I won't lie. I was pretty underwhelmed by the lineup of this years Oppikoppi festival. Never the less I was mad excited for the event this year, because a music festival without music is still a festival and Koppi has got to be the most festive festival this country sees all year.
Other than the fact that there were only a handful of acts I wanted to see, there were also some other factors that made this year's Koppi pretty majorly different to any of the previous ones I'd been to. For one thing, after playing 4 (Easter and main) Koppi festivals in a row, I wasn't playing this year. Which honestly I was pretty happy about. Instead of spending most of my time doing last minute animation in the press tent, this year I was going to be rocking/ hanging out for all 3 days of Koppi.
But beyond the less-awesome-then-usual lineup or the fact that I didn't need to worry about playing, this Koppi was a whole new experience because of... ANJA!
Usually the night before a Koppi ends at 3 in the morning with me trying to pack my bags, worrying about what exactly I was forgetting. But not this year. Nope.
At 8PM on Thursday night I drop by Anja's house. She makes us dinner and we start watching season 3 of True Blood. This is the best feeling. Working on generic Koppi visuals kept me up till 4 this morning, but now the DVDs with those loops are already at the festival, delivered in hand by Cam. Because of him our tent is also already standing on the Koppi farm. And thanks to the incredible shopping and list-making powers of Miss Anja Venter, everything I need to go to the festival tomorrow is packed. Clothes, booze, food, chairs, blankets, toiletries, killer new sunglasses, T-Rex headlight - everything's covered. We watch stuff till 11ish, at which point I head home and try catch up on some sleep after last night's animation-slavery-session.
Anja fetches me from work at lunch on Friday. Her little car is packed and ready to go. She's even hooked us up lunch. The drive to Koppi, give or take a few kak moments, is a total pleasure, made that much more pleasurable by a few repeat listens to this:
We arrive at Koppi at 5:30, unfortunately missing one of the only acts I hoped to see - Gil Hockman. Jar finds us at an entrance and shows us to the superb camping spot he, Cam and Lindi secured by coming through a day early. We settle in, crack open a zamalek and the festival starts. Beyond the Australian "Philadelphia Grand Jury" there's hardly anyone else we wanna watch - it's just hanging out, bumping into friends and eating green curry. When the Philly Jays play it totally makes up for any lack of other good stuff to watch. I still can't pin point what it is they do. I could say it's a bastard child of Nerf Herder and Dismemberment Plan, but it seems there's something major missing from that description. What they're doing is something totally their own, geeky and poppy and frantic and fun-as-fuck. I am so happy when they announce it's not a misprint in the program - they really are playing again on Sunday night.
We land up being able to sleep in till pretty late on Saturday. The tent doesn't get too hot and the neighbors don't get to noisey, too early in the morning. We hang with our gang, which I gotta say is a pretty lovely one comprised of close friends...
cool german kids, a super drunk guy in a hardhat...
... and one very special birthday man.
In her genius Anja's organised breakfast - crackers with humus, cream-cheese, tomato and mussels. This doesn't feel like Koppi, but it's freaking awesome.
We break away from the campsite to catch the Most Amazing Show. For the most part it's line for line the same routine they were doing at Koppi in 2004. It's hard laughing at jokes someone told you 6 years ago, but it's a nice way to start the day. We've got a little gap to chill round the campsite again and then we head to the Red Bull stage for Mr Sakitumi. He's great.
We mission back down the mountain. It's time for Lucky Fonz IIIrd. He was my most exciting discovery of Koppi 09 and his performance that night was honestly one of my most special live-music-moments of last year. When he starts I'm initially kinda underwhelmed - sorta confused by how he'd had such an impact on me last year. But by the end of his set he's completely reminded me why; the man is hands down one of the most sincere, powerful, unique individuals I've ever seen behind a guitar and a microphone. This moment is too perfect. The sun is setting red behind Lucky. I turn around and hundreds of people are strewn up the mountainside behind us. The vast majority of these people are dead quite - totally transfixed by the sound of one man and a guitar. Friends, smiles, last rays of light and broken Afrikaans. Too perfect.
By the next time we watch an act it's well into the night. Yesterday's Pupil has kinda broken the rules. The Red Bull stages features a table that runs across the entire thing. For a 3 day lineup of strictly electronic acts this makes all kinds of sense. But now that it's his turn to play on it, Peach has gone and mixed things up. He's shifted his entire set up into the narrow space between the front of this table and the edge of stage. This means he needs to stand perpendicular to his laptop, but the space constraints don't seem to bother him at all. "I want to be close to you" he tells the crowd. He plays a stormer of a set, featuring a few rock-solid new tracks and a small collection of older favourites.
