In Dust We Trust | Part 2by Max Barashenkov / Images by Kevin Goss-Ross / 15.08.2012
The Messy One Where Faith In SA Music Is Restored
“Why do you guys smell like cocaine?” he lunges at us, leather jacket over his dust-smeared naked torso, delirium in the eyes and continues, “I’m going to Sun City, right now, the Valley Of The Waves, man, you wanna come?”
It’s 11am on Friday morning, but the party at Oppi never really stops going. The weak pass out but are back at it with first light; the strong – like the Sun City thrill seeker – push on. After we disappoint by refusing to go on his quest, he gets in his car and goes for a suicidal joyride around the artist camping, bulldozing bushes, narrowly missing tents and people. Mad fucking Max, the Oppikoppi Road Warrior, fucked to his gills, on a fruitless search for waves. Later, some brave security people throw themselves in front of his Polo, pull him out and ever so gently restrain the beast, while he screams about the millions that are just waiting to be won. Jesus Christ, I think, this is the morning of day two, what kind of madness awaits us tomorrow?
The Cult of Fuck is in full swing. Firefighting helicopters begin spraying cocaine over Mordor. People are turning themselves inside out, peeling off their accountant-lawyer-student-professor-wasteman skins, baring tendons and muscles and organs, one huge fucking orgy of raw humanity. Sure, there is hard drinking at other festivals, but only at Oppi does excess never turn to violence, profanity never morphs to rudeness and the request for a puff-sip-pill is never turned down. It’s that Woodstock mentality of peace and love, just without the hippie bullshit and caked in considerable layers of dirt. It’s no wonder that all the international acts, that will play the following night, stand amazed: “We ain’t never seen shit like THIS before!”
Scenes of bizarre friendships abound – from the two dudes joyfully vomiting in each other’s beanies,
laughing and dribbling brotherhood, to that beautiful glimpse of two girls running through the crowd, ecstasy smiles painted on their faces, one shouting to another: “I love you, dude, let’s go!”
I bask in all this glory, lying poetically arranged on the grass in the shade by the James Phillips stage, preparing to take in Durban’s finest – Fruits & Veggies. They come on sluggish, perhaps weighed down by the party of the night before, but quickly regain their composure and soon enough there is a crowd twisting to their afro-ska-punk despite the three o’clock heat. The sound is horrendous, but the band don’t care, slamming track after track, offering perhaps the most ‘local’ take on the tried and tested upstrokes of ska. Purity, the entrancing leader of this cabal, shakes her hips, her voice sex itself. It’s impossible not to be in love with them in that moment and, by the time they drop a cover of Gogol Bordello’s ‘Sally’, there is hardly a man or woman in the audience that isn’t wishing for Fruit & Veg to play a small club near them. Once they are done, the elation carries us to the main stage, Wesley’s Dome (a new and gargantuan construction to rival any stage anywhere in the world), to be quickly squashed by Jeremy Loops. Don’t get me wrong, the man is good at what he does, it’s just that what he does isn’t very good. It’s his method, the live looping (note the ‘very clever’ parallel between his style and his name) of instruments, that makes him stand out from the general mass of pop-rock musicians, but once you’ve seen him do one track, the rest of the act becomes boring and predictable.
Oppikoppi is full of such juxtapositions – the pairing of truly great and original acts with weak rubbish, a tribute to the commercial nature of music. The herd must be fed, for the herd is what pays. It is a fine line to walk and, for the most part, Hilltop Live manage their line-ups intelligently, but sometimes fuck ups do happen. Take for example this progression: BLK JKS play Wesley’s Dome at 6pm, followed by Thieve on James Phillips (the second biggest stage of the fest) at 7pm. The afro-jazz-rock-fusion quarter lay waste, claiming their rightful place as the top dogs of the local rock ‘n roll game. “I’ve been sleeping with my witchdoctor,” the frontman shouts as they kick us in the teeth time and time again. And we love it. Watching the BLK JKS is like snorting coke mixed with gunpowder. Logic would then dictate that this superb musical high would be taken a level up by the next act, but it is hard to call what Thieve do ‘music’. They were shit three years ago and, as it happens with excrement, have only gotten worse with age. Who the fuck even let them into Oppikoppi? I don’t get it. Perhaps they are being ultra ironic with their name and the fact that they rip off other musician’s styles? When you sound like aKing, a derivative of a derivative, you should just quit with at least some grace. I am about to condemn popular South African guitar music to a life of emulation, but then I watch The Brother Moves On and everything changes.
Holy fuck! Holy fuck, fuck and fuck again! I have never, ever seen anything like this before and now, after having my brains blown all over the koppi at the back of the Skellum stage, I don’t want to see anything else. The Brother Moves On are, hands down, no questions asked, the best band in the country right now. They are The Locust of ‘brown’ music (something, the vocalist explains, that doesn’t mean ‘black’ but ‘from the southern hemisphere’). I’m too shit of a writer to even attempt to describe their sound – it’s hinged somewhere in that experimental space between jazz, all forms of afro-fusion, prog, dance punk, poetry, noise, art, psychedelic rock, wild fucking, youthful abandon, mature contemplation of the world and a myriad of other things that no pen will ever wrestle onto a page. From the opening vocal harmonies, you stand there, entranced, unable to move, despite the fact that your body is spazzing and grooving like never before. You can’t believe what you are seeing – it’s part sermon, part theatre performance, part balls-out rock ‘n roll show. The man in the black, with a lion’s mane around his painted face, is freaking out on stage, interpreting The Brother Moves On’s music in angular movements while a Sangoma toi-tois through the crowd, whipping the audience into wild hysteria. The band almost single-handedly (with some help from the BLK JKS and Fruit & Veg) restores my faith in SA music. Great bands we have, but 95% of them are good at emulating over-seas sounds. What The Brother Moves On do is so incredibly South African, so disarmingly real and honest, so goddamn intense. They effortlessly avoid the clichés of ‘afro’ music; that blanket term music journos employ to signify some form of African authenticity. In fact, TBMO take those pre-conceptions, chew them dead and shit them right back your face. They are not without humour, mixing political satire (don’t even get me started on the brilliance of Black Diamond Butterfly’s public service rap) with songs about ancestors and witchdoctors, while keeping things ferociously leftwing (“2014, it’s the youth’s turn to vote,” the vocalist sneers after pointing out that the government is indeed our government and that none of us should forget that). They deserve features written about them, their name to be shouted on every street corner, other musicians to be forced to watch them and learn what it is really like to be a South African band.
After that religious experience, there is little I can do but throw myself onto the ground for the 340ml set, soak in their post-rock-flavoured dub, float along to their perfectly smooth songs and grin like a witless fool when they ask the audience to shout their own names. At Oppikoppi all our names are ‘Raaaght!’…
(Part 3 coming up tomorrow. Featuring the promised camp-side habits of Oppi goers – which simply didn’t fit into this one; Peachy Keen, The Stellas, robbing Google, Black Handed Kites, Eagles of Death Metal, Enter Shikari, the fiends of Oppikoppi toilets, Seether, Jack Parow and other treats.)