It’s been six days since Cape Town’s biggest music festival wrapped up its behemoth 2010 booty-shake, and dance-floor hedonist (and Hg2 Cape Town co-author) Keith Bain has only now surfaced from the post-celebratory slump, his party-addled body finally fully-recovered from what he describes as the biggest mash-up of musical performances the Cape has ever witnessed.
“It’s official. My love of music is rejuvenated, reborn, remixed; I’ve rebooted the old ass-shake system with a revamped appreciation of myriad beats and rhythms, basslines and vocals—and it’s all thanks to Rocking the Daisies, a scintillating celebration of music in an eclectic mix that echoes Cape Town’s diverse tastes and unique fusion society. A rock festival, perhaps, but that’s only scratching the outermost surface of a cultural mix-up that was stuffed to bursting with so many divergent forms and styles of music, that they could have handed out musicology degrees to the many thousands of party-fit revellers who braved the elements (Mother Nature was there, too, in all her moods) to worship at this altar of outdoor hedonism.
While the rock stars—from sex-on-legs Arno Carstens (front man for the legendary Springbok Nude Girls) to that dazzling shape-shifter, Chris Chameleon (who blew us away with intelligent lyrics and super-charged vocals for his one-of-a-kind band, Boo!)—were probably the acts that drew in the crowds, it was a veritable entertainment free-for-all once things kicked off and Daisies established itself as a playground with numerous thrilling rides, each one capable of swinging your mood in a new, unexpected direction. With multiple venues, each offering another genre and a daunting diversity of styles, this was like a university of musical expression, much of it new and emerging, evolving like DNA on speed as it emanated from the turntable alchemists, vocal agitators, and unhinged rhythm-masters.
With no end to the ceaseless intoxication—in all its forms—this was a crowd that knew how to have a good time, and clearly knew its way around a dance floor. Loaded up on anti-histamines (damn that pollen!) and magic mushrooms, I too careened from one genius performance to the next, taking in as much of the sensory roller-coaster as my frazzled brain would allow; dipping into the soulful, globally-sourced sessions in the World Beat barn, and buckling over at the filthy jokes and hysterical lessons in life that spilled off the tongues of some of the country’s wackiest comedians in the hay-bail strewn stand-up comedy tent. It was the kind of party that made me wish I could be in several places all at once, but sometimes there was no choice but to simply rejoice at the unbelievable talents of collaborative artists like the Israeli-based Idan Rachiel Project, surely one of the most mesmerising achievements of the festival, and one of the few times the tears in my eyes had nothing to do with the pollen winging it through the spring air.
As much as the live bands moved us and shook our high-flying souls, the writing is most certainly on the wall. There’s a generation of club-mad hedonists who know how they like their beats. Fast, furious, generated by androids, and belted out on precision equipment that is rarely matched by the sound technology used by the live bands. The madness out there at the front of the Red Bull Studio’s live electronic stage (surely the most intriguing temporary party space yet seen in South Africa, a gigantic inflatable alien spacecraft simulating a club in the countryside) told a thrilling story of the relentless evolution of dance music. From quirky dubstep, experimental electro, hard trance, and the superlative Niskerone’s genius drum ‘n’ bass set, it was the racy computer-synthesized tunes, more than the rock, that truly brought the house down. Thousands of people crammed tightly onto a vast hypnotic dancefloor, every one of them jostling for space to bump and swirl, gyrate and pulse to a tumultuous mash-up of crazy beats and furious sounds. A succession of extraordinary DJs, fusion musicians, and ballsy collaborators took turns at commanding this swinging spaceship. Here, on planet groove, the mood was effervescent and combustible. Dizzying energies mingled and collided, sustained by the effects and after-effects of assorted narcotics, shooters and high-spirits—not to mention myriad cocktails involving all three and more. It was sheer, unhinged madness, a let-rip free-for-all that teetered ever so close to apocalyptic fervour. Swept along by the carefree mood of Generation Now, it all reached a captivating crescendo with a packed-to-capacity late night set by Cape Town electro gods, Killer Robot (residents at Hg2’s favourite Long Street club, Fiction).
Not just an excuse to party, this year’s Daisies was a mind-blowing musical journey, and a chance to meet Capetonians doing what they do best—rocking around the clock. From rock solid rock to world music collaborations, super-hip folk singers and balladeers, to the crazy, far-out and sometimes trashy bump and grind trip through the rapidly-evolving soundscape of contemporary dance music, the festival crammed in as much evidence of the history and the future of meaningful sound as any festival could hope to muster. For three fun-filled days of this sort of brilliant entertainment and cutting-edge energy, I’d gladly put up with the camping and porta-cabin toilets again (provided, of course, I’m staying at the mobile Kreef Hotel—it’s not exactly luxury in the bush, but they’re purveyors of hassle-free pre-fab tents, hot showers, and hangover-resolving breakfasts, all served up within close proximity to the action).
Aside from the sheer forcefulness of the entertainment offerings, the party showcased a couple of the city’s food darlings (like Green Point’s Miss K, and organic crusaders, Portobello) and made big efforts to cram as much eco-consciousness into everyone’s brains as such events allow; they even had a select team of green hedonists who walked from the city to the party in a bid to offset carbon emissions, and there were masses of toned, athletic revellers who arrived by bike, by all accounts a thrilling and scenic way to arrive at an outdoor festival. Then, of course, there was the venue: Cloof is a wine farm blessed with an enchanting setting not too far from the vibey village hamlet of Darling, just an hour from the city.
If, like me, you’re already planning your 2011 Daisies experience, pick up a copy of Hg2 Cape Town for the lowdown on how to book (for the event and the tented hotel), as well as what to do with the rest of your time in South Africa’s Mother City. Despite what you may have heard, Cape Town is a whole lot more than just one long swinging party.
Buy Hg2 Cape Town here