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Oppikoppi 2006 - All about the music

2007-08-03 09:23
It's because there's a little-spoken-of law in the North West / Limpopo area that: If you don't drink alcohol, you die, or worse. At least, I assume this to be the case, because after you leave Gauteng, there's a bottle store or a "Tavern" roughly every 2.3 km. The first time you see non-alcoholic liquid signposted (unless the Bulk Coke Sales sign qualifies) is just before you cross the Limpopo river itself.

And then, you know you're nearly at Oppikoppi.

The next sign - a scam, by the way - was Die Son offering 20% off on wine if you buy their package. This consisted of a lousy toilet roll, a chocolate bar, a beanie, and a copy of the paper. The problem with the deal is the only wine you can buy is dooswyn (that's box, ok...) And this is dooswyn that makes Tassies look like an award winner.

(Booze, and other unhealthy activities seem to be the theme of the festival, and I can't claim to have been a healthy exception. Perhaps an example, though?)

And then you hit Brits. That's a town, with no British people in it except the odd lost tourist who's surprised to find that every coffeeshop, no matter how good its original intentions, has become a shebeen.

The next sign that you're nearly at the festival is the appearance of groups of varsity types on the sides of the road, stopping to take a leak en route to buy more alcohol.

And the next is the friendly entrance. No queuing if you have your tickets. Setting up camp

And then you arrive. You pitch your tent over a white russian. Or we did. And you say things like "I'd forgotten what it felt like to come!" or just "Wow" or "Dis befok" or "Let's go look around." [ Hear other things I overheard Oppikoppi]

And you take a walk up the hill and you look over the place where the cows used to jol around eating (cause that's what cows do) and you see the fires, and the drinkers roaming and the cars arriving and it feels like that bit out of Lord of the Rings when the good army shows up. I said to a friend on the phone "Like a big, drunk, disorganised army" and they said "Doesn't sound much different to most armies!" I guess this is true.

For me, it was like being a kid, when your parents had a party, and you and all the new kids you didn't know all ran around in the dark, screaming until some nasty old tannie decided their kids had to go to bed, and you were forced to as well. Except, at Oppikoppi, going to bed isn't really an option. It's too cold. Your nose and your fingers and everything else that's exposed is numb. The ground is too cold to lie down on. Which is just one of the many reasons the guys who pull into you while taking a leak en route somewhere would never get laid.

And you keep feeling you're missing out because the music's too good.

The Music


And on the Friday night, Oppikoppi gave us the Albert Frost Trio. Which certainly makes a decent gallery. Though he isn't the best songwriter around - a lot of his set turned out to be covers, or reasonable facsimiles thereof - He's one of the best guitarists out there (I'd rate him right up there with Anton Lamour) and the new arrivals laughed and clapped. You can tell who's new by the fact that their knees are still clean.

The stage where Frost burned it up to an euphoric crowd looks out over the mining town of Northam and the sun was going down. One of the best things about it, and the koppie, is that you can take a 30 pace hike over the ridge of the koppie and you're in a new world altogether, because just over the edge is the perfect sunset viewing spot. From there, you can always catch what's going on on the main stage and the sound is fair. Right up there with a 60s bootleg, anyhow.

And still at Sipho Gumede, Farrel Adams, formerly of Cape funkish band Golliwog (hear what he has to say about the fest in our podcast tomorrow) put on a show with a sexy blonde counterpart who can certainly sing, but some advice, chick: if you're dressing in a tent, you got to ditch the dress or just let it fall off.

Among Saturday's highlights were Lark - Inge's rock opera and wild dance is something for the senses. Then there was Saul Williams: Disarmingly inspiring, poetic hip hop meets rock, he had those of us who showed up screaming for more. If anyone showed a crowd the stars, through the booze and the lights and the ongoing feeling that something else might just be happening now, he did. One of the highlights. Hear the podcast we recorded before he arrived in SA.

Goldfish did Saturday's Sunrise gig and a lot of people I spoke to were there. Friday (or Saturday morning) was catching up... what can I say. They always rock though, from a Botrivier hotel, to a Sea Point schmooze.


