Branding the Daisiesby Bartlett / 12.10.2012
OK, so the way we’re gonna play this is to treat this review like a roast. Rocking the Daisies (RTD) is getting roasted because they’re the ones who’ve actually done something by pulling off a big-ass music festival and making a name for themselves in the process. Industry respect and all that.
Because we’re ‘the media’ and have nothing much else to do than jack off to Sorkin’s didactic dialogue in The Newsroom, we get to do the roasting. We’re the ones holding the mic for as long as we hold your attention. Our self-appointed job is to act as the lube between the shameless self-promoters out there and you, our ADHD public that we seemingly so selflessly serve.
Back in nobler times in lands with loftier ideals, we were called ‘the watchdog of society’. But who are we kidding? Round here we’re nothing but pavement specials, sniffing in gutters for discarded KFC chicken bones and the scent of something contentious to retweet or pontificate about. Media drivel drives the machine and drowns out a silence once preserved for the harvesting of stuff like introspection and original thought.
So with that said, on with the show. Thanks for the free tickets, Rocking the Daisies. The VIP camping and parking was rad, and big up to y’all for making this past weekend happen. Now don’t take this shit personally yo, we’re just doing our job like you did yours. But the gloves are off and it’s time for our Mahala Roast of Rocking the Daisies…
BRANDING THE DAISIES
This is not a music festival. This is not a green festival. This is one big brand activation. It’s a money-spinner, straight up. The organizers took a bath the first few years as they got RTD up and running, and now they’re cashing in. And who can blame them? Creating jobs in this country that aren’t a mile down a mineshaft should get you a statue outside of parliament, not the mudslinging of some blogger calling you a sellout. But sold out they have. Signs on the way to the festival told us as much.
The Festival Is Sold Out.
If we’re honest about that much we can turn our attention to a review of the brands that were at play. Because hey, again, if we’re being honest, most of us were far too shmangled to give a fair critique of the bands that played…
Rocking the Daisies. Full disclosure: this was my first RTD festival. So can you blame me for expecting to rock some actual daisies? No daisies in sight, no daisy chains even. Just those damn miniature daisy weeds that surely don’t count, and some Hemporium hemp daisies that made for pretty decoration until they got zyfed by drinkers on the way back to their tents.
The Sound. Let me not mince my words here. The sound was shit. Embarrassingly so. I’m speaking specifically about the sound on the main stage. It was soft and muffled, like it was coming from a Walkman. Bass that just evaporated, treble too high, and zero warmth in the mids (vocal) range. Thirty metres back from the impressive looking, RTD-branding-ensconced stadium scaffolding, and you could have a mellow conversation without raising your voice. That’s just not rock ’n roll.
To get something as important as sound – at your main stage, at a music festival – so horribly wrong seemed unfathomable to me, so I asked some industry insiders that were there over the course of the weekend what the dealio was, and they were all as perplexed as I was. It seems like some other politics were at play here perhaps, and the word ‘budget’ got offered up as an excuse.
But that shit don’t cut the mustard when you’re blowing your entertainment budget for the whole month in one weekend to see Bloc Party, and when that moment arrives and they’re onstage giving it their all, and you’re trying to get into it but can’t because you can hardly hear what they’re singing about, that’s the kind of shit that gives Capetonians a bad name as a party crowd – and we (Capetonians) be having none of that. Stick it to us with some fat bass trance beats and we’ll turn this Mother City into the next Ibiza. In fact, we done that already yo. So turn it up a notch next year Daisies. Bring out Bryan Adams and we be Waking Up The Neighbours.
49M. Huh? Who? What? They were the title sponsors so I’m guessing they dropped the most deniro. And I’m guessing that 49M represents the 49 million people in this country, and I figure that the campaign has something to do with us using our electricity wisely. But should I have to think so much about who and what a title sponsor actually are? Shouldn’t they be doing some of the explaining? They handed out these glow sticks that were gloriously dangerous airborne missiles, and I remember checking Alex, the lead singer of ISO, dodging a few as he pranced about onstage before copping a beer can on the chest during their Friday night set.
49M’s campaign is government money, which means it’s our money. And I’m here to opine that our money was wasted. If you’re going to spend big on a marketing awareness campaign without having a product bringing up the rear, then at least create some goddamn proper awareness. A couple of hipsters with cameras and boom mics and a 49M picture frame snapping your pic and doing some database research doesn’t flip the light switch either way for thousands of nonplussed city slickers.
