Rocking The Daisies - Reviewed
Iíve arrived at the Darling Wine estate with my friend Megan, and itís both of our first times
I’ve arrived at the Darling Wine estate with my friend Megan, and it’s both of our first times. We’re in her car, we’ve got blankets and booze, and we’re ready for this.
We’re at Rocking the Daisies! Our decision to travel together came from the combined convenience of me having a big ol’ tent and Megan having a car. I had one, too, until my old primary school nemesis ran into me about two weeks ago. She ran into me with her car, and now MY car won’t work. Forever. So she’s still being a nemesis. Also Meg and I are pals and this is what pals do! They go camping.
So Megan and got ready. For camping. I’m very ready to get out of the car because Megan got her Driver’s License a few months ago and is brimming with confidence, which no sensible driver should have because we live in a society where people are bulleted from point A to B in rhino-sized peoplewagons which travel up to 180 km/h, in a row. I’m not saying Meg is a bad driver. It’s just that, on every highway, there is a solid row of things moving 180 km/h and she acts like this is no big deal, which just shows that she doesn’t get it.
In the meantime my buddy Manbear and his girlfriend L call me and tell me they’re setting up camp and have saved us a spot, to save us having to make more decisions we shouldn’t need to. We spot them easily - theirs is the tent held together by string latched onto the branches of a nearby tree and some pegs in the ground. It’s an old tent, they explain, in days when trees were presumably more abundant. We pause to shed a tear for the environment, as that is what Rocking the Daisies is presumably all about. These guys have a positive hard-on for the environment.
Our tent folds out in under five minutes and we are left to explore the venue, side-stepping numerous cow patties, and also a string of vomit shaped like Brazil, courtesy of our neighbor who’d partied himself out a full hour after arriving.
We take a walk and find ourselves a little annoyed to discover a string of yellow-jacketed guys telling everyone that there would be no alcohol transported beyond their rickety little bridge to the music stages. We could buy all the beers we wanted on the other side though - provided they were Windhoek. Now, I have nothing against Namibian breweries, it’s just that I happen to know that Windhoek is in a dry part of the world and recycles it’s water out of necessity. I have a few modest mottos I use to steer the course of my life in, and one of them is "Never drink wee". So we went back, packed as many beers into our bags and crevices as we could, and crossed the bridge to the other side, feeling monstrously clever.
So there are four themed musical venues for the weekend; a big, inflatable dome pumping trance and drum ’n base, and the unfortunate comedy tent some 100 meters to the right of it. All weekend, comedians tried to compete "AND BOY ARE MY ARMS TIRED" with the perpetual unce-unce thundering away. Behind these two tents were the Nu-World folk barn or whatever, a place charmingly decked out in Dia de las Muertos sparkly skulls and ponchos, and this was surrounded by a Jose Cuervo wagon and a little tent with pictures of psychedelic fairies and two small wooden mushrooms propped up at the entrance. At a glance it looks like they were selling T-shirts and toothpaste, a handy combination for events like these.
The associated iconic ug-dray ealer-day is a very short little man who looks like a dwarf. I’ve never spoken to him but I see him in and about CT, and you probably have too. He wears huge round glasses on his bulbous nose and has a long grey beard and ratty, shoulder-length hair which surrounds a bald head and his wardrobe usually features a rainbow poncho and matching sombrero. Sometimes he wears curled little-people shoes. He occasionally pops up during music sets and dances enthusiastically, kicking his heels up high and cackling. I am very seriously describing a real person. This is a clever ruse, because probably anybody who describes receiving any hallucinogenic substances from a small man who looks like Gandalf and Gimli’s lovechild is going to doubt his or her own memory, or is not going be taken seriously. Probably that dude goes home to his loft in Camps Bay every night and pulls off a latex mask so that his real Tom Selleck face can enjoy a face mask made out of krill as he munches on beluga caviar and sips Chablis.
