It’s Wednesday the 2nd of October and the scenes in Park Station are somewhat reminiscent of the train station scene in Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone. For most of us it’s our first time in Park Station and we’re wandering around confused in serach of station 9 and three quarters – The Daisy Train. It was with great relief when we eventually spotted a group of around 90 middle class youth as we knew these people were part of our brethren.
After having settled into our 4 sleeper cabins it was clear the Shosholoza Meyl was not just an A-to-B commuter kind of journey. All aboard the cane train. The alcohol was flowing and Hotbox Express was truly living up to its name. It was like a party bus on steroids and it was difficult to find anyone who’d pass a breathalyzer test, fortunately though, none of us were designated. Don’t drink and drive, drink and train.
After 22 hours, 1400 kilometers, a few couple litres of alcohol, countless instagram moments, a sticky game of kings, one horse’s head, free biltong and an impromptu performance of Eminem’s Lose Yourself in a town we’ll never see again we finally arrived at our destination. It was somewhat sad that we had arrived as the train had become home, but we knew that journey was just a weigh-in for the main event. Our livers had been taken through their paces and were ready for anything Rocking The Daisies would throw at them.
Set in between the vineyard hills of Darling, it was immediately clear that Rocking The Daisies was no Mordor (If you don’t know what Mordor is get yourself to Northam Rock City during the month of August) with its lush green fields and protected wetlands. However, the green festival hit its first red light when what was meant to be a protected wetland became prime camping land as the designated camping areas weren’t large enough to house the 15,000 strong Daisy contingent. But we’re sure Seed Experiences will have this rectified before the next instalment of the festival. Overall the festival was a well organised eco-friendly champion, and some attendants surely left with transformed views on the whole greening & sustainability idea. Where else can one use cigarette butts and empty cans as currency?
All frills aside, Rocking The Daisy is a Music Festival and that is exactly why we went. There were many stages offering a healthy diversity of local entertainment. Even if they were to omit the international headliners you feel the organisors had curated what was the best line-up all year. Name any genre and it was likely that the best and freshest in the country would be holding it down on one of the 8 stages.
Our first moment took place on Thursday when we managed to catch Momentss, aka, Motheo Moleko & The Space Section. Although we’re against comparing bands, Momentss immediately reminded us of Tumi & The Volume. In a hip-hop scene saturated with 808’s, faux American accents and rhymes about fast cars and VIP at the bar; the live instrumentation and socially conscious themes of Momentss provides great relief from the usual dribble. It was almost a surreal experience with lots of the subject matter hitting home leaving me unsure of whether to dance or reflect on my life. Motheo was a critical factor in the rise to fame of Jeremy Loops, and you feel Momentss is headed up the same trajectory. Motheo raps, and The space section floats somewhere between 70’s funk and afro grooves.
Next up on the Campsite Stage was another cape-town breed in the form of, Diamond Thug. You’re forgiven if you thought this was the first major ‘rock’ festival to have two hip-hop acts perform consecutively, but Diamond Thug is not a hip-hop group. They aspire to create, “intelligent and creative electronic music”. Think Portishead meets AlunaGeorge. Chantal Van T who is also lead singer of LA.VI captivated the audience with the command of her alluring voice. The weather only added to the mystique as with every word she sang her breath floated like mist as if this was part of the A/V production.
Our appetite for getting down brought us to the Black Label Champion Zone with a vibe similar the that of Friday night on Gleneagles Drive in Greenside. The DJ was playing the music everyone wanted to hear traversing all the genres, all the years and all the hits. The tables and benches quickly became platforms for dancing and the good times lasted well into the early hours of the morning. On the way back to the camps a few die-hards were drawn to the Red Bull Party Truck by the selections of VaVa and Daddy Warbucks, for a taste of the carnage which was to take place at the Red Bull Studio Live Stage.
The antagonist to any early slots crowd on the second day of a festival is the dreaded hangover. It was a delight when we glanced at our personal schedule on the official Rocking The Daisies app to find that our first favourite for the day was Shortstraw on the Main Stage at 16:00. This allowed for ample time to rest easy and try out some of the less demanding activities. We got temporary panda tattoos at the WWF activation while learning more about sustainability. We also managed to collect cigarette butts and empty cans to exchange them for a cold beer and lunch. Finally we watched some champions put in a few KM’s on stationary bikes to donate bicycles to the Darling Trust.