Valiant would have been one of the highlights of the show if it weren't for the drunken crowd watching who were, to put it in his own lyric, for the most part "Lekker Zef" - download 70% of his song of the same title here - it's free.

Sid Kitchen and Anike (Sid is from Durban, Anike is a gorgeous new singer songwriting talent) got their lentils off in the top bar, as did Farrell Purkiss, Guy Buttery and others.

It's the warmest place at the fest, and not just because of the hike up the hill. The bar is warm. And it's the favoured place for the regular fest stars to hang out and drink, partly because it's the closest to their rondawels, and partly because the toilets work. But mainly because it's warm - it's damn hard to play a guitar if you can't feel your fingers.

James Phillips Mane Stage

I sat and drank OBs till sunrise with a guy from a band who shall not be named, who said: "I cried for Chris Chameleon". The reason he shall not be named is that this was crying of joy. We agreed, or I said and he nodded, and said "ya, that's it" a lot, is that Chris Chameleon routinely used to overdo it at live gigs. He'd close his throat. He'd camp it up. He'd freeze his audience out (well, aside from the chicks who're still inexplicably Boo! hot) like a hyperactive kid at a jumping castle party. Who needs that when the Parlotones are doing sped up versions of "Here comes a man?" and "Lisa Se Klavier".

On Friday, Chris Chameleon took that stage, that audience, and he made love to them. Not, for once, like Chris Chamelon wanted it. But like the audience - who are more important - wanted to be made love to. It was so good that it could have been off the albums. There are three great albums from him in the last 12 months.

Bed on Bricks (if I could remember which night it was, I'd say) blew the crowd away too.

But the biggest surprise for the crowd was probably Vusi "The voice" Mahlasela's incredible jazz pop. He, like Malaika, is an example of where the Oppikoppi organisers decided to challenge the regulars musically. There's always the odd ou in an old SA flag T-Shirt, or a "Death to Hip Hop" shirt. But inbreeding happens everywhere, and most of the crowd were willing to enter the new century. I saw a few grown men standing crying during Malaika's set. Whether it was because they'd never shag a girl as hot as the dancer, or whether they were moved by the music, is not clear to me yet. Malaika seemed surprised by the huge crowd she'd drawn. She kept saying "Wow, you guys are so cool!"

Also on Saturday The Narrow, Pestroy, and Fokofpolisiekar burned it up.

Opinions are divided about how Francois-hulle did. Their fans (80%) think they were the best thing they saw at the festival (except perhaps for the next beer). The others (20%) think they were too drunk or tired to play a good gig. Either way, they played with all their hearts, bringing guys from Lark as " Trawante" onstage to fill it out.


Jack Hammer may be old hat to a lot of people reading this, but when you watch Piet Botha, son of Pik, doing his Mamba onstage you see why he's still touring, and why this Oppikoppi is his 13th. The girl about half (a third?) of his age who was hanging with him in the to bar at 2am didn't seem to think he was over the hill, either. Koppie. Oh, nevermind.

The Parlotones seemed to go down well. "Dragonflies and Astronauts" is a first class single and considering how late they played, they were in good shape. Not pissed. In full makeup that wasn't smeared. Not all the bands were as professional...

There was a Dutch band zZz fronted by a drummer, who had a good sound even if channeling Jim Morrison is a little 80s...

You can't do it all

I walked (I counted on Saturday) up the hill to the main bar, and up the other arse cheek of the koppie to the view spot and the Gito stage, at least eight times each. And though I only slept about 8 hours all weekend, I still managed to miss Corne and Twakkie, who I love, and a few other great gigs. Luckily, Tertius Kapp of MK89 was there to cover some of these - check out his story, Van Oppikoppi-virgin tot Oppikoppi-snol . I missed the whole of Thursday too and all the early afternoon gigs on Friday. If I had enough energy left, I'd kick myself.

Instead, I'll just ask you. How did the shows I missed go? And what did you think of what you saw?

Psst! Oppikoppi 2007 will be a massive jol, and we'll be there.

Jean Barker
If you're wondering why people in pictures taken at the Oppikoppi music festival always look so drunk, here's why.
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