Oppikoppi Rocks!

2008-08-14 06:26
Thursday: Albert Frost
Don't extoll the virtues of Dan Patlansky in front of an Albert Frost fan. You're asking for trouble. Just as I was doing my bit on how "The Dan" can shred with the best of them, someone corrected me. "Don’t be silly, Albert Frost is the coolest guitarist in South Africa, hands down," she said. The proof being in the pudding, I went to the Most Amazing Myn Stage on Wednesday to eat it. And boy was it good. Watch: Albert burns up the koppi.

Born under a bad sign, blessed with Fender mojo, channeling avatar for the late Robert Johnson, whatever you say about him, there’s something otherworldly about Albert Frost’s guitar playing, mid-solo. As soon as his eyes roll up into their sockets, you know you’re about to be hit by the sickest, most invogorating lead guitar the South African music buffet has to offer. And that’s understating his quality: his string-bashing performance at Oppikoppi is without doubt the defining guitargasm of my short, rock ‘n roll-loving life. [NB]

Too much is being made of Laudo Liebenberg’s pretty eyes, not least by some quarters of the music press. For near to certain, he has one of the sexiest low registers (and no, that’s not street for "crotch") in South Africa. To end their headlining set on the Oppikoppi main stage, the rest of aKING packed up their instruments, leaving Laudo with just his voice and a guitar to perform "Shine A Light". The short, low key song tied up an evening of rock ‘n roll on a ringing note of perfection, and because of that performance, myself and a thousand odd others just can’t wait to hear aKING again. [NB]

Voëlvry Tribute
Tributes are dodgy affairs, invariably gutting the heart and soul out of the artists being remembered with nostalgic karaoke sessions about the good old days. Not the "20th" Voëlvry anniversary tribute though. Sure, exactly what Soutie 20-something Josie Field's Afrikaans protest singer credentials are remains questionable. But boy can this babe belt out an unplugged ballad. Unfortunately the same couldn't be said of cultural guerilla Syd Kitchen who thrummed his way through shambolically hip renditions of a triple play of Voëlvry faves that were quite literally lost in his hippie-dippie Afro-Saxon translation. Still, Syd's got a veteran busker's sense of humour.

For me, the 'magic moment' was hearing Valiant Swart reminisce how Bernoldus Niemand's "Hou My Vas Korporaal" helped him find a sense of humour way back when he was a troepie in the apartheid army. Listening to his reverential covers of Koos, Bernoldus and Kerkorrel you could hear excatly where the 'mystic boer' myth began to take shape. And so, onto last Voëlvry soldier standing, Koos Kombuis. Singing old 'protest' songs he so rarely performs that he'd forgotten most of the words. No matter. The fans crammed into the intimate Gito Baloi 'bar' stage knew them by heart, chorusing along like they were in bush bar karaoke heaven. [MK] Watch: Voëlvry highlights .

Taxi Violence
The stand-out event of the festival was by far the Taxi Violence acoustic gig in the Speakerbox/Levi's Original Music VIP area. I feel genuinely sorry for those who weren’t lucky enough to be around. Friday night, well after the sun had set but before the sliver of moon was up: all four members seated, a single light keeping half their faces hidden, everything covered in a sheen of dust and an intimate audience, some sitting in the dirt at their feet, waiting, bristling with anticipation.

The perfect setting for a growling, thumping selection of songs about preachers and devils, wildcards and whiskey – dust-parched rock in a frontier town to rouse your black heart and keep the cold dark at bay. Foot stamping up a plume of dirt, George rumbled and wailed away while Riaan, Louis and Jason's three guitars and single kick drum drenched the camp in sound. It’s the kind of heartbreaking, invigorating stuff that legends are made of – and ranks in my list of transcendent musical experiences along with seeing Hugh Masakela at the Blue Note in Tokyo and Plant and Page instrumental at Glastonbury. Unforgettable. [FG]
Watch: Taxi Violence: acoustic Wild Card.
All Afro-pop rapping with international gloss in stylish threads, Obita came to Oppikppi with a generous spirit, filling the rocky slopes of the Sipho Gumede stage with dancing girls and grooving guys and good sing-along rhythms. The crowd stopped shouting for 340ml (up next), and started screaming for him instead. You can see why he’s been picked to play Glastonbury Festival – this guy makes the party rock. [JB]

340ml seemed to be running on empty a couple of years back, but their gig at 206 proved they’re back, full of life. Although tracks off their first album got the nostalgic crowd pumping the air the new material was the most exciting for me – it sounds like more of the same mellow jol music I couldn't do without on a road trip for months, evoking clear waters, warm nights, and city lights all at the same time. The new album, Sorry for the Delay on the shelves already, is highly recommended. [JB] Watch: 340ml: in the Oppi dub zone.

