ROCK THE RIVER 2011 REVIEW
Itís now a full 15 days since the Hogs struck midnight on the Main Stage at Rock the River 2011 in a thundering mash-up of their best tunes from their illustrious decade or so in the business.
Maybe it was the lukewarm juice-bottle concoctions that were flying around the dusty masses over the weekend or maybe it’s just because I’ve only recently come back down to earth after what was undoubtedly the best RTR yet. Either way, yes, this review is WAAAY late.
Where to start...well, dust might be a good place. The CT Ostrich Farm is less a farm for large flightless feathered birds, and more a deposit for half the sand in the Western Cape. Still, it did make us feel like we were embarking on some clandestine desert border crossing when we rocked up at the gate - a feeling amplified when we almost got the Tazz stuck in a sand drift. Who knew Ant could drive off-road with such precision. BTW, we’ve entered you in next year’s Dakar dude, best you get training.
So, on to the tent farms. As luck would have it, we got into the less sandy Media and Artists area. My heart really went out to the average punter, who had to camp in two feet deep of finest Atlantic seasand. We at least had a light coating of dry grass on top of our sand dune, which held tent pegs slightly less well than a bowl of raspberry jelly might have.
Anyway, enough ranting about the living arrangements. Oh, wait, hang on. One more thing. If you were expecting a lush riverside forest with green trees and cooling breeze, you were so not in Kansas anymore. This place was sparse. The one tree had a permanent encampment of hippies under it. Personally I think they were trying to find Rezonance and got lost.
Having said that, Antonio and the rest of the crew had provided some serious shadage in the form of Bedouin tents here there and everywhere. Good call, mateys. While we’re on this topic, I’ve got to say RTR was one of the finest-run fests I have ever had the pleasure of getting dirty at, and that includes Reading and Download. Seriously, bars were (mostly) well stocked, staff were on the ball (or as on the ball as they could be, Ryan/Wayde, haha), food was decent (except for morning coffee queue), toilets were bearable (if you wrapped a t-shirt around your face) and security was good and tight. A big fat sticky gold star to the organisers. Well done, sirs and madams.
If you’re still reading, I guess you’ll be wanting to hear about the music, eh. Oh, the music. The sheer splendiferous multitudiality of it all. The diversificasiveness of the thing. I was quite seriously on the brink of a schizophrenic meltdown, as one personality wanted to watch the girl rockers on the Main Stage, one wanted to bob and sway in the Dub/Dance Tent and the other wanted to rub shoulders with some fine camo-shorted gentlemen at high stomping velocity in the Metal Stage moshpit.
My esteemed travel partners having taken most of the morning in Kwik-Spar deciding what juice cordial to take along, we only got to RTR in the mid-arvo. So apologies to those we didn’t manage to catch - we’re sure you rocked.
First up on our itinerary was Junkyard Lipstick. Chicks in a band, we thought. Woohoo. That was until aggro Tank Girl look-alike frontlady Wendy came on stage and blew everyone’s heads off. These girls decidedly rocked. Think The Runaways meets Hole meets Veruca Salt and you’d be somewhere in the right area. Driving, upbeat girl-punk that pulled the ever-increasing crowd into a head-nodding melee. Good stuff to say the least, hope to see more of them in less dusty, more indoorsy venues this year.
"Righteous rockers" Thought Police followed with a solid rocky set, followed by indie-electro group The Modes, from the unlikely E Cape town of Despatch, who added a bit of a welcome fresh vibe to the afternoon’s proceedings.
One band we had been told to catch is My Flawless Ending. Cool ironic band name, but could they cut it? The answer was yes, as they belted out their own brand of expressive party rock, which had us bouncing up and down in the aisles. Or rather, the dust. By this stage, vodka, beer and syringes of Jager were in full effect, so this was the perfect slot for these outspoken dudes to fill. Couldn’t have been better if Andrew WK did it himself.
Next up, CT stalwarts Boombox Troopers, whose "extreme pop" style tickled a lot of fancies in the crowd. You could taste the NY excitement as more and more revellers emerged from Tent City to crowd all three of the stages. For fear of getting lost and ending up a New Year’s statistic facedown in the dam, our little media crew stuck together - running between Metal and Main Stages as we tried to catch a bit of everything.
