Originally published 14 August 2012
The Coherent One About Selling Out
I had decided to murder both the videographers even before they got in my car at the Winelands Engen that Wednesday morning. Not that they were bad people, in fact they turned out to be stoic and amiable fellows, but because over the 17 hour drive to Oppikoppi, I needed something to think about. If I was going to the grittiest festival in the country to shoot a video for a couple of brands, I was going to sell out in style. Hey there, Hurley and Boom.fm, here is your viral – a seven hour survival gore horror. Besides, they carried a lot of expensive gear.
It takes a special kind of idiot to drive from Cape Town to Northam in one day, a desperate fool bent on making the most of his limited budget. It’s a grueling trek – sixteen hundred kilometers and the only times the landscape gets more exciting than bush and endless plains is around the Worcester valley just out of the Cape and when crossing the Kgaswane Nature Reserve near Rustenburg – yet it is still cheaper than flying four people up. Straight up the N1, driving like a man possessed, breaking wildly only for speed cameras and robots in deadbeat towns, all the way past Bloem and towards the traffic mire of Joburg. Fuck that swamp, we decide, and turn off towards Vredefort and Parys, up the supposedly closed R500, a road that is more potholes than tar, through the mighty megalopolises of Fochville and Carletonville (a nightmarish town where roads change names and direction as they will, the Spur bacon is rotten and the main drag boast five adult video stores), onto Rustenburg where fearless taxi drivers nearly run us off the road three times and, finally, under the stars again, into Northam, around which bushfires rage. Oppikoppi, we have arrived and you better live up to our effort.
One of the perks of arriving the day before is that you get to take in the festival grounds in their naked state, unmarred by crowds and tranquil due to lack of music. We wander around the empty entertainment area and immediately it becomes apparent that this year Hilltop Live have upped their game three fold. More stages, more lights, more stalls, more tables, more everything really, and all of it laid out in a strategically sound way. We marvel at the tunnels that connect general camping to the entertainment area – ingenious structures the night before; they become dust traps as soon as the first punters are let through the next morning. We note the peculiar absence of toilets, all sanitary facilities confined to one location, a source of much distress in the days to come, when the booze doth flow and the bladder doth burst. And then, we meet Wayne.
A self-professed actuarial pimp in his mid-forties, the man assaults us with tequila shots at one of the few open bars. You see, his ‘faggot boets’, whom he picked up from the airport that morning, had passed out, leaving him in search of new drinking partners. A staunch misogynist, he swears by the mantra of ‘the backhand is for discipline and the forehand is for abuse’ and let’s us in on an important life secret – ‘once you fuck a girl in the ass, you automatically win every argument after’. He is here to party, to see the Kings Of Death Metal (we snigger, but none of us have to balls to correct him) and, by fuck, no number of lightweight pussies are gonna stop him from having a good time. It is characters like him that make arriving a day early, when they aren’t masked by general debauchery, a special treat. We guzzle beers and listen to him rant, culminating in an explanation of the ‘man card’ system. The bastard version of the Bro Code of the actuarial circles, it is incredibly complex, ridden with bylaws and sub-clauses, and the one coherent thing that we can make sense of is that the only way to get your ‘man card’ back, once you have lost face in front of your mates, is to fuck a 21 year old, virgin model. We also learn that ‘internet lesbians’ are way, way hotter than ‘lesbian lesbians’. Mysterious are the ways of the Wayne, who stumbles away after declaring that we are not ‘man card’ material. For us, it is time to get blind drunk on neat vodka around a campfire and to pass out, sleeping off the 17-hour drive.
Thursday morning begins with the customary hangover, nothing new or exciting. The videographers, both Oppi virgins, rush to the media area, a cozy place that makes the likes of us feel important. I, on the other hand, maintain that the media village is solely for charging your gear and taking prolonged shits. Rubbing shoulders with the big names of the writing game is a droll affair. Let them hold their courts. They’re after a different sort of meat – neat and factual, intelligent and insightful, dull and empty. They hound musicians for packaged interviews while the real stories remain the girls with cracked lips and the feral bastards of Mordor.
