Roberson Rocks (2005)
3 Alteye members participate in the deflowering of the sleepy town of Robertson.
We shot down the N1 toward Worcester, slowing only for the Huguenot tunnel and the local police, who had disguised themselves as construction workers. Fred – the short, bald, Portuguese, educator of doom metal – was sitting peacefully on the back of my open air Corsa bakkie…puffing away on his Rothmans while our sleeping gear flapped persistently beside him. In the cockpit, Jo and I conversed excitedly about the weekend of doom that lay ahead. It was the long awaited rock n roll sabbatical…one where hedonism, city slicking and incompetent journalism would author our adventures. Like a poison apple, Fred’s bald head emerged at the window: “By the way, the only reason I’m coming to this party is to fuck Karen Zoid”
The bill looked promising, with around 30 bands, most of which I had never seen, let alone heard of. A large majority of the bands had Afrikaans names, such as Oordosis, Doringdraad, Grassneier, and Slagyster, which are, as I am told, all types of toxic fynbos. There were, of course, the bigger names – Fokofpolisiekar, Karen Zoid, Hog Hoggidy Hog -, but, alas, a minority of heavy metal. This promised very little moshing. So, in protest, and as always, we took to the drink.
The fall of justice
“We hope you will enjoy the festival. But be warned: Don’t Drink and Drive. The traffic police are watching you. Also be careful not to drink and drown.” Robertson Rocks Event Programme.
At around 7 PM we materialized in Robertson. The venue, Silwerstrand, having never felt the hairy hand of the rock community, was warming up to its virginal fest: Robertson Rocks 1. Outside, we found ourselves waiting in a short line of cars, held back by a white boom. We had been promised free entrance. The arrangement had seemed loose. And I became paranoid. What if it was all a lie: not being able to afford drink for the entire weekend?
As we chugged up to the front, a lady approached requesting money. Taking a deep breath, I composed myself and began to explain. “Hey what the fuck you doing here man!?” came a malignant boom from the back of the bakkie as Fred hopped around violently, having spotted a familiar face. The lady slowly started to back away from the window. “…and so we need maximum coverage, you know, as uh us…no, all? Yes, as all journalists do; dressing room access, etc… you understand...” Wide eyed, she signaled us to pull over and directed me over to the reception office.
In the little room, a jolly lady was smiling at the counter. Beside her a giant glass bowl full of black and white VIP tags. Slick little numbers. I looked up. “Can I help you?” came a voice. I told her the story about how Ted (not his real name) had arranged everything - not that I had ever actually met Ted before – and that we are missing the bands.
To my great and utter surprise, she offered me a small handful of VIP’s. In exchange we took a lovely photo of her and collogue. And henceforth, it became our mission for the rest of Friday to find out what our precious black and white tags could get us. Unfortunately, due to several incidents with beers funnels, and a fully clothed run in with the swimming pool, this question was left unanswered till much later…the next day in fact, when Fred came one step closer to fucking Karen Zoid.
The Garden of Eden
"For every chemical you lose a piece of your soul" Smashing Pumpkins.
We stood on the grassy strip separating the edge of the Breede River from a giant swimming pool. The evening glitter of the water distorted into a dark ocean blue, as the sun settled behind a distant mound. The temperate air brought with it a light sweat, leaving our faces polished in the now artificial light. Like primates, we stood trying to glean off our surroundings, gain perspective, and sprout a workable angle. We would have banged rocks together, if we have brought some, but that would just have distracted us.
Some distance away, a crowd had begun congregating around the mighty stage. Some groovy shit was going down. We decided to join in since, as we then realized, this would probably be the last band we would get to see before we became horribly intoxicated. Bed on bricks put out an energetic performance with some pithy rock riffage, that, coupled with overtones of funk, blues, jazz, and reggae, had Fred a Shakin (a rare occurence). Lots of arb onstage culvations, improvisations and screechy soloing provided a nice sun downer.
