Keith Bain is a freelance travel writer and author of Hg2 Cape Town, along with Pippa de Bruyn. Here he guest-blogs about the beginning of Cape Town’s summer music festivals – this weekend, for those who are stuck in the office staring at rain trickling down the window.
“It’s a pretty robust and cheery place at the worst of times, but come summer and the party faucet opens to a torrential downpour. A flood of hip-swinging events. Lithe beauties and cheery Adonises putting out fires on the dance floor. A music-infused massacre that will rob you of sleep, distort your reality, and have you kicking and screaming for more. If you want to party till you drop anytime between now and next March, put yourself on a flight to Cape Town. Immediately.
‘I’m going to lure them, groove them, reach them, teach them, shake them and break them,’ says Adam Metcalfe, one of Cape Town’s preeminent psy-trance producer-DJs. ‘It’ll be like sex on that dance-floor. No, wait. Way better than sex.’
Pack your Gucci sunglasses, baby. Summer may be kaput up in the northern hemisphere, but in Africa’s southernmost city, the festive season is hotting up. We’ve always said that finding a dirty party in Cape Town isn’t so much a matter of searching for one as taking a few steps from your front door. And we’re sticking to that story. The crunch of potentially ripping events has reached seismic proportions, such that decent and honest hedonists like ourselves are forced to reshuffle tightly-packed social schedules, and scratch our rattled pates in despair as we pull out of double-booked parties, rustling up all kinds of flimsy excuses. For in a city where your Moleskine diary (or PA) tracks your weekend more keenly than your weekday schedule, there’s simply no time to fit everything in. October brings on the Summer of Love remix and then brazenly pumps it up a notch, forcing us all to admit that we’re 21 again.
Letting your hair down is hardly an inconvenience in the town we like to call the Mother City. Loyalists say it gets that nickname because it’s South Africa’s first city and the one that begat all others (that’s by utterly European standards, of course), and rationally-minded residents joke that it’s so named because it takes nine months to get anything done here. But we prefer to think that it’s takes its moniker from an expression that’s frequently overheard on our streets, “that was the mother of all parties…do I have time to change before the next one”. For a town this size—and, really, you could mistake Cape Town for a village, despite the 3 million-plus population—there’s an unholy onslaught of good times and hectic schedule of ways to celebrate the high life.
And nowhere is this Mother’s insatiable appetite for unhinged hedonism more evident than on the dance floors of her infamous outdoor trance parties.
So, to celebrate the start of summer, we’re going with our gut and heading 40 minutes down the road, to a seriously sexy outdoor stomp fest that promises to sort us out properly, once and for all. A cursory glance at the line-up shows our favourite DJ, Headroom (aka Adam Metcalfe) pulling off the penultimate set at noon on Sunday afternoon—that in itself is enough to send shock waves through the space-time continuum. One of those tech-head DJs who also produces his own music and plays live, Adam’s also on the bill in another incarnation—Artelligent—at 11pm on Saturday. That’s right, people, this party kicks off Saturday afternoon, long before the sun sets on the Atlantic, and throbs its way through to Sunday when we’ll all be beating our chests and screaming for more when the speakers cut off at 4pm. By Cape Town standards, that’s a very respectable hour to start anticipating another week back at work.
Some cynics call them the doof-doof parties, and you might too if you hear them from a distance, down in the valley, or tucked behind a mountain, their hypnotic beats and trippy vibrations pulsing and echoing through some of the most serenely beautiful landscapes you’d ever hope to party in. Israel may have its desert parties, and Goa has them on the beach, but Cape Town wouldn’t be the Mother City if it weren’t for its outdoor celebrations, when the hottest, sexiest, loveliest, silliest, naughtiest über-party crew treks out to the countryside, and sets up camps for a total onslaught of electronic dance music featuring the most sensational line-up of DJs from Cape Town and the world.
This weekend’s Equinox party schedule (equinoxexperience.com) is a who’s who of the local forward-thinking electronic scene. And in Cape Town, that invariably involves a heavy, pulsating dose of psy-trance (performed by sought-after acts like Regan, Headroom, The Commercial Hippies, Protoculture, Broken Toy, and Gandalf), designed to make the crowd—instantly appealing, always easy on the eye and usually skimpily-dressed—bounce and float and stomp into a wonderfully mad mass of ecstatic dancing. After dark—the party continues non-stop for 25 hours—the computer wizards conjure crazy visuals and slick lighting effects that, were it not for the breeze, the enormity of the space around you, and the stars above your head, might have you imagining that you were in fact inside a club. Sometimes it gets a bit much for the brain, since there’s always some kind of intoxicating subterfuge on the go, always in the name of fun. We’re talking pure unadulterated hedonism, and it’s not for amateurs—having arrived here, you’ve earned the right to dance like nobody’s watching, and party like there’s no tomorrow. The whole splendid blast finishes off with an uplifting set by Cape Town’s electronic fusion maestro, Dean Fuel (whose interview for Hg2 can be read here)—not quite psy-trance, but with more than enough beats per minute. Did we mention kicking and screaming? There’s usually lots of that when the party finally goes quiet.
And, in case you need one more excuse to attend, we’d better mention Equinox’s eco-credentials. Cape Town and its immediate surrounds are home to such remarkable natural biodiversity, it comes as no surprise that many people living here are concerned with its preservation—and the organizers of Equinox have jumped in with sleeves rolled up. Their clever greening policy means all you have to do to make a difference is turn up and have a good time, since every 100 revellers represents one new tree that gets planted. In the same month that world leaders will be meeting in Nagoya to talk (yet again) about how to preserve the earth’s biodiversity (leading, we’re sure, to yet another set of meaningless resolutions and unattainable decisions), you get a chance to help ensure the future of hedonism—and the whole planet—simply by turning up to party.
What to bring (besides passport, stamina, and a sense of humour)? Bring sunscreen and sunglasses for the daytime, and—if you have a tendency to dance next to the speakers—earplugs. Adam (aka Headroom) recommends custom-designed and fitted earplugs made by a company called Protec-Ear in Cape Town; they’ll set you back R800, but will save you from saying “What?” a lot in later years. Simpler, cheaper earplugs are available at most pharmacies—or stay away from the speakers. The trance scene welcomes you to bring your own food, drink (no glass bottles, though) and whatever else you might require, although most consumables are available. If you intend pitching a tent, arrive early for a prime spot. Lose the attitude, drop the ego, and come as you are.
If you can’t be in Cape Town for Equinox, make a plan for next weekend, when the Mother City’s biggest rock concert, Rocking the Daisies, rolls around. It’s a three-day mix-up of many of the country’s top acts, with a separate tent for those who can’t stay away from the electronic stuff.”
Buy Hg2 Cape Town here