Wreckageby Travis Lyle / Images by Sydelle Willow Smith / 05.12.2012
Soundtrack en route: Led Zepellin – Live at Wembley Stadium, 1972.
Disclaimer: if you wanted a blow-by-blow review that features chinstroking, genre musing or some academic grade analysis of the heaving sea of muppets that thrashed the Synergy site to within an inch of its tattered life, this isn’t it.
Grown men in leopard print panties. Mountains of deep fried carbs and an army of drunks ready to eat them. Possés of cookie-cutter boykies, cruising for a bruising. Vodka bunnies in blue working their asses off to fill a huge white box with vibe. Chinese landfill trinkets being sold by the fistful. A familiar scene of rich kids getting ratfaced and leaving a trail of trash behind. A man in a Flash suit. Muppets so caned they could only obey gravity. Sound familiar? It should do – it’s the backdrop to any large festival, pretty much anywhere. But the background, that doesn’t matter much – it’s the soundtrack they all came for, and on Friday night that could only mean one thing: The Prodigy.
‘The Greatest Dance Act Of All Time’.The renegade soundwave that provided the soundtrack for a jilted generation. The voodoo who do what they don’t dare do. The rabid firestarters guilty of breaking and entering the mid-90s pop charts with electronic punk that gave rave big brass balls.
A chance to the see them again? Hell yes – I’m a massive fan. Who wouldn’t want to go and see them, even if it had been 12 years since their last SA show, and there’s always a very good chance the shine of yesteryear’s stars recede along with their hairlines? Most of the people I know, it turns out. Fair enough – Synergy events cater to a sea of students hocked up on a heady brew of year-end summer shenanigans, flesh and befuckery. That’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. So was it a sea of mayhem? Course it was.
Turns out the site had been in the teeth of a hectic storm on Thursday night which tore the stretched fabric ceiling off the main stage field. That’s a shame, but it doesn’t matter when you’re faced with the angle grinder banshee opera of Beast, led by Inge Beckmann. I was blown away by all of the 5 minutes I managed to catch. The Narrow growl into their support slot but sorry lads, we had bigger fish to fry. An hour to go and it’s time to prime the jets and engage in some dedicated liquid meditation. One does not simply shake booty to The Prodigy. One goes bevok, and one gets oiled.
A few shakes of a hipflask’s tail and some cold beers later, we stumble across the stark staring rave dementia of the Bacardi tent, where the bat logo takes on new meaning. Manning the ones and twos from a converted VW kombi and producing a distorted frenzy of hardcore chainsaw gabber, psycho dubstep and scattershot drum ‘n bass was DJ Batshit Crazy (which, to be fair, isn’t his real DJ name), who proceeded to rip the tits out of his bins with a grim determination that would do Squarepusher proud. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being ambient whalesong and 10 the sound of Satan’s forge, the sheer wall of rabid rave coming out of that system was a clean 25. But fuck it, whatever, nobody’s got time to give a toss about Batshit when those crazy sonsabitches from Essex were finally taking the stage!
‘Smack My Bitch Up’, ‘Voodoo People’, ‘Break ‘n Enter’, ‘Firestarter’, ‘Narayan’, ‘Weather Report’, ‘Take Me To The Hospital’, ‘Warrior’s Dance’, ‘Invaders Must Die’, ‘Omen’. Those are the ones I can remember. At some point they bailed, with Maxim spiting ‘It’s over – you can fack off now!’ Then coming back about ten minutes later, once the crowd had thinned, with a chuckle and growl ‘Alright you bastards! Is there anyone left?’ and promptly busting into the hardest rendition of ‘Out Of Space’ I’ve ever heard. The sound was as crisp as a brand new Randela (especially if you found the sweet spot dead front and centre of the engineer booth), the lighting was simple but fucking powerful, list of ‘must plays’ was ticked and ticked again, and everyone looked like they’d been steamrolled by a hurricane. That’s entertainment.
Saturday is hazy at best, but after being born again in the chilly dam we lucked across Sun-Do Q’lisi in the LMG tent on the water’s edge, and were floored by their full-bore groove. Sounds like: Modest Mouse stir-fried with fresh Calexico, and a dash of Boo! – in other words, fucking awesome. See this band, they’re amazing. Providing a welcome counterpoint to DJ Batshit’s rabid rave Armageddon vibes (yep, he was at it again all fucking day) was the beach bar tent where Terrence Pearce and Pierre Estienne (among others) rolled smooth and groovy with a fine line in daytime feelgood disco funk that would simply not quit. It was around this time that the cumulative effects of several gin and tonics and a thorough and diligent befuckery took its toll. The last thing I remember before going down was a sunset that blazed like the world was on fire. The end.
Soundtrack on return: Primal Scream – Screamadelica.
*All images © Sydelle Willow Smith / Red Bull.