Space Dust and Hypochondriaby Kallak Jonesic / Images by Pieter Jordaan / 16.09.2012
Walking to see what’s at the Press Tent, I get accosted by Marla Mazinski and her friend Liebland Lavender. They’re both in entertainment and advertising and all that nonsense, but quite knowledgeable of things, especially of feelings. They are not pretentious like most of them. Pretentiousness gears down with age if you’re lucky.
“Hey, fancy seeing you guys here,” I say and they laugh and we hug.
“Hey buddy, you want a party favor?” says Lavender.
“Okay, okay, but I gotta take it easy. I have to watch some music for this review I’m doing.”
“Sure, sure, you’ll watch it, it isn’t going anywhere,” says Mazinski.
“Problem is that I might go. You know, the grave, to hell, for good.”
Another two are with them, there between two of the main stages – Dyke Lork and his young girlfriend Carolina Peaves. Well, they all have shack jobs here and I’m stuck with a bunch of Neanderthals sure to turn repugnant the more they submerge themselves into the night and dust.
“What the hell, I’ll hang with you guys for a little while, the press tent can wait,” I say, and they are happy for it. They are happy for it because I become amusable at such gathering; so I like to think. They offer me fungal enchantments and I do not resist. It’s been ages since the last time. Last time I got heartburn so terrible I thought I was having a cardiac arrest. Soon enough, though, we’re hovering around the entertainment section of the festival, talking about the meaning of things and I realize that mushrooms are out of fashion. They’re out because cheap coke is in. In a moment of perceptive savvy such as this, you cannot but notice people’s life energy flowing nauseatingly out of their mouths, jowls and ears – not their eyes like us. This is the time when misunderstandings are bound to happen, just as putting a flesh-eater and herbivore in the same pen is sure to cause havoc. The only difference is that the herbivore in this instance is a bison and the flesh-eater a rabid wild dog.
Carolina Peaves, the young girl, asks me why I seem so negative, so cynical.
“Well,” I tell her, “it’s because cynicism is a disease that one uses to deal with things too great for a weak heart. And like any other serious disease it is difficult to shake off before it becomes terminal. It is a disease of the apostate.” I also tell her that the biggest problem with humans is that they have to try be good, not that they are good. “The good ones,” I say, “have no tact. They will hurt you with words, but they will covertly love you with their weakened hearts. It is your human duty to make the secret known, to hook it out from in there so they can beat normally again. But you must be careful, it’s the ones that profess their undying love who will take you for a ride so fast you’ll to think you’re besieged from all angles.” She gets it, but I don’t think she believes it.
More fungi and mountaineering up to the topmost stage – the small one where it all began. Jesus Christ, Falafel Rafalski is here at the front bench and it looks like he wants to eat sixteen year old Livy Jeanne, the Canadian singer-songwriter, whole. She’s backed by Albert Frost, that band-whore (in the good sense of the word), who gets sixteen slots every year. Okay, okay, he must be good, if they say so. And most of them up here say so, the evergreens. But I don’t know whether it’s her, her close-fitting little pants, her young unblemished face, or past memories of a festival approachable by a rarified few; before the time of MK, budgets, and before this place became a Golgotha of twenty thousand nefarious stompers, kicking up so much dust that it‘s surely seen from space.
I show Lavender and Mazinski around the Koppi and we peer at the happenings below, watching the illuminations and fires, and the stage lights; and soon after we lose each other in the throng, Rafalski and I hit the Electronica Stage. There, at the bar, cheek by jowl, some media types talking shop. Oh, and they are so capital, so conversant, and so excited about the state of the music scene. “Where you from?” asks a big fella. I say I’m from Canada and that Rafalski is my photographer. Livy Jeanne is my lover. “Impressive,” he says, “but where is his camera?” “Well, we don’t use cameras,” I reply, “As we speak, it’s all being shot and filmed from space – we have access to the best satellite technology via some very important people in Toronto, people you don’t wanna know. Anyway, Rafalski tells the satellite what to do with this here iPhone, and bam, we get all the pictures we want! We have had some problems with the dust, though.”
