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Pushing Daisies

by Andy Davis / 13.10.2009

You could see them from far away, the beige plumes of dust against the blue sky, each one a vehicle filled with beer, snacks, tents, miscellaneous camping equipment and a variety of young excited Capetonians. From my vantage point, perched under a bedouin tent, pumping a fine selection of South African tunes over a pirate radio station, to entertain these revellers before they even got to the jol, I could see that this year’s Rocking the Daisies festival was going to be a big one. Huge in fact. Because the cars kept coming. All afternoon Friday and all morning Saturday. A steady stream, leaving a constant brown skidmark across the horizon as they churned up the dirt road, snaking down and up the hill towards the festival site. And at the same time I knew that all was well in the universe.

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Rocking the Daisies has grown into a proper Capetonian festival, a Western Cape Oppikoppi, with an eco-slant and slightly more adult contemporary line-up. But shit, Cape Town needs a huge open-air opportunity to get loose, and comfortable with one another. And this year, it felt like the notoriously insulated cliques of the Cape made an extra effort to let their guard down and roll around in the mud and dust while some of the best South African musicians watched over them, stroking their instruments in appreciation and making beautiful music at the same time. Or something like that. All I can say is that this year’s Rocking the Daisies was filled with love.

Rocking The Daisies

But in a way the festival has always been laidback. I mean, I remember two years ago when RTD was still in its infancy, and my good friend’s mad girlfriend threw a brick through the organiser’s bakkie window, for no good reason. I happened to be sitting with them when the organisers arrived to discuss the incident.

“Did you throw a brick through the bakkie window.” Asked the calm organiser dude.
“No.” Lied my friend’s mad girlfriend.
“You did what?!” I asked, incredulously.
She just shook her head and started looking for a place to run to.
“Did you do it?” Asked my friend, her boyfriend.
“No.” She shook her head. She paused. She crumbled. “Yes…. OK, I don’t know why.” She suddenly confessed.
“Good.” Said the increasingly kind and forgiving organiser dude. “We know you did. People saw you.”
She suddenly starts babbling, blubbing, whimpering.
“Look it’s cool.” Says totally laidback Capetonian surfer organiser dude. “We’re not going to ask you to leave, just give us your details and agree that you’re going to pay for it to be fixed on Monday.”

She did. End of story. And I just thought that was such a cool way to deal with a fucked up situation. She was wrecked. They weren’t out for revenge, they weren’t even really angry. They were just mellow and calm about the whole thing and went on enjoying themselves and their festival.

I look down at my wristband, it says, “the calm thing is to remain important”.

Rocking The Daisies

So back to this year, two year’s later, and they’ve taken that self-same laidback and focussed attitude, encouraged and expanded it and turned it into something special. The Daisies in 2009 was bigger, better run and had a proper eco-strategy to limit the environmental effects of the thousands of pleasure seekers who turned out to get loose under the sun and listen to the fine tunes. I’m not just talking about a kif press release and some platitudes. Their approach to limit their destructive footprint was totally integrated into the event, from a total waste management solution to using bio-degradable cups, plates and cutlery at all the food stalls. All the merchandise was made with Hemp instead of cotton. Hell they’re even planting trees to offset the carbon emissions they couldn’t help but create. Much of the kudos for this must go to Tony Budden and the Hemporium crew who are teh festival’s eco consultants. And that attention to detail and laidback approach carried through. Much of Cape Town, and surrounds, rolled out to bask in all that glory. There were rad branded food stalls; Knead, Butlers, Portobello for the vegetarians, and it was always easy to get your hands on a drink, and the camping was mellow. The comedy line-up was pretty tight, as was the Redbull run electro-dance tent, that rocked well into the wee hours of the morning, but by far the most important place was the main stage. O altar to the South African rock gods.

Rocking The Daisies

By far the most exciting band of the festival had to be Wrestlerish. I had never seen them before, but mark my words these thoughtful, bearded folk-rockers with a touch of country all the way from Gauteng are going places. Their song ‘Bad News’ has been on repeat between my ears ever since. Apparently the album is already cut, packaged and ready to go, but there’s a bit of a bidding war amongst the record companies. Should all be resolved soon.

Next up on my own list of personal enjoyment came Desmond and the Tutus. That new song about your girlfriend looking just like Willy Nelson is a riot. ‘Dude, I hate to tell you.’ It has smash hit written all over it. It’s cool to rediscover D&22s because I kinda wrote them off a while back based on the thinking that the guy was putting on a faux-American accent when he sang. Maybe I’ve mellowed with age, but I don’t think it matters anymore, or ever did. I don’t sit there and interrogate whether Thom Yorke sounds British or American, I just like his tunes. And the same goes for Desmond and the Tutus. If there’s any justice, their up-tempo, up beat take on ska, pop-rock with kwela tones and ridiculously funny lyrics should take them far. They write ridiculously catchy pop songs.

Rocking The Daisies

Ashtray Electric ripped up the stage, and definitely made a good impression on the festival faithful, by public opinion alone they’re a band to watch out for. But the gap between them and the royalty of SA pop-rock was only too clear when aKing took the stage. Watching aKing is a bit like going to a school rugby game and being swept up in the war cries. Everyone knows the lyrics, everyone jumps around like a bell-end, sways, swoons and nods their heads to Laudo’s Hollywood voice and sometimes cheesy lyrics. Their songs are well crafted and infectious, especially those swelling, anthemic vocal melodies. On popularity alone they unite the continuously advantaged white, South African rock scenesters who make up the vast majority of Rocking The Daisies’ crowd. So it was a no-brainer that they should headline the Friday night.

Rocking The Daisies

Gang of Instrumentals were cool, and groovy, and definitely have something there, but I reckon they make more sense on a well produced studio album than up there on a live stage. Hip hop just seems to have lost much of its vibrancy of late. Watching dudes spit lyrics into microphones just seems so late 90s these days.

Goldfish

Surprise package for me was Goldfish. Another band I had written off for being global doef-doef cheese schlock house producers and bashed for not being African enough. Maybe I just left behind my angry eyes, but Goldfish played some of the most infectious dance grooves, it was hard to stop your ass from shaking. There’s no wonder these guys are blowing up all over the world. They produce tunes that are so user-friendly and fun to rock out to. And their stage show is super tight. And that’s a talent. It’s hard to appeal to that many people, and have fun at the same time.

Rocking The Daisies

Other bands came and went. The Little Kings do a cool reggae roots rock thing with a stripped down three piece. The Plastics continue to impress and prove that winning last year’s Red Bull Radar was no fluke. 340ml slammed us with their Jozambican dub grooves, like they usually do. And the DJs, comedians, organisers, food stall workers, t-shirt sellers, foot soldiers, heavies, pretty boys, Stellenbosch girls, scenesters, rockers and the myriad freaks that Cape Town cultivates, all did their part in the great weekend long, open air symphony that was Rocking the Daisies.

Rocking The Daisies

All images © Kolesky/SanDisk

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