Jargon Festby Mahala High Five Brigade / Images by Adam Kent Wiest / 01.12.2011
In one of my favourite scenes from 30 Rock, there’s this one part where Tina Fey’s perpetually stressed comedy writer character, Liz Lemon, attempts to convince (via slideshow presentation) the wistful TV tycoon and Bush-Administration-fawning Jack Donaghy, of the merits of using company money to pay for a trip to Miami for the writing staff.
“Synergy!” She shouts.
Donaghy freezes to attention, eyes welling, cheeks flushing.
“Cross-promotional… deal mechanics… revenue streams… jargon… SYNERGY!”
There is a pause, as Donaghy’s eyes glaze over, ensconced in a moment of overwhelming pleasure. He takes a shallow, trembly breath.
“Good God, Lemon.”
He giggles excitedly.
“That’s… the best presentation I have ever seen!!”
The joke of course being that nothing of any actual substance or coherence had actually taken place. Which, I guess, is not unlike the conclusions one could draw from the extravaganza that was Synergy, The Festival.
At a glance all the slides were there. The wine farm location, nestled nestlingly in a very nestlable place between other nestling places. The stages! The river! The hottest local lineup since forever was an ever! And, of course, the big international headliner. Yes folks. Mother. Fucken. Bee. Arr. Em. See.
Aw, YISS, I thought. This is going to be the best time of my life. I will have the most fun, get the most drunk, take the most drugs and laugh and cavort myself into a frenzied pleasurecoma. I will make new friends! I will have life changing experiences! I will punch falcons right in their faces! Because after that kind of social media slideshow (via a bukkake of tweets from @hypesfontein on Twitter), I would be a fool to expect anything less. And because anyway, in the words of Brad Neely, my mind is a fucked-apart dead thing when I’m not having fun.
But reality, of course, always has a tendency to shrivel pathetically in the face of optimistic expectation. For just as Lemon and her crew eventually end up in snowed in Baltimore, so I arrive at the gates round 8pm on the Friday Night to discover that not only is my name not on THE LIST, but neither is Mahala’s, full stop. I fucking hate THE LIST at festivals. Not only because Mahala couldn’t organise a deadpan in a room full of Keanu Reeves, but because it always seem to cry, in Schindleresque tones “Buht vee kahn only take everyvuhn but yooh.” But not to worry. Because as luck would have it, Synergy have chosen to employ first years as their trusty door handlers. After a moment of steely resolve and impassioned sighing on my behalf, the hockey stick door girl gives me the same earnest, wide-eyed look as, I’m sure, so many rowing team captains before, and says “Ok. Ok. I trust you”, and hands my friend and I our media passes. And so it begins.
And honestly, it’s hard to make sense of what happens for the next 48 hours. Imagine, if you will, the East Rand Show. Now add hoardes of Stellenbosch students, who like Tamagotchis, wee themselves constantly when left unattended. Picture them having divaan cold ones, stunning ciders and gushing over the “properly legit emdeez that Kevin has, bru.” Then add a motherfucking fun fair. The most arresting feature of which is an up/down thing called MAGIC (“feel the rhythm!” the sign says) that has a hand painted life-size image of Slash rocking the fuck out in on it. Now what you should have, given this scene, is a recipe for some tragic yet exciting death incident. But sadly, to my poorly concealed disappointment, there is nothing of the sort during the entire duration of the event.
Secondly, save for the stages, rides and food stalls, come nightfall the entire festival is pitch black. Like some bizarre video game hybrid between Circus Charlie and Alone in The Dark. And then there is the issue of proximity. Not only of groups of youths in relation to my person, but of all the stages to one another. Unless you are standing right in front of one of them, the result is a sort of live mashup of the most awful and incompatible music ever. There’s the hard house pop tunes of the funfair rides. The incessant wub wubing of the Redbull wub wub stage, and the distant alt rock power chords from the mainstage. Yes, I am tormented. Yes, I need more substances in mah fays.
What is great though, is the seeming lack of rules and regulations usually associated with such events. There is no checkpoint Charlie wristband vigilance ala Rocking The Daisies. No one cares when I produce a bottle of tequila from my handbag in the main stage bar. Hell, they even give me a cup. A cup that I not only don’t have to pay for, but that I don’t have to stand in line for either. Synergy is either horribly unattended, horribly generous, or horribly efficient. Either way.
One bottle of Tequila down, the night then descends into the usual sort of madness that festivals bring, and midnight finds me on the floor backstage at the LMG marquee with two friends, “I heart my hood” stickers pasted to our crotches as we grind into the dirty, dirty ground. Disgusted, some mall goth mom, who looks like an ageing version of a Rock n Roll Bratz Doll, dispenses what must be a quarter bottle of Sailor Jerry onto me, before walking away in an indignant rage. How dare we reduce that bourgeois Southern Suburb developer’s wet dream into a clit-centric joke! How dare we! Cue a montage of a lot of rum-haired stumbling through various pitch black areas, all ending up in the middle of a Vineyard amongst the Pinot Noir at sunrise, smoking sloppily rolled joints with a healthy looking man from Fish Hoek called Charles.
Another thing worth noting about Synergy is the organic splendour of the camping areas. Situated some distance away from the thrills of the entertainment area, the grounds are terribly civilised. Quaint gum trees and lush grasses abound. At least for the VIPs. Sumoville (or whatever it’s called), Synergy’s version of the Kreef Hotel (hereby dubbed the Queef Hotel due to the civilised, lentil eating, R400 paying inhabitants) makes your favourite boutique guest house look seedy and exciting. And there is not a billow of dust in sight. Which would all be great except for the fact that its eye meltingly boring. The river area, on the other hand, is both less gorgeous and more entertaining. If it were a holiday resort, it would be called Tin Roof By The Sea. The Hunters Dry Cider bar pumps solidly, and I relax into the green beanbags to eavesdrop on some of the conversational nuggets. Next to me, a manboy of about 18/42 reclines.
“HAY!” he shouts. “DO YOU LIKE RACIST JOKES?”
“Not really,” I say, but I get to hear one anyway. Twice. He then tells me about the time he shaved angel wings into his back hair. He fixes me with a look of ultimate regret and says, “THE ONLY WAY I’D EVER DO THAT AGAIN IS IF SOMEONE HAD A RAZOR RIGHT NOW.”
And with that, I decide to retire to my tenty abode. My mind, indeed a fucked-apart death thing now that the fun (courtesy of We Set Sail, Shadowclub, Peachy Keen and that indie band with the hot girl whose name I now forget, mainly) has stopped. And as I drift into a godless slumber, somewhere between the most asleep you can be while still being awake, and the most awake you can be while not yet being asleep, visions of Jack Donaghy dance in my head. “SYNERGY!” I say to him. And again, “SYNERGY!” And it’s then that he looks at me in dreamy, breathless glee, and says, voice all a tremble: “GOOD GOD, LEMON! THAT’S THE BEST FESTIVAL I HAVE EVER BEEN TO!”
*All images © Adam Kent Wiest.