Feature Opinion

LlamaLand 2017: The Misfits And The Mad Collide

An hour’s drive from Cape Town, navigating the winding coastal R44 which hugs the craggy clifftops of the south coast, one will find a tiny festival nestled at the foot of Hangklip, Pringle Bay. The sun is just setting as we arrive at LlamaLand, the minuscule campsite is sparsely populated and those setting up tents are being serenaded by Mono Pony who, armed with a guitar and a small speaker, has taken to the makeshift Campsite Stage.

This is their first fully-organised festival, although LlamaLand was essentially born a year before – the concept birthed through years of ever-evolving parties which fell over organiser Stephan Fourie’s birthday. While being fully volunteer-run and without sponsorship, all profits from the festival are going to the proposed EYETHU Hout Bay Skate Park project, in an effort to tie in the social and community ideals which stand in equal importance to the organisers.

Settled in and with a beer in hand I head to the Playground, which forms the main festival area. The entrance way is fringed in fairy lights and beaded lamps. The small, cozy stage is surrounded by a handful of red stretch tents which provide shelter or activities in turn. I take a seat at the Creation Station, which offers both a good vantage point and a collection of origami patterns. Someone is attempting a llama, which seems ambitious.

Herman Kleinhans, red from beard to guitar, is the first to take to the stage, and reels out a string of Afrikaans ballads. Following on swiftly, My Castle In Spain get the little crowd on their feet within moments. Two songs in and I abandon my mangled origami butterfly and join them. Their indie tendencies are familiar and welcome, in a strong and upbeat epitome of the Cape Town surf-rock culture, with a fine undertone of psych influences. Lize Mynhardt is up next, armed with powerful vocals but a cover-saturated set which seems to detract from it somewhat.

Saturday dawns cool and breezy. Easy Jack Johnson tunes are wafting from the almost empty Playground and after a coffee I find myself at the Knowmads tent for an early morning workshop. As the Nomadic Knowledge Workers, who have found their way to Cape Town from Amsterdam, the vibrant duo led us through a series of speed dating exercises and personality tests before the first of the mornings acts kick off.

The day proceeds languidly. Easy covers drift from the stage, a hula hoop class is in full swing in a dream-catcher fringed grove of trees, and a girl is being transformed into a tiger at the Creation Station, with the aid of two artists and a generous array of paint. Midday sees a two hour open mic slot in which spoken word, spontaneous cross-genre performance and the odd story sharing unfold. The tiger-woman is fully transformed and I find her near the bar later, leaning against a wall, cigarette in hand.

Tall Thief ushers in the late afternoon as a one-man-band psych-rock technician, with a loop pedal at one foot, a drum at the other and a blend of vocal distortions which fill out his unique sound. Ben Badenhorst brings on the sunset with effortless guitar intricacies and looped undertones which build the tracks into cruising grooves, while Fruit Vendor are the first of the off-the-radar acts to seriously impress me. A vibrant blend of jazz-funk stylings, with a fair dose of rap thrown in; the front-man has a wicker basket of fruit at his feet which he tosses into the audience at intervals – I catch a naartjie and pocket it for a late night snack.

Diamond Thug easily take a generous slice of the cake with their high-standard performance. Nothing is lost between Rocking the Daisies Main Stage and the humble stretch tent they play beneath here, as their trademark sweeping synths and floaty vocal stylings ooze from the little stage. Sunset Sweatshop bring the tempo right up again with an energy-infused rock ’n roll set, while Lo-Ghost effortlessly blow minds with a midnight slot which portrays an alternate side to trap-house which is as unique as it is exceedingly powerful. Shannon Devy’s vocals cruise over the tracks with ever-increasing cognition, while Evan Strauss gathers and drops electro-synth beats with deft fingers. It’s visceral, it’s striking and it’s utterly engaging.

Daddy Warbucks eases us into proper party mode with a collection of easy electro progressions, while Nevau ties up the evening with a prolonged, and utterly welcome graveyard shift. Only the stalwarts remain but there is no lack of energy. Techno foundations are fleshed out and built upon with percussive African textures and drifting psychedelic infusions, which carry the festival effortlessly into the early hours of the morning.

Until next year, LlamaLand.

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