Eventually we engaged party mode and got ourselves to the main stage to catch the performance of Shortstraw. Nothing about 2013 screams short straw for this band. The band has been pulling all the right straws this year consistently performing their infectious brand of “thrash folk” to some of the biggest audiences throughout the country. If you follow the band, you get the feeling that these are just 5 kiff okes doing what they love and it shows in the music they write. Probably the highlight of their performance was watching skinny bitches sing along to Bikini Weather, ‘Skinny Bitches your so difficult, Just invite me in‘. The band has mastered the craft of creating indie summer singalongs as the majority of the crowd knew almost every word from every song. They also did a kitsch cover of LCNVL’s Sun In My Pocket and the crowd received Al’s rapping well. It was great to see Gad and Russell on the Daisy Train with us ‘normal’ citizens. You can’t help but just want this okes to do well. #DoubleThumbsUp
Goodluck was the next act we witnessed on the Main Stage. This was not the same Goodluck we saw that one time in 2012 with Ben behind a computer and Juliet behind the mic. The duo had prepared something special for their performance at Daisies this year. The band performed their music with as an 11 piece outfit for their RTD slot. Juliet Harding is an energetic performer and you feel like she’s not just performing for you but rather that she part and parcel of the party herself – the heart of the party. The introduction of the live element introduced a dynamic flavour to their performance and we hope to see more of these performances. It was great to hear some of the bands new material which was recorded in a Namibian desert. It’s not just electro swing anymore and everybody loves a bit of drum n’ bass.
At this stage it started becoming difficult to decide which bands to watch due to the quality of acts performing simaltaneously across all the stages, but the nostalgic factor kept us on the main stage to catch a bit of The Dirty Skirts. It’s not just any band that has the longevity to release a greatest hits album, however something was amiss about their performance.
After a short while the nostalgia-factor wore off and we took our first steps into the Nu World Beat Barn to catch the performance of Bateleur. Ever since getting our hands and ears on the Mountain EP, Bateleur has been a firm favourite of ours. You can tell by the sprawling soundscapes of each individual song that these guys have a formal classical background, however, the classical and jazz training does not define their sound. They use their technical efficiency to create undefinable masterpieces of sound. The band invited Ben Rausch to work his magic on the visuals for those whose imaginations were short on fuel. The performance was definitely a quiet highlight of the entire festival.
Being in the barn for the past hour, it was easy to forget about the icy cold wind outdoors. A decision had to be made quickly as to which crowd gathering would be our next heater. PHFat won this battle as we haggled to the main stage as quickly as possible to solidify a warm spot in the front row crew. With Disco having quit the group, many were left wondering if PHFat would be as phat. Part of the secret of their live shows was the dynamic between Disco and Mike. But PHFat is a new happiness cool machine and we wanted more so they made it possible. Introducing Mr. Sakitumi to their live performance allowed Narch’s bass lines to reach a whole new sinister level. With The Grrrl on visual duties and the crazy lighting production this was another highlight of the festival. Mike even demonstrated his ability to change the weather with his skate tricks.
After getting loose with PHFat we kept the theme all hip-hop eventually finding ourselves at the Red Bull stage to catch the performance of Ready D. Being in the social circles I am I had not heard much of or paid much attention to Ready D, but I did know that he was a great DJ. Great DJ? How wrong I was. The guy is a master at the craft of DJing. He got all the tricks in his bag and his ability to guage when and how to use each is a true sign of a DJ of the Decade Award recipient.
Thereafter it became impossible to leave the Red Bull stage with Sibot, Niskerone and Das Kapital all billed to perform concurrently. First it was that guy with many eyes, Sibot. We were especially excited for his performace after seeing the vine he posted in the lead up to RTD. Sibot has consistenly been one of the pioneers of the local music scene ever since the days of Max Normal and the Constructus Corporation. This year was no different as he introduced a drumline to his live performance. The finger banging synth maestro was joined on stage by Toyota and the live visuals were the best I’ve ever seen. It was like Sibot’s key pads and synths were not only mapped to the sounds but also the visuals. The dynamic, out of this world performance left the audience captivated and anyone would be forgiven for going full retard bouncing to his glitch beats.
Next up was the king of the Drum n Bass Jungle, Niskerone. The humble DJ does not enjoy this title but being the only DJ holding it down for the Drum n’ Bass massive at the festival, its hard to call him anything else but the king. The Mitchells Plain kid showed again why he his dreads have been all over the world bouncing at 170 beats per minutes. Being from Johannesburg it was a pleasure to be able to close my eyes and be transported back to one of the Science Frikshun parties.
The yung wunderkid, Das Kapital was next to take the reigns on the decks. Entering the 4th hour of stomping at the Red Bull Studio it was going to take something special to keep the crowd bouncing. But the boy did work and kept us bouncing into the early hours with a solid mash-up set which crossed multiple genre boundaries. Das Kapital has refrained from classing himself into a specific genre with both his production and his DJing, allowing him to dabble in anything from minimal Drum n Bass to Trap. Mixing a wide variety of genres into one set is no simple task but the Do Work Records founder knows exactly when and how to switch it up.
With that, we were just over halfway through our Daisies experience and it already felt like we had been through an entire festival. #BestWeekendEver was already trending somewhere in our subconscious and we hadn’t even witnessed the internationals yet. The temporary tinnitus had no effect on us as we slept like babies in mothers womb, waiting for the birth of the final day of our Rocking The Daisies experience.