Ifs and Buttsby Phumlani Pikoli and Rob Scher, images Danielle Clough / 28.03.2011
Rob: “Tea party” – a phrase recently synonymous with angry, conservative Americans who love Sarah Palin. But more so, here in the old colony, Tea parties are associated with civilised banter exchanged between pasteries and fragrant brews. Dredging childhood memories of tiny teacups and assorted plush toys arranged around a table. Substitute the plush toys for buxom French maids, not so much civilised as drunk and rambunctious, add brews in unmarked bottles. Throw away the tea and keep the pot. Do this and you’ll find yourself beginning to picture the kind of ‘tea party’ held at Countermanskloof last weekend.
Phumlani: It’s Friday night and I’m getting nervous that I’ve thrown too much hype about this gig. Sure I dig it cause it’s smaller than most festivals but nothing seems to be going on. I’m afraid that the group I’m travelling with may have a few too many morals and principles. A band of really good hearted, nice people compared to the reprobates I usually kick it with.
Rob: Before long we’re all rocking the den of iniquity vibes. Friday evening begins slowly to the backdrop of Charlie Chaplin films. Before long, Fletcher has begun his set, the whisky has kicked in and my compatriot has somehow been convinced that wearing my friend Hannah’s tight-fitting gold jacket is a great idea.
Phumlani: Friday finally heats up when DJs Fletcher and Toby Teaspoon grace the ones and twos. At a stage I dance to electro swing and Balkan inspired beats wearing a tiny golden jacket that I’m sure makes me look like a monkey with a miniature cymbal. I set the bar to set for the rest of the weekend.
Rob: Saturday morning hangover combined with the dreaded tent-microwave calls for an immediate liquid remedy. Conveniently, the dam is located within close proximity to the stage, allowing for selective visits to the stage area, and not the other way round. The Green Grass Band is first on the bill, delivering a sound perfectly suited to the crowd and general atmosphere. The mellow mood created by Green Grass is soon dispelled courtesy of the next act – The Ruby Robins. Whilst understandably this burlesque-esque, pop-era group falls in line with Flamjangled’s theme of alternative acts, offering both a musical and performance based experience, they unfortunately traverse the line between “different” and just plain unpleasant. Their opera-fied cover of Lady Gaga proves too great a challenge and I opt for another dip in the dam.
Phumlani: Attention span already beginning to dwindle I find distractions very easily. A mother to the left of us with a pair of twins holds my fascination for a time. To the right I listen to the Nice Guys admire a pink lilo donning a pair of shades, a perfect fit bikini covering a tanned and slender frame. Distracted I decide to take pictures of the twins and realise how creepy I have become. Children at festivals… they’re cute but we’re drunk and there’s a lot more going on… before I can finish the thought I’m distracted by the pink lilo again.
Rob: It’s time to head back to the stage. Apart from the fact that the next act is about to go on, I want to distance myself as quick as possible from association with Phumlani, currently taking a little too much interest in some young kids next to us. Andrew James immediately assail any concerns regarding the standard of acts continuing throughout the day, easing the crowd into a John Butler Trio kind of groove interspersed with some rare, entertaining stage banter. The afternoon continues with the pleasant tunes of the next two acts until, akin to the screeching sound of a car breaking hard to avoid collision, Jinx enters onto stage. The technical error at the beginning of their set holds metaphorical weight. It signal the proverbial failure of the breaks. Crash! The somewhat interesting sound created by this band is offset by the backing 90’s rave-like synthetic beats and high pitched shrills.
“An assault to my senses,” an innocent bystander comments.
Phumlani: Teba and the Champions return the irie to the party followed by fellow irie-mongers, Jack Mantis Band. Their set coincides with the rise of the full moon – the biggest the Earth has encountered in something like 16 years and a possible omen of what the evening holds in store. The Dixie Swingers, probably more accustomed to an older crowd, nonetheless, have the youngsters fox-trotting and lang-arming to their Dixie Jazz melodies, giving me hope for my prospects of being a geriatric saxophonist one day.
Rob: The highlight of the festival is about to arrive on stage and I think I’m more excited for some of my friends’ virgin Mr Cat and the Jackal experiences than I am about watching them myself. Their show is once again original and entertaining, and the addition of giant molds of their heads, worn atop their actual ones, adds further theatrics to an already vivid performance. Peachy Keen adeptly follows maintaining the energy of the crowd with their upbeat rockabilly set. This band has risen up through the ranks of the Cape Town music scene incredibly quickly, and after watching the crowd’s reaction to their show it’s easy to see why.
Phumlani: We move with the party once the main stage closes. Rather, we dance towards it. Find extra cash in one of our bags and do the hood rich dance all the way to the stage over the hill. No sleep at festivals. My legs move as if programmed to whatever music is playing. When the liquor runs dry the Red Bull comes out.
Rob: Barely having the energy to even swim at this point, the lineup for Sunday was fortunately of a standard that didn’t require having to leave the stage too much. D7 begin the day, helping me to conclude that acapella should be best enjoyed in moderation. This is followed by some sax porn at it’s finest. Dan Shout accompanied by drum maestro Barry Van Zyl treat the crowd to a performance resembling Goldfish without any of the crappy house-pop elements. Manouche continues the high standard until an unfortunate generator mishap cuts the show short. What ensues is a flash talent show. The highlight of which is a flash performance by “Oh Sister Where Art Thou”. Whether it’s the Coen Bros reference or the pretty vocalists, myself along with the crowd remain transfixed despite any amplified sound.
Rob: The sound returns just in time to experience the soundscape that is Guy Buttery. Conjuring images and emotions out of his guitar unlike any other, his enormous talent is only matched by his humility. Reaching my festival saturation point I am impressed to see the crowd standing and dancing along to the next act, Jeremy Loops. Utilising a loop pedal, this one man band seems to be a definite favourite. The performance I’ve been waiting to see finally arrives on stage. Mzfitz, the new side project of Freshlyground’s Zolani Mahola and Kyla-Rose Smith proves to be worth the wait. An acoustic-driven performance resembling some of Freshlyground’s less upbeat songs, the show seems an apt musical end to a varied an overall pleasant day of music.
*All images © Danielle Clough.