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Thornfest 2011

Apocalypse Wow

by Mark Sinclair, images by Kevin Goss-Ross / 15.02.2011

In the campsites, people converse about the bands and their music; back at the stages the bands converse about people and their music. To stand in between all the stages is to hear a mash up of sounds. The deep bass, guitar riffs, singing, screaming it all comes across as audio chaos. It sounds like the Psy-mansion stage has something very important it’s trying to get across to Infrasonic’s DUB; like The Black Dahlia is having an argument with The Burn and the Main Stage is simply trying to assert its authority. Rumours abound around which sounds to hear, to sear your ears with, which bands to catch and interact with, about which band members are attractive and it’s all as satisfying as a crack-hit. Festivals. Oh how they touch my soul.

I arrive with a sleeping bag, clothes, 2 camping chairs, a solitary beer, 2 of this, 2 of that, 20 of those and plenty of smokables. Oppikoppi taught me to travel light; sleeping in the back of my car is the plan. My only concern is waking up midday with my insides cooked through, and a starved festival zombie drooling at the window, attracted by the scent of scorched flesh. First thing I do is set up the chairs near my friends and engage with them in a joint venture. It’s 18:15 Thursday. We head off to the Cool Runnings Open Mic Stage to watch A Fate Like Yours.

Thornfest 2011

I realize then that I have been listening to a lot of post-hardcore, because when I saw two guys each with a mic in their hand, I immediately thought one would be singing and the other screaming. Not a fuck. It was a complete release to arrive at that stage, stoned out of my tree after a long day of work and Joburg traffic, and have my face ripped off by the primal screams of those two men. They pull out a Spongebob Squarepants inflatable boogie board and invite people to surf the crowd in between, intermittently beating them over the heads with it. A few minutes later the moshing starts. It’s all high energy; it’s just what I need to get into the zone, into that festival state of mind.

After the band I scope around and find that beers are 30% cheaper at the Psy-Mansion and I decide then that I will make constant pilgrimages for the discount. I use one of the aforementioned beers to wash down half a pill as I bounce to the trance that would later become a kind of sanctuary, a source of comfort for the remainder of my Thornfest experience. From there the night is composed of running from stage to stage, catching this and that, a swirl of colours and sounds, a lot of Jaeger and another half a pill. Guns Go Bang (the most obvious statement of the night) is impressive but not my cup of tea. Not in the state of mind I’m in. Dance you’re on Fire hits the spot perfectly with their indie-lite sounds and melodious songs, which always have me swaying and singing along. Mazaru catches me off guard; after I heard they had didgeridoos and other trippy sounds I thought I was in for some type of psychedelic rock… Queue the experi-metal! I listen in for a while but the music doesn’t grab me. My indifference has more to do with my preconceptions and neurochemistry at the time. I retreat back to the trance.

Thornfest 2011

Suddenly it’s 11:30 on Friday and I’m waiting for Bringing a Shark to a Gunfight to start, munching a gram of shrooms and reflecting on the night before. At about 2 that morning a shirtless man pitched up at the Jaeger truck and since it was freezing he was quickly quizzed. Turns out a random girl invited him back to her tent for a “shesh.” He was totally down and half undressed by the time he entered the said tent, only to find that “shesh” means to smoke a hubbly. He retreated in embarrassment and went to the truck to find his friends. I laughed at him for a while before the MDMA made me generous and I gave him my hoody, poor cold bastard.

