OppiKoppi Farm Northam Limpopo
Oppikoppi 2010. Sexy. Crooked. Teeth.
“I don’t want to party anymore with bands like the Makabra Ensemble!”
By Kallak Jonesic
“I don’t want to party” were the final lyrics by Australian trio Philadelphia Grand Jury as bass player MC Bad Genius dragged his Fender across the Most Amazing Myn Stage and his 55- year-old, Michigan drummer Kelvin Welch (once the drummer for disco-funk band Earth Wind & Fire), crashed his solid timbre into our chests and sand-parched throats with his trouble-free, three-piece drum set, and front man Simon Berkfinger jumped into the crowd to fuck with some of the locals and to sing with them, and they loved it. I understood the tongue in cheek that night, and so did most…
The Australians -- at least the two of them -- were undoubtedly a breath of fresh air for all in the midst of the sand clouds, and I take my hat off to them for playing four songs and showcasing more music in twenty minutes than twenty other bands before them.
And these, ironically, were the exact same lines running through my mind the night before, the Saturday, when I, we, most of us, had to suffer through possibly the most pretentious, under-rehearsed, giddy act at this year’s Oppikoppi Sexy Crooked Teeth festival. The Makabra Ensemble is everything that is wrong with artistry in South Africa, but I’ll talk of that a little later.
This review is written as a journal entry and talks of two highly contradictory festival occurrences. The first day: Hell! The second: Hope and clarity for our fragile music scene.
Saturday, 7th August – Day One for us, Day Two for the rest of them.
The four of us got to the festival on the Saturday because more than two nights at a gathering like this will not only have one of us put in an asylum, but also because I might just have to kill a few of the bigots there. The Friday is also an incredibly unfavorable day to drive to the festival; hardworking officers from the Northam and Thabazimbi precincts search cars, bakkies, the old RV’s, our hidden pockets and whatever travels past their blockade and I really don’t want that to happen…
It was sometime during the late afternoon when we set up camp far, far left from the newest stage addition at the festival; a stage sponsored by the famed and coded jeans-makers that never fit most of us suitably anyway. You know who they are.
At first the security guards wouldn’t let us drive to the remote location, but we managed to convince them that there was no legroom in the designated campground and so they let us through. We were loose and now we could do whatever we wanted without anyone around.
Later we made friends with them and the one night when they came to drink beers with us at our newly formed dwelling, one of them, the short one named Johannes, with just the one eye, fell asleep, slid off the beanbag, almost landed in the fire and I had to keep his shoes away from bubbling to blisters and Tswana shrieks.
Every hike to and fro the camp took a good twenty minutes, but I didn’t mind that since I don’t get to practice much walking in Johannesburg. Many colleagues, friends and family have become impeccable growers of hemorrhoids due to our Los Angeles-like office chair lifestyles, and less even a beach.
The first band we caught, I think, was Pestroy, who sound pretty much the same as seven years ago, and Gordon “Captain Beer” Laws before them MC’ing, plugged his magazine every thirty seconds without fault. He was horrified at the fact that The Band hadn’t been invited to perform the festival in the last few years. In my eyes residency at a festival is a bad idea; events need to be fresh at every edition. The Captain was nonsensical much of the time, and rambled on about the importance of metal and how no one gives a shit about it, and how this and that, and I stopped listening and smoked a cigarette and watched some babe rub sunscreen, or some type of cream, on her dirty neck and cleavage.
After his voice finally broke we watched a few songs; the sound was good, drummer Dylan Hunt was always on, fill-in bass player Andrew Maskell, who also performed for Zebra and Giraffe the next evening played well too. Another new member on guitar, and the delay on the voice this time wasn’t as pompous as in previous occasions.
The rest of the night was spent plodding between the three main stages, pretty much saddened by the entertainment on offer, and here is a simple breakdown, in no particular order:
Prime Circle should not be allowed to play festivals like Oppikoppi; the Americani[z]ed vocals tell us only of the devious unoriginality bands have to put themselves through to get a few corporates, or thirty-something divorcees to like them, because they themselves have no room in their being to be inventive or unusual.