The main stage was the the big amphitheater-type setup supporting the major headline acts, which included the likes of, y’know, The Dirty Skirts, Taxi Violence, Zebra and Giraffe... and the UK’s indie-pop band, New Young Pony Club. I was pretty excited to see NYPC because, fuck you, I’m a girl, and international bands tend to not visit SA, so I guess it’s pretty easy for me to get excited when something I 1.)recognize and 2) don’t hate comes to the country. They also have the big selling point of not being The Killers.
There are little stalls selling snacks and souvenirs everywhere around the main stage, a Nokia tent with solar-powered cellphone chargers (rendered useless at nighttime, to the inflamed chagrin of disabled would-be drunk dialers), and a fancy lady selling ridiculous tiny hats with feathers in them. Hats so tiny they come with two little pins to clip into your hair so they don’t blow away. There’s a little sign that says "The Little Hattery".
Megan lunges at The Little Hattery and proceeds to touch every single tiny hat.
I pick up one that looks like a little top hat and ask the fancy lady how much it is. It’s R200.
"You know, I have a REAL top hat that cost that much", I say.
The lady smiles.
"It has a red silk lining and it fits over my head! The whole thing, I mean!" I go on.
The smile wavers a little bit but stays put.
"It stays on all by itself too," I add, turning the mini-hat around in my hands.
"You’ve got the perfect hair for that..." the Fancy Lady ventures.
I put down the hat as Meg finally selects the Right mini-hat for herself and pays for it. Undeterred, Fancy Lady turns her attention on me again. I merely smile and back away. We walk around for a bit to see what else is available to us for the weekend- the food stall features a fairly decent offering of sandwich-y and falafel-y things which maintains a good balance between hippie chow and regular People Food. Butler’s Pizza is right next to Knead, which is right next to a bakery selling donuts and tarts - everybody’s happy. We’d go back to that tent later at night to buy sweets and watch a guy sit in a cake and proceed to poorly deal with the situation.
We spend most of the day playing drinking games with playing cards that have cats on them, until it starts to get dark. We realize that nobody brought any lights, and head over to the stages, where they are so geared up they have SEARCH lights.
The ten or twelve kilometers walk between the campsite and the band area seems to evaporate any alcohol I’d been retaining in my bloodstream, and when we get to the stage I sort of remember that I am not terribly motivated for very many bands other than New Young Pony Club. We flit in and out between running into strangers and friends, and get some exposure to the various acts anyway; to be fair, my opinion of most SA rock bands remains ambivalent. I don’t feel like starting a riot, because I know bands put a lot of hard work into putting their music out there and I know that Cape Town in particular is very proud of it’s local bands. Yeah, it’s great to be homegrown and proud and all, but I’m still gonna come out and say that I feel like most acts kind of sound the same. Granted, this weekend was specific genre music, and granted, I listen to a whole host of shit that probably sounds the same, so I’m going to be totally fair and say that I probably don’t like most local acts enough because I haven’t listened to their songs enough times for them to get stuck in my head and force me to fall in love. I’m not going to try and critique these guys because it’d be like me trying to write about cars. I just don’t have an opinion. So great job, everyone, for having the follow-through for writing some songs and performing them with regularity, but I’ll be at the food stall eating sammiches with my smuggled-in beer.
Hobbits scatter as we eventually sit down on a grassy knoll somewhere and decide to drink and huddle for warmth. It has become extremely cold with the fall of light and it’s windy, so windy that the fan they put on the main stage to give the tousled hair rockers that "I just stepped out of a music video/shower" look is just giving them goosebumps, visible from where we are, way in the back. We’ve paid for some overpriced liquor and watch as a guy long-distance fly-tackles a trashcan, scattering garbage everywhere. An no-nonsese-looking girl walks up to it and shakes her head. True Girl Scout, she turns it upright and conscientiously drops her used chewing gum in it and turns heel, paying no mind to the crap all around it. Behind her, two spray-painted kids in gumboots have stolen a wheelbarrow and are taking turns sitting in it and driving into people. Around us, people are attempting to swim in the grass. There is a dude walking around in a unitard made up of the South African flag, and I keep peeling tiny little Ziplock bags off my shoes.
