Apocalypse Wowby 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
*All images © Kevin Goss-Ross.