Dust, flying umbrellas and a preacher man at Oppikoppi
Oppikoppi 2012 was set out to be just like any other. That was until we got to the farm. Hardly any trees, more sand than ever, and about 4 000 more people than last year, it promised to be quite interesting.
And it was.
Camped on what looked like the remnants of Mordor, dust rose from the ashes of a fire that lingered from the night before when my friends from Cape Town arrived at the farm to save us a good camping spot.
One by one they dragged themselves out of their tents as I dumped my bags and had a look around. Old Brown Sherry, tequila, a couple of cigarettes lit at the wrong end.
I say it every year. It never changes. This is bat country.
The farm is filled with the smell of dust and heat, soon to be replaced by smoke, booze and bacon. It feels different. Bigger. More of a disaster waiting to happen.
Walking to the stage area, I noticed just how many people there were. Throngs of them walking through underground tunnels, which looked potentially dangerous, bottles in hand and pocket and noise aplenty.
The music was almost by the way as the beer tents brimmed over with drunken people throwing around profanity like old rags. This is only day one? Hell, I may just be getting too old for this.
Shortstraw and the Anti-Retro Vinyls opened up my weekend with cool tunes and some crazy dancing. Bumping into random friends ended up in shared beers. The Black Cat Bones had me on my feet for their entire set, as did Tidal Waves. Taxi Violence opened in all their epicness with Bingo playing the angle grinder. Sparks flying, it was more than an electric performance. Shadowclub ensured I couldn’t sleep as their set including some new tracks had me riled up for a party.
The cold drove us back to our camp site and a fire beckoned as the cold seeped into my jacket and harshly crept into my bones. Half a bottle of whatever down, three layers and a fast deflating air mattress later, I managed to get some shut eye with some random DJ playing Muse and Rise Against somewhere on the farm.
Ear plugs rolled underneath the mattress – don’t ask me how they got there – and I wake up to the sound of our weird neighbour Nick throwing up his guts in the nearby bush. Welcome to day two.
Even after that wonderful cacophony of retching, bacon and eggs was wonderful. Pancakes too. Camping isn’t so bad when you’re prepared. Hungover and blurry-eyed I stumble to find a portaloo. Guess what? There weren’t any. I realised there weren’t any bins either. Bad planning or oversight? I don’t know. But it made the festival slightly unpleasant towards the end.
Nevertheless, a chilled vibe ran though District 9 as people braaid, talked utter nonsense, drank and danced. The somewhat serene setting was broken by the wind, and a flying umbrella ripped through the farm, along with a gazebo, some paper plates and two tents. One of my friends swears he saw someone’s bra flying into a tree. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.
It was a busy day for music and my nifty little Oppikoppi app made it a bit easier to follow the events of the day. Though the BlackBerry app was kind of useless in some aspects – like the map was illegible and it was too slow. But I managed to plan my day, catching Durban band Fruits & Veggies, Jeremy Loops, the sweet-voiced Kate Borthwick and a bit of shut-eye in the sun before the cold and the heavyweights arrived.
The sound of aKing brought me back to life, as did a delicious rib roll dripping with heart attack. Desmond & the Tutus in all their silliness got me and a crazy friend of mine dancing until we both fell over on the grass, sides and cheeks aching.
French ska/swing band Babylon Circus added to the foot-ache with a frenzied performance including a brass section, two singers, a zany drummer, chilled guitarist and mad bassist and an accordion player who didn’t really look all that sober.
The cold started to edge its way through my layers of clothing again and I felt it in my bones that it was going to be, as a random walking around in shorts said, ‘p**s koud’. I looked up at the sky. The whispy clouds offered no protection from the rapidly descending cold, but did give a clear view of the stars – a sight rarely seen in Johannesburg. The slight breeze sent chills all over the farm, and people huddled together to watch Fokof.
They did not disappoint. I have never seen a mosh pit so huge at a festival. Never. Not even for In Flames at RAMfest. Ending off with my favourite song, Tiny Town, Fokof brought it. It was up to the internationals to answer. But until then, my leaky mattress and cold tent called. Not before a chat with a few randoms around a campfire belonging to God knows who while Hazer started the party in the background.
Sunlight hit my tent and I was awoken by some guys trying to put their blown-over gazebo back up. One roll of duct tape later and they still failed. They decided that whoever misbehaves will be made to hold the broken leg in place until the group said he could leave. The job went to an unfortunate ginger.
By midday, I was uncomfortable, filthy, dusty and miserable. The baking sun and dust, coupled with the overt racism which I usually ignore, made me want to pack up and go home. I’d been called a ‘samoosa’ and ‘coolie’ one too many times to just keep quiet. I made some remark about this dude’s boerewors being too small to function. My boyfriend was called Achmed the Dead Terrorist. People wanted to prod his beard like he was some sort of experiment. Things got ugly. I dropped it, but was angry that a group of youngsters, most born in a free country, could still hold those beliefs. It was disappointing. I expected more from South Africa. You’d never get that kind of racism at Splashy Fen or Woodstock.
The feeling didn’t last long as I ditched the douchebags for Dance You’re on Fire, Tailor and Yoav. The Klein Bar offered refuge from the masses as more people came into the farm for the evening’s epic line-up. The boyfriend brought me more pancakes. That’s love right there.
An interview with US rock band the Eagles of Death Metal down and it was time to rock. Their set was ridiculous, with front man Jesse Hughes enchanting the crowd like a possessed preacher man. Even the ardent atheists became worshippers as Hughes asked for an ‘Amen’ and got it every single time.
I only managed to catch a little bit of Enter Shikari, and as much as I don’t dig their music, I enjoyed their onstage madness. One great performance later and my feet were aching by the time we got to KONGOS. The band of brothers played to the backdrop of vetkoek and Pepsi, as I lay on the grass pacing myself for the acts to come.
Jack Parow was, well, Parow. With lyrics like Tokoloshe gaan jou van-a-lan-a-lang, it’s hard to believe the dude is now a father.
Then came Seether. Playing to a home crowd, this US-based South African giant fed the crowd old favourites and some new songs which they devoured like raging zombies. The crowd started chanting ‘Saron Gas’ – the name the band used to go by when here in South Africa. Speaking in Afrikaans and relishing the chance to be home, singer and guitarist Shaun Morgan rocked out like I remembered him doing back in Durban during my high school years. Not much had changed.
Now, I generally don’t like Bullet for my Valentine, but I must admit they really are excellent performers. Aside from letting loose on the national anthem on guitar and the crowd singing, their stage presence and flawless execution is truly a watertight model which our local bands can learn from.
A warmer campsite welcomed me and I didn’t care that my mattress was flattened and thorns sticking up into the tent… Sleep came quickly. Especially after all that vodka.
Packing up, you can see the impact a three-day festival has on the farm. Litter, bottles, beer, pee, broken camping equipment, bags of rubbish and wood… all of it was left behind as we trekked back to the real world.
I was glad to be leaving the dust behind, but give it a few months… I will be counting down until the madness comes again.