Where life is not shitby Hugh Upsher / 12.02.2014
There are a few simple elements that make this festival the most pleasant music festival I’ve ever experienced. There is a limit of 2500 tickets sold each year, meaning no one has to walk for two kilometres to their tent at three in the morning. Even with four stages there is no overlapping of acts which was great for artists and fans alike, not to mention a very economical use of talent. No international headliners mean only people who love South African music and outdoor festivals show up. This was a huge plus because I didn’t have to experience hoards of second year BA students deciding to drop MDMA for the first time.
I arrived at the festival late afternoon to The Plastics chanting their chorus “I’m 45 minutes too late!” The sentiment seemed pretty spot on. I’ve seen the band enough times to know they deserve headline festival slots but it never happens for them, even for an exclusively South African-focused festival like Up The Creek.
Jeremy Loops was next up on the main stage. For some reason nobody seems to have an issue with his nauseatingly pre-school approach to song-craft. The music Jeremy Loops makes is like Tropica in many ways. He is summery, nutritionally bankrupt and goes down a treat if you hate yourself. And just when you thought the guy couldn’t get more vanilla with his Mary Poppins one-man band antics, he brings out a token rapper to chant ‘Bounce!’ repetitively. People really dug his act, it was very professional.
The upside of having a very chilled festival of friendly music lovers is that they share their drinks and you can have non-meaningless conversations with strangers. The downside is that they will scold you for writing notes and take 15 minutes out of watching a live show to explain how important it is to watch the show. Gangs of Ballet brought some class to proceedings with their big, professional click-tracked sound to the stage. The guitar riff from their hit ‘Set This World On Fire’ is definitely SuperSport commercial ready, pity SuperSport is totally into Dubstep right now.
The Springbok Nude Girls were on form as they brought the main stage to a triumphant close. Who knew that an absolute metalhead like Theo Crous and an alt-disco diva like Arno Castens could form such a cohesive musical unit, with neither of them compromising their individual flavour. The band has reached a stage where they can do no wrong, mostly because they do so little nowadays. They should make another album already.
If you arrive at Up The Creek without an inflatable you’re not gonna have a good time. Luckily, the 3am drunk me did some pre-planning and kidnapped a Nemo-themed inflatable (designed specifically for Children Under The Age Of Five). You may ask what kind of monster steals from a child (presumably). The answer is “Me!”. I am a terrible person, but with a lilo.
The day stage was set up facing the water on the edge of the river bank. This is where everyone spent the first half of Saturday, including myself – mindlessly floating around on my stolen lilo with a Windhoek in hand. It was pretty fucking blissful all round. This type of set-up is definitely a huge draw card for the festival. The bands Al Bairre and Beach Party couldn’t have asked for a better setting for their brand of “everything is perfect, yay!” music.
Beatenberg kicked off the Jagermeister stage back on dry land that afternoon with a large audience in attendance for their lengthy sound check. It was a highly anticipated set with pop jocks shouting ‘Boytjie!’ between songs to my great amusement. Matthew Field is still charmingly modest, he introduced their latest breakthrough hit ‘Pluto (Remember You)’ as being some non-specific number on a non-specific chart. I bought their T-shirt afterwards.
Desmond And The Tutus are normally something to look forward to on any line-up, but they just didn’t look like they were in the mood on Saturday. I felt sorry for the people in the crowd who were seeing them for the first time. But realistically, the band haven’t really been as much fun since Shane stopped singing at shows, choosing rather to eccentrically thrash around a deep growl to the detriment of pretty much everyone involved. At least we have Shortstraw now. Am I right?
Up The Creek was pretty much engineered for a band like The Black Cat Bones. The heavy blues rockers might not have the hits, but they put on a show and a half given the right circumstances. They would have claimed the festival for themselves if it weren’t for the fact they were opening for Taxi Violence’s 10th anniversary show. Highlights including a thumping cover of ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ and every other unholy guitar-driven concoction they had in the book. It seems the side projects did well to grow the individual members and they have come come back at the peak of their powers.
The main stage closing ceremony consisted of six naked guys storming the stage with flaming newspapers stuck up their butts. This is a tradition I have only read about before, but I can tell you that seeing it firsthand is not funny, disturbing or even surprising. It was however Up The Creek’s way of saying “You’ll never see shit like this at Rocking The Daisies!” which is what I appreciated the most about it.
It was a weekend of much harmonica, mutual respect and musical appreciation. The quality of musicians and bands was consistently impressive. The campsite did not look like post apocalyptic K-hole on Sunday morning, which was rare and beautiful. I’m glad there is a festival out there for people who love music and aren’t shit.