It's December 31 and I am down to my last
panty. This is not a euphemism; it's a
warning. The road show I'm on – the
freak show – has torn the night, eaten my backpacker’s wardrobe, and completely
buried the end of 2010 in a haze of busses, tents, stages and sound
checks. That’s another way of saying I
went on the MK 5de Avontoer. Let’s backtrack.
Under the influence of De Plate Kompanje
(now nicknamed "D.P.Queue" for the long lines outside the venues, our
showers, toilets and kitchen) we are, on the eve of 2011, able to:
get out of bed and on the road
in five minutes flat,
sleep in any position and any
shower in cold water on cold
days (very quickly),
walk barefoot in the rain,
nurse lingering flu and
boomerang hangovers with equal aplomb,
and survive on a high protein
diet of flesh and flapjacks.
To cope, we have ingested a daily dose of
live, local music. Five doses over six
days from a bevy of bands only aids an already compulsive habit of sonic
inebriation, a habit I hope I never break. Here’s why…
Gees Fees in Stilbaai - 27 December 2010
Day one. Flu. Sun. Flusin. We convert from
brick and mortar to zip and water. The tents are tucked right behind a big
stage, making music dreams a reality, and behind that, over many a mild horse
pat, is a river. It’s one of two days out of seven when the sun shines. So we
swim. And the songs start. And the day deepens.
Backstage, it feels like something Dylan
would understand. Artists of all kinds mill about, tweaking instruments,
passing smokes, telling jokes. Over the security fence we spy, slowly, slowly,
pale bodies and tan ones speckling the thorny field until it is freckled with
faces. We wander into the open, mingle,
meet friends from afar, and vodka and vine juice find their way down thirsty
The line-up is lovely for an annual
day-fest. From rock reggae to rof rap
rhymes, Groot Gees has diversified this year to make more of DPK than a
Stellenbosch umbrella org under which bands can bung around until they find
their feet – it has made it a visionary of mobile music productions, one we
hope will soon include more than just musicians, media, fans and photographers
to encompass all the arts. It's the only way to survive after the global
economic crisis, after all.
As ever, we've got the original instigators
of awareness and gees, Zinkplaat, as well as tour newcomers No One's Arc to
show us what post modern pop-ska means. We've also got uncle Jack Parow, the
spellbinding Isochronous, the emo show-and-tell of Wrestlerish to wring our
hands and sing along to, Die Tuindwergies to make us feel big (and remind us
what really nice guys are like), and the latest teen dream-team, Glaskas, to
give us reason to scream.
But the best of the fest is the raw, dirty
bruise of The Pretty Blue Guns. Why? Because they're brave. Sliding on stage
with new material in the company of respected industry peers on the first show,
their usually sexy set is suddenly spicier, yet more solved. Without being a
departure from the form we love, it's stronger and dirtier than the melodic
blues-beaten garage rock they're renowned for, and it's right on time.
Front man Leo is, behind the scenes, quiet,
stylish and prone to sudden bursts of witty wisdom. Onstage, he transforms into
a diva with burning emerald eyes and a message from the skies. Completely
encompassed in the music, he smacks variously of Jagger, Bowie, Waits, and Cave
from fingertip to tongue tip, but his persona and performance is his own,
ultimately, and he easily strips away all assumptions to leave the stage
The set is a little shaky in places, as
virgin voyages often are; it's also disarmingly vulnerable, the material old
and new charged with stylistic conviction and emotional frustration, the
delivery well-ventilated by the rhythms and responsiveness of four musicians
who have found their mojo together.
It's not a showy set, but it’s seductive,
honest, and open, and it is this that upstages everyone else on the line-up
tonight. Those au fait with the Guns' sonic track record will appreciate the
gesture. Those into slick and stiff and safe simply sip on something icy as it
sails right over their cutting heads. No sweat; music with madness, depth and
dirt is not for everyone.
The show is over, the hips have swayed, the
hands have clapped; they’ve left the stage.
Now all they’ve got to do is deal with the devil in the details. By nightfall,
those details blur, the sound system cranks up as the night cracks open with
the rest of the first, and biggest of the tour's offerings – Die Tuindwergies,
Zinkplaat, Tidal Waves, Jack Parow and Isochronous. We dance, we trance; we
pass out and pass through each other while the wild mistress of music moves us
and makes the moon our witness.
Next:Embraces and enclaves – Hartenbos goes bos
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