On that note, let’s travel back in time a few hours to the Metal Stage. We caught the tail-end of Sindulgence, a metal band with an experimental style that was a refreshing break from screaming vocals and double-pedal kicks.
Prog-metallers Imperium of Man were on top form as usual, drawing a crowd that rivalled the Main Stage, then it was the turn of metal mash-up band Ing to warm the moshpit up. An awesome blend of power/punk/thrash and death metal made for a grinding, stomping set that had one of our crew armpit-deep in fellow moshers. We would have got in there ourselves, but that old rugby injury was playing up, you know...
Classic Odin-inspired power-metal men Strident were up next. Their guitar-frenzied face-melting tunes lit the Metal Stage up, which was no mean feat as by this time it was pitch dark in the crowd, mostly because of the black-clad audience that had been assembling itself over the sunset hours.
Just when you thought you couldn’t fit any more metal in your ears, Warinsane strode onto stage next, in the shape of XXL frontman Wallace, whose prevalent onstage presence had us backing away from the front of the stage. Just in case. A great set of down-home metal, lads.
Right. Night-blind and a little vodka-unbalanced, we tramped off back to the Main Stage, for Peachy Keen - an interesting blend of rockabilly, blues and good ol’ rock and roll. Frontlady duo Dominique and Alex make a solid Sailor Jerry-tattooed combination and led the crowd on a rocking ride that made us wish we were in New Orleans.
And then suddenly, New Years was upon us. The Hogs squealed onto stage in dramatic fashion, amid hundreds of champagne cork pops and showers of Cold Duck. A banging rendition of Johnny Clegg’s Spirit of the Great Heart was followed at zero hour by Auld Lang Syne. We go so caught up in the Hogs unique brand of ska-punk that we got kicked out from the front of stage. Ostensibly for spraying champagne on the crowd, but hey, they were asking for it. Jovial fuckers.
Hog Hoggidy Hog
So endeth the year. If we had to tell you all about Sunday, we’d be here for most of this year, so suffice it to say, headache pills and vodka redbulls mixed in to a long swim session, and many great bands; Fokof, The Sleepers, Reburn, Woodstock Mafia and Stone Collar all stood out.
And so, broke, broken, sunburnt, but smiling ear-to-ear, we made our escape late on Sunday night. A smashingly dirty, dusty, beer-soaked time was had by all. Let’s do it again this year. Just maybe with more shade.
Over and out,
What The Bands Had To Say
Rock the River. Wow. I had a lot of fun.
Proceedings were as follows:
Arrived saturday morning, consumed hideous amounts of alcoholic concoctions. Regressed into the degenerate drunk I usually try to conceal from society. I didn’t care though, I was there to have a good time. And I did. By late afternoon all morals were non-existant - climbing onstage during other band’s sets and hijacking people’s interviews in front of camera seemed completely reasonable.
Sunday morning. Hangover. The energy drinks woke me up but didn’t quite fix the headache. Took it easy most of the day to ready myself for our show. We were scheduled to play at 22:00 on the Metal stage, right in between two heavyweights in the local metal scene (Mind Assault and Suiderbees). This, along with being probably the most inexperienced band at the festival, didn’t go well on the nerves. The wait backstage took forever, but in the end we got through our set without any major flaws.
Looking back I think the festival went down really well. Highlights for me included watching Imperium of Man, Wildernessking, Marching Dead, Strident, Crow Black Sky, Mind Assault and Suiderbees, as well as Peachy Keen and Fokofpoliesiekar on the main stage. On a more personal note I’d like to thank all the organisers, Antonio Manual and the Mind Assault guys for getting us an awesome gig, as well as Marching Dead for not kicking a random drunk guy off stage.
