If the hipsters and the hippies had a love child, it would be Rocking the Daisies. The annual pilgrimage (on foot, by bike, in shared cars) to Cloof Estate in the middle-of-nowhere-vaguely-near-Darling, revealed the usual combination of part flower children in a 70s timewarp, and part hipsters with skinny jeans, black-rimmed glasses and iPhones. There was also a guy carrying a blow-up walrus.
The estate sure is a pretty venue. For miles around, all that can be seen are rolling hills, fields, and… well… not much else. Out here an all-night party is perfectly acceptable as there are no neighbours to lodge complaints about the noise… and it was about to get really, really noisy.
With the sheer number of bands, artists, DJs and comedians performing across several stages, it was impossible to see all – or even half – of the acts, but there were some definite highlights, predominately on the main stage.
One such highlight was Friday night’s performance by Iso (formerly Isochronous). With a Two Door Cinema Club meets Muse vibe, this is undoubtedly a band to look out for on South Africa’s alternative rock scene. Slick, polished and neatly dressed, the band exudes talent and professionalism.
Band of brothers, KONGOS, were up next. Somehow reminiscent of Kings of Leon, their songs, including ‘Escape’ and ‘Sex on the Radio’ seem unsure if they want to be rock, reggae or country songs, but it’s a mix that works. Fronted by the guitar-brandishing, long-haired Dylan Kongos, the foursome also performed a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ which made me think I was out on a beach somewhere in Jamaica. This band is stadium-ready, and will be a fantastic support act for Linkin Park next month.
Mr Cat and The Jackal (main stage – Saturday afternoon) is one interesting band indeed. Probably the only musicians who could pull off a set dressed in animal suits, their half-apocalyptic, half-Gregorian chant of ‘The Rain Came Pouring’ was a singalong delight. They are so theatrical, dramatic, and downright crazy that one cannot help but be entertained by them, even if they’re far from being your cup of tea.
Jeremy Loops, on the other hand, was a universal favourite. The extremely talented one-man-band struck up a beat to rival most five-piece bands, before being joined by a couple of other musicians including Machineri’s Andre Geldenhuys.
Desmond and the Tutus (main stage – Saturday night) was given a rapturous welcome by many audience members, who enthusiastically thrust their hands in the air to form a claw in imitation of lead singer Shane Durrant’s signature move. I felt that the band’s pop-ish lyrics and tunes seemed incongruous with Durrant’s often screaming vocals, but the crowd around me lapped it up and that’s all that matters. Plus ‘Kiss You on the Cheek’ is a great song.
Of course local icon Arno Carstens put on a fantastic show. “From the galaxy of blues, to a universe we choose, no more crying and just maybe somebody to hold…” he crooned, and the lyrics resounded in the hearts and heads of the people, as we watched a decorative string of illuminated balloons elongate from an anchor on the side of the stage, and reach towards the sky.
International headliners, Bloc Party, hit the stage just after 11.30pm, by which time everyone in the crowd was so frozen that they packed together like sardines hoping to share some body heat. Unfortunately the big screen behind the stage was not turned on for this performance, a huge disadvantage to the fans at the back, who were only able to see the top of lead singer Kele Okereke’s hat.
Luckily, Bloc Party doesn’t rely on crazy on-stage antics to lead their performance. Calm and composed, they have the feel of a band who have been together for a long time. Riding on the back of the release of their new album, Four, the British indie rockers treated fans who had been waiting over nine years to see them to a handful of new songs such as ‘Octopus’, plus old favourites including ‘Helicopter’. So enthused by the positive reaction of the crowd –even though the rain was now coming down in sheets – they even returned for a second impromptu encore.
Soaking up the sun from the beanbags outside was the best way to enjoy the dubstep emanating from the electro tent, but while this venue remained mostly empty for the best part of the day, it was packed at 1am on Sunday when Cape Town favourites, Goldfish, took the set. Warmed up by the collective of DJs making up TOYTOY, it was almost impossible to get near the front for the ‘Fishies’. Brilliant as ever, Goldfish opened their set with ‘Fort Knox’, and the audience danced the rest of the night away in style.
There was even free wi-fi all weekend, (yes! Instagram everything!) and free mobile phone charging stations which definitely came in useful. The food was fantastic – there’s nothing quite like Butler’s pizza taking all of 20 seconds to get your order ready – but the queues were heavy as all of the food stalls were in one place. If you felt the need to get a temporary tattoo, or buy a hat in the shape of a panda, you could visit a variety of stalls which sold just about everything. The Mainstay beach bar was also a huge hit, despite the weather discouraging all but the foolhardy from taking to the dam for a swim.
Festival toilets are the bane of my existence, but at Rocking the Daisies these were shockingly clean and were kept stocked with toilet paper, and even soap! Other thoughtful touches included a coffee stall in the campsite and if you were willing to spend half an hour in the queue, you could visit the Daisy Den to clean yourself up and maybe even use a hair dryer. Failing that, there were normal showers behind actual curtains, so there was really no excuse for being dirty all weekend.
The official Twitter hashtag, #RTD2012 trended intermittently during the weekend, something encouraged by MC Jon Savage of 5fm, but it would have been fun to have had a live stream of the hashtag running on a screen above the stage. In the age of social media, this kind of interaction is essential.
If a love of live music is something that is dying out in favour of dance clubs and electro-vibes, Rocking the Daisies is an event which manages to successfully combine the two. Despite the inclement weather, them daisies of Darling were most definitely rocked.
49M Rocking the Daisies 2012 took place from 4 – 7 October at Cloof Estate in Darling.