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Splashy Fen 2010: I Feel Like a City Slicker

2010-04-07 12:20
Splashy Fen

And then there’s the guy that ended up stumbling around the woods, laughing desperately as he cursed Ecuador under his incoherent breath, trying to find his infernal way back to his campsite…

Then there’s me. What do I remember? Pizza, coffee, brandy, fiery hot curries, Paninis, Bacardi, campfires, Black Label draught… but mostly: the bands. Last year, to celebrate the 20th anniversary, Splashy Fen was a painfully true-to-its-roots celebration of hippy folk music, acoustic guitars and older family values. This year, things were different.

Looking back on it, the lineup looks like a populist’s dream: a little bit of everything for everyone. From surprisingly modern, in-touch acts like Jack Parow , Die Heuwels Fantasties and New Holland, to SA festival favourites like Fokofpolisiekar and Hog Hoggidy Hog, evergreens like Dan Patlansky and Tidal Waves , and Splashy dinosaurs like Syd Kitchen and Hairy Legged Lentil Eaters. Some Durban artists were pissed off with the imports but you can’t fault a festival for keeping up.

Thursday night’s usually a mediocre one: mellow drive, get there late, chill by the campsite, stumble down to check things out around nine. But with Cortina Whiplash, The Shadowclub, Straatligkinders, Captain Stu and Hog Hoggidy Hog on the bill, Splashy Farm was packed when I arrived (late).

I set up camp just in time to catch Straatligkinders, whose live show was intense but, without any backups, lead singer Bouwer Bosch seemed to struggle hitting his singing notes (not his screams). Captain Stu were all-over-the-place energetic, sans shoes. And Hogs were just incredible – as always.

After the bands the party ended prematurely, with security locking up the beer tent long before I’d called last rounds. Good job we found the secret bar then. “Head down the hill, follow the light,” they said.

On Friday morning, starting with Hairy Legged Lentil Eaters at 12:00pm and ending with Syd Kitchen at 5:00pm, the Grant Erskine Main Stage was all about the history. Until the new guard of SA music festivals took over at 6:15pm. Watching Jack Parow follow Syd Kitchen was surreal: a not so subtle changing of the guard. It was like watching CDs follow audiotapes.

Parow’s a born entertainer and word around the campfire was he pulled the biggest crowd of the whole weekend. Everyone was talking about him: his cap, the music video for “Cooler As Ekke”. And at close to half a million views on YouTube, I think it’s fair to call the guy a phenomenon. I wonder what Syd Kitchen thought of the show. Parow was hot but the show could have done with a live drummer and bassist.

It was bizarre watching New Holland at Splashy, hairstyles and all, but they were fired up and nailed it. Tidal Waves sounded spiritual, man, with guitarist Jaco Mans wailing like a Japanese fisherman – why don’t their recordings ever rock as hard? Die Heuwels Fantasties frontman Pierre Greeff seemed to battle staying in tune but the music was tight – Thieve’s Philip Erasmus is one neat drummer and bassist Hunter Kennedy blasts some mean backups. Fokofpolisiekar were their usual festival dominating selves: rugged, intense and surprisingly fun. It’s been four years since Fokof played Splashy and they seemed to enjoy every second of it.

Meanwhile, on the smaller Splashy Fen Marquee, bands like Sheep Down, Voodoo Child, Catlike Thieves, Dimeshift and Holly and the Woods kept the party going on the other side of town. But just like the night before, the bands were over before you knew it and the beer tent was closed. Access denied!

Walking around during the day I couldn’t believe how many people have taken to sunglasses without lenses. I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a submachine with an extractor fan. Or a helicopter with an eject seat. Stupid! Even worse were all the people wearing Gateway Real 3D glasses, some with the lenses, some with them pushed through. Kids…

At the risk of sounding like a separatist, Saturday night was jock/mainstream night: Prime Circle , Goodluck and The Sharks vs. Reds (in the program and everything). But, fresh from their Durex Battle of the Bands win, Tree Houses on the Sea blazed their way through a stomping set of eclectic hip-hop and hillbilly blue grass outfit Mottled Crew drank their Mountain Dew on the Splashy Stage. Car Boot Vendors were great as well. Then The Meditators ended the night with, what seemed like, a five-hour set of island style reggae.

Overall, with Goodluck’s Goldfish-esque, club anthems blaring from the main stage and The Meditators Jah guiding the Splashy Marquee, Saturday night rocked the latest.

On Sunday morning the blues train rolled into the Splashy station and every second song was a Jimi Hendrix cover. Again, showing off how diverse and individually pleasing this year’s lineup was. I caught Thomas Krane, Manuvah To Land and The Otherwise on the Splashy Stage. I wanted to stick around for Death Valley Blues Band and wacky American hardcore heroes HORSE the Band, but the rain just wouldn’t stop (unbelievably, the first of its kind all weekend). And there was no way in hell I was queuing up for four hours to leave on Monday morning. I had porcelain on my mind and kicked down before the rain turned the dirt roads to quicksand.

Overall, Splashy Fen 2010 was the most smooth-sailing and professionally set up Splashy I’ve ever been to. The lineup was great (although it seemed to peak pretty early) and the weather held out. The beer tent seemed a bit trigger-happy calling last rounds and God damn, the toilets were disgusting (more so than usual). But ja, every one’s got a different story, mine’s of an awesome Splashy Fen. Now I just wish I could get the smell of firewood out of my hair. Seriously, I’ve washed it twice already.

Everyone's got a different Splashy story, depends who you ask. There's the guy that partied so hard the first night he woke up with heart monitors attached to his chest, a drip in his arm, a bill for R450 and two pissed off sisters calling home to complain. There's the group of nutcases that moved in on Monday morning, before the port-a-loos, and camped out for a whole week.
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