Mordor is a special place, reserved only for the bravest of prawns who’re able to traverse kilometres through the dust and in the dark, back to their nesting place. I am not one of these prawns. I prefer the comforts of Harambee – no, not the gorilla goddammit. But no amount of glamping can prepare you for the cold, that bitch does not discriminate. My journey to defrost begins at 11am in front of James Philips where Stone Jets were taking everyone to church. Given Nkanyane’s channeling of Percy Sledge like a neo-soul hype man was supreme and they’ve never sounded better. A real testament to hard work paying off.
Back on Bruilof and the stage has been transformed into a Hawaiian Club Tropicana wonderland by the Boosh boys, who give Adelle Nqeto the honour of christening the occasion. Her pristinely soothing vocals are sheer class, running through her normal setlist that includes a Flint Meet Spark (RIP) track or two. With a few choice band members this woman would be unstoppable.
On my way to the Jose Cuervo Deck I spot a smiling man in a pink wife beater shirt and after a brief moment recognise him as the sober alter ego of Papsak Pete. The fact that he’s alive and still going strong embodies the fortitude that the Oppikoppi experience is all about.
I remember Silvablack on Skellum and rush down but only manage to catch 3 songs which turns out to be enough to turn me into a bona fide fan. Backed by a three-piece band but marred slightly by inaudible rhymes, Silvablack’s stage presence is mammoth, supported mainly by his serious façade and weighty lyrics.
A short shawarma break before The Kiffness’ on Main Stage who’ve attracted a deliciously large crowd who’re ready to get down in the dust. David Scott’s magnetism and energy has somehow tripled since the last time I watched him (and so has their collection of hit singles) and their consummate set is rounded off by their latest single which evokes the best crowd response.
I find a travel companion and we trek up the hill to soak up the sunset at the Red Bull Stage as the tail end of Fever Trails’ set lulls us into a false sense of security on the rocky alcove. A quick changeover and the high priestess of hits ready. Nonku Phiri is a freak of nature. Last year she performed on Skellum with min accompaniment and an interpretive dancer. This year she debuts a completely different set on the Red Bull Stage and flanked by her DJ-partner they build their beats and layer her vocals tentatively. It’s a set born out of a deep desire to experiment, to keep things fresh. Jah bless.
On JP, SA’s queen of psychedelic rock Sannie Fox delivers another unearthly set of alien ambience and powerful vocals and with violinist Hezron Chetty joining her onstage the level of musicianship and originality reaches heights equalled by few throughout the weekend.
Cross to Main Stage where Riky Rick takes no prisoners as he blazes through hit-after-hit off “Family Values”. It’s a real feel good set that propelled by Rick’s onstage oomph as he takes every chance that he can get to inspiringly undercut his haters. It’s a standout set, although if I never hear the ‘Sidlukotini’ chorus again I’m okay with that.
Afterward we’re treated to a forceful set by Man as Machine, a band propelled by one of the country’s greatest and most underrated rock vocalists Rob Visser. The material is eclectic with every song keeping its own identity, delivered with enough enthusiasm that most leave satisfied.
There’s talk of Prime Circle’s bassist getting lost. Pity the rest of the band found their way.
But there’s no time to dwell, Grassy Spark is busy getting turnt on JP. It’s a beautiful thing. There are so many steps that they’ve conquered and rest assured there are even steeper heights to climb but somehow they manage a fresh approach each time. The vocal duties shared between Yanick Bathfield and Josh Riley, as they strut and skank around with their guitars, is currently unparalleled. Drawing on a manner influences, that’s spearheaded by one of the best brass sections in the bizz, this is a kind of magic I haven’t seen since Shortstraw circa “Youthless”.
Fokofpolisiekar on Main Stage draws the biggest crowd of the festival so far. Ous are ready to get nostalgic and if it’s rooiwyn en sigarette throwbacks you’re looking for, welcome to the show. But if you, like me, are looking for something a bit more, you spend the set on the outskirts playing Fokof karaoke. I saw this set in 2013 at BewilderBeast when 20 000 people sang ‘Ek Skyn’ and I’ll give you one guess as to what happened this year.
I have the same issue with aKING. It’s the same set. WHERE’S THE CREATIVE VISION? WHY REST ON YOUR LAURELS?? Imagine a Fokof colab with Riky Rick or an aKING colab with Grassy Spark. Allow me to dream.
No sign of Papsak Pete anywhere. It’s all really sad state of affairs.