“Really?! That’s fascinating!” he says mockingly. I spun towards the bar for a beer and when I turned back again he was gone. Rafalski says, “Where do you come up with this shit, man?! Livy is my girl!”
Around that time I got an SMS from Louis Du Pisani, the creator of the animated MK Ondergrond show, asking me to attend an interview session with The Eagles of Death Metal at 16:30 the next day. Finally, something to look forward to. I had written some questions for him the week before that he was going to use on them. Besides, I wanted to get a closer look of the singer’s moustache. They say it has a life of its own!
We swayed left and right for some time and when I went to take a closer look of the visuals at the Electronica Stage, jumping from one rock to another in that natural amphitheater, something snapped in my right knee and it went numb. Nothing to worry about, I thought, just a flesh wound. 340ml were playing somewhere below but by now it was getting difficult to maneuver around the place: thousands of stompers walking up and down the hill and around the stages, losing their balance, and elbowing you in the kidneys until you pissed blood. Rafalski and I went down to the main stages looking for the dub band but they were nowhere to be found and we assumed that they had cancelled…
We kept on ordering tequila and beer and chatted to the crowd at the top of the hill, who too looked somber and displeased, but by now Rafalski and I were getting into the swing of things. We made that trip up and down the hill five or ten or fifteen times, the exact number escapes me. One time while down there we caught Desmond & the Tutus and it was obvious that the vocalist was also in disagreement with the dust; or maybe he was forcing himself so much, it all just sounded more contrived and sillier than usual. Fokofpolisiekar played the best attended show that Friday; and they, the band, had a good one too. So much patriotism from that crowd you could take them out to war to fight the Turks!
Up and down, down and up, and that knee began to swell up. When I stopped for a respite Rafalski was out of sight and I lingered around a little longer and finally mustered enough courage to make my way back to camp. Jesus Christ, I walked and hopped around the labyrinth of dust roads and it was all so baffling. I remembered that we had camped by a fence, but I always ended up at another. An hour passed, two hours, and in the third, most of them were snoring in their tents. I walked, and I walked, and I walked some more. A few diehards sat around campfires now and I decided to join a group of about twelve to get some heat.
“Hi, can I get some warmth from your fire, I can’t find my tent, been walking for hours?”
“Get away from here, we don’t have anything for you here.”
“Okay, okay,” I said, “Just trying to get some heat before I carry on searching.”
“Well, there’s nothing for you here, now move!” said a fat, little hippo girl and the rest of them laughed and writhed in their chairs like the legged tapeworms they are.
Eventually I conceded and lay down between two tens somewhere in the blackness and dozed off for some time until I was woken up by a couple fucking. He was moaning more than she was, and they both coughed periodically like octogenarians. People will fuck in shit if they have to. No break from it, no abstinence, not even if a conflagration consumed the place. I got going again and decided to return to where I had started. There, at the stages, the black festival workers stood in line and waited for their breakfast. They stood there and watched a wreck walking with a limp and hop and some of them chortled. The sun was up and now I knew where I was going.
“Hey, where you been?” asks Alexander, stretching and yawning.
“I’ll tell you where I’ve been. I’ve been to hell and back, and you guys are great for answering your phones. I called and called when I set out from the entertainment and the thing went dead. Some friends you are.
“Yeah, I heard my phone ring a few times, but I couldn’t find it in the tent,” says Liam Grinch, the careful one.
I slept for two hours or so and it all began again: the drums, the bad music from the cars, the screeches, the broken voices, motor wheels spinning in the dust, and the heat got so insufferable in that little tent, I jumped out on three of four appendages and found the nearest shade.
“Where the hell were you last night?” I asked Dino Alexander.
“Oh, I got the shits from this stir-fry place and I was in bed by nine. I’m ready to go – have a beer with me!”