When The Dirty Skirts eventually sashay off the stage, delicately tossing their locks and causing appreciative dudes and ladies within a 100-meter radius to swoon, we get up and start elbowing our way to the standing crowd so that we can see New Young Pony Club better. I’m not blown away, but they’re pretty good! I uh know their songs so I felt like I was recognizing things for the first time this evening so I might have merely been lulled into a false, desperate sense of security, but the crowd was huge and appreciative, and the band’s an attractive bunch. The camera guys filming live footage were obviously enamored with their ladydrummer - every time the feed cut to a different camera, it was merely a different angle of her, while the lead singer did her best to strut it up in the foreground.
By the time they’ve finished their set, the crowd scatters and the wind seeps in. I’m cold and beginning to lose my humour.
"Meg, I’m cold and beginning to lose my humor," I say.
Meg can’t reply because she’s shivering too much. We trek back to the camp and navigate our way to our tent (the silhouette of Manbear’s retarded spiderweb of a tent stood out in the moonlight and made it easy to find) and crawl into ours.
On Saturday we wake up to a searing hot day. I can literally feel myself thawing out and it’s glorious to regain the use of my toes. Megan has been up a little bit before me and is chirpily saying something to me I can’t really follow. It’s early. I pull on some clothes and grope for a beer. I haven’t had to keep it in a cooler box because the cold snap has created an environment inside the blue box which is actually warmer by contrast. In any case, I have decided that I am going to utilize to combined heat of the day and the many beers we have on hand to put myself on an autopilot-level of inebriation.
Breakfast beers downed and Second Breakfast smuggled past the guys in the yellow jackets, we wander back to the main stage and food area to eat something solid. We walk past a little dam and a lone shirtless fat guy is doing yoga at the far end of the lake, artistically silhouetted against the early morning son like the magnificent fat sonofabitch he is.
I realize exactly HOW early it really is when we realize most of the food stalls aren’t open yet. A table is however selling coffee and tea and I juggle my beer and cradle it to my chest to pay for and receive a styrofoam cup - the girl who sells it to me looks at me, frowns, and says "Good morning, how are you doing?" in a way that says "You’re DOING IT WRONG".
We spend most of the day wandering around between the camp and the stages, feeling smarter and smarter every time we smuggle beers past the Diasies officials. We play some card drinking games with Manbear and L, and a friend of theirs joins us and languidly clips his fingernails as wayward trimmings flip into his beer cup. We saunter back to the lake to find it full of people this time; some have even brought little dinghies and are snoozing under sun hats in the middle of it. We run into a very friendly, sunburnt friend of mine who proceeds to narrate the obvious,
"What’s up! Dude... I’m so drunk and sunburnt!"
I expertly flick a particularly red section of the arm.
"That hurt?" I ask.
"....No.." comes the reply.
"Then you’re right on both counts! See ya later!"
There’s an Isreali band, The Idan Raichel Project, playing at two, and it’s another international band I recognize - they’re featured on those Putamayo World Collection CDs and an old roomate of mine once asked me to download their CD and then bought the thing anyway. I’m not too familiar with their music but they have a particular song I quite like, but didn’t end up playing. Nevertheless it’s easygoing background music, and we end up finding some friends who’ve found a shady spot on the grass and spread out over them, vaguely placating them with the offer of warm strawberries we’d been carrying around for most of the day. The Idan Raichel Project come and go and New Holland succeed them. We’re mellow enough to not mind or scrabble to leave; Megan begins to doze and I try to do the same, but I can’t drink my beer and nap at the same time, so I sit up and go on watching people. A girl with a "I HEART SAUSAGE" t-shirt ambles past us, as does a girl with an unfortunate wet patch on the crotch of her denim shorts. As it turns out Meg and I both notice this at the same time but neither of us wants to point it out.
A shirtless guy in a cowboy hat somberly drags an inflatable dinosaur on a leash behind him.
