Space Dust and Hypochondriaby Kallak Jonesic / Images by Pieter Jordaan / 15.09.2012
Okay, Okay. Now that Barashenkov has completed and posted his scrupulous dissertation of this year’s Oppikoppi Festival – in three parts, and given us most of the raunchy details on the better bands and the ones not so good, on the decadent specimens running around that dustbowl, on the whores and drunks, on the drive up and down to Oceans and Long Streets, and all the rest of that – it is time for us second-rate writers, the ones who haven’t been bidden doggedly by the Editorial Powers, to pen some thoughts together so that it seems like we’ve done something other than slaughter ourselves to a maddening stupor, injure our knees, and realize that this kind of thing is always a dangerous onus for just about any living creature. But people are wired so by something, or just perhaps by beating their heads against stone walls for thousands of years, not to think of the consequences, disremembering to reflect deeply and profoundly so that they can somehow survive similar forsaken dirges.
My apologies, this is not going to be my best piece. I don’t care if it isn’t. I don’t care if the milky-lickers don’t get literary writing as opposed to reporting. Turn back now if you’re expecting the latter. I’m not making excuses, just a warning. If you like strawberry bubblegum and watching vanilla skies above the beach, you best turn to Disney’s website or to one of the other blogs functioning as PR mechanisms for this incestuous music scene of ours. This one will be one of minimal pleasantries – at least not enough to have you come out smiling and feeling mushy in the venter. Well okay, maybe you’ll smile a little.
They sent Barashenkov, Kemp and I to cover this and they’ve done me a favor, because I’ve never liked talking about music, although now and then I am compelled to, for analogical reasons and to do what most writers fail at: to tell the truth. I’ve always said it: music should be heard and seen, not read; there is simply no substitute for the real thing. So this little piece is going to be about thoughts, about analogies for things that will come to me as I write – this is the only honest way to do this, and I hope you appreciate it for what it is.
Six of us went to Oppikoppi this year. An interesting cohort of males, at most times all of us churlish. Liam Grinch is perhaps the only self-contained character in the group. The other few like Falafel Rafalski and Dino Alexander are the ones capable of turning a festival like this on its head, because to them there is no such thing as enough; they will gnaw at its bone until the marrow oozes out and they’ll guzzle it to the last drop; but they will do so with respect, paying wary homage to all those past recollections. The idea for this one was to float above it all, as if it all were some sort of experiment, probing the mental and physical limits of a music listener. For this reason most people will create Alternate Personas – they are imperative for a shot at survival, because the streets of Oppikoppi are more dangerous than anything you’ve seen on TV or read in books. Here the demons inside us are unleashed and praised for reasons only the possessed know of. In this caldera we all burn calories fueled by every chemical substance known to man, and some burn them to extinction and of all that that is good and humane.
For Dino Alexander, Falafel Rafalski and I this would be our twelfth or so, including the old Easter Fests, and I know that only a few others could attest to similar festival pedigree; and they are usually fastened like evergreens at the top of the Koppi where it began all these years ago. The rest of them are young, still mesmerized by the setting, embedding themselves in there where the dust cloud is thickest, down there in the alveoli-clogging smog. I am thirty years old now and when I was eighteen it all began. In fact, I played at a few, but it was always a mirthless happening when you had to stay sober for a show because then you got sick from it all, especially in the head. Destroying your sensory angles is the only way to survive a hell like this and this is why most abstemious musicians at Oppikoppi go home straight after they play their last note, even if it means motoring and slaloming dangerously around the potholes and back to the city and its regular insanity.
This time, for the first time, I had press credentials, and when Barashenkov offered to reserve space for me and my tent in the band camping area, I declined and said that I always camp in Gen Pop. And what a mistake that turned out to be…
We got there on Friday. I could never do three days at a festival like this because I am weak. I have a bad heart, bad lungs, Ménière’s disease, daily anxiety attacks, and my liver is enlarged and as big as a dustbin bag full of Bovine Excrement. Naturally, the first thing to do, as any dignified hypochondriac should, is locate the Medical Tent and find out whether they have a Blood Pressure Machine for after that first bottle of tequila. They did. These people are my friends, I thought, but when I saw four or five of them riding atop a bakkie, pissed to their craniums and cheering as if the Blue Bulls had won a cup, I knew that any serious trouble would mean certain death. I took a Beta Blocker and crossed my heart. Well, who knows? I write better under the influence, so maybe this bunch saves lives better that way too. Still, there is no doubt these bastards were going to have problems finding a vein or making sure they didn’t crush your ribcage during CPR. I crossed my heart again.
It took us an hour to find the only dung clearing available far, far from the stages and pitched our tents. You then realize that the game living here at the farm has been driven out by far more vicious animals. They were all around us now, screeching like rape victims, voices breaking, Woohoo Guys, and they, most of them, listening to the vilest music from small, economical cars. They are here at a music festival, but music is the one thing most of them have no understanding of. The time was only 4PM. What was going to happen next? No one could tell, but one thing was certain: if you’re a misanthrope, this is the worst idea in the world. I made a few calls with the objective to finally meet The Mahala High-Five Brigade, and I should have known then that that was never going to happen. Once you’re in the middle of the madness, there is no hope of planning or making decisions on your own. You become a part of the mass psychosis enveloping the place, a mere shard in the vug.
We hiked Boom Straat, treading on heads and tongues and torsos and drank Hennessey as quickly as possible to get the moxie going. There is nothing like good Cognac to get anything going. It was getting cool now but a few shirtless Sizzle-Chests still ran amok, showing off their sizzle-chests to other Sizzle-Chests; long faces, long socks, short memories, piercing gazes, and after a good half an hour we arrived at the stages where BLK JKS were already deep in heat. I’ve already promised not to talk about the music in great detail, but it was nonetheless a pleasure to watch them, especially with some of the most discerning projections lighting up behind them, projections tailored just for the band. When they took us to space and back again. aKing did nothing of the sort. Instead, they buried us like dead men in that cold, lifeless ground. aKing is one of those bands that showed great promise years ago and now they can’t remember exactly how it’s done again. I guess they’re just like me. I was better at festivals before; now I’m a wreck, worrying about the state of things, but only until I get in enough liquor to start thinking straight again.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of Space Dust and Hypochondria.
*All images © Pieter Jordaan.