Started 30 years ago by Annie Snowden – who just wanted to organise a birthday party for her partner at the time – Up the Creek is still the intimate, music-focused and well-planned festival that it has always been. Only now it has growth and maturity. In spades.
Back in 1990, the 100 guests who were invited were asked to contribute R10 each towards payment for three bands. That seems laughable now but – significantly – while the line-up is still a well-considered curation of local music, Up the Creek now features an eclectic mix of 50 bands playing over four days across four stages. The programme for the festival’s 30th anniversary not only catered to different moods throughout the day, but was also more representative of South Africa’s diverse population and musical roots.
Spanning from jazz and blues to afro fusion and rock, there were many genres to pick from, and options ranging from the chilling out vibes at the food court to the rocking out beats at the mainstage. Definite highlights were Albert Frost and Tubatsi Mpho’s soul-soothing collaboration at the main stage on Friday evening, or Bombshelter Beast’s theatrical stage antics and energising “Afrobalkan Skadubhall” on Saturday evening. Or, the slowly building-up-in-energy sets on Sunday morning, from the chilled-out jazz-and-hip-hop fusion tunes by The Unity Band to the invigorating drum beats of The Rockskandi Kings and – of course – staple Up the Creek entertainer Dave Ferguson with his harmonica, beatbox and vocals one-man show.