This year Rocking The Daisies threw a bone to the up ‘n comers who didn’t make it onto the Main Stage – they called it the Campsite Stage and it ran the Thursday night before the festival was due to kick-off.
Thursday night’s theme: Cold As Fuck.
Apparently there are some things that a Ricoffee and Kilpdrift mix can’t fix.
What The Very Wicked do psych-wise, The Wild Eastern Arches do better but tonight, The Arches come off second best as the wind sweeps up and carries away Ben’s vocals and the bite of VW’s rock ‘n’ roll edge stands them in better stead. It’s The Future Primitives who put everyone to shame though, churning out a high energy set as if blissfully unaware of the glaring technical issues.
Guitarist Alex Krause is the only reason I stick around for half of Goodnight Wembley’s set but the cold eventually wins out. In theory, the Campsite Stage was a stroke of genius but in reality, it was a waste of space that boasted sloppy production.
Friday dawns and it’s finally time to pick this daisy apart.
I mission back to town for an early morning meeting and make my way back in time to catch Shortstraw’s first song and Thomas Revington’s guitar bomb out. Charismatic frontman Alistair Thomas (who I’m convinced I’ve never seen perform above the influence and has a much better voice than I originally thought) smooths things over with the gathering crowd and by the time they hit fan favourite ‘Keanu Reeves’ people are on their feet in recognition.
The Brother Moves On are next and it’s more fascinating watching Capetonians trying to figure out what the hell is going on than it is watching the man who’s moseying around onstage with a TV antenna taped to his head. They’re a powerhouse of performance art, a sublime slice of intsomi with engaging song narratives to boast.
Machineri’s downtrodden blues levels the heightened crowd euphoria and as Sannie Fox smiles manically at us, it’s clear that Andre Geldenhuys has brought his mean mothershredding chops today. Then on steps JC Visser (Mr Cat & the Jackal’s bassist) and immediately their songs have more depth. He’s a welcome edition, if only for three songs.
I decide at this point to better acquaint myself with the festival’s activations – Black Label Man Zones, Capitec Swap Shops, Converse Trucks, BOS Ice Tea Stages, Mainstay Bars… Festival Jesus it’s like a goddam brand whorehouse up in here. But who cares, this bitch is sold out.
Over at the Nu World Beat Barn I can’t get anywhere near Bateleur so I take another walk and amble past the Jagermeister eyesore fixed in the middle of the main festival area. I go searching for Jose Cuervo and find Bubblegum Cactus Jack instead.
Maryke Zietsman tells me it’s Iso next and I roll my eyes. I couldn’t give two Kongos where they left their chronous. She forces me to watch. I’m glad she did. Richard Brokensha is a bona fide star and for the first time at this festival, all facets of production combine to make Iso look like a million bucks. I even enjoyed the reworked dubstep ending of their set closer, ‘Destiny’. Whodathought??
I choose Grandmaster Flash over pseudo-internationals Kongos, but sneak away to hear them jam ‘Escape’ (I’m preferable to Jesse’s vocals) and their staple cover of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ before returning to GMF’s gangsta playlist.
Back on the Main Stage Beast boast a deadly set list with ‘Walls’ being a standout. Highlighted by Inge Beckmann’s near-flawless staccato phrasing halfway through a verse, it ends in one of her piercing squeals and guillotines my night.
Next thing I know it’s a chilly Saturday morning and – surprise, surprise – there’s still min frolicking going on in the dam. Matthew Mole steps up to christen the Main Stage with all his electro-folk charm. Attendees take to him and drummer Jack Straw from the onset. Jean Jordaan describes him as “a pure soul” and nothing could be more apt.
I bump into the 100 people that work at The Assembly and they all look way too fresh. Up until The Mystics (minus the scheduled Aluta) play I was blissfully unaware that the Cape Town Jazz festival are holding auditions for cover bands but nevertheless, they’re great background music.
I venture up-close for Moving House. The curiosity factor is strong with this one. By the time they burst into ‘Tongue in Cheek’ my hip flask is empty and my legs are possessed by their upbeat eletro-pop melodies. Then comes the Lana Del Rey ‘Video Games’ curveball. Andre Pienaar’s voice was tailor-made for this kind of cheese and it goes down swimmingly.
As the sun sets Jeremy Loops gets 12 000 people to sit down while he constructs a song. He was born to play this festival. Technical difficulties aside, The Loopster gives us a taste of his new material – one song of which is still playing like a stuck record/loop in my mind – as a Kom Skom native next to me repeatedly roars to bare his babies.
I polish off my claw for Desmond & the Tutus’ set before Shane Durrant and the boys reign the best set of the festival down upon on us. They open with ‘Zim Zala Bim’ and Durrant destroys it with his pitch gymnastics. It’s taken them several years, but with a sterling new album under their belts and consistently fresh onstage exploits, Desmond have never sounded or looked better.
Arno Carstens is announced and our party decide to break for more booze before Shadowclub blasé-ly saunter on stage. They start solid but halfway through Jacques Moolman (vox, guitar) channels Sannie Fox by swallowing most of his lyrics.
There’s a great visual moment during ‘Red Riding Wolf’ where one of the cameras, strapped to something on Isaac Klawansky’s kit, moves in sync with his rolling drum line. The effect is epic and lends an animated feel to the performance for everyone to see on the ginormous screen. An A grade new tune about a “brick shit house” comes two thirds of the way through, with Moolman flexing his falsetto mid-verse. They’ve come a long way from last year’s Sunday slot.
And then a funny thing happened – I lost all interest in Bloc Party. I stood like a shell of a former fan and was totally unmoved by Kele and co. The Londoners played their little hearts out and as those around me circled around like kumbaya hippies in the rain to ‘The Prayer’, I stood indifferently. Not even a handful of fireworks (hardly environmentally friendly, but anyway) and 5 encores could peak my interest.
Sunday dawns and I wake in a familiar-looking tent not being able to feel the right-hand side of my broken body and soul. Back at the car and I find Zietsman passed out after breaking a window to get in. No phone. No keys. No hope. It’s a festival miracle when we eventually find all three.
I see Daisies throw their Greenpop trees out of their social media cot after Synergy and some sugary drink pretending to have something to do with Vitamin Water apparently set up illegal stands that block the exit. We don’t complain because the alternative route ends up being quicker.
If anything, Daisies proved that having a heavyweight international headliner tips the scale in terms of ticket sales but that, this time around, our bands don’t necessarily need overseas artists to show them how it’s done.
All photo courtesy of Laura McCullagh