Review: Electronica Reigns Supreme at Synergy Live

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Synergy Live crowdIf ever there was an award for ‘Most Beautiful Festival’, Synergy Live would be a strong contender.  Even the one hour journey from Cape Town, driving through the lush Grabouw forests and apple orchards, makes it hard to believe  that – hidden amongst the fields of the Elgin Valley – is the crazy, raucous, devil-may-care atmosphere of any great South African festival.

Festival Fridays are generally meant for orientation, but here’s a tip… get to Synergy early or you are  likely to end up camping in Hermanus (lil festival joke).  And pack comfortable shoes.   The distance from the camp sites to any entertainment involves long distance walking.  Perfect for health fanatics, not so perfect if you left your jacket in your tent.  Another downside is the lack of lighting in the camp facilities.  Not only does this require ninja tent-rope-avoidance skills, but vastly increases the probability of stumbling into the wrong tent.  On the other hand, it is a great way to make new friends, given the abounding jovial mood pervading Synergy.

There was again this year some agony in deciding which stage to attend.  The Main Stage boasted South African headliners such as Bittereinder with their hypnotic, Afrikaans laced beats; the sweet Beatenberg, who are fast becoming an “act to watch”, festival residents Taxi Violence (ever the crowd pleaser) not to mention a surprise collaboration from Crash Car Burn and Shortstraw.  And with Jack Parow and Francois Van Coke starting a moshpit, it would surely be madness to consider leaving the safety of live rock music.  But then the ground moved to the pulse of drum and bass. Niskerone’s set had started.

Red Bull tents are becoming the highlight of festivals lately, drawing larger crowds perhaps because EDM is becoming more commercial.  So it wasn’t surprising that the most anticipated act of Friday night was Feed Me.  Even local boy Haezer managed to overshadow visiting US rock act, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.   It seemed that, regardless of anyone’s musical preference, electronic dance music won this round.

And as if the music wasn’t enough, in and amongst the stages stood glorious twinkling and beeping carnival rides, where  the inner child had no excuse but to get out and play.  And, fast becoming a necessity at festivals,  the comedy stage too!  I certainly couldn’t imagine a grease-laden bacon and egg hangover sandwich without a morning cup of Paul Snodgrass  humour.

For those whose bodies still stood strong on Saturday morning, despite the long, cold queues for the bathrooms, deep house was met at the Mainstay Beach Bar.  Hair of the dog as they say.

The party started once again at the Main Stage, with catchy Shortstraw having the crowd singing in unison.  A great opener for local heavyweights Gangs of Ballet and Zebra and Giraffe, this band is filling its niche quite comfortably.

The Do Work record label takeover had the electronic stage abuzz with excitement weeks prior to the event.  The trio of RVWR, Leechi, and latest “it-kid” Das Kapital, fed the crowd a trap-laden, synth-infusing, bass-dropping 3 hour set that could have left anyone emotionally exhausted, overwhelmed with such intense tunes.  And it didn’t stop.  Laser-loving Grimehouse felt no mercy, and kept the crowd going.

Once again, electronic music ruled.  Cape Town’s own Hyphen synthed us into a drum and bass mass, but it was international headliner Foreign Beggars who created an explosion of rap and electronica, leaving some of us merely standing in exhausted adoration of those still going strong to their beats.

Sadly enough, because of the attraction of the highly anticipated DJ set, international act Everything Everything was overlooked by the vast majority.  Despite an hour’s delay, a small crowd of fierce fans stood their ground.  Their patience was returned in fistfuls. Everything Everything left the crowd speechless.  Flawless in tune, energetic , animated and responsive to the crowd they were, for this fan, a highlight of the whole Synergy festival.  I can’t imagine that anyone who saw them live is not still feeling those goosebumps days later.

Lauren Jullies

The Synergy Live Festival took place on 29 & 30 November and 1 December at TheeWaterskloof.

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