The mercury’s been rising in Cape Town these past few days; Keith Bain, our Hg2 author way down south, identifies the perfect opportunity to get-out-of-town, strip down, and let off some serious steam along with the usual band of festival misfits.
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It’s a good three-hour drive from Cape Town, but getting to Swellendam—the third-oldest town in South Africa—is a bit of joy in itself, the start of a fabulous road journey through gorgeous landscapes and trippy scenery. And there’s no better reason for going right now than to settle in for a weekend of luscious mayhem at the annual Up the Creek Music Festival (www.upthecreek.co.za), one of the more intimate and delirious expressions of riotous hedonism in the country.
Each year, organisers go out of their way to concoct a mixed programme that not only brings together some of the current stars on the regular festival circuit, but also many low-key and unsung heroes who are churning out truly original sounds. Thrown into the mix are some top comedians and an armada of weird and wonderful entertainers charged with making the whole experience stand out with a loony, unhinged atmosphere. Orchestrating the madness are a handful of innovative performance artists such as Pastor Besuidenhout and his Crimpaline Blueberries who will, amongst other things, execute certain wedding nuptials on Saturday morning.
There are altogether three stages active at different times of the day. The main bands and solo stars—including heavyweights such as The Dirty Skirts, Jack Parow, Boo!, Taxi Violence, and Flash Republic—appear in the evenings on the Main Stage on Friday and Saturday. But what really helps make this a very different festival is the River Stage, operating through the best part of Saturday, while the sun is shining. Here’s where festival-goers take to the water, floating on anything that, well, floats, while all kinds of craziness—musical and otherwise—happens on a small stage on the banks of the Breede River.
There’s a late-night Bar Stage for those who simply cannot get enough of the good stuff; organisers have secured a few shit-hot post-midnight acts to keep us wide-eyed well into the wee hours.
As with any decent festival, this is a camping event, so most revellers bring their own luxuries and necessities and settle in for the entire weekend—which, in this case, starts tonight with a preview line-up in the Bar Stage. The main festival programme kicks off Friday, 7pm.
If you’re not into camping, Swellendam is well-supplied with impressive accommodations. Pick of the bunch are Schoone Oordt (028/514-1248; www.schooneoordt.co.za) and De Kloof (028/514-1303; www.dekloof.co.za), both of which offer the opportunity to bed down amidst impeccable luxury in beautifully revamped nineteenth century country houses.