Under the Influence of Sillyby Rob Scher / Images by Daniel Hartford / 21.03.2012
I stare into the oscillating eyes of a psychedelic owl above the stage akin to Hypnotoad from Futurama. Surrounding ‘Hypno-owl’ are saran wrapped cadavers with animal masks, impregnated with naked Barbie dolls. I’ve figured out the target audience of this festival – I’m glad to fit into the demographic. It’s the Flamjangled Tea Party and is best enjoyed under the influence of silly.
Flamjangled borrows from the concept of the Secret Garden Parties (SGP) started in 2004 in the quaint northern countryside of Cambridgeshire. As an ‘alternative’ music festival, Flamjangled offers a number of acts rarely seen at one of your larger festivals. In the same vein as the SGP’s, the festival incorporates hidden stages revealed during the course of the party, participant related activities and a general disregard for normal. The location of Durbanville, like Cambridgeshire, is also a quaint northern countryside minus the internationally renowned university and a set of different accents.
I arrive at the main stage to the sight of three pretty girls behind a set of marimbas. I’m told the band is called Touchwood, I hold back my Beavis-laugh. The girls are talented, evident in their multi-instrumental performance. However, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve just stepped off a tour bus at a private game lodge when you hear the sound of a marimba. Nonetheless it’s a unique show, something that defines what Flamjangled is about.
Some mimes have arrived to pick up litter. I hate mimes. Even when they’re doing something like making the world a ‘greener’ place by cleaning up trash, their fixed visage freak me out. I’m glad it’s still early in the day and I’m relatively sober. Nate Mainguard and Tim Hutchinson take the stage next. Nate wields his homemade guitar like only someone who knows his instrument that intimately could. Two Minute Puzzle follow next with their brand of folk rock, sometimes bordering on the humourous. They sing a song about crack, then one about love – it’s all a bit confusing.
The Time Flies are up next. Their psychedelic infused funk has been crafted over decades, literally. The average age of the band must be mid-40’s and is yet another pleasant surprise in the lucky packet that is the Flamjangled main stage. These guys wouldn’t go amiss as an opening band for The Grateful Dead, and judging by the lead singers eccentric stage demeanor, he’s been to a few of their shows.
The last time I’d seen We Set Sail was two years ago at Synergy. Since then the band has undergone several drastic changes, including most unfortunately the loss of trumpeter, Trynity Silk. They’re tight but without the haunting trumpet melody, there is little to differentiate them from your standard post rock fair.
The Jagermeister promo girls distract me. Their combination of hot pants and Jager shots is alluring. It’s pushed over the edge when photographer Dan asks them if he can take a picture. “Sure! Would you like us to take our tops off?” Exclaimed without the vaguest hint of sarcasm.
An American is on stage shouting at the crowd. She’s trying to get everyone to learn the Charleston. There’s a lot of arm swinging and very little Chalestoning, I opt for fetching more whisky from my tent. Fletcher arrives just in time to save the day. Tapping into the psyche of the crowd like only a DJ of his caliber can. Fletcher effortlessly transitions between dubby reggae, to remixed rock ‘n roll – giving everyone exactly what they need at that very moment. I wish the set could last another hour. I express this much to him. “Don’t worry,” he smiles. “If you collectively add up the 15 minute interludes I’ll be playing during the rest of the evening, it will make up another hour.”
I’ve never fully appreciated the idiom, ‘like chalk and cheese’ until now. After the fine camembert the crowd has just ingested, iScream and the Chocolate Stix go down about as smooth as swallowing a sedimentary rock. This electro, rap, rock outfit rode on the coat tails of 2010 national euphoria with their dwee track ‘My Cape Town’, and for some inexplicable reason are now headlining a festival. Marred by sound difficulties, my thoughts are with the poor sound engineer who has the unfortunate task of mixing live instruments with an electronic dance track. The instruments seem more a gimmick then anything else and after their tantrum on stage, I hope it will be sometime before they’re given access to a festival stage in this country.
Luckily, Good Luck is up next. They’re fully self-aware of their commercial electo-pop appeal and as opposed to the Stix, pull it off flawlessly. The showmanship of lead singer, Juliet Harding is impressive as she makes one of the best entrances I’ve seen to date at a festival. Raiven Hansmann is a rockstar on sax, donning his Captain America get-up. It’s pop at its best and I can see why they’ve achieved their fully deserved commercial success. Finally rounding up the trio of Saturday’s corporate band lineup is the feel good Hot Water. Whiteys dancing to Maskandi Castrol guitar and a gospel choir – it’s great, a bit like a postcard from Africa.
With Saturday evening’s lineup, even Flamjangled isn’t immune to going the ‘commercial route’. Understandably a festival of this size can’t afford to book any really ‘big acts’, it therefore leaves the Saturday headlining slots stuck in a weird place between being ‘popular’ enough to draw a good crowd, but also not big enough to say headline Rocking the Daisies. More thought definitely needs to go into Saturday evening’s lineup at next year’s event.
The crowd makes it’s way down to the ‘Night Owl Haunt’ stage, that opens up later in the evening. The spooky motif is complemented by a fake graveyard displaying the DJ lineup. The attention to detail is the overarching charm of this little festival and will certainly ensure it’s continues success in years to come. I decide to call it a night after hurting my back attempting ‘the worm’ to the beat of a maniacal tambourine-wielding fiend.
Sunday morning is mellow. Arriving at the stage just in time to catch the Blacksmith band, they prove to be a musical highlight of the festival. The name is apt, as they pluck their way through their set of country folk and blues. Their cover of ‘Wild Horses’ is beautiful and the front man plays a mean set of spoons. The Nomadic Orchestra ends off my Flamjangled experience on a definite high. They’re an absolute pleasure to watch and have the crowd in the palm of their tuba. Gabriel Du Toit sexes the crowd with his tenor riffs and Joe Bolton must be one of this country’s finest Tuba players. They end off with their signature track, ‘Booya’. Hypnoowl looks lovingly down at the happy crowd, who incredibly still seem to have enough energy to frantically kick up a sandcloud of dust as Nomadic’s frenzied set comes to an end. Booya indeed.
*All images by Daniel Hartford