We are very proud to say that, out of the ten that played Friday, we did get to see one more band: Rooibaardt. A four piece band, of hairy guys, equipped with bass, drums, guitar and a fucking violin. The music was very unique, very tribal and trippy - “Its space rock, yelled Fred. Trippy shit.” - but i was not so impressed. I kept getting this uncontrollable head rush each time the violin kicked in, the bass hum made my nose tickle, and, i kept losing my pensil. But Fred, he was drawn to them like a cult, something primal inside him had awoken. Before i had the chance to calm him with a gouard of magic potion, he had entered into a moment of violent spontaneity, and scampered off to buy a CD – one that he now considers less spacey that once before.
Later, in an interview in his rondavel, Rooibaart violinist, Denzel, gave us some much needed background and context: he told us he used to be a caveman…"i used to live in caves" ...why a caveman?...“I had to find out what my life-path is…and discovered music”…before the bold move, he was a dental technician. I also found out that the band hails from Bethlehem. ’Jesus Christ,’ I thought in a colloquial manner.
"Here one can neither stand not lie nor sit / There is not even silence in the mountains / But dry sterile thunder without rain" TS Eliot
The previous night had left the three journalists completely wrecked. They awoke in their HQ feeling sorry for themselves. There was no clear angle; the VIP matters were yet to be resolved; and the sweet smell of an illustrious Afrikaans rock singer remained absent from Fred’s pillow.
We spent the most of the morning and afternoon watching some of the unknown bands. To my dismay, my time could have been better spent trying to lick my elbow. Many of the bands had fallen victim to the comprise of the homogenous, trendy afrikaans punk - style vocals. I have little more to say about them. I was also pissed off because it was fucking hot and my neck was getting signficantly redder.
A bitter-sweet relief, however, was Rusputin: a young band from Durbanville, who have only been together for half a year. They possesed an old school, tradional metal sophistication (much like Iron Maiden), ridden with raw energy pulsating through their melodic dual guitar attack and keyboard arrangements (the keyboard player marked an uncanny resemblance to the main kid from malcolm in the middle). But everytime the vocalist opened his mouth, it all went to shit - as the music would transpose into a palm mute plod to support the poor bastards self conscience, luke warm, punk - blabberings. To top it off, they ended their set with a less than average accoustic cover of Bob Dylans Knockin on Heavens Door.
The Boulevard Blues Band brought back an element of dignity to the event, with their signature smooth pace, sharp guitar riffing, and suggestive lyrics ("i could use a little green stuff / to help myself") that even had some of the old folk doing that ridiculous chicken dance. Whilst the band did justice to a cover of the blues classic Hoochie Coochie man, Fred and myself interviewed a security guard. Any fights? "Yes, 3." Probable cause? "Alcohol." Policy on marijuana? "If you smoke, and I don’t catch, keep smoking."
Karen Zoid - The anticlimax
Put simply, our VIP tags meant we could go and stand behind the stage - a wretched stretch of Robertson dirt, void of snack trays, demonstrative groupies, and a self-important rock entourage. The desolation made one feel secure – as if only for these brief moments, and of course by default, we were the Very Important People. And besides that, I could sense the burgeoning pack of hyenas congregating at the stage in mad anticipation. Bloody thirsty beasts, I thought, to be caught among them would be the end of it.
The VIP areas are often what inspire me most at these events, partly because they present a creative challenge to get in, but, more notably, because you have confined spaces in which to torment stray musicians and write erotic reviews about them afterwards.
Karen Zoid was arbing around backstage. Standing by her side was a young lady, handing her bottled water and lighting her a cigarette. Her band were already set up and ready to play, waiting around for just the right time that Karen would spring up on stage. But there were still a few mintues to spare. Fred stood nervously at my side, scribbling away on my note pad: "Ant thought she was fanciable. I agreed with his opinion. Security backstage was tighter than the other bands. I guess Zoid is a security risk when it comes to perverts like Ant and Fred."
So, we asked her if she would do an interview; and she agreed for after her show. We sat through her entire set, which was extremely painful. We even waited at least 20 minutes for her to sign autographs. Then when she was done, she told us i am just going to get a cigarette, and then she disappeared, never to return. We had been duped. Alternative Eye now hates Karen Zoid.