Pretoria death-metal trio Architecture of Aggression began their set with a recording of Allah Akbar and I thought this was extremely dense, although the heavy artillery drums kept me put for a little while, but not much past the moment when the strobes tripped me out and I had to move to a safer, less bombarded area and out of the fugazi. Somewhere, sometime, somehow I watched Voodoo Child, who were well rehearsed but also well reversed, and I think that may actually have been after The Makabra Ensemble, whose short soap opera script is coming up shortly…
Singer-songwriter Lucky Fonz III, from the Netherlands, had a heart to heart with the overwhelming Afrikaans population, and I don’t really understand why. But so be it: I am no critic of cross-cultural dynamics. After all, I was also present.
Then there were drinks and much smoke, a few youngsters falling on their faces and paunches, and then Flash Republic pricked our ears, and just like the many itchy thorns on that farm in Northam perforated our toes and heels, Tamara Dey had her say. Resembling every other pop act the world over, the singing was far-flung from the quality of the band’s album productions and I think she knew it. And I cowered and went to the camp for supplies. Gloom, no fire, and the peal of a platinum train somewhere behind, away from the psychosis. I then decided to give it another go.
Back at the stages The Makabra Ensemble, sitting on chairs...
Here an in-the-moment description is essential. And what better than an excerpt from a theater script?! Let us not undermine the intention of the artist; the only way to pay homage to such film lovers is to play their game!
I want you to pretend that my voice is that of Liza Minnelli reciting the script of her favorite soap opera:
“EXT. MAIN STAGE OPPIKOPPI. SATURDAY NIGHT
We see a band of known musicians – at least half of them are that. They are all sitting on chairs. We see Fuzzy Ratcliffe of Lark and virtuoso multi-instrumentalist Sean Ou Tim also of Lark. A violinist is playing atmospherically; his name is Matthijs Van Dijk, unquestionably also a virtuoso; one wining note after another. A metalhead-looking, longhaired bass guitarist moves from his hub to a few percussive instruments and back again. Fuzzy is triggering backtracks and samples that are much louder than all of the live music played. There is also a woman sitting in a sphinx-like manner before a synth. She looks like Brian Molko of Placebo. Music is not really played. Past House-right/Stage-left we see an old, silent horror film projected on a screen, but the music does not complement it. Not one bit. Fuzzy sits and does no playing, except a flute line when least desired. Sean the drummer (aka Mr. Sakitumi) is figuring out where the godforsaken movement is going and whether he should still be on stage. He hits a cymbal, once and then a drum. Once! Bam! There is a digital delay on the woman’s voice throughout the whole show…
FEMALE ON SYNTH
PLENTY OF DELAY IS HEARD ON THE SHHHHS’ AND THE BOYS FEEL UNCANNY – SIMILAR TO THE TIME THEY BOTH WATCHED THAT VIDEO OF THAT WOMAN DANCING WITH THE DONKEY.
And this was pretty much the entirety of the show:
A band that clearly rehearses only once a year and plays live just as much, not knowing what it is supposed conceive on stage. A band that deludes itself with thoughts of artistry whilst devoid of inventiveness, flow and profound thought; and please don’t get me wrong, these people -- at least the violinist and the men from Lark -- are all dazzling musicians with reputations and my aim here is not to destroy or spite them! Who the hell am I anyway, a journalist from Rolling Stone!
But the point here is that even great artists have to school themselves in the medium of whatever they are about to produce. Their art has to look agreeable, full of form and function and most of us must be able to draw inspiration from it if we choose to. The attempt to create a versatile stage production takes years to perfect; Pink Floyd toiled and toiled with the idea for years until they were comfortable enough to attempt live multimedia productions; and in the beginning they dared not. They dared not because I’m pretty sure they knew that an asshole like me would have ripped at them too.
I had a conversation with one of my friends after the Makabra Ensemble’s performance and he had a valid point:
“Oppikoppi organizers don’t watch the bands before they book them and press packs of unknowns send to their offices are thrown in the trash.” Or something to that effect…
And I completely agree with him. Many bands, or their leaders, at this year’s Oppikoppi festival sounded like they got a phone call a month prior to do the event, slapped a few brain-fart ideas together and went out to perform vainly. This is nothing new to our ears and I’m sure you agree with me that this incestuous mode of arranging events must seize to exist. This kind of shit also goes beyond music: Unprofessional ‘professionals’ getting the high-end job, famous actors’children being cast for the role, some guy from some tribe getting into parliament because his daddy was exiled to Russia, drank vodka day and night, and ate Borscht, and did blondes; or some snotty kid predestined to become a king becomes a tyrant, and the courageous types work the mines, but no matter what, Valiant Swart is yet again at Oppikoppi, and this time they have put a tribute on for him! God have mercy on these bastards’ souls, because I guarantee you that this year’s festival goers do not buy Mr. Swart’s albums, nor do they like his contemptuous persona!