Red Bull. Still leading the way, still showing everybody else how it’s done. All you brand managers out there, take a page outta the Red Bull Brand Bible. Because their shit is tight. Now you know they must’ve taken a hit on market share with Monster’s big move into the market. All them goddamn Monster trucker caps and stickers, and what with Tony Heneck (one of the original Red Bull ZA dons) running their plays. But naw man, Red Bull just take the hits like some Muhammed Ali ‘dope on a rope’ tactic, and then they rebound hard with Red Bull Blue, Red and Silver. Blueberry, Cranberry, Lime. Three new ways to disguise the taste of taurine. Three new flavours to give you wings.
At RTD they’re all over it. They’ve got their own Red Bull Sound Stage with a sick saddle tent, and DJs up in that bitch from late in the afternoon til early in the morning. Outside of that they’ve got beanbags and a lounge vibe. But where they’re really killing it is at the entrance to the camping where they’ve got one of their Mobile Trucks jamming tunes right next to a brand activation that sees kids queue up to a Red Bull shaped games console and shoot up Red Bull cans like they’re on some Space Invaders/Fruit Ninja tip. Score enough points and you win yourself a free Red Bull. Failing that you can score some cred on the makeshift dancefloor next door. Plus, Red Bulls are cheap at R15 a can, so they must’ve moved volume, and they’ve got distribution exclusivity on lock so there’s zero competition.
But was it their idea to bring out Grandmaster Flash? Come on now, who’s gonna own up to that one? Put your hands up, put your hands up. If you got a twenty dollar bill put your hands up. Christ, I’ll kill that old man myself if I ever hear him shouting over the mic again like that was some Watergate style cover up for the fact that he can’t mix for shit, he’s washed out, played out, sold out and souled out. Unequivocally, that set was the weekend’s low point. He was like a pre-pubescent teen on Ritalin, fast-forwarding through one Top 40 hit chorus to the next. The high point was the intro of Coolio’s ‘Gangsta Paradise’ that he let run for a bit. ’Nuf said. If South Africa has to live up to international standards culturally and creatively, then the converse rule applies. International artists need to recognize and not come out here and drop some pisswilly performance from the ’90s that insults our intelligence and offends our sonic sensibilities.
Jagermeister. I mention them only to again draw comparison with the approach of Red Bull. These guys had a Jagermeister ‘Rock Lounge’ that looked like the Death Star, erected, as it was, all high and mighty and back and centre in the main stage arena. What a wank. It was scaffolding covered in black Jagermeister branding. It looked foreboding, the kind of VIP area that says ‘hey, come on in… if you want to catch the bubonic plague.’ Everybody seemed to be having a great time outside of it, while I’d swear that those on the inside were spaced out zombies, waiting for their nightmare prize (or whatever they did to deserve their admission) to end.
Black Label. This was pretty much the only beer you could drink at the festival, so to compensate for SAB’s obliteration of our commercial right to choose, they threw in a few free pool tables. How swell. Without any coins on the table to denote whose go it was next, conversation with strangers had to be made. It was here I learnt that the 17 year-old kids I was playing pool against were on salvia at the time.
Salvia (full name: Salvia Divinorum) is a psychedelic herb that is from the sage family, and its hallucinogenic effect is somewhere between mushrooms and marijuana. The more often you smoke, the stronger it gets. People have been known to take a bong hit of it in their living room, para out on the shit and then sommer just jump out of the living room window, falling to their death, or maiming themselves forever. Like any good drug, it can fuck with your sense of what is real and what are just your demons coming out to play. Unlike most good drugs though, it’s still legal. Anyhoo, that’s what you learn having a beer and shooting pool with some underage kids. The band Kongos were playing at the time too, and they were awesome!
Hemporium. Speaking of drugs, the Hemporium crew were on a mission to showcase the wonder uses of hemp (not a drug people) and low-impact living by hosting a solar-powered stage and kif teepee vibe. I’d say that this was the heart chakra of the festival: you could pedal a stationary bike and earn kilometers towards a free bike for a kid in Darling. Greenpop was there too, asking us thoughtful questions like what did we really want to do before we died. And Capitec was there with a Swop Shop that probably didn’t get as much traction as it deserved. I came away with a MAWU cowboy-style water papoose that is the bomdiggityshizniz – so keep an eye out for them at Design Indabas and other ‘more cool crap to save the world’ expos to come. Here green was not just the colour of money. It was a conversation, a good intention, and a smoothie.
