Review: Synergy Live 2011

2011-11-30 17:04
This year's Synergy Live music festival held at Boschendal wine estate in Paarl, Cape Town, welcomed thousands of eager young rock and electronic music fans for a long weekend of non-stop entertainment. With two live music stages, an electronic music stage, a comedy tent and a chillout zone playing cult movies there was no shortage of options.

Forget the muddy hell of festivals like Glastonbury, the winelands setting provided perfect event management in a beautiful setting. Parking, camping and catering facilities were top-notch and it was never a problem to make sure everyone had what they needed, even if that included a Spur Burger. Tent Town was a seething mass of plastic and post-traumatic exam hormones as usual and everyone was serious about the business of unwinding.

The main stage featured some of the biggest names in SA music including the likes of Taxi Violence, Isochronous, aKING, Good Luck and Jax Panic. The much-anticipated headline act was Black Rebel Motorcycle Club from San Francisco, USA. The tented stage sponsored by Your LMG magazine showcased some of the best up-and-coming bands like Shadowclub, The Plastics, Peachy Keen and The Sleepers to name only a few. For electronic fans the Red Bull Studio Live hosted big-name international DJs F.O.O.L. (Sweden) and DirtyLoud (Brazil) as well as locals Niskerone, Counterstrike, Das Kapital, SFR and many other great DJs. In the comedy tent local stand-ups Piet Potgieter, Melt Sieberhagen, Paul Snodgrass and others made sure everyone kept their sense of humour.

Killer sets

Saintfearless kicked off the festival on Friday to a small crowd of early birds before passing things over to Fox Comet whose jazzy rock vibe was perfect for sundowners. Elsewhere, The Plastics were jamming in the LMG tent and sending out some seriously funky retro-rock tunes to an appreciative audience. Back at the main stage, the crowd had swelled to capacity as Taxi Violence made their appearance. These guys never disappoint and they wasted no time in setting a match to things. Frontman George Van Der Spuy belted out the vocals and had the place on fire with his taunts and sheer kinetic energy. Time for a chillout at the LMG tent but it wasn't to be. Joburg rockers Shadowclub, who are probably the most hyped up-and-coming band of the moment, were starting their set. They play an upbeat, uncompromising version of blues-rock which will get you stomping to the beat. Tonight's set kicked off with Louis Roux's bass amped up to insane levels that had the front row holding on for dear life. Moolman's distinctive howl kicked in and smashed what was left of any resistance. They gave a killer performance and silenced any lingering doubts I might have had about their street cred.

I caught part of Das Kapital's set and he was dropping some heavy beats on a posse of electro heads. I didn't manage to see the set through, unfortunately, because I got hooked by Crimson House Blues's catchy tunes. Is it just me or does frontman Redeye Riaan not look exactly like a hip Michael Moore? His gravelly voice and whiskey-soaked lyrics added a welcome dose of the blues to go with the night's rock rhythms. The last act was Goodluck, a slick electro-house ensemble that proved to be the sleeper hit of the festival for me. It was my first time to catch them live and I was blown away. The duo of Ben Peters (DJ) and Juilet Harding (vox) are a rare instance of perfect, well, synergy. Peters's skill on the deck was complemented by Harding’s stunning vocals, reminiscent in its purity of Sinead O'Connor's but edgier and stronger.

Saturday's offering kicked off with Southern Gypsey Queen, who sounded more New Jersey than New Orleans despite what their name suggests. They played a solid set with some catchy riffs and Tammy Wilson on vocals did a great cover of 99 Red Balloons. Later it was Tumi and the Volume, the only group according to frontman Tumi who had their BEE credentials sorted. His brand of hiphop with its ironic lyrics was a nice change up from the morning’s fourplay of rock bands. In the LMG tent blues-rockers La.Vi were into their set and Chantel Van T (vox) was doing what she does best. Back at the main stage aKING were up and they played a hard rocking set with some awesome blues riffs thrown in. Their playing got the parched crowd on their feet just in time for the arrival of those infamous pork-rockers, Hog Hoggidy Hog. The Hogs tore into their set and the rising dust cloud showed where the moshers were getting their freak on. The Alt-rock crew Isochronous performed to a capacity crowd and Richard Brokensha’s choirboy voice transported us to another level. One overeager fan got way too high and ended up hanging from the stage frame before security could stop him. Headliners Black Rebel Motorcycle Club brought us down to earth again with a ripping bassline. Their song War Machine was a rocking tour de force and goes down as one of the anthems of the festival.

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