We went back to the camp, drank, lit a fire, whined much like in this review and slept. I heard Hanu from The Narrow singing out of tune and soon afterwards I fell asleep.
Maybe if we weren’t such grouchy pricks we’d get laid more often, we thought.
Sunday, 8th August – Day Two. The Curse is Lifted
Waking up in the bush is not difficult at all. 9 AM hits and you are extradited from your tent by the scorching heat and crusty sock smell[s]. We drank some colorful drinks to liven up and went out toward the General Population Area – I call it that, or the GPA, which also stands for, “Grand Point Average.” Condoms, red beer cans and panties hung from the branches and car antennas, and the men/boys looked very homogenous; slanted, emo hairstyles, multihued designs on white t-shirts, funky belts, and shades from Demolition Man. The girls looked pallid from the winter - GPA total 4.5/10.
Somewhere in the center of the GPA stood, erect, a totem tower built by some Pretoria University students and a German guy was trying to organize a lift back to Pietermaritzburg. Apparently he had hitchhiked up, but didn’t quite know how he’d make his way back to the KZN.
“Look at the number plates and you’ll know,” I told him, and not before long he was back into his tent. Baking. We sat there, spoke of internet viral jokes and I drank in the sun until the heartburn was gone. We all walked to the stages and watched the Schalk Joubert Band.
Trumpeter Marcus Wyatt played through attention-grabbing effects and his spontaneous Chicago-driven lines made us smile for the first time that weekend. To his right, pianist Melissa van der Spuy swung her melodies as if we all rocked in a magical boat somewhere in jazzland. The same two musicians also make part of the exciting jazz collaboration Language 12, which also boasts innovative bass guitarist Carlo Mombeli, vocalist Siyavuya Makuzeni and drummer Clement Benny.
Schalk Joubert Band, however, was also one of those under-rehearsed acts, but at least each member had enough tricks to keep the music dynamic, meaty and interesting throughout. Marcus Wyatt laughed on occasions and most notably towards end of the set when bass player Joubert forgot where the “1” was – that’s music talk for not knowing where the hell in the song you are, and especially where the next bar begins.
We sat on some rocks, relaxed and saw a little of Albert Frost and Vusi Mahlasela. Although this was only an acoustic performance, the warmth and worldly styles of both men was liked by most.
Then Valiant Swart took up the main stage with help of the Schalk Joubert Band and we boycotted that, and went up the hill and freaked our minds to some serious glitchy dubstep at the DJ stage: Audiophile021 from Cape Town kicked our ass!
Other great acts that followed before international headliners Philadelphia Grand Jury and Billy Talent was TUMI who had the front-line section of Pretoria outfit Isochronous backing him up. Behind the drums sat Peach (Yesterday’s Pupil), who once played for progressive group Shu some years ago. This band will definitely do wonders and may just be the next best thing, but only if they keep the lineup similarly talented.
BLK JKS, one of the only real international rock exports in recent years, who also signed with Animal Collective’s label Secretly Canadian, had the crowd dancing right through their show. I believe, however, that their songs were very similar in structure; first a syncopated rhythm, then to a clickity-clack African beat and then back to the slower, more psychedelic suffer. I don’t know why people compare this band to The Mars Volta; as far as I’m concerned they sound nothing like them; less maybe for the guitarist who desperately tries to mimic the Latino dance moves of Cedric Bixler-Zavala. Zol!
After The Philadelphia Grand Jury were done with their explosive set and a few others showcased nothing motivating or comparably interesting. Billy Talent played a longer set then most and redeemed all the bad music witnessed in the past two days. The Canadian band was the only that could be regarded as being somewhere in the vicinity of the term Super Band. They exercised their trade better than anyone ever to play Oppikoppi in the last five or so years, but of course this is another discussion altogether.
On the way back to the camp, before the Tswana man almost fell in the embers, I bought some spareribs from the least swarmed vendor and broke my Second Premolar on a bone. At first I didn’t realize why there was this piece of hard bone in my mouth that I couldn’t chew and later realized that eating one’s own teeth shows in one’s stool.