Kwani Experience
"Did you get experienced?" I quizzed a fellow journo in the Kreef Hotel on Sunday morning. "Nope. Those kids, they stand there with their hair and the arty attitude. But they don't write songs," she replied. "Precisely", I retorted. After watching a conveyor belt of rock bands and their colour-by-numbers chart attacks (sorry aKING), I didn't want hits. I wanted heart. And P.O., Bafana and crew had heart in spades. Jamming Kuti, Marley, Makeba and Mabuse into a Afro-jazzy-funk-hop melting pot their extrapolated sermons may have seemed like self-indulgent jams to pop heathens, but screamed out soul to anyone in danger of a rock overdose. [MK] Watch: Kwani Exeperience: Oppikoppi Hi-Life.

Harris Tweed
The wall-to-wall human carpeting up at the Gito Baloi stage should've been a clue. There's been a seismic shift in the tweedies fan base over the the past year. Sure, Cherilyn is still as cute-as-a-button. But it's not just her virginal girl-next-door grin that makes Harris Tweed so seductive. Okay, every time she flashed her pearlie-whites guys queued up to shout out: "Marry me, Cheri!" But no, it's the fact that they're writing some seriously bewitching folk pop songs now that helped Harris Tweed win over what can be an unforgiving crowd on the intimate Gito Baloi 'bar' stage. Artfully marrying the mellow and the meldodramatic, their renditions of "Dear Heart" and "Great White Bear" melted the hearts of neo-hippie new age travellers, boozed up rugger buggers and broken-hearted bosveld babes alike. Quite simply, they were mesmerising.

No longer knobbled by indie-whimsy, Cheri's lyrics have now moved beyond quirkily shy confessionals to start caressing some real bruises out of those fractured relationship spaces she shares with the likes of Scout Niblet, Cat Power, and yes, even Tori Amos. And let's not forget about Darryl. His increasingly eccentric arrangements are the stuff chamber pop dreams are made of. When the Tweedies (or whatever name they'll soon be called) hit the Billboard charts in a year of two, anyone who witnessed their sublime set on the Gito Baloi stage will be able to say, "I saw them start reaching for the stars at Oppikoppi 2008". [MK]

Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse
It's been a while since a song brought a lump to my throat. The last time it happened was with "De La Rey," and that turned out to be vomit. With Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse, it was emotion. Listening to the seamlessly groovy "Burn Out", watching the crowd get into the mood, and realizing yet again that South African musicians can be utterly transcendental, and can write songs that are classics, rather than fodder for future advertising jingles, was an unquestionable highlight.

When I got back to the Speakerbox Poker Den, I spent 20 minutes berating the Taxi Violence guys for playing cards instead of listening to an SA great. "You don't even play real music!" I shouted at them, "You're just stupid rock musicians!" After they fed me tequila and made shushing noises for a while, I calmed down. [CR]

Karen Zoid
Karen Zoid's a real rock chick, and her massive Oppikoppi gig just proved it again. On the harder tracks she had the boys whistling and the girls bouncing on their boyfriend’s shoulders as she flicked her blonde hair and strode across the stage, taking it over, yet full of sweetness. Dropping the tempo she serenaded a forest of lighters. As a guy in the front row kept shouting: “Karen, jy’s oud, maar jy’s still HOT”. True enough, dude. [JB] Watch: Karen Zoid: rock the koppi.

Contributors: Miles Keylock, Jean Barker, Chris Roper, Finn Gregory and Niel Bekker.

Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse or Freshlyground? Harris Tweed or Josie Field? aKING or Taxi Violence? Dan Patlansky or Albert Frost? Obita or Kwani Experience? This year's Oppikoppi festival spawned heated debate as to who rocked the bosveld best. Here are the Channel 24 crew's picks of the Wild Card pack: from Karen Zoid, 'Hotstix' Mabuse and Harris Tweed to 340ml, Obita, Taxi Violence and more.

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