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Saturday dawns warm and breezy. We venture onto the beach, expansive now at the low tide, for an early morning dip to kick-start the day. A couple of surfers are bobbing behind the breakers and a few more jog down onto the sand as we head back up the hill. I half-wonder if they’ll make it to the stage at all.
An inordinately long coffee queue tests my patience and by the time I have my cappuccino in hand Luma is warming up the Velvet Morning Stage. A small, lethargic crowd is sprawled beneath the stretch tent which houses the stage as they ease us into the day, their set awash in a dazed and spacey sound. Jenny Dison of Bye Beneco joins forces with Alex Leeu for an exploration of live instrumentation and electronic production in their experimental sound. The progressive set builds from mellow foundations to bouncing beats by the close of it, resulting in a performance which would sit just as comfortably in a late afternoon main stage slot.
Van T (of Diamond Thug) slips through a semi-solo, primarily acoustic set, laced with characteristically lilting vocals, while Hezron Chetty and the Zugzwang close the Velvet Morning Stage with a vibrant, intricate set. With deft fingers Chetty exhibits the versatility of a simple violin as they race across the strings. Steeped in looped rhythms, pizzicati violin textures and prevailing baseline foundations provided by his drummer and bassist, the performance is something of a journey between psychedelic rock and classical afro jazz – treading easily between genre boundaries at varying tempos.
It’s 1pm and the Vans Endless Daze Stage is reopened by Skeleton Coast, but lunchtime beckons. The Thirty Eights lure me back to the stage with a riff-centric set. The lack of vocals go practically unnoticed as they spin up a series of energy-fueled tracks. I head back to my camp to refresh, via the beach which is overflowing. And although black jeans and denim jackets still reign supreme, a few are braving the chilly waters while the rest are sprawled on the sand, soaking up the early summer sun.
The Sunflowers take on the sunset shift with super charged tendencies which one might expect from a five-piece outfit, rather than the Portuguese duo – and it’s no small feat. They’re raw and rollicking and a collective roar goes up through the small crowd as they depart the stage.
Amy Ayanda proceeds to then pull through with one of the best sets of the weekend. With a brand new EP hot off the press and limited live shows in general, which make a performance a treat to behold, she is gentle femme power embodied. Joined by a four piece band she slips through a synth-infused performance. Off-kilter progressions, floaty strains and powerful feminine themes make up the bulk of the set, while her languid, lilting vocals slip through the streamlined sound. It’s visceral, it’s poignant, and I don’t quite want it to stop.
Following swiftly in her wake, however, Dangerfields deliver a fiery set, which comes after several months off the grid. And despite Lucas Swart’s health being a major set-back for the group in terms of performances missed you’d never say it. It’s probably their best performance I’ve ever seen. Their sound is mammoth and all-encompassing and amplified by an incredible light show. World class.
The tempo is up again and nothing is going to bring it down any time soon. Gritty, growling baselines and screeching guitar riffs are rife throughout BLK JK’s high energy performance – which serves as an almost overwhelming cumulative build up for Oh Sees’ midnight slot.
Twenty years, nineteen albums, and multiple name changes down the line and Oh Sees still as impassioned as ever. The San Francisco garage-punk outfit, fronted by John Dwyer, and backed by dual drummers are as gripping and exhilarating as their career has promised. Dropping tracks from all over their catalog, they power through the night and we’re not quite sure where our wits have gone by the time ‘The Dream’ comes on. “That was like watching robots,” a friend tells me afterwards, reflecting on the astounding coordination skills of the double drummer line-up, and I’m inclined to agree.
The intensity is on a record high by the time the party moves to the Velvet Morning Stage area for After Hours to spin up a closing party. Hits from the ’80s and ’90s are rife and welcome – if a little bit guilty-pleasure-esque. Psych Night knows how to put together a good ol’ fashioned boogie to tone down the rock-saturated taste buds of those still gallantly going.
Sunday dawns and there’s just enough time for one last dip in the Atlantic before we hit the road.
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