“Fuck off,” I said, “I’m off to the medical tent.” That knee now had a strange lump on the interior side and I knew that if I wanted it looked at someone had to drive me there. There was no use anyway. What were they going to do? Hand me a bottle of scotch, jam a razor strop in my mouth and begin operating? There, in the shade, I tried to make sense of it all. Years ago Oppikoppi was a communal effort. You met people, they invited you to their campsites, you drank their brew and they drank yours. You would share music, talk politics, be humorous, and we would all laugh through the night. That was when the festival was three to five thousand strong. Hell, even twelve thousand was manageable. But now with twenty thousand, cooped in roughly the same perimeter, it felt like you were in Tent City, Arizona. The Nazis had their turf, and God help you if you walked through asking for warmth! Quite normal, I thought; herd a bunch people in a small confinement and they’ll be eating at each other’s living flesh in a matter of days.
So I lay under a Whistling Thorn for most of the morning and afternoon until it was time to meet Du Pisani for the Eagles interview. I slowly made it to the Press Tent where I had intended to go before Mazinski and Lavender accosted me. Right next to the Press Entrance was a tiny stage where someone said 340ml destroyed the night before. Pity Rafalski and I assumed they deserved a far bigger rostrum and wrote them off as defectors. At the Press Tent Rolling Stone Magazine brandished a setup to behold: a yellow Cargo Container in which they conducted interviews, sending them out via satellite in real time. It looked like an expensive setup and I was wondering what bore would sit at home watching Oppikoppi interviews online, especially on a weekend. Du Pisani was there with his sound guy, Likert, and the three of us hit a few beers which made me feel better in the head. There was a delightful Indian lady reporter from Durban sitting at our table who said that someone had scathed her for speaking English. Du Pisani himself said he saw some guy cladding an old South African flag t-shirt the night before. Ah, more reasons to dislike the place. Personally, I had never seen or heard of shit like this at previous festivals, but now with stories like these, I knew there were hundreds of these vermin running around the festival grounds.
Eagles of Death Metal opted to sidestep the pre-show interviews and hit the crowd with an energetic set at the worst-sounding stage of the festival – but that didn’t matter. Give these guys a few planks of wood, catgut, a magnet or two, eight 100 Watt light bulbs, two or three plastic buckets, telephone cable and a wok, and they’ll go MacGyver on your ass and bang a hit out. It was rock ‘n roll like you know it. No pretty boy bullshit, no TV-land bravado, just the way it should be.
Du Pisani then interviewed Shaun form Seether and it seems like the guy has his head screwed on the right way. He was happier than ever to be back home playing a festival he used attend as fan and showed us his South African flag tattoo, the new flag that is. The guy with the old flag t-shirt was getting rammed up the ass by one of the sizzle-chests somewhere in Tent City. Du Pisani got his interview with Jesse Hughes from EODM later on when I had already disappeared. He sent me the recording which only got to three questions. “Time up!” the Media Gestapo said as he got into explaining what dick shaking is all about, but at least he got him talking about why Palm Desert, the Californian town of fifty thousand residents, has such a major output of music. Hughes says it’s a heritage thing. Jimmy Hendrix was the first to take a generator up to Palm Canyon and throw a party. Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Eric Burdon from The Animals, they all went to write music and throw parties in the dessert. He talks about how in 1970 Black Sabbath caused a riot there and how he felt when Axl Rose called the band The Pigeons of Shit Metal. “I hate to say it, but I’m a traditional man – I believe the gods deserve respect, regardless if they are terrible gods or wonderful gods. When he called us The Pigeons of Shit Metal, it made my career. You want an asshole to hate you. If Adolf Hitler sends you a letter, you’d hang it up; it’d be like winning the Nobel Peace Prize. It was like, look ma, a real jerk hates me. It’s great, I even have it tattooed on my arm.”
Well, that was it for me. I stuck around for Kongos, and when the cheese got overwhelming and The Ménière’s began boating me around, I receded to my tent (this time without any orienteering difficulties) where my mattress had a puncture. Ssssssssssss it went in my ear and I got up every two hours or so to inflate it to a comfortable volume. I expectorated my lungs and throat with no voice as I thrust that pump, and I was certain that it was now the emphysema that was going to do me in for good. When my ass touched the ground, there I blew again, and in the morning Tent City looked like The Bombing of Dresden.
*All images © Pieter Jordaan.