We head back to get some warmer clothes when the daylight starts to fade, and bear witness to a drunk and what seems to be a sincerely angry white guy deliberately chasing after a van containing an active hippie drum circle. "FOKKEN HIPPIES", he bellows, lumbering with all the menace of the T-rex from Jurassic Park, but the van moves faster than he. I’m also starting to mull over how much good we’re doing for the environment by attending a three-day rock festival; the path and camp grounds is packed with beer cans and little empty Ziplock bags. Even the skinny guy in the WWF panda suit has his emaciated panda neck caught in some plastic and he’s flailing his arms around, beating the ground with his fist.
When we come back we’re joined by Manbear and L, who have been since the start of the festival been excited for only one gig: Hog Hoggidy Hog.
I really enjoy watching ska bands - the audience always becomes instantly animated and I love being part of it. But I’m also somebody who understands scale and I realized that I was standing in the near front as part of a massive crowd, just a little too late. Not even half-way into the first half of their first song, a furious skank circle erupts. Before I know it somebody has linked elbows with me and thrown me in. Manbear is in the thick of it and grabs me by the scruff of the neck as a motherly bear does, but doesn’t let go, and I’m dragged through a few rotations of the circle. Suddenly I trip (probably on a small Ziplock baggie) and, horrified, I’m down - but I’m lifted to my feet almost instantly by Team Effort. Unfortunately, Team Effort merely shoves me right back into the centre of the skank pit and this time all I can do is assume fetal position until I’m aborted by the natural flow of the pit. I squeeze my way a little further back and watch the rest of the show from a safer distance.
By the end of the set I realize I’ve lost Megan, and find her shortly at the beer tent, smoking a cigarette and looking determined and composed - she is about half the size of people and ducked out as soon as the first skank pit erupted. We contemplate getting drinks. While waiting at the bar, I notice a guy with a ridiculous purple T-shirt with green velociraptors on it. It’s so stupid-looking that I talk to him.
"We should trade shirts!" I say, hoping he’s as drunk as he looks.
"Hey?" he squints.
"Your shirt’s retarded, man. Doesn’t anybody make fun of you? Let me trade with you, and people will respect you more!"
He narrows his eyes at me.
I try to up the game. "Look," I say, pulling down the bottom corners of my own T-shirt and hoping he doesn’t notice I’ve cut a girly boat-neck around the collar and trimmed the sleeves. "It’s black and it’s got a picture of GIR on it. From Invader Zim! Isn’t this cooler than your dorky dinosaurs?"
He starts grinning, and the cogs are turning.
"Invader Zim?" he muses.
"Yeah man! So, how about it? Your shirt for mine!"
Before he can form an answer a manicured hand snatches him by the arm and his lady friend glares daggers at me before dragging him away.
Megan comes back with drinks and we contemplate watching Boo! A lot of different sources have spent the day telling me that it’s a great act, but as soon as they get into their first song I notice that I’ve already finished my drink out of boredom and that it is Time To Do Something Else.
So we wander over to the inflatable drum ’n bass tent.
I’m not really sure what I want to say about this. Sibot was playing and I’ve been to his sets before and had fun, and I do sometimes wind up at drum ’n bass shows, having a lot of drug-free fun. Which puzzles me. For starters I actually have no idea how to fucking dance to it. I can never decide if the people around me look really cool or like a fistful of convulsing assholes, so, I really don’t know. And at every live show I’ve ever been to, some girl will get on stage and dance right in front of the DJ facing the crowd like she’s having a spiritual epiphany. I really wonder what goes through their fucking heads though, probably something like NOBODY CAN DANCE TO THIS SONG AS WELL AS ME, WATCH ME.
I don’t know. We eventually stagger out of the tent, our ears ringing, and decide to go eat something.
As soon as we emerge, we remember, like the Narnia kids, why we went inside in the first place - the tent was warm and full of people! Now we’re stuck out in the windy cold again. Fuck. Have we really spent a lifetime fighting White Witches and talking to beavers? We may never know, so we go buy some falafels. I suddenly recognize Bubblegum on My Boots playing somewhere and realize that The Springbok Nude Girls are performing, and this is actually a band that I remember from back in the day when saying "Nude Girls" made me blush. I can say it over and over again today, though, I’ve practiced.
