Review: Off the Grid Music Festival

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Freshlyground at Off the Grid Music FestivalFestivals are a huge part of Cape Town culture. They offer an invigorating oasis in a chaotic world, an escape from a humdrum life, a sojourn into nature where music and good times coalesce.

Some are are steadfast annual extravaganzas we can always count on to whisk us away, while others are spontaneous affairs – bursting through the seams of a bustling social calendar, offering once-off gatherings that will forever evoke oohs and aahs from those who were lucky enough to attend them.

Whatever their rhythm, there is no denying that festivals are sacred gatherings.

Yet, some are more sacred than others.

Off The Grid is one of these.

Although it combines all the elements of a phenomenal festival – a stellar line up, delectable food offerings, and oh-so essential beer and wine – what makes it so special is that it is one of very few events that are put together entirely to raise funds for charity.

Camphill Village is an eco-village and safe anchorage for approximately 90 intellectually disabled adults. Together they live and work in the village, growing vegetables and crafting everything from jerseys, bags and chemical-free cosmetics, to cheese, ouma bread, milk and herbal teas.

All proceeds from the festival go toward sustaining this ‘off the grid’ farm and its community. A noble mission in a world teeming with soulless capitalistic agendas.

The setting was an intimate sprawl of red and white stretch tents nestled between ancient blue gum trees in the backlands of Atlantis. And although the setting alone was utterly charming and inviting, it was the energy I found to be most alluring. Families, couples, friends, and singles all milled about, lost in an electric score of warm laughter, cheerful chatter, and crisp beats whirling out from a DJ booth on the main stage.

Naturally, we made a bee-line for the bar. An impressive selection lay before us – something you would not expect at such an intimate affair. With a bottle of sauvignon, we settled on a grassy patch that offered a clear view of the stage.

Majozi was a delight as he connected with the dancing crowd, kindly asking us not to step on the flowers, and coaxing us to sing and chant along to his songs.

At the mercy of our stomachs, we headed off in search of food.

Wicked Waffles was serving up tantalising Belgian waffles piled with Nutella and ice-cream; Bang Bang Burrito were seducing palates with their lime and coriander chicken burritos; a cute coffee truck was pumping out deliciously aromatic lattes; and the Camphill stall had lured a crowd over with its wonderful selection of handmade products.

As the sinking sun turned the sky orange and crimson, Albert Frost entertained the crowd with his masterful guitar riffs and gentle presence.

The Bootleggers followed shortly after with their high energy blues-rock and irresistible stage presence. The scintillating Miss Marguerita Freeks dazzled us with her personality and powerful vocals – it was truly an intoxicating experience to witness her perform.

A sky filled with billions of glittering stars offered the ultimate backdrop for South African darlings, Freshlyground. People danced and sang along, delirious with glee (and wine) as Zolani and the guys stirred the air with their Afro-fusion rhythms.

Again, I was awed by a sensational female performer. Her ability to upswing from the more easy going ‘Doo Be Doo’ to the wild vocals of ‘Waka Waka was astounding’. And observing the crowd, I knew I was not the only one whose heart had just been arrested by this spectacular woman.

Surrounded by such warmth and sincerity, and witnessing the benevolence and compassion of the general public, and well-known musicians was a heartwarming and soul stirring experience.

But perhaps most moving was watching the residents of Camphill Village take part in the revelry and mingle with the crowd – no dividing lines, no differences, no whisperings of anyone being different. It was a real and sincere experience – one I will be supporting zealously in years to come.

Off The Grid is an annual event, so if you missed it this year, they will be back next year for another offering of good music, good food, and good times for a good cause.

You can also support Camphill Village by visiting their farm stall, café and nursery (open every Saturday), or purchasing delicious organic products and handmade items at their market, which happens every first Sunday of the month.

Aislinn Corbet

Off The Grid Music Festival took place on Saturday 25 February 2017 at Camphill Village Westcoast.

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