Rocking the Daisies 2012 was cold. And rainy. So cold and rainy, in fact, that I skipped the 2013 festival because the extremities that I’d almost lost to frostbite had not quite recovered. So it was with a mix of trepidation and downright excitement that I headed off to RTD 2014.
It must be said that Rocking the Daisies is very loosely termed a ‘music festival’. It is, in fact, a three-day-long party, with some interspersed music and nightly pass-out sessions in tents. As one person put it “I’ve been to nine festivals and only seen about three bands.” Yes, music is optional, but far more important is the ‘vibe’ or ‘gees’ if you will.
Frustratingly, festival go-ers were met with a shocking queue to enter the festival. Yes, for security reasons it’s great that IDs were checked, but the organizers needed to the strong possibility that huge crowds were going to arrive on Friday afternoon. Standing in a two hour queue in the howling wind whilst carting around all your bedding and supplies for two days is far from ideal, and by 8pm on Friday night instead of listening to Jeremy Loops serenade me with ‘Down South’, I was listening to the guy behind me in the queue pull a “How you doin’?” whilst opening his 42nd can of beer.
Inside the arena, however, the party was in full swing. With Taxi Violence having just finished up their set, an excitable George van der Spuy was to be found in the beer tent, smiling for photos with fans. “Did you enjoy the show?” Yes, of course we did.
Sticking with legends of local rock, Francois van Coke and Arno Carstens were joined by the likes of guitarist Albert Frost and Jason Ling of Taxi Violence for a set that went down a storm with the fans. Even the most English of English people were to be found singing along to every word of van Coke’s Afrikaans songs, whilst Carsten’s ‘Another Universe’ received what was perhaps the loudest crowd reaction of the entire night. Over on the other side of things, the Electro Dome proved popular - perhaps because it offered a brief reprieve from the wind – but was overcrowded and stuffy before long.
Friday night’s chilly weather gave way to burning heat on Saturday, meaning that a swim in the dam was a priority for many people. When a slight wind picked up, this was certainly the best place to be, and with the sounds of GoodLuck emanating from the Beach Bar stage, it offered the perfect balance between relaxed beach vibes, and the excitement of a festival.
Over in the Lemon Tree theatre, comedian Rob van Vuuren had the crowd in stitches with his brand of humour that somehow finds the balance between slightly crude and squeaky clean humour. “What’s the only thing more pretentious than a cat person? An effing cat!” He cried, to uproarious laughter. His comments about the demographics of the festival were also on point: “If there’s Ebola in the dam, Constantia will be littered with corpses on Monday morning.”
Out of every festival that I have ever been to, RTD 2014 wins hands down when it comes to food. From outlets of popular Cape Town chains including Knead and Hudsons, to an array of noodles, curries and vegetarian options, there really was something for every taste. And with a whole truck filled with different kinds of teas, the hipsters went wild. As water was not sold at all on site, there were apparently nine water points scattered throughout the festival, but the lines for these were long, resulting in one particularly un-PC comment of “Welcome to the holocaust, where you have to queue for your water rations!” (“He’s German, it’s okay.” His friend assured me.)
As Saturday progressed, the mercury continued to rise, along with the spirits of the rugby fans. Whilst sitting in a boiling hot tent with a thousand or so other boytjies might not be everyone’s cup of proverbial tea, there’s no denying the goosebumps that shot up the arms of every single human being in the beer tent when everyone rose simultaneously to sing our national anthem before the Bokke took to the field. And two hours later, they had cause to celebrate as our team pulled off a spectacular win.
One person who was not so impressed with the rugby situation was Ard Matthews. Relegated to a Main Stage slot in the middle of the rugby match, the Just Jinjer frontman commented that he wasn’t that popular in the Springbok camp (a reference to his botched rendition of the national anthem a while back). Whether it was a light-hearted comment or a cutting jibe, I wasn’t sure, but the man’s musical talent is indisputable. From the slowed down ‘Shallow Waters’ to a cover of Rodriguez’s hit ‘Sugar Man’ (with a lot of sweet Mary-Jane in the air…) no one in this crowd gave a damn about the rugby.
The sun had set and the chilly wind had returned by the time the international acts were ready for the Main Stage. Crystal Fighters pulled off a brilliant set, with their unique dance-rock style combining with their eccentric dress and stage presence for a show unlike anything Daisies has seen before. Even after the death of drummer Andrea Marongui just three weeks ago, the band elected not to pull out of the festival, and the thousands who gathered for their set were nothing but appreciative. My personal highlight was the insanely catchy ‘LA Calling’, and the band definitely have one new fan in Cape Town.
And then came MGMT. The band that rocked the commercial music scene back in 2009, when ‘Kids’ was topping the charts and making every human being feel 10 times cooler every time they listened to it. The band that created ‘Electric Feel’, a song that is best described by one word only: “sexy”. This was the band that everyone had been waiting to see – and they killed it. And by ‘it’ I mean the vibe. Although their trippy, hallucination-style background graphics were cool for the first 10 minutes, they got boring, and with almost zero crowd interaction, combined with a complete lack of stage presence, the band quickly lost the audience’s attention. Even during ‘Kids’, a two-minute instrumental in the middle of the song made everyone who had jumped up in excitement sit straight back down again. But hey, ‘Electric Feel’ was great, so who am I to complain?
Late Sunday morning saw hoards of hot, sweaty, hungover campers attempting to disassemble the mess that had become their campsite, leaving masses of trash in their wake. The 34 degree heat had resulted in much dehydration, and after trying to barter Marie biscuits for any drops of H2O, the campers gave up and retired to their cars for the long drive back. At the Engen One-Stop outside of Malmesbury, hoards of dusty campers were to be seen dashing for the fridges as though they had been competing in Survivor for the past month.
And so I arrived home to my temperate house; my soft, warm bed; my water-stocked refrigerator; my shower; my cat. Why, you may ask, would I ever want to go to Rocking the Daisies again? Well, after all I experienced this weekend, why wouldn’t I? I wouldn’t have traded the heat, the dust and the drunk campers for all the cold water in the world. Because festivals are, of course, about the vibe, and that’s something Rocking the Daisies sure didn’t lack.
Original review also published on www.whatsonincapetown.com.
Media clearance via What's On In Cape Town