Up the Creek is known for great musicianship, collaborations between different acts, and an audience of old and young. But the festival has – with exceptions – vaguely stuck to the long-haired, hippie-feel rock genre. This year, with Fokofpolisiekar and Mango Groove as headliners, the line-up selection seemed like a soft attempt to appeal to a broader crowd.
On Friday night, ‘kasi-pop’-influenced band Native Young brought a fantastic opening set ahead of Mango Groove. Their music, a mixture of various local genres, was thoughtfully composed with vocal harmonies and a jiving marimba (among other instruments). Though refreshing and experimental, the tunes were accessible enough to create a party vibe. Of course, renowned afro-pop band Mango Groove was much anticipated, and they didn’t disappoint. With great co-ordination, the crowd was singing “dance, dance, dance, dance some more” and didn’t want the band to leave when they finished their set. Luckily, Southern Wild and The Kiffness carried on the frenzy with some hard-to-beat, high-energy sets.
Joined by saxophonist Nick Becker of Crimson House, Slow Jack performed a great version of the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Let’s Get it Started’ on Saturday, and later on, Nomadic Orchestra nailed it with their brass-heavy gypsy-and-rap-flavoured tunes. Fokofpolisiekar didn’t quite meet the same level of innovation and soulfulness, but nonetheless seemed to be a crowd-pleaser. Veranda Panda, who took over at the Savannah Late Night Stage, is always a great addition to the line-up of any festival – it’s hard not to dance to their mix of rap, violin, saxophone and electronic sounds.
For those who were willing to stay, there were some chilled-out sets on Sunday morning. Bongeziwe Mabandla reminded the audience about inclusion and diversity when he said, “This song speaks for itself,” and performed ‘Freedom for Everyone’ – a captivating piece of songwriting about the divisions and contradictions of our society. Riaan Smit of Crimson House, who never lets the crowd down when it comes to entertainment, ended the festival up-tempo and with a handpicked selection of musicians such as the beautifully-voiced Nhoza Sitsholwana of Black South Easter, or The Rudimentals’ drummer Giovanni Serci.
This year’s line-up might have been slightly more versatile, but – with the amount of talent available in this country – it’s safe to say there’s a lot of room for improvement. I hope that this small step in the right direction will be much bolder next year.
Up the Creek Festival took place 25 to 28 January 2018 on the banks of the Breede River, Swellendam.