Miggs Auer, 7th Son
We had a kick-ass RTR this year - the festival is getting stronger each year - It’s great having NYE festival dedicated to bands , and we look forward to the next one - Bigger and better m/
Facilities wise, we think the RTR crew did great, its a festival so we knew we will had to rough it. We saw a lot of random people doing funny stuff which included:
- a little green monster bobbing somewhere between the metal and main stage,
- a dude in a pink g-string,
- a bunny and bear couple,
- our group of friends doing funny jigs while waiting for the bathroom, the claw of DOOOOOOMMM and the usual drunken debauchery.
- some dude passed out on the hay who we recall seeing on stage during INGs set, grabbing the mic and growling.
All in all, great festival, we definitely would like to do it every new years!
Ebi Johnstone, The Mystics
We thought that RTR was too amazing to describe just using words! We had no plans for New Years eve and we decided on the last minute to go to RTR and that was probably the best last mimute decision we made in a long time!
To be honest I wasn’t expecting much from the festival, but my expectations definitely decieved me!
We played on sunday 1st January at the metal stage in the burning hours of the day! And I must say even though we are a blues rock band, playing at the metal stage was an experience that we will never forget. Thanks to Rock The River for giving us the best New Years! We looking forward to the next one!
Alex Wiese, Messiah Complex
I think the overall event was a huge success, well done to Antonio for the great job he did with metal stage, one of the best new years we’ve had,
despite the ridiculous heat, the crowd were really a bunch of troopers, sticking it out in the blazing heat to support the bands.
I think Marching Dead put on a sick show, especially the Rammstein cover they did.
Awesome vibes, epic weekend, epic people. SA Metal at it’s best!
Nic Owen, Manager, My Flawless Ending
A river didn’t exist, which was a little strange at first, but there was so much to keep the fans and supporters entertained that I doubt many people even cared that there was no river, instead just a dirty looking dam/pond.
I am already looking forward to the next RTR, it will be bigger and better.
The festival was a big step up from last year and has the potential to be a massive New Year’s event.
There were some good bands and some not-so good bands. In some ways the line-up was too long. It would have been nicer to have fewer bands, with longer time slots, and another 8 - 10 more well known bands (such as The Great Apes, Sabretooth, The Plastics) on the bill, and better "qualifying" to play. I can think of some great up and coming bands that missed out and I don’t know why. Its almost too easy to get onto Rock the River, but I think as it grows in popularity it will become as difficult as the others (and so it should be).
Bands I enjoyed: All my circus friends, Red Tape Riot, Chasing Friday, Bicycle Thief, Black Moscow, The Mysticcs, My Flawless Ending, Peachy Keen, Hogs, Curious Incident, Juke Royal, Reburn, Fokof.
Keenan Nathan Oakes, Wildernessking
We were really happy to find out that there was a Metal stage and that it got most of the support, or so it seemed to us. Then The Hogs stole the show and the crowd. Good vibes, and a nice way to end 2011! We look forward to the next festival.
Ryan Eberlin, Sindulgence
It was a really awesome event, Cape Town needs more big festivals like this to allow local metal bands to get the exposure they deserve.
The vibe was really chilled and friendly, I think everyone enjoyed themselves.Sindulgence is looking forward to jamming at the next Rock the River!
Jacques Hugo, Bulletscript
RTR was probably one of the best festivals we’ve played, we were pleasantly surprised to see the turnout and almost tempted to suggest that the metal stage was as, if not more successful through-out the course of the weekend than the main and/or electro stages.
The line-up was a good mixture of new bands having the opportunity to play the festival and the established bands doing their thing.
The only real issue was the lack of shade but most certainly one hell of a step up from the previous RTR festivals.
BULLETSCRIPT enjoyed the weekend and look forward to working with RTR and Mainstream Events in the near future.
Paul Rahilly, Impalement Theory
Rock The River was amazing for us (The Impalement Theory), we got a good response from all sorts of people! The heat was a bit intense and got everyone drunk a bit quicker but all is good in the hood.
The highlights for us at rock the river were the sumo suits, which were fun to use and fun to watch, and the amazing support towards all the bands, from everyone that attended the festival! The bands that impressed us were Out Of Nowhere, 3rd Minute Effect, Arc Reactor, Sindulgence, Imperium Of Man, Sindulgence, The Marching Dead, Terminatryx, Wargrave, Suiderbees and last but definitely not least, Mind Assault!
