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Lawn Sharks

by Dylan Muhlenberg / 11.02.2011

If you’ve got ND plates and an early nineties Mazda, then it’s always going to be difficult finding an address in the Constantia Winelands. The locals here are suspicious of any vehicle that isn’t the accustomed luxury SUV or mid-life crisis. When asked for directions they pull their identical looking blue-eyed children closer to their breasts, giddyup their horses from trot to canter, or simply look down their noses, which accentuates the standard feature of years of carefully selected inbreeding, an absent chin.

It’s like my friend Gavin Williams raps, “I own in Paarl Valley and Constantia, ay / I’m in the same tax bracket as Oprah Winfrey.”

Which is why I found Fez te’Ville, a music festival held on a verdant patch of perfectly manicured grass somewhere in Klein Constantia – vineyards and mountains providing the backdrop and a brook babbling as consistently as a backing track – so strange.

Only a carefully curated clique was privy to this idyllic scene, the great unwashed went Up The Creek, and ugly people were blocked at the gate.

Fez te Ville

Beyond the gate Mr. Sakitumi was playing a very lovely set with Tommy Bryson. There were several braais going and a girl was offering some of the picnickers snacks. But not me.
“These aren’t for you,” she said in a way you’d address something that’s just fallen out of a horse’s nose. “Perhaps you’d be more comfortable huffing petrol from a just siphoned Ford Sierra with the farm labourers?” And her disdain made sense, because even after being accepted into a circle as exclusive as this one, there are tiers.

Then someone else came up to me with a jar full of paper money, demanding that I pay a R40 entrance fee. My pockets grew deep as my arms shrunk short as a primordial’s. You see, when you’re used to being on the list, getting comped and having brands literally fall over themselves to give you free things, your sense of entitlement goes berserk when you’re asked to do something as vulgar as pay cover charge.

Fez te Ville

Which is why I’m forced to sully something as pure and beautiful as Fez te’Ville by harping on about forty Rand. The guy with the jar explained that this money was for renting the porta-loo, but there was a shoot going on just to the side and surely the toilet was provided by the production company that had paid thousands to shoot there?

But then maybe all that money went to the bands? So that Donny can finally buy some airtime and stop sending please-call-me’s, or Tommy can stop being so unfashionable and buy himself a pair of Wayfarers and an Amish hat? Who cares though, not me, just because my yarmulke is still spinning doesn’t mean I’m bothered. Seriously, what’s forty bucks, pffft. And it’s all thanks to the following bands:

Fez te Ville

Bilderberg Motel
When they got up to play the crowd thinned, not because they’re bad, but because that’s what happens when you have seventeen people in your band. The rest of us just shifted closer to one another and basked in their Black Rebel Motorcycle club, carpooling in a Vito, meets Brian Jones Town Massacre mainlining Fry’s Veggie Burgers’ sound. A professional skater, the scion of the family that brought Honda to SA, and a pretty girl that plays tambourine are just three of this band’s myriad members.

The Lada Bros
The Larter brothers have been trying to come up with a decent band name since 1996, when they played their first gig as Tinfoil. I was there. They also played at my wedding, and they’ll probably bring the house down at my funeral, too. The Lada Bros are like that wart on the back of your hand that you’ve had for so long you can’t actually imagine your life without it. And where they fail at not having the right clothes and the right name and the right sound, they make up for with Craig’s song writing and Bart’s virtuoso guitar playing.

Farryl Purkiss
South Africa’s answer to Jack Johnson gets to call this countryside venue “home”. When Farryl wasn’t busy playing footsie with his intimidating collection of pedals he smoked a pipe and made sure nobody disturbed his chickens. Farryl is easily the most polished of all the acts, and so he should be, you don’t get to live the life of a country gentleman, all off the back of music, if you’re no good at it.

Joined by Inge Beckman, this band made me go “whoa”. Instead of displaying her vocal dexterity, Inge took a back seat so that Donny’s poetry could paint the pictures via a snarled delivery, which she then added texture to with her harmonies. It’s a somewhat restrained affair and the result is haunting and beautiful.

If I wasn’t so obviously leering at Sannie Fox, I would’ve thought that there was maybe a black person at our intimate little festival. When she sings Fox has the Devil and Robert Johnson putting down their paperwork and asking her if they may collaborate. She lost her phone that night. But found a disciple.

And if you think that that is hyperbolic then just you wait for what I’m going to say about one Patrick McCay.

Perhaps it was his home ground advantage (Pat’s from the little wine farm down the road, Constantia Uitsig), or maybe his genius is only achieved at midnight? Whatever it was, it was clear that while not getting his act together (because lets be honest here, even if there were a competition for slouching on couches and staring blankly at a wall, Pat couldn’t be arsed to enter it.) he’s used the downtime to explore his mind, bottling up terabytes of thoughts, which he then poured over everyone who, twelve hours later, was still at Fez te’Ville.

Between singing in German, whistling like a little bird, beatboxing, singing sheer gibberish, skanking reggae stylees or turning phrases so perfectly formed you’d think that they came off of a lathe, Patrick McCay controlled the mic with finesse.

It was such an awesome spectacle that for a moment there I’d almost forgotten about that forty rand.

Fez te Ville

*All images are blurry because Dylan Muhlenberg had vaseline in his eyes.
**Dylan edits the GQ.co.za

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