You can always count on the heavy music to wake you up and get you ready for the day. I have no idea what any of their songs are about, because I’m not fluent in RAAAAHHHRRR, but Bringing a Shark bring it. I’m buzzing by the time I get back to camp for my midday jay. Blazing in the blazing sun, the heat of those tents is more than I can bear for more than an hour at a stretch. Conversations revolve around the interesting things the “vendors” are selling around the camp site. My curiosity is piqued by the term 2-CI. I’ve had 2-CB on various occasions; it’s like a more psychedelic MDMA without the rush. The difference is that 2-CB is illegal but 2-CI is not. Does that make 2-CI the safe choice? Not a fuck. 2-CB is manufactured underground in pill form at exact doses, pure white, pressed and stamped. It was a legal smart drug in Amsterdam for a while, so its manufacture process is quite professional as far as illegal drugs go, whereas any idiot with enough imagination to write a convincing letter can purchase 2-CI by the gram online, as a “research chemical”. They then have to split the gram of white crystalline powder into a 100 equal part and since milligram scales run into thousands of Rands, chances are they’re eyeballing it. You might just get a threshold dose or you might trip very hard. Don’t ask me how I know all this.

Thornfest 2011

The drug takes hold in about a half an hour, and my internal dialogue begins to resemble Finnegan’s Wake. And when he sprocked his spetch, it warbed and wangled, as he flipped his hole head duppy and they all drunk free.
“Jesus I’m tripping hard. I don’t know if I can handle this. How much longer is it gonna be? 6 hours?! And how long’s it been? 5 minutes?”
I need to just be by myself for a while, to take what I’m feeling and attempt to express it in this linear data stream known as words is unthinkable. Holding down a conversation is impossible and for some reason under the influence of this substance I can’t piss for love or money. I retreat to the trance. When I do finally urinate, it is accompanied by an intense rush of relief. I feel like I can breathe deeper than ever before, the lights in the bathroom are undulating with the music, I see swirls of colour vibrating off every reflection as they morph and swirl, and combine and retract, and fractalate into ever more complex patterns and shapes. It starts to make me dizzy and nauseous. Suddenly I expel the contents of my stomach and emerge from the bathroom a new man. Now where was I? Oh yes, onwards to the stages, I’m ready for social interaction once more.

By the time I locate my friends and am supped full of greenery, we’re heading off to watch Pestroy, the first in a marathon of great music. Pestroy grabs me by the scruff of my neck and shakes off any residual anxiety. Still tripping quite hard, but feeling amazing. I make sure I have no expectations before Seven Year Kismet come on; I don’t want to fall prey to the false assumptions which had been my mistake with Mazaru. The deep throaty screaming vibrates through me like a current. I find it difficult to dance along, although I want to. I can’t quite get the hang of the beat, and find myself simply rocking back and forth like a mental patient. After the intensity of that performance the power-pop of CrashCarBurn is nice and soothing, what can you do but sing along? “Long live tonight!” And then it’s time for Facing The Gallows and The Cavalier back at Dahlia. I’m having the time of my life. The music is gripping me with such intensity, and the line-up is suiting my trip so beautifully with ups and downs, and enough energy to power a small city. Fuck I love festivals.

Thornfest 2011

Facing the Gallows never disappoint, they have the tent in frenzy. The screaming and singing come together perfectly and we’re all whisked away by the feelings they inspire in each of us. Next The Cavalier come on and the lead singer looks like an anime character made flesh; I don’t know if it’s what he’s going for or if it’s the half a bean I popped in my mouth a little earlier. It feels good to have a substance I’m familiar with take hold of my consciousness again. Their performance holds our attention completely, they look so comfortable on stage, they’re letting us into their world now, and all we can do is watch in wonder.

Saturday 17:00 and I’m watching Haggis and Bong. I’m sorry about the lapse in timing. But the acid I took sent me on an adventure. Now this is some trippy shit. You’ll never hear anything like it. The bagpipes, bass, drums and trombone come together in what can only be described as progressive-celtic-fusion-metal. And if that makes no sense to you, then you’re getting the right idea, just hold that concept in your mind and make it better, much better. I bounce between them and Wrestlerish who are rocking out like only they can. After which it’s 340ml and another piece of cardboard.

