I’d never partied in Sandton before.
The Sandton where the only Black Label sold at the bars is preceded by the words Johnnie and Walker.
The Sandton where entrance on a normal evening would have one think some special event was taking place that night.
Fenomena Phestival was to change that.
When a new festival is launched there is usually no previous experience upon which to base any expectations. You don’t really know what to expect. However, I always create an expectation based on how the organisors go about promoting the event—especially online. Based on their promotional efforts with a uniform theme, design, and feel, a progressive lead up, clear communication, and top-notch online etiquette; my preconceived ideas of the event put Fenomena Phestival in good stead.
Gates opened and the first DJ started playing at 10 AM. They had set it up as a full day experience where one could enjoy the selection of artisan food, take in the lovely surroundings, and ease at their own pace into the 14 hour party. I’m not about that easing into a party vibe and whenever I arrive I usually dive right in going full steam ahead right from the get-go. In order to do that for 14 hours it takes a special kind of stamina. Chemical stamina. Or pure unadulterated enjoyment. Whichever comes easier.
I had made a personal decision not to drink that day, so it was a blessing in disguise that we only left for the event at around 4 in the afternoon. It would be much easier to go full steam ahead for around 7 hours. The only con of leaving for the event at this time was that I’d miss 2 of the few acts on the line-up I recognised and was eager to see; POP ART Live and Kat La Kat.
Somewhere along our journey it became clear that the Sandton we were travelling to was not the Sandton I described at the beginning of this review. This was a good sign. High rise buildings and expensive hotels made way for warehouse buildings and expansive plots as we got closer to the venue. The Toadhall farm is situated in a suburb of Sandton called Linbro park filled with warehourse, farms, and plots.
After encountering a stable of horses taking a casual Saturday stroll on our path, we eventually found Toadhall farm— a miniature enchanted forest nestled neatly amongst equestrian stables and farms. Immediately upon entrance I found the reality of the event meeting the production expectation their promotional efforts created.
We were met at the entrance by a friendly and helpful ticketing team who encouraged us to pick a rose from a beautiful bouquet for use at our own will. My pitiful social skills found me leaving my rose at the bar, but my partner crime would gallantly hand his to a beautiful lady he would never see again.
It’s these small details which go largely unnoticed that make an event special. From all the flowering desert decorative elements down to something as unadorned as the lights and mirrors in the portaloos the team paid great attention to all production elements. One of my favourite was the simple but innovative idea of putting the line-up on the wrist band for convenient access.
I had never seen a higher population of crop tops and gopros before. One dude approached us breaking the ice by complimenting our shirts. I realised as he carried on that this was just a setup for his explaining that he knows the lady who made all of Nelson Mandela’s. Apparently he was wearing one of her shirts and throughout the entire event I never saw him take off his wayfarers once. There was an interesting bunch of people in attendance and my only regret was that I didn’t have Tinder anymore.
A few hours in I depleted my sober experience of the onslaught of this deep rolling psy house. I like a change of BPM’s and rhythms and energies to keep me going. At one stage we even tried walking the tight rope to bring something new to our experience. The lighting of the wooden artwork on fire provided alternative entertainment—invoking Afrikaburn and Burning man vibes. However, since the music wasn’t going to change drastically I decided to change my own perspective of reality. My poison of choice would be tequila and Castle Lite—Black Label wasn’t invited to this party.
The liquid stamina allowed me to draw some new found enjoyment and appreciation of the music. I found myself dancing in the rain to music that just an hour before my feet and hips had had enough of. Whilst drenching myself in the moment I could not help but regret the fact that we had not taken advantage of the unique Uber code discount that was available for use.
‘What about the road blocks?’
‘What about my lack of a drivers licence’
The drinking stopped and Trancemicsoul’s set could not have come sooner. He took the slightly combative elements out of the music to offer some more inviting. Something more sophisticated. Something with more soul. There is a reason the hat-loving Pretoria boy has been booked so religiously in recent months having played CTEMF, Sonar Cape Town, and even representing our country at Sonar in Barcelona. His curations of music take on a life of their own providing an eclectic canvas that invites your body to tell its own story.
I was in for the long haul in his sophisticated story telling. Unfortunately, at some stage his set was cut short as police stopped the party temporarily for reasons I am unaware of.
Regardless of this situation, dare I say that I had a fenomenal time.
I will definitely be back for the second edition of this event. Everything from the theme, it’s delivery and the sound was brilliant. Now I understand that the promoters wanted to create a specific mood and theme in terms of the line-up but there is no harm in switching it up a little bit to introduce new rhythms, melodies, and BPMs that speak to different parts of the body and soul.
Photography by Lize Scheepers