Notes On A Harvestby Max Barashenkov / Images by Adoné Kitching / 01.03.2012
What You Know About The Balkan Breakdown?
I’ll tell you – you don’t know shit. They jammed this between ethnic cleansings. A music that can make you forget about bayoneting a child or seeing your family torn apart by peacekeeper bombs. A circus of sounds to erase a carnival of horrors. Now imagine what it would do to those unlaboured by such things, after three joints and twice as many beers, after doing a bit of honest work in the country. Visualizing? That’s exactly the kind of tuba-spitting chaos The Nomadic Orchestra drop on our heads on the second night of the Harvest Festival. It’s hard to imagine a better act to get a crowd of wine-drunks moving. They play like the last defenders of Belgrade, like the Croatian paramilitaries from HOS, like anyone who has ever felt the fire of conviction within.
Welcome To The Friendzone
Sitting at a table and sharing bread with about 40 people does that to you – makes you talk, laugh, pass the cheese; and before you know it, you’re kind of friends. Those of us, a meager number to be honest, that arrived in Tulbagh on Friday, we are privy to something unique, something many a festival has tried to simulate. An instant sense of community. Here, it’s not based on the amount of booze you can suck down (Oppikoppi), the music you listen to (Ramfest) or the grammage of consumed drugs (pretty much every other Cape Town fest), but on the simple fact that, well, there are so fucking few of you. A refreshing change from ravenous hordes, from MDMA’d-out kids, from nameless faces. On the Friday, there is nothing much to do – no music, no bands – but guzzle neat whiskey under the stars and bond, hard and pure. Yes, it’s that homosexually awesome. I miss you, bro.
Shut Your Mouth And Prime
They got most of us up at 4am on Saturday morning (the wise and the lazy slept through this part of the experience), handed us little shears and trooped us out to the vineyard. Harvest away, motherfuckers. And we did. In the dark at first, reluctant, not seeing the fun in it. Stupid city fools. By the time the vines are picked clean though, people are smiling, through the cuts and scrapes. Socialists could be proud – labour unites. The grapes then, need to be mashed up, trodden on and generally fucked up. By feet. The concept appears to be a little unhygienic, but results in, well, a balls load of fun. Next comes the bottling – naturally the freshly pulverized mush is stored away till next year and we bottle wine from the previous, 2011, harvest. By damn, I have never seen the Industrial Revolution in action like that. It’s bizarrely infectious. People are queuing up to cork, to label, to pour out and, especially, to prime. Priming is, perhaps, one of the highlights of the weekend – sucking out fresh red wine out of a vat to get the nozzles of the bottling machine to ‘prime’. Getting wasted while ‘working’, an idea as brilliant as it is simple. Certain members of We Set Sail consider a career change and decide to offer their priming services to the wine farms around Tulbagh on a more permanent basis. Other organizers have something to learn from the good folk at Harvest, a way to deal with the Cape Town festival crowds that love to bitch and moan about nothing and everything – put the fuckers to work. Plow a field. Milk a cow.
The Importance Of Geography
Devastating beauty. The kind that madmen’s dreams are made of. Mountains all around, vineyards, dams left, right and center, shade in abundance. Bliss. You don’t need to be an LSD-secreting hippie loser to enjoy this. The Tulbagh valley is picturesque beyond trite words and the Themika farm is the cream of its crop. Small and intimate, a country retreat first and foremost. The kind of place where artist types would move away to for a few months – to ‘get away from the crowds and finish the novel’. They would sire bastards here by the dozen, the very atmosphere is soaked with sex, slow and sensual. The bastards, they would grow up to be wild and hard-working men, strangers to the ridiculous ways of the city. They would all have fetal alcohol syndrome, but here they would wear it as a badge of honour. Retardation brought about by nature and wine is better, they would boast, than the retardation of hip. And they would be right.
A Bottle Of Sobriety
Songs and dances aside, the Harvest Fest was a success, for the hundred or so people that were there. However, a few hard words must be said. The above-mentioned success was more due to luck of the small turnout and the setting. I can’t say for sure, but I doubt the organizers made any money of it – feeding the likes of us seven meals is no cheap endeavor. Our hosts were gracious, but they didn’t know a thing about putting on a ‘festival’ (though it is applied to the Harvest in a very loose sense). You must expect debauchery and inappropriate behavior, prepare for it and facilitate it. The lack of anything to do on the Friday night, while working in their favour this time, would be unforgivable next year. The issue of picking grapes in the dark must be addressed – buy torches or, at least, tell people to bring them. And, of course, don’t leave your stage set-up to be watered by sprinklers – the expression of the sound guy, rewiring the whole thing on Saturday morning, was both saddening and comic. The Harvest has all the potential to be a spectacular yearly event, but it must caution itself from biting off more than it can chew. More than 200 people there would kill it. Plain and simple.
*All images @ Adoné Kitching.