Tim Lester, Bicycle Thief
This is the first year that Bicycle Thief has performed at Rock the River, and its actually my first time going. I had friends who performed at it last year and said it was a terrible experience. I’ll admit - at first I was dubious: RTR is a very young festival and so far they had been notorious for being disorganized. I had expected to arrive at the stage at my designated time only to be told that they’re running 2 hours behind schedule. To my surprise, and to my delight, this festival was very well put together.
The sound and stages were great. There were some brilliant bands in the lineup. The only thing I felt that was lacking - was running water. I know that alot of the bands agree’d to perform for free. I have no problem with that. I performed for free. But a colleague of mine mentioned that he was struggling to see where the money was going, because he didnt feel as though there was enough put into giving patrons the best possible festival experience.
The venue was really great. once you got over the dust it was actually really comfortable. I dont think the organizers expected such a big turnout.
Our show was really cool. The stage was awesome. Its nice to have all that space to move in. The audience response was generally positive.
After I performed, I could relax a bit and enjoy some of what the festival had to offer. The pancakes were AMAZING. I got some for breakfast the next morning.The Sleepers really rocked that evening. and Fokof were definately the highlight of the event for me.
On the whole: lack of toilets (excusable, cause they didnt expect so many people), lack of water (inexcusable, its a basic necessity), all round vibe was really cool. It left inviting, honest and neighbourly. I’ll definitely perform again next year.
p.s - oh, when we went on stage they were actually running 10 minutes ahead of schedule, so we got some extra stage attention. things flowed really smoothly backstage. the tech crew were very helpful and efficient.
Mitch Luthi, Imperium of Man
As far as our experience at RTR goes, we had a great time.Playing on an open air stage during the day was something new for the band and it was great to share the experience with bands like Wargrave,Wildernessking and the other talented acts of the metal stage.The event as a whole was tightly run and, bar the excessive heat, couldn't have turned out better.
George van der Riet, Strident
Rock The River was not only heaps of fun, but it actually gave metal bands a chance to show that they put up a better show than most 'mainstage' bands. At many points in the day I saw more people at the metal stage than at the main stage... Our set was also one of the biggest crowds we've had, complete with random girls and guys jumping on stage and people getting punched in the face in the crowd. Overall, a grand time was had...just give the artist area some toilets next time.
Ray Schoeman, Silent Side
On a whole, Silent Side had a great time performing. The stage was great,the fact that they had a monitor mix engineer was definitely a step up from last years event! Plus the calibre of artists this year was awesome. I think that the only problem with the event was lack of toilets and showers in the camping area. And that there was none that any of the media or artists knew of in the artist/media camping area. Other than that,all of the media reps and artists we spoke to had a great time. Sound, lighting, catering and hanging out with other bands was great! And we can't wait for the next new years event,and hope we play there again.
Luke Otto (bass):
Over all a great experience. Significant growth since the 2010/2011 event which is a positive sign for alternative music. I enjoyed the opportunity given to newer, less established bands although I think possibly the ratio between new and established headlining bands was a little skewed. It's awesome to have a festival catering for music tastes beyond the mainstream and I hope to play again next year!
Ps. A great deal of gratitude to the sound crew who worked really hard to provide every band on both stages with great sound. Well done!
Rob Ruhrmund (drums):
Not being a regular festival goer, I went in not really knowing what to expect. I can honestly say that my overseas friends (who have been to major festivals) and I left having had a really good time. Between the two stages and the electro tent, there was more than enough to keep us busy. Although it was nice to be able to watch up&coming bands on a bigger stage, I feel that there should be more established bands on offer to make it a better quality festival.
From an artists perspective, I really appreciated all the effort put in by the sound crew. Change overs were a breeze and my monitor mix was spot on. Also, the sound in general for the festival was pretty good. I know it's still establishing itself on the SA festival scene, but I think there's a lot of potential there and it's certainly one I'd love to attend again in the future.