Oppikoppi: Another One Bites the Dust

2008-05-12 07:49
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As Tidal Waves launch into another encore, Hennie van Halen, the band's bassist, mutters, “Shit, I can't take this,” and walks back off the stage, away from the expectant crowd. aKing have a lot to prove. After all, they're the offspring of South Africa's only recent mega band, Fokofpolisiekar.

“The feedback to the album's been fucking great,” says van Halen. “We didn't know what to expect and the response is amazing. We've only been around about five months and people are singing along to our songs at gigs.” The guys from Van Coke Cartel, Fokof's other spin-off band, are also backstage providing moral support. Both bands huddle together in a sort of rugby pep-talk. They hug, then part. The bassist takes a deep breath. The guitarist calls for another cigarette. As they walk onto the stage, the crowd begins to cheer.

The festival had been a quiet one so far. Perhaps it was the cold. The dust was still the same, the beer still cold, but the people were less than last year, the crowd smaller. And after three days of constant music and partying they were tired. It was Sarah Brettens, lead singer of K’s Choice, who had really kicked off the Easter festival with a tight, professional set. The small crowd made her playing feel exclusive, rather than bare. Certainly, chanting “I’m not an addict” along with more than a thousand other devoted fans had been a great start to it all.
Saturday saw a number of strong performances, most notably from instrumental band Kidofdoom, regulars to the festival by now and who never cease to amaze, and Van Coke Cartel – a band still trying to persuade fans they’re not Fokofpolisiekar. The sound is harder and the crowd heavier but, for some, it’s hard to let go. It was Henry Ate, in their first gig together in five years, who stole the evening. Stripped down, acoustic and dreamlike, it’s good, very good, to have them back.

On the Sunday, as the festival came to a close, the smaller crowd seemed a perfect fit for Harris Tweed, who unveiled songs from their new album. The band have toned down their melancholy piano tunes in favour of a more structured, anthemic sound. It works and they were mesmerizing.

Then 7th Son took the stage. The Cape Town rockers aren’t well known outside their native city and it’s a shame. With precious few exceptions, no other band at Oppikoppi could match them. They’re confident, professional and one of the best local bands out there. And with aKing waiting in the wings, Oppikoppi veterans Tidal Waves solicited encore after encore from the crowd. The reggae band never fails to please and the festival wouldn’t be the same without them.

As the crowd roared, aKing took the stage. The guys had prepared hard, and had the crowd chanting along to their rock anthems but something was lacking. Perhaps they were too nervous. Perhaps they were too tired after constant touring. “You can’t win them all,” says vocalist Laudo Liebenberg as he comes backstage. But that’s not the point. It wasn’t about winning, it was about surviving. Getting past Oppikoppi comes first. Winning comes later.

- Edward-John Bottomley, courtesy of Blunt Magazine

It's the final act of Oppikoppi's (not quite) Easter Festival and aKing seems to be nervous. As festival stalwarts Tidal Waves finish up an awesome set with "Afrika", a plaintive lovesong to the continent and are called out for encore after encore, the band backstage is struggling to cope with the stress. The bassist lightly jumps up and down to loosen up while the drummer sits and stares worriedly at the crowd. The band's lead guitarist is chain-smoking cigarettes.

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