After YP we head to the top bar for a drink. Shockingly, this is the first time that Anja has actually been oppi koppi. The vibe's pretty freaking sweet - there's some righteous 60ies rock playing and people are merry as hell. We find a table, but pretty quickly get lured onto the dancefloor. Durring a Foo Fighters song I realise that for the first time all day I'm really rocking out. It feels really wrong, I'm at a music festival with dozens of live acts and yet the first time I'm really really dancing is to a recording that was made when I was 14. So it goes.
We land up getting totally sucked into Sideshow's DJs set. She's only playing rock and roll and every song is a hit. But ranging from 50ies to 90ies stuff, every hit is a great song. Every one. And there's Pixies and Flaming Lips and The Kinks. I write her a note that says "Amazing Set" and has a drawing of a little dude saying "yay!". I'm too shy to give it to her so I land up dancing instead. I run into a bunch of the friends I've been missing all festival. Anja convinces me to give the DJ my note. We dance dance dance dance some more.
By the time we register how late it is we realise we've missed Haezer. Fail. But we've had a ton of fun, so it's also a win. We adventure back down the hill and hang out in the camp site till our eyes start falling shut.
I'm feeling proud of myself for still feeling as good as I do when I wake up on Sunday morning. Anja and I eat the last of our awesome breakfast stuff. Head into the arena to watch Dead Alphabet. Order pizza. Hang out on the grass in the shade. Run into more of the friends I'd missed the rest of the weekend. Phil, Kyle, Cale and the legendary Alex Parker. Watch Fire through the Window. Then Wrestlerish. Fantastic. Collect pizza. Eat pizza. Chill.
From Pizza time not a whole lot happens until Tumi in the evening. In the past I LOVED Tumi's old band, The Volume, and went on a few pretty ridiculous missions to see them. Now he's playing with an all new band, who are kinda a Pretoria rock and roll dream-team. P-Dog (Yesterday's Pupil/ Shu) on drums, Alex and Franco of Isochronous on keys and bass and Kidofdoom's "Gangster of Love" on guitar and vocals - this band is perfect. Honestly they could be backing Justin Bieber and I'd still be mesmerized. Given the fact that they're accompanying a a voice as powerful and profound as Tumi's and I think my brains are about to start leaking out of my ears.
The music is a whole bunch less hip hop than I expected. Tumi hasn't just recruited these kids as competent session musicians to re-create backtracks. In every instrument you keep hearing the personality of the musician coming through. As such Tumi's act is now one of the finest examples of Pretoria's "fuck-yeah" sound. And yet it's even more than that. Because there's Tumi. The speed that he throws ideas at the crowd is relentless. He's spitting out brilliant, optimistic, revolutionary energy like a magic machine gun. Every couple of seconds there a line I wish I could write down to remember. But before I have chance to engrave it into my memory I forget it as the next one hits me.
Of all his profound lyrics only the most simple line sits bouncing around in my head after the show finishes."I don't know what I've been told! but this shit sounds like rock and roll!". And that's exactly what this is.
Easily the most rock and roll moment of the festival.
People are going wild. Tumi's working the crowd like a master puppeteer. The band cover a whole lot of ground - there's even a Yesterday's Pupil cover. For the final track it's just carnage. Wall of sound and audio-endued euphoria. Incredible.
We re-unite with the core-team back at the campsite. Everyone seems to be similarly, wonderfully dazed by what just went down. By the time we need to head back to the stages for the Philly Jays it seems no-one even has the energy to leave yet. Anja and I head up on our lonesome.
Did I mention the festival has sold out this year? It's the first time in Koppi's 16 year history that they've reached capacity and right now you can really feel it. We fight our way through the crowds, and in the distance we can hear the bearded Australians have already started. We break out of all the people and are almost running to the stage. Someone calls me. It's Lara. I say a quick yo and then spin around to race to the Philly Jays. My face is kinda stuck. I've attached it to the branch of a thorn tree.
I detach my face from the branch and catch up to Anja at the stage. She hooks me up with a wet wipe to hold over my bleeding face. It's just a couple of cuts, not like I look like something out of Evil Dead.
Tonight The Philadelphia Grand Jury are like a whole new band. Maybe it's that people remember the songs from Friday night. Maybe it's that their frantic energy is better contained on a smaller stage. Whatever the reason, The Philly Jays are on fire. And the crowd are just loving it. During their song about going to the casino, the backing vocal of "hey! hey! hey!" turns into a war chant. The guy that does less singing and more freaking out is going totally nuts. And from time to time the drummer goes so crazy it's like he's trying to challenge the bassist/ guitarist/ keyboardist to a spazz out duel. He ends the set in a flurry of sticks and arms. People are screaming. Really screaming. The guitarists are falling around the stage. This is total magic. Carnage.
From here out we don't catch any more live shows. Hit the top bar for Dr Khumalo's DJ set. Then the campsite for a last little hangout before passout. I fall asleep in our tiny tent thinking about the past 3 days. A few dazzling moments of live music and a whole bunch more moments of awesome times with awesome people. Fuck yeah.