Thornfest 2011

They’re such a pleasant break from the overload of rock. I am always impressed by their stage presence. How they can hold your attention, and keep you right there throughout the performance. “Tonight can only be amazing,” is the message they send with every song. I sway along, held in place by their music. They are followed by Desmond and the Tutus, Van Coke Cartel and Wonderboom; who become the soundtrack to my trip. Taking me through every experience and feeling I could imagine. I have to drag myself away for drink and toilet breaks. I can’t get enough. I don’t want to go home. I think of Jesus; looking into his father’s eyes on the third day and saying, “Dad, do I really have to go back? Do you know what they did to me the last time I was down there?”

Hog Hoggidy Hog nail it. I’m deep into it now and thinking to myself, “you must remember.” But it’s so much to take in. Words become superfluous when you no longer experience the music on a conscious level but instead feel it with every cell in your body. This is what festivals do to me; this is why I love them. The trumpet and trombone touch my soul, I’ve never felt like learning to play an instrument so badly. Any instrument. I want to talk with music; I never want to use words again. “Arupt-dah, dah-dah, dah-daaaaah…” If only I could take you there with these simple words, if only I could give you a little taste of what it was like. You’ll have to settle for this second hand account, this reflection of an experience. If only you were there, then my words could just help you re-flash on the occasion. Take you back one more time for a moment of nostalgia. I retreat to the trance; the night is not over…

Thornfest 2011

Thornfest 2011

Thornfest 2011

Thornfest 2011

Thornfest 2011

Thornfest 2011

Thornfest 2011

Thornfest 2011

Thornfest 2011

Thornfest 2011

Thornfest 2011

*All images © Kevin Goss-Ross.

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RESPONSES (39)
  1. 2c says:

    wow. you’re so cool. you take drugs and stuff. you could have maybe called this piece…The Art of Shlockness

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  2. Marx the Spot says:

    au contraire… I thought this was pretty cool. Well written and unflinchingly honest about the drug use – which is a major part of the music festival experience for a lot of people out there. He’s not saying do drugs, numbnuts. Neither is he saying drugs are cool. He’s just describing how the experience was for him, including what he took, how it made him feel and what the music was like.

    Oh and the pics are befok!

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  3. Anonymous says:

    insane photos. best i’ve seen here in ages. I couldnt finish the article. Fake Hunter S motherfucker. take less drugs. learn how to write.

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  4. Duran says:

    Kevin, your pix are fucking rad 🙂

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  5. Mark Sinclair says:

    Yeah, and then my pseudonym could have been The Shlockness Monster 🙂

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  6. Jim says:

    I agree, this is suppose to be about how a festival was, not how certain drugs make you trip

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  7. bob says:

    You went to a festival and took some drugs, and then wrote a shitty article about it, congratulations. I’m not one to slate people on here, but this didn’t deserve to be published. Sick photos by Kevin though.

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  8. Barabas says:

    @Bob:

    Fuck dude, if you think this is bad, read the one about up The Creek.

    Agreed on the photies – fucken great.

    As for the drug issue, there’s no point in promoting the new rash of unresearched research chemicals. Muppets will just damage themselves on that shit anyway. Giving that stuff exposure implicates the author in the certain unfortunations that result.

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  9. 2c says:

    No. Your pseudonym would be…Useless Gonad.

    As in. Art of Shlockness by Useless Gonad.

    BTW. Watch A Gentlemen Bronco for a good story that kind of revolves around gonads.

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  10. 2c says:

    Then change your pseudonyn to Uselss Gonad-anus…and you will become…mysterious.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    You dont even do gonzo well.
    You mentioned more drugs, and in more details, then you did bands.
    if you’re older than 21 i would be fucking suprised.
    whole focus of this piece was the author.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    people who argue ‘he’s just describing her personal experience’ should remember they invented blogs for that shit.

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  13. Marx the Spot says:

    This guy’s writing is nothing like Hunter S Thompson… comparing the two based purely on the description of drug use shows that you have not actually read any Hunter S Thompson. Or you did not actually read this.

