Review: Up the Creek Festival 2012


Every music festival has its little something that makes it unique. Up the Creek’s USP is that it is awesome.  It is like being on holiday. Only you can (legally) drink heavily alcohol infused slushies on the beach and the entertainment is a real live act and not some obscure R’n’B act blaring from a cell phone speaker 10 meters away.

Up the Creek is a four day music festival 8km out of Swellendam. It’s been going forever, but a relatively new introduction is a Thursday night ‘warm up’ night with limited tickets.  This is not just an exclusive club for the die hard fans but serves as test for up and coming acts as well as a showcase for artists who cannot be mentioned without the adjective ‘legend’.

The rest of the weekend is divided between the three stages and river, with the single file running order of the stages contributing to the relaxed atmosphere. Other entertainment includes the famous “Anything That Floats” competition and a light touch of comedy on the Sunday morning.  There is also the option of getting married or having your vows renewed.

For me, the first indication that Up the Creek was a different kind of festival was the camping area.  When we got there on the Friday, the camp area closest to the festival grounds was already filling up.  A quick swoop of the designated camping spots showed that the areas furthest away were also in high demand.  Though in comparison to some other festivals even those who camped ‘far away’ were still relatively close to the action.

The line up managed to cater for a diverse crowd without looking like a blind dyslexic had gone crazy in a music shop.  While true to its rock heritage, acts ranged from the 5fm play-listed bands Kongos and Shadow Club to an AC/DC Tribute (SA/DC) to Piet Botha.  There were blues and blues-that-aren’t-really-blues-anymore, old rock, new rock and classical music playing in mini skirts and more.

And there were collaborations in almost every performance – a fun way of introducing new music to the different demographics as well as adding to the laid back ‘we’re all friends here’ atmosphere.  For the most part the collaborations worked very well. Southern Gypsy Queen augmented their already amazing bluesy rock with appearances by Albert Frost and the great Piet Botha and others to great affect.  The collaboration between Sannie Fox from Machineri and Taxi Violence was one of the less successful attempts.  Fox’s lyrics were just not… audible enough to make a dent in Taxi Violence’s sound.

Kazen Zoid’s set was rock solid as usual with a sample of all her albums including one track from her upcoming album.  During the opening riffs of her last song, ‘Small Room’, she was cut short by the stage manager in too-long-award-speech style.  Zoid gracefully finished the song by modifying the lyrics to thank Up the Creek.  Personally I would have preferred turn of the century Zoid who might have broken a guitar over his head.

But apart from that small misjudgement on the part of the managers, this was a faultless festival.  Up the Creek is the only event on the busy Cape calendar where the event itself is a bigger draw than any names on the line up.

The Yays:
Karen Zoid
Glamping complete with fairy lights
Peachy Keen
Shadow Club
Taxi Violence singing Happy Birthday Marilyn Monroe-style to Bacardi turning 150
The childlike excitement on Gareth Wilson’s face while jamming with Piet Botha
An icey blue Titanic first thing in the morning
No queues
Clean facilities
Grown men wearing Hello Kitty floaties at the River stage

The Nays:
Security shoving girls off the stage

Jana Stevens

Up the Creek took place 2 – 5 February 2012.

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