Three day music festivals tend to require an extra two days just to recover. Rock the River was no exception. Hell, I only stayed for one night and I still feel like death. The location for the mayhem was Westcoast Ostrich farm where there was not an ostrich in sight. Dim as they are renowned to be, even these birds saw the wisdom in moving to a neighbouring farm before the hordes of inebriated partygoers invaded their space.
We arrived on the farm expecting to have to struggle for space to park or camp. Happily, there was enough space for both. Setting up tent is always disastrous for me, but luckily a friendly group came to my aid and our five man tent was up in no time. With our bolt-hole secure, it was time to check out the rest of the festival set-up.
The amenities were plentiful. Ample food stalls, more than enough ablution facilities (thankfully), and four stages for music and comedy. It seemed the event organisers were hell bent on trying to cater for as many types of people as possible. When people weren’t riding the robotic rodeo cow, rolling down a hill in a plastic ball or sumo wrestling, they were enjoying genres of music including metal, rock and dubstep.
The metal stage was intense. At one point a band member erupted on stage literally covered in blood. The rock stage showcased more mainstream bands including Peachy Keen, 7th Son and Fokofpolisiekar, with perhaps the biggest headliner being Hog Hoggidy Hog, who had the crowd skipping along to ska rhythms into the New Year.
If distorted guitars weren’t your thing, the dubstep stage supplied the electronic fix in large doses of bass. And if your ears needed a little rest from the music, the comedy stage was perfect to laze around and laugh with some of South Africa’s talented comedians including Carl Weber and Brendan Murray.
With a festival offering so much, it should have been spectacular. But to be honest, something was missing. Many bemoaned the lack of any impressive light displays or colourful flags or, at the risk of sounding a little girly, basic ‘décor’. Others commented on the fact that the ‘river’ was more of a pond. It seemed that whilst the organisers strived for quantity, the event suffered a little in quality.
This was my first outdoor rock festival in South Africa, so I have nothing to compare it to. Although it catered for the masses, it was rather…. Simple. Nonetheless, I enjoyed myself. It was raw and in your face and, in essence, isn’t that what rock is about?
The fourth Rock the River Festival took place 31 December 2011 to 2 January 2012 at Westcoast Ostrich Farm.