    Neither up the creek or thornfest are shitty articles. They’re just attempts at “personal journalism”. How was it for you Mark? Show don’t tell.

    From this we get much better insight how Thornfest was from an everyman… who played, what they sounded like, it grapples with the intangibles like vibe and atmosphere. It’s like POV festival porn. I found it refreshing. Gives us an honest and glimpse into a particular milieu.

    I think a lot of the reaction and those obvious rehashed HST references (bit o’ lazy, non-literary knee jerk there anonymous?) comes from a kind of druggie one upmanship… or worse a jaded druggie one upmanship – which has absolutely nothing to do with HST – and everything to do with dissing and diminishing the writing because they’ve been there done that and it was longer, harder, better and now they’ve moved on and discovered yoga, muesli and the history channel and that makes them far more effective on a daily basis at the advertising agency where they work – and invariably they look down their noses on what they perceive as just another druggy festival narrative, without really engaging in the attempt to capture an experience honestly.

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  14. Mark Sinclair says:

    You are all completely right, my interest in altered states of consciousness surpasses my interest in bands. I am a psychonaut before a “writer.” I would rather take psychedelics and wallow in my own thoughts then buckle down and try to impress you. And I feel sorry for HST that he’s been whittled down to a mere symbol of the drugged up journalist. That’s what my “writing” is about, but it’s a mere sideline of Gonzo.

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  15. Greg says:

    YO DUDE. I’m the half naked guy who wanted the sesh!!! Hahaha also the guitarist from A Fate Like Yours! What an epic jouney u went on.. I still have ur hoody thanks so much!!! we must get in touch so i can give it back.. Hahahaha ‘sesh’ = hubbly wat the hell???

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  16. Anonymous says:

    if marks responsibility is to relate his experience of the festival to us (accompanied with a free pass and some plus ones for a friend) then he should be responsible enough to be able to offer a better account, and not distract himself with drugs, distract us with their description. Then it is not a fair reflection of the fest at all.

    Hunter got away with it cause he managed to bring across something worth even more than the intended brief when he did tangents like this. He didn’t describe the colours reflecting in the bathroom (off what, his wee?) and such like. He got to the meat and grit of social philosophies in the context.

    This was shameless. If anything, let us know you’re intoxicated. But let us know every time you smoked a joint (with time stamps) and popped a pill or acid tab.

    Self indulgent. He went there feeling rockstar, press pass, lots of drugs, and a Mahala to write for.

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  17. dudie says:

    Guys – you need to stop referring to everything written in the first person as Thompson style. He wasn’t the first person to do that! Your point of reference is extremely narrow. The style of writing is in the New Journalism echelon – stop throwing Hunter Thompson’s name in there like he invented the thing. For one, this article didn’t get political. Blame it on Hemingway rather – all the new journalists in the 60’s learned solely from him, and we learn from them. It’s the same as bitching at every guitarist for playing blues licks.
    This article was good – you can’t argue that.

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  18. 2c says:

    This was no great shark hunt.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    Well, I get to shoot both you two down with some satisfaction here:
    Gonzo =/= Hunter S Thompson.
    As a term it was first used to describe him, yes. But not him exclusively.
    The term I used was gonzo. Which is a subjective journalist approach. In which you failed, by focusing on what you deemed to be important details (the drug use, even over the effects) and leaving us the viewer with not much else to work on except ‘well, at 18:15 on Friday this guy took pill number 1, come 5pm on Sat and he’s hitting that IC-P shit, hard’.

    Whats funny is your own leap to HST in reference to the drug use has defined yourselves as those you were describing.

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  20. 2c says:

    More like shooting guppies in a barrel. yes. indeed. a regualr gormless guppy fest. No greatness. No glory. Just colourful guppies…That said. To guppies it would be pure unadulterated porn. And as their lawyers…I would suggest investigating the ways of the Spotted Piranha

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  21. 2c says:

    Did Tom Wolfe ingest vast quatiies of chemical substances? Get back on the bus bitches.