We wander back to the main stage, and I wish I could tell you something more epic and crazy about The Springbok Nude Girls, because this really should have been kind of a highlight, I guess. Being 5FM’s Best South African Rock Band, I don’t know. I guess we owed it to them but we were cold and tired and we were still kind of dazed from Narnia.
But. you know what, fuck them for not actually having any Nude Girls and really just being a bunch of hairy dudes.*
We sit on the grass at the back as the roadies or whatever they call them these days set the stage up for Flash Republic, and a friend of mine spots me and promptly lays down next to me. He pulls up his shirt to show me a giant phallus drawn on his chest and starts telling me that somebody threw a double-edged dildo at him earlier that day which he proceeded to threaten people with. I, I don’t know how true that is, I am merely repeating what he said.**
Now, I’ve kind of been saving up talking about Flash Republic. I’m not sure if this is the right place to talk about them, or the right reading crowd, so I’m going to open with this: remember when I was talking about Rockabilly acts in South Africa, and when I mentioned Martin Rocka and the Sick Shop? Now, I’m not under the impression that this is a massive secret, but there is a reason Martin Rocka wears that luchador mask in his Rockabilly act... it’s to hide the fact that he is totally the guitarist for Flash Republic. Eh? Eh? See how much more interesting they are now?
So, okay, look, Flash Republic is an electro-dance group. Their drummer plays on one of those guitar-hero electric drum kits, they have two DJs, and then Martin Rocka and Tamara Dey play guitar and sing, respectively. Now I have to come out and say that I have their first album, and I’m pretty indifferent to most tracks other than the radio hit, "Twister". It’s dance music. It’s there. You can dance to it at a party if you wanna. At a causal listen, there doesn’t seem to be much genius to it. But, like many South African bands, these guys are kick-ass as live entertainers. They’re a wacky bunch and stand out from the earlier slew of rock groups; Martin Rocka dons a pair of thick black glasses with his leather jacket and air-humps his band mates with his guitar, and Tamara Dey struts like Mick Jagger woke up and grew Tina Turner’s dimensions. They play to the mood of the crowd, they jump up and down on stage, Martin Rocka air-humps his band members with his guitar. And the audience goes nuts over them.
We’re stoked by the end of this but we’re exhausted (we’ve probably resurrected a Narnian kingdom anyway, so throw us a bone), and we decide to crawl back to our tents. By now, every single portable toilet has become something that looks like a cryogenic time capsule, in the sense that you’d climb into one and the excrement would wrap around you and preserve your state for the next century or whatever.
I think we ending up peeing in a field on a row of things that looked like cabbages when we walked past it the next morning.
While Saturday was a sweaty-fat-man scorcher of a day, we woke up on Sunday, in the rain. Well, the tent woke up in the rain, we were inside, feeling sorry for ourselves. Despite this we end up sticking around until about three, mostly because we find ourselves sort of trapped in the comedy tent. It has hay barrels and bathtubs, is covered, and warm. We sit through a host of Joburg, Durban and Cape Town stand-up and a pretty good "acoustic comedy" act who call themselves The Brothers Streep. Think Flight of the Conchords, but South African, and probably better-dressed. (Google Anna Paquin’s Scrunch Face).
However, we do grow weary and decide to make our leave. As we do so, we walk past the Little Hattery for the last time. Fancy Lady has been manning the stall with an unwavering stall, almost alone, every single hour of this weekend. When we finally crawled into our tents on Sunday morning and when we were driven out by the winds mere hours later, we found her there.
What a dedicated trooper.
I pause for a second, and hover over to the stall one last time.
"Lady?" I say.
"I will NEVER buy your hats."
*hey guys what’s up that’s a joke
**Did you meet this guy? He’s everywhere.
Tags . rocking the daisies