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Art, Culture, Music

Pushing the Daisies

by Hugh Upsher / 15.10.2013

It is safe to say festivals like Rocking the Daisies are a suburban kid’s party paradise. There are no roadblocks, no car guards and no way of telling if the person you are hooking up with is fugly (at least until the next morning). Daisies has the added bonus of making you feel environmentally friendly with options to cycle or walk there, to which almost everyone politely thinks: “That’s such a cool idea!… but no”.


Rocking The Daisies was an impressively organised weekend with mind blowing headliners and an overall great experience. Due to previous critical engagements with the Daisies (here and here) Team Mahala was denied Media passes for this year’s shindig, which meant I had to buy my own and so without guilt or hesitation I can also add that essentially it was 15 000 people driving an hour out of Cape Town in the cars their parents bought them, to consume record amounts of Mainstay, Black Label and MDMA until they pass out. Despite the PR blitzkrieg, the festival doesn’t scream sustainability or green, especially when surveying the aftermath of the camping area on Sunday morning.


The great thing about a sold out festival is every act is guaranteed a sizeable audience regardless of their time-slot or location. From Beach Party’s set on Friday afternoon to Matthew Mole’s Sunday session, crowds were everywhere and the overcast weather meant they weren’t scrambling for shade.

I was surprised to see the Dirty Skirts on the line-up and assumed it would be a reunion gig packed with the high-energy classics that have made them such a formidable live band. But instead they used the platform to showcase their morbid third album. What a vibe kill.

Wet Sock

On the way back to my whiskey and lemon twist refuelling station I heard a familiar sound leaking out of the humble campsite stage. I ended up being drawn into a full set by Momantss. A band that has been falling between the local music scene cracks for too long due to their unique brand of jazz-infused-heavy-rock-hip-hop. Multiple stages delivering top talent simultaneously is just something South African audiences will have to get used to.

Back at the main stage P.H.fat managed to hold down a headline slot with ease, which was especially impressive considering they recently lost one third of their stage presence. Their dangerous brand of nihilism was stupidly infectious to the hungry crowd. Despite their surprising crossover qualities I couldn’t help but think they would have had an even larger, madder crowd if they were across on the Electro Stage instead.


The Electro stage seemed like the logical conclusion to my Friday night but I found myself hitting an invisible wall as the growls of the classic Fat Man Scoop Anthem entered my ears. I was not completely discouraged but decided to seek shelter in the Nu World Beat Barn until the trash storm passed over. Ten minutes later I step out only to hear that Black Eyed Peas Classic ‘Shut Up’. Damn you Ready D.


The next morning I was surprised to find my friends and I amongst the only people standing timidly in our boardies preparing to brave the freezing dam water. This was especially strange considering the queues for the mobile showers were 3 hours long. The water may have been one-third piss but the joke was on them because in fifteen seconds flat I was de-filthed and my hangover was gone.


Al Bairre had been swiftly shipped down from the Joburg ‘In the City’ concert for their midday slot. They did well to set the bar for the remainder of Saturday afternoon with what I would simply describe as “happy music”. The lead singer was wearing a shirt six sizes too big for him. A metaphor for the growth of his band?


Later that night a random girl would introduce the violinist of Al Bairre to me as ‘my famous friend’. I took the opportunity to enquire if she was a member of Beach Party and pressed on mentioning every band on the lineup except Al Bairre. By the time I asked ‘Are you Spoek Mathambo?’ she lashed out and said some nasty things I dare not repeat in a public forum.


Desmond & The Tutus are now grizzled veterans of the South African festival scene. They proved it by entrancing the portion of the Daisies crowd that wasn’t glued to the rugby or stubbornly stomping away at the Mainstay tent.

I was disappointed to see Spoek Mathambo play a loose set that suggested his backing band were in desperate need of a couple more rehearsal sessions. My next refueling session was severely delayed as I struggled to wind my way out of the gridlocked crowd. Alt-J definitely took the cake for most hardcore fans of the weekend. Some girl insightfully explained to me that they recreated all the sounds on the album live. To which I thought, “that’s generally how it works isn’t it?” It hadn’t even got to sundown and 20-year-old white girls were peeing in bottles to keep their prized spot.

The upside of this was that when Alt-J finished, the mass exodus meant I could spear right into front centre for The Hives. I’m not going to elaborate on my unhealthy obsession or try converting anyone but the song “The Hives Are Law, You Are Crime” sums up their approach.


Skunk Anansie, a band that many had reserved expectation from, closed off the main stage. The band’s sound hasn’t dated at all and the crowd watched in awe as they piled up hits you didn’t even know existed. The crowd shared a collective moment of disbelief when she announced that her last tour visit was 16 years ago. One thing that was evident from Rocking the Daisies is that great bands don’t come from talent or a couple of catchy songs. Great bands are moulded over consistent, long, hard graft.

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