5 Gum. If at any stage of the festival you wandered goofed into an inflatable igloo, popped on some headphones and listened to a German woman giving you a Nazi-style medical examination, and are now wondering if you were in fact given an anal probe at RTD, fear not. This was merely another brand activation on the part of 5 Gum, owned by Wrigley’s. You have to go onto their Facebook page to find out what the hell happened to you in those three minutes and twenty seconds that you can never have back. I made off with a whole box of gum though, so a bit of mind fucking seemed like a fair trade.
Converse. They had the ‘Colour Me Bad’ Truck. Or maybe it was ‘Keep Cape Town Coloured’. Nope, that couldn’t have been it, because I didn’t see many coloureds up on the VIP deck where they were mixing up virgin cocktails and dishing out candy to the mildly-interested media. ‘Just Add Colour’ – that was it. They were running a nifty colouring-in competition, where you got to design your own pair of Converse sneakers. The top 5 winners at the end of each day would then get to draw on a pair of actual sneakers, with the winner (as voted by the crowd) then making off with some cold hard cash. At least that was the plan. Mostly it just looked like a bunch of grown-up kindergarten stoners that were really getting into their drawing. But props to Converse: they captured our attention, and they make some beautiful shoes. They also roped in Staedtler pencils (I’ve always been more of a Colleen man myself) to do some crazy hair-colouring, and they were well situated next to the Red Bull show on the fringe of the campsite.
Douwe Egberts. This was a corporate-style coffee lounge with people looking for their fix of caffeine, next to Converse. Like the brand Mr Price, just because of how it sounds, you ain’t never gonna make that shit sound cool.
‘Meet you at Vida on Kloof in 15?’
‘Nah man, I’m down for some Douwe Egberts at the V&A dog!’
Didn’t think so. So save your marketing budget and spend it on distribution rather. Up in the food court there were mad queues for coffee. Tea even.
I can keep going, but don’t you have a job to get back to? In wrapping up, Savanna had a Lemon Tree Theatre that kicked ass on the Sunday, Bos had their cute Bossewa vibe tucked too far away in a corner, there was a Shnit 24 hour cinema that was constantly being interrupted by drinkers walking in and proclaiming ‘how can you watch a movie at a music festival?’ (sponsored by Pringles at R10 a pop… sorry, bad payoff pun there, I know), and there were some authentic food stalls, the best being the one selling crepes. Mainstay had a stylish beach bar, and their blue and white string of balloons that got released into Saturday night’s rain soaked sky was a branding triumph. I’d go so far as to call it art. You can stay as you are for the rest of your life, or you can change to…? But spare a thought for the release of hundreds non-biodegradable balloons into the atmosphere.
The best music venue was the Nu World Beat Barn, with Fletcher’s set on Friday night stealing the show. The only thing impressive about Bloc Party was the lead singer’s well-built chest. Arno Carstens is, was, and forever will be a true South African rock god. Even though I’ve recently seen him at the gym wearing white New Balance trainers, and even when the organizers were throwing out giant 49M beach balls into the crowd during his set, he shrugs off all potential for humiliation and ridicule. He simply dominated that big black stage like Roger Federer on Wimbledon Centre Court. He clutches the mic like a tennis pro clutches his racket as he’s about to serve, and then he serves up his mojo for all to see. He was born to occupy that space. And I never meant to enjoy Arno Carstens.
As for the most of the other acts, they drowned in it. The drummer was always too far backstage and the guitarists were miles apart from each. There was zero intimacy to be had up there, and you felt it down below. The bogs just about weathered the shit storm and on the way out we were given a free Vitamin Water to rehydrate, which caused a major traffic jam. I’d thank and blame RTD for that one too, but that was all Synergy and Vitamin Water’s doing – or so we were told on Facebook. Curse Synergy and their dastard ambush marketing ways! Curse them. Anyway, see y’all again at Synergy. I’ll be the guy doing bong hits of Salvia, blowing my brains out to the bass.
Had enough yet? Want more images from Rocking the Daisies, check out our new gallery here.