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  22. dudie says:

    anonymous – the term you used was: “fake hunter s motherfucker.”

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  23. A Hypocrite Like You says:

    @ Anonymous “Well, I get to shoot both you two down with some satisfaction here:” That’s all you guys are here for isn’t it? You get satisfaction from putting other people down and claim that you want to see better writing. But you don’t. If you did you would reach into your evidently vast bank of intellect and perhaps throw scraps to those of us who can’t see things from your point of view, instead of “shooting people down.” And with SATISFACTION no less.

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  24. dudie says:

    hypocrite – that’s all these guys have, to rant online and watch scat porn. i dare anonymous to write an article for all of us to read, because obviously he can string words together, at least in every comments section of this site … unless he has already?

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  25. Anonymous says:

    kevin, yes please

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  26. mega-douche says:

    @dudie, when you suggested the watching of ‘scat porn’… i did so laugh! bwah!

    the story was cool, and i took no harm in the drug bits, they even kinda made me laugh a little. nice.

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  27. LukeSkyCrawler says:

    As the slogan goes – ”Mahala writers – hand picked from rehab centres around S.A” ….

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  28. Shad The Inhaler says:

    Um…ok, some drug history for you, Mark.

    2-CB was legal in South Africa, and quite freely available, in the 90s. Which is when it was fairly popular on the rave scene, under the name Nexus. It was also, for a period, sold in Lesotho as a divination aid for sangomas. No shit. At that time, it was manufactured in Germany. But since it became illegal in Europe, it’s been made illegaly.

    Seeing as you’re a likely candidate for it, I’d suggest you go to erowid.org for info in future, if you haven’t already. This applies to all you potential guinea pigs of new substances.

    Good luck out there, don’t hurt yourself.

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  29. james says:

    Drugs must’ve been good cos most of the bands you enjoyed are kak (excl 340 and Hogs)

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  30. Anonymous says:

    Everyone’s a journo these days.

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  31. George Bacon says:

    I was there. This is exactly what it was like!

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  32. King Mob says:

    Hey, i just want to offer the most humble heartfelt apologies to all you obvious harvard/Rhodes journalism graduates who are mercilessly directed here expecting formal commentary of literary standard that behooves your esteemed intellectual pedigree. It must hurt then, to read the personal and admittedly, at times, self-absorbed litanies of the irreverant youth of our times.
    You cannot be faulted for the inevitable explosion of ire that explodes from your already bloated craniums.

    go easy on the haterade, it’l lgive you prostate cancer.

    That said, Kiff story, wish i was there, sounds like it was a blast,

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  33. King Mob says:

    Hey, i just want to offer the most humble heartfelt apologies to all you obvious harvard/Rhodes journalism graduates who are mercilessly directed here expecting formal commentary of a literary standard that behooves your esteemed intellectual pedigree. It must hurt then, to read the personal and admittedly, at times, self-absorbed litanies of the irreverant youth of our times.
    You cannot be faulted for the inevitable explosion of ire that explodes from your already bloated craniums.

    go easy on the haterade, it’l lgive you prostate cancer.

    That said, Kiff story, wish i was there, sounds like it was a blast,

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  34. wideanglelenz says:

    the hottest pix currently out there! keep them coming!

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  35. Max says:

    Kevin never disappoints. Good job dude

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  36. Kevin Goss-Ross says:

    Thanks for the comments about the photographs. Glad people enjoyed them. Thornfest really is an underrated little festival. I’ll keep going – untill it gets big.

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  37. Anonymous says:

    This was incredibly uninteresting. And yeah, you sound like a tool.

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  38. Womble says:

    Oooooooo! I’m so hardcore! Pretentious tit.

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  39. Uncle says:

    You guys all sound like a bunch of old woman moaning about some random BULLSHIT

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