jaco Mans (who entertained us with some original songs and Bob Dylan covers) and then it was time for the Black Cat Bones again, but with less loudness. If you have not seen their Deboned set yet, I suggest that you make a plan. The last act on the deck for the festival was Wave Rider (a Ponta Malongane local) who entertained the crowd with some Pearl Jam covers and a few original songs before it was time to get the party started at the main stage.
Luna Paige started an evening of great live music with an amazing set and she was joined on stage by Gerald Clark and Albert Frost, which just made it more memorable. Next up were the vibey Crimson House (who were joined by Basson Laubscher on stage), Guy Collins (who gave everyone their much needed Blues fix), SA Music legends Jack Hammer, the amazing Blues Broers (featuring Albert Frost, Rob Nagel and Simon Orange) and a great set by Gerald Clark.
The last act on the main stage was the legendary Albert Frost. The Tulbagh guitar god mesmerized the crowd with one of the best sets at STRAB 2015 before it was time to hit the deck again and enjoy the soothing guitar sounds of Scicoustic. The party went on into the early hours of Sunday morning (thanks to Crazy Jay from the Grind Radio). I think I crawled into my tent around 4:30 AM.
We left Ponta Malongane early on Sunday morning and were back in sunny (but colder) South Africa around 9 AM. We were lucky enough to spend a day at the amazing Kosi Bay Lodge before heading back to Gauteng early on Monday morning.
STRAB 2015 was one of the coolest musical experiences of my life. Kudos to Andries, Conrad and everyone else involved for pulling this one off. Thanks to Melissa and Tuin for getting me there in one piece and back home safely and for crazies (yes, know who you are) who partied it up with me this year. I will definitely be seeing you at STRAB 2016.