In Review: Lush Festival 2019

I’m sitting here post-Lush, trying to find the adequate words to describe this past weekend. How could I possibly explain the dichotomy between having one of the best and worst times at a festival – all in one weekend?

On one hand I was stuck in the mud for hours, ruined more than a few clothes and I’m now sick from the cold and wet conditions. On the other hand, I had the privilege of meeting some of the most amazing people and making new friends, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire line-up this year and I really, really loved the bacon-wrapped haloumi sticks.

Arriving at Noah’s Cheese Farm on Thursday afternoon felt something like driving into a fairytale, with its green grass, rolling hills and gorgeous mountainous backdrop. After setting up the tent and having a post-setup self-congratulatory G&T (or two), it was time to head over to the entertainment area and see what was what.

Despite an ungraceful fall down the hill whilst looking for The Woods Stage and the noticeable lack of signs directing everyone to the locations of the various stages, I was soon able to get my bearings and prepare for what promised to be an amazing night of rock n roll. With a line-up that boasted rock legends Shadowclub, the always wild Hellcats, The Tazers and Raygun Royale, I was sure the night was going to involve a lot of head-banging and avoiding mosh pits and I certainly wasn’t wrong.

A Seattle cappuccino and a shot of tequila saw to it that Friday started off on the right note, however my mood was significantly dampened when I decided I wanted to shower, only to discover that the general showers were not hot, despite being advertised as such. It also became apparent that the shower dividers were essentially see-through, something which probably made exhibitionists and peeping toms happy but left the rest of us more than a little put off.

Friday’s line-up started off at the Kraal Bar stage which saw an afternoon of wonderful performances including particularly remarkable performance by Australian music maven Juzzie Smith, whose unique talents include making beats by juggling (something you’d actually have to see to believe).

I had to drag myself away from the Kraal Bar Stage to go to the Main Stage to check out recent Ghoema award winner, Refentse and I’m glad I did because he did an unexpected yet totally awesome cover of John Denver’s “Country Road” (as a white person I am contractually obliged to like this song). The next artist to play on the main stage was Australian singer Kim Churchill, whose set captured the hearts of the crowd and really stood out to me because you could almost hear him smiling while he sang, which was both unique and uplifting.

Youngr took to the stage in what was probably the performance I was most looking forward to watching on Friday.

The superbly talented multi-instrumentalist and master multitasker completely captivated the crowd with his serious drumming skills and high octane performance.

PHFAT closed Main Stage and, in true PHFAT style, managed to completely enthral the crowd. He also debuted his new song “Catherine” which is due to be released this week. Moving away from his older, darker music, “Catherine” sounds like a love song that might just warm your wintery heart.

Next on the cards was a perilous journey down the path to the Woods stage, in the pitch darkness, to check out the Toy Toy set. I arrived only to encounter some of the loudest music I’ve ever heard, resulting in a hasty retreat in fear of bursting an ear drum. This may have something to do with getting older though, because the stage was packed with people who seemed largely unphased that the music was playing at the same decibel level as an erupting volcano.

It was an awful storm which hit in the early hours of Saturday morning that heralded the start of all Lush’s problems. Saturday dawned cold, muddy and despite not wanting to leave my sleeping bag, I eventually found myself at the Kraal Bar stage, beer in hand and ready for some good music to warm my soul. Van Wyk Brand opened the stage and had everyone singing along with him, while Deon Bakkes and The Stolen Horses managed to warm up the crowd with their spirited, fast-paced ‘gypsy jazzpunk’ sound.

The World of Birds’ distinctively fun and feel-good approach to music did lots to improve the moods of everyone who watched their set; and continuing the good vibes, everyone’s favourite polar-neck wearing, uniquely #relatable band Cockles performed next and honestly how could you not love them when they have a song about awkward small talk.

The irony of Shortstraw’s performance later that evening  was not lost on me as they happily sang about bikini weather despite the fact that the weather was anything but. Jeremy Loops along with his manbun, his band and his harmonica then played at the Main Stage in a performance which was almost completely drowned out by the collective screams of literally every girl in the audience.

Wheatus who, despite the hideous conditions they faced (freezing cold rain, huge gusts of wind, lightning and thunder) played their hearts out to a crowd of extraordinarily brave and dedicated fans, who got completely and utterly soaked to support the band. The thunder, lightning and increasingly hard rain resulted in them having to end their set prematurely but not after everyone got to enjoy singing along to “Teenage Dirtbag”.

Leaving the festival on Sunday was somewhat of a dire situation as the continuously heavy rains had made the roads impassably muddy, resulting in almost every single car having to be towed from the venue by tractor or 4×4. My friend and I sat in the car for 5 hours trying to get out and, by the time we finally managed to leave the festival, I felt a lot like mould and looked like a literal teenage dirtbag.

Lush will have to make a lot of changes in order for the festival to run smoothly in the future, be it simple things like better shower facilities, and a few more lights; to the bigger issues such as adequately preparing for the rain that always seems to fall in Clarens during the Easter weekend. Although Lush this year had its many cons, there were many things that the festival got right. All of the stages had spectacular sound, with almost all the performances sounding flawless. The lighting was great. The new venue meant that people didn’t have to camp in a mud pit. And the line-up, as I have mentioned but will mention again and again, was amazing.

It’s also important to note the unbelievable amount of work that people put in behind the scenes. Credit must be given to everyone who worked tirelessly to ensure that the festival raged on on despite the hiccups, to the people of Noah’s Cheese farm who helped around the clock, and to the locals who gave up their Easter Sunday to help stranded festival-goers escape the mud.

In conclusion: Lush this year was a lesson to everyone who thought that stuck in the mud was only a game you played in junior school.

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