The next day we packed up camp and drove back to Johannesburg. On the way many of the kids got out of their cars to puke on the side of the road and there was a terrible looking accident, but no one was hurt.
Author: kollo, 17 April 2008
wie is kidofdoom,,,mak hul misic soos insek,...insek rock,,sal hul by oppikoppi check
Author: Grinch, 16 August 2010
I concurr, ha!
Author: Chillager, 18 August 2010
They should gather youngsters (kids) and grannies to listen to some shit music, and there should be completely new festival in SA, as oppikoppie is sad,boring and irrelevant. PaTz-Dj
Author: Poesprop, 18 August 2010
Honest review i like it.
I'm sick of them sticking it to me!
Author: Uncle, 18 August 2010
I consulted a Spin Doctor once when I had trouble down below. Told me everything would work out for the best. Thankfully I saw a Witch Doctor for a second opinion". The Oppie is Dead,Long live the money making amateurism! give the mases bread and beer and let the lumpen thrives! 450rand for the best live music...my ass,rather go to the shitty local live venue with the worst sound there is and enjoy musos that try to make it big,than go and see the same shit i saw the previous festival.
Author: Sommer call me That Dude, 18 August 2010
I just want to thank you for your factual and entertaining interpretation of the events that aspired in the tall grass this year. Even though I did not attend this year, I have attended the last five 'koppi's. And I do not find it hard to believe what you write at all. I've been expecting this you see. Every year it gets worse and worse. It's just dronk kiddies and watered down 'choons'. And somehow this will be the best reason I can give anybody as to why I didn't go this year. Maybe next time. Maybe..
Author: Gordon "Captain Beer" Laws, 18 August 2010
Hey champ! Great blog. Erm, Pestroy's fill-in bassist was actually Ricky "Cadillac" Alleman, from Facing The Gallows. The rest of your opinion is awesome, though. We were gonna shamelessly plug Cosmo from our stage, but then we realised that they hadn't sponsored it. Next time, though! Spot on! And everyone cares lank. Cheers, holmes!
Author: kallak , 18 August 2010
point taken: honest mistake on messing up the bass player, apologies to Ricky "Cadillac" Alleman. The rest stands true.
Author: Gordon "Captain Beer" Laws, 19 August 2010
Agreed. And sorry we bothered you, champ. Really. We had loads of fun, though. Mission accomplished. We're a little more silver-lining orientated, I suppose. Our stage, and your opinion of it/me/metal aside, the vast majority of our staff and friends and strangers we ran into and cohorts in the various bands and other media organisations thought the entire festival was glorious, and a magically good time. We were all there to have fun though, and not to look for reasons to dislike things, I suppose. Seems like a long way to travel to be miff about stuff... I guess it depends on how you choose to see the volume of fluid within the cup. Great review, though. Nicely written, for what it's worth. Keep up the awesome work! We'll try harder from our side next time. I look forward to the 2011 review. All the very best. G
Author: Kippie, 20 August 2010
i Agree with mr beer. and can't help but wonder why 16 000 people go there every year and pay their money if the music is all that bad and the event all that kak. and why we are already looking forward to next year. Oppiiiiiiiikoppiiiiii!!!!!
Author: Gordon "Captain Beer" Laws, 20 August 2010
You're beautiful, Kippie! Don't go changing! Pull into the FHM stage next year (yes, we'll be doing it again, I'll be just as drunk, just as long-winded, and just as dedicated to both metal and FHM) and I'll make sure you get some of the huge pile of awesome free stuff and booze we get given to give the kids. The kids who LOVE the Koppi as much as we do... And Blogman (Kallas, or Joe, or whatever) I comment on your blog with the utmost respect. Again, it's a rad blog in my opinion. And if you didn't like my performance I sincerely respect your right to that opinion. I'd love to have a beer with you and discuss the Koppi next year if you decide to come. I just feel like a lot of bloggers and journos miss the point. It's supposed to be dusty, rough, loud, with organisational screw-ups, emcees who get too drunk and rant on about metal, and horrific camping conditions. That's what we (FHM, the horrendous, dirty kids and the metal bands) drive all the way out to nowhere for. Good job on supporting SA rock with your rad blog though! Good times. G
Author: Stephen, 22 October 2010
It was cool & kak
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