This year marked a decade of Rocking the Daisies, and with 22 000 fans present, its maturing might was certainly felt. Featuring nine stages and a line-up of international headliners, Cape Town’s best-known festival drew in the crowds.
Two or three years ago it was still possible to enjoy the main stage (even on a Friday evening) with space to throw one’s arms around, but in 2015 it was a battle of jam-packed bodies. To get a good view of Australian band The Cat Empire – known to many as the essential festival band – you had to spend some time securing your spot in the front row. It was worth it though; their uplifting jazz-ska tunes pleased the onesie-wearing, boozed-up masses, even when the sound bugged out. With compelling determination, they continued playing in silence – maybe because the monitors were cranked up so high they didn’t notice that the rest of us heard nothing.
The next night the main stage was still going strong beyond one in the morning. After introducing some new songs, UK band The Kooks got a noticeably tired-out-but-decidedly-enthusiastic crowd singing along to old-time favourites ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’, ‘Seaside’, and ‘Naïve’.
But of course it wasn’t just the international acts that got attention. Jack Parow nailed it with a heavy-rocking zef set that culminated in a (somewhat wobbly) stage dive. And when PHFat played the Electro Dome, it looked like the far-stretching tent was bursting at the seams with bouncing beat-lovers.
It wasn’t all beats and crowds though. If you were into the more peaceful, intimate experience, the Hemp Stage offered a great escape. During the day, the grass around this humble stage was great for chilling and hula-hooping while local bands provided the soundtrack. Early Saturday evening, a special Hemp Stage-highlight was the Psychedelic Fire Show, although less because of the fire dancers and more because of the music. Wild Lettuce accompanied the show with his signature live-recorded, partially-improvised loops. There’s something incredibly mesmerising about the way he combines the sounds of an acoustic guitar, electric cello and didgeridoos.
Another proudly local performance worth mentioning is The Brother Moves On. Their afternoon main-stage set was intensified by Siyabonga Mthembu’s touching insights. After assuring us that “the beautiful ones are not yet born”, he got the front row to chant “babalas” back at him when his grand voice went “apartheid”. A similarly emotional atmosphere seeped through the Daisies when the remaining Hog Hoggidy Hog members were joined on stage by a number of local musicians to say goodbye to George Bacon. He died in June this year, just after returning to South Africa for the band’s 20th anniversary reunion tour. As a big portrait of him stared at us from centre stage, his comrades revived Hog cult hits such as ‘Sherry Anne’ one more time.
The Cat Empire’s line-up is probably a good sign that South Africa is a worthy competitor in the international festival game. In the last 10 years, Rocking the Daisies organisers have certainly played their fair part in this. And there are many more years to come; bring it on!