Rock of Ages: Up the Creek - Rock of Ages: Up the Creek

2008-02-07 08:24
Cut straight to the live clips:
- Harris Tweed
- Van Coke Kartel
- Bed On Bricks
- Love Jones
- Wonderboom
- Parlotones
- Valiant Swart
- Taxi Violence
- Dan Patlansky
- Perez
- Southern Gypsey Queen
- DNA Strings

- Taxi Violence: "The Dare"

Back to the Review:
Not that there’s anything wrong with a family picnic. Anyone who’s attended a concert at Kirstenbosch, Paul Cluver or Emmarentia Dam will know that single day, all age concerts can be fabulous fun. But three days of parents clogging up the dance floor with their camping chairs, blankets, cooler boxes and brandy ‘n cokes might be pushing it. Especially if you happened to be a 20-something in search of some real rock ‘n roll rebellion. Then again, there weren’t many 20 year olds in sight. Turns out most of the hip skinny jeans jet set had stayed back in Stellenbosch for the student RAG festivities.

So you had to feel for Bed On Bricks. Corralled into the opening sunset slot, they did their best to coax the handful of teenagers who’d come with their 40-something moms and dads into a festival spirit with a signature set of vibe-y Afro-rock. While they hardly got beyond a simmer, their percolated funk seemed to do the trick. By the time Love Jones - or Stealing Love Jones as they’re now billed thanks to some American band’s rank-pulling – started romping through a breezy, if loose, set of hits and misses, most of the kids were up on their feet. Maybe it was the booze speaking, but in a certain light there is something awkwardly attractive about leading lady Esjay. No, it’s not just her trashy glam teen-popped couture. It’s the fact that beneath the skunkadelic hairdo is a babe with more than enough chops to belt out a barnstorming rocker such as “Kicks” or a power pop ballad like “A Little Easier”.

Ditto Wonderboom whose unadulterated stadium rock spiel spawned more than one ‘battle of the sexes’ debate over whether lead singer Cito is a rock god or simply a narcissistic S.O.B. Of course, Wonderboom has been milking the festival circuit so long now they know intuitively how to work an adult contemporary audience up to orgasm. But hey, a few of Cito’s seismic groin gyrations coupled to a carefully chosen cover – this time Evoid’s “Shadows” – even had a couple of kids crowd surfing while mom and pop did the nostalgic singalong thing!

Next up was The Parlotones. Sure, it’s easy to poke fun at lead singer Kahn Morbee’s lighter-waving ballads, teardrop exploding mascara and robotic pop dance moves. Thing is these guys do have a knack for writing some seriously huge hooks that fans of most ages can sing along to. Does anyone besides the critics care if their show sometimes felt like a carefully packaged pop conflation of some of the best bits of the Pixies, Snow Patrol and U2? The Up the Creek crowd definitely didn’t. Married couples had no problems channelling the Valentine’s Day vibes of ‘silly’ love song “I’ll Be There” while single kids bopped up and down to 80s fave “Here Comes The Man”. Whether the largely English audience really gave a damn about their cover of Koos Kombuis’ “Lisa se Klavier” is another matter. One thing’s for certain. They certainly didn’t hang around for Foto Na Dans’ post-1am set. Pity. The Afrikaans rockers more progressive moments would’ve definitely struck a chord with some of the Grateful Dead fans in the audience - if they hadn’t been safely tucked into their sleeping bags.
And so onto Saturday and an unprecedented rock festival bonus: unlimited hot showers, soap and enough toilet paper in both the men’s and ladies bathrooms. Not to mention hangover curatives ranging from life-saving fruit smoothies and home-made sandwiches to slap up farm style breakfasts and a chilled float in the Breede River. Raaight, so Up the Creek’s something of a rock ‘n roll sanitarium is it? Course not. It’s a rock festival. But it’s unlike any rock festival you’ve been at. Just what the hell that meant was clearly what Southern Gypsey Queen were trying to figure out. Either they had a bit of a bender the night before or just didn’t know what to make of mom and pop munching on home-made sarmies while ignoring them.

Revealingly, Perez had no such problems. Their stylish set proved there might just be a way out for SA indie-rock. Marrying taut modern rock riffs ‘n wailers with moodier country-rockers they mapped a tangled journey somewhere between Placebo and... Gram Parsons? Impressive. As was veteran Creek institution, Valiant Swart. After a slightly dazed start his sokkie-two steps hit their hip-shaking stride, and by the time he headed back onto his blues rock highway in search of the “Mystic Boer”, the crowd was totally primed to party.

Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said of DNA Strings. Sure, these guys are accomplished instrumentalists. But somehow you couldn’t shake the feeling that their chilled Afro-Celtic wallpaper would’ve worked better as a sundowners set. It was a minor scheduling mishap though with Taxi Violence actually stepping out of their serious R.O.C.K. muso straight jackets to swap instruments and deliver a sleazy, sexed up Queens of the Stone Age cover, replete with some axe-grinding antics from last bohemian cowboy standing Bingo. Yes, rock ‘n roll had finally arrived at Up the Creek.

As had the blues. Guitarist Dan Patlansky gave those fans constipated by Prime Circle’s bloated chart rock clichés a welcome enema with his feral fret-board conversations in feedback. The Mojo he channelled on a show stopping version of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” was so damn evil he actually had Taxi Violence bassist Loedi gushing like a groupie before scrambling backstage to pay his respects. Yes, Patlansky was a seriously hard to act to follow. As Afrikaans garage rockers Van Coke Kartel discovered when they played to half an audience. Where the hell was the other half at 1am in the morning? Well, let’s just say that VCK’s back-to-basics cocktail of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll bluster was a little too no-fi for those more mature ears hypnotised by Patlansky’s hi-fidelity.

And so to Sunday and the inevitable “oh shit, work tomorrow, time to decamp and get the hell back to town”? Not quite. Not before Harris Tweed had played anyway. It was worth out-waiting Corne and Twakkie’s “Xmas in February” slapstick. Cherilyn (vocals, keys, guitar) and Darryl’s (keys, guitar, fx) decision to cull the indie-tag from their folk-pop billing is paying off. Their whimsical lullabies are now fleshed out with hauntingly melancholic minor key pop contusions and quietly sinister alt. folk sentiments. Maybe it was just sleep deprivation, but the simplicity of their bruised knee ballads about love lost and dreams postponed seemed to nail the ennui of the final morning of any rock festival: bewitched, bothered and yes, slightly bewildered.

- Miles Keylock

Compared to Oppikoppi’s vrot frat-boy gang bangers, Rocking the Daisies’ legions of upwardly mobile Mother City hipsters and Splashy Fen’s dazed and confused denizens, the festival goers who packed themselves into the banks of the Breede River near Swellendam this past weekend gave Up the Creek the mood of one massive family picnic. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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