We prepare to watch the Anti-Retro Vinyls, a disco-pop-punk outfit from Durban. The boys found that predictable 16-beat and are riding it hard, song after song about girls, girls, girls. Catchy and hooky they are, with great back-up vocals, yet one cannot get past the one-dimensional songwriting, the lack of real distinction between the songs, the repetitiveness of a good time. Their vocalist is a Russel Brand/Noel Fielding wannabe and, just by looking at him, you can tell that he loves pussy. The band, in fact, is nothing more than a well-oiled pussy harvester, designed to get the panties first wet, then off. “We’re not used to these festival slots where you have to play for a while. We usually play like 8 songs, get drunk and yeah…” they confess. And you call yourself rock ‘n rollas? Whatever happened to that drive? That notion of playing for as long as possible? For really kicking out the jams? The Anti-Retro Vinyls are part of the recent wave of limp-dick rock ‘n roll that has replaced Indie as the ‘it’ trend in guitar music. The godfathers of it all, Shadowclub, play later in the day, but suck just as much. In my perverted loser world, rock ‘n roll is meant to give you a raging hard-on, yet their music makes my cock and balls retreat in shame back into myself, and I’m not a fan of hairy slits.
It is sad to see great bands, such as Fridge Poetry, be somewhat eclipsed by this farce. The Joburg ska-punkers have grown into a truly smart band since I last saw them two years ago. They’re infectious without dumbing down their sound, bristling with intelligent and imaginative transitions between verse and chorus and other song parts, often bordering on prog. They drop a tremendous Dead Kennedys cover to a luke-warm reception – clearly punk rock is only alive in style in these parts. Sure, their brass section needs a little more confidence on stage, but they are still miles ahead of the rock-pop garbage. It is a shame to leave their set halfway, but the 2nd half of The Make-Overs performance that we scramble to catch is perhaps one of the best shows at this year’s Oppi.
Now this is real rock ‘n roll, no bullshit hairstyles or faggy jeans, no pretense or rock star attitudes, just a guy and girl laying down experimental sounds. It’s hard to quantify them – they’re part garage punk, part noise, part god-knows what else – but what a fucking sight. Their record in no way captures the down-to-earth ferocity of their performance. It’s both chaotic and hypnotic, spit-through-your-teeth punk and stoned post-rock, galloping thrash and messy breakdowns. The Blood Brothers and Circle Takes The Square fiend in me rejoices at the vocals, a perfect blend of male and female harmonies, of wails and screams. I walk away happy as a pig in shit, the shouty line ‘never go back, never go back’ stuck firmly in my head. The next few hours are an expected marathon of beers and shots and joints and proficient yet boring bands. Then it’s midnight and Bittereinder are smacking the crowd with bass and rhymes, doing their thing as only they can, yet the soul craves something more and we stroll over to watch the previously unknown act, by the peculiar name of Boargazm.
Oh sweet, sweet Nazgul of Mordor! Oh the hounds of Hades! This is Pigsqueal Crack City! It is almost too much metal. Almost. Boargazm take no prisoners and leave no woman without child. Imagine every awesome metal riff or part that you have ever heard, from Slayer, to Iron Maiden, to Pantera, to deathcore, all jammed together without the usual metal retardation. They play in pig masks and take the piss constantly, from the vocals in swine, to the semi-demented quips of the frontman. Easily one of the top four acts of the weekend and I freak out to their metal circus, howling for “More Boar!” After the pandemonium of Boargazm, watching BEAST is a sour disappointment. What’s the fucking point of having two basses if one of them sounds like a guitar anyway? It’s tight, yes, it’s pretty damn hooky, yes, it’s at times quite heavy, but is it anything to write home about? No. And Inge, ah Inge, I get that you are yearning for something grittier than the ethereal Lark, but then leave the wailing behind, in this rock ‘n roll context it simply does not work. The supergroup, unsurprisingly, fails to live up to the hype and I desert them for the comforts of the Top Bar and there…
(Part 2 coming at you tomorrow. Featuring Fruits & Veggies, the man that smells cocaine, BLK JKS, Babylon Circus, the forensic investigations of Oppikoppi camp habits, 340ml, the spectacular Brother Moves On and much more.)