White Mountain

This weekend saw the fifth annual White Mountain Acoustic Music Festival go down at, uh, White Mountain Lodge.  We harassed DJ Fuego Heat into reviewing the aptly named festival and this was his experience.

“You’re the right man for the job”. I would not have been totally out of place asking for a repeat. What exactly makes a punk distro guy turned 80’s revival vinyl DJ with a healthy dislike for Bon Iver “the right man for the job” to review an acoustic festival? This move should’ve come as no surprise from the site that brought you a Dubstep/Drum n Bass review by Russel Smith of all people. Either way, with a press pass in hand as my means and a handful of Facebook rants as experience I was off to White Mountain. I guess that anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of a keyboard can be a journalist these days.

Melancholic guitar pieces layered with lyrics laden with vivid imagery was the perfect introduction as the first whiskey touched my lips and I melted into the grass beneath the warm mountain sun.

So, White Mountain Folk Festival, where business men trade in their suits for a weekend of tie dye and sandals. Where beer guzzling ballies, clad in Tsavs and sporting sharks tattoos buy rasta beanies with fake dreadlocks attached. Where toddlers with long blonde curly locks run around bare bummed, making mud pies in their dribbling noses. All these things were expected and encountered within the first five minutes of arrival. And within that same initial five minutes came, too, the realisation that not only had I left my fly sheet for my tent at home, but also that I had missed ‘Asleep in Transit’. Adjectives describing their set picked up from passersby included ‘incredible’ and ‘sensational’. Had they been given a more appropriate slot I would probably be singing the same songs of praise. This indie outfit is fast and justifiably becoming a Durban favourite and I know that it won’t be long until I can catch them somewhere around the city soon, thus remedying one of my transgressions. Resolving the tent crisis entailed shacking up with Dirk, which offered little comfort.

Asleep in Transit

 

I decided then and there to keep my wits about me and avoid an ‘I arrived late, missed most of the bands, got too trashed to remember any of it but it was kak’ kind of review which this was in serious danger of becoming. Despite my best intentions, festivals are festivals and large amounts of substances of varying legality thwarted my attempts, resulting in black holes and hazy memories. So piecing together the events that transpired has been done with the combined effort of many a brave soul that ventured off into the wilderness with me.

A collection of folky acoustic artists kicked off my festival experience and brought in the evening with sublime ease, reminding everyone that this was, after all, a folk festival where blankets and camping chairs are the chosen position from which to gawk at the musicians. “Reminiscent of the likes of Jack Johnson”…does anyone with any appreciation for real music want to be described like that? Can the kids that cruise the beach front on their long-boards with straw hats please refrain from answering. The worrying thing about this artist description is that artist descriptions are often written by artists themselves. Regardless, Nate Maingard sang to my soul and Leonard Cohen sensibility. Melancholic guitar pieces layered with lyrics laden with vivid imagery was the perfect introduction as the first whiskey touched my lips and I melted into the grass beneath the warm mountain sun.

Nate Maingard

 

The combination of Dan Patlansky and Guy Buttery was the first act to awaken the crowd to the great stripped down sets that make White Mountain so folkishly awesome. I looked forward to this duo as much as the Hulk vs Wolverine episode. The meeting of these juggernauts was anticipated to carry the same weight and magnitude and they did not disappoint. The two bounced off each other like siamese guitar-twins and Buttery, during his mid-set solos, hypnotized everyone back into submission.

Dan Patlansky

Guy Buttery

 

Newcomers to the KZN festival circuit, Allan John showed from the word go that they meant business and were the first band to get people on their feet and the party juices flowing. With their Dave Matthews-esque vibe and their overly zealous bassist keeping everyone amused, they captivated the crowd. Looking forward to hopefully catching them again at Splashy Fen, a performance like that certainly should gain them immediate access. Habit To, who have been around for what seems like forever are still going, albeit under the radar. Having grown stale over the past few years, they are back with a new album and a long-overdue new set list. Getting more up to date and giving their sound a facelift has definitely worked in the bands favour. They played a groovy, chilled set of rad new songs and familiar old ones reminding everyone just how good they are at what they do from their command over their instruments to Michelle’s strong, gutsy vocals (despite her tiny frame). The already drunk crowd couldn’t get enough but were eventually ushered away from the stage and into the tavern.

Habit To

 

The Saturday line up didn’t really offer up much. Nate Maingard opened the stage and was joined by a reappearance of Guy Buttery which made for a tasty lunchtime snack but then it all started. The church-rock inspired drawl that droned from the stage for several hours after. I’m not referring to the lyrical content of the music but rather the quality (or lack thereof) that would have been better suited to a youth outreach than a music festival. After the previous day’s offerings, it was like being given vanilla ice cream after gorging yourself on mascarpone cheese cake dribbled with a mixed berry reduction. Boring and uninviting. Fifteen year Holly seemed to think that her young age was enough to warrant adoration. I am not one to pass judgement based primarily on youth, where credit is due I will give it, age regardless. But strutting around on stage like a musical great, supported by a wish-wash repertoire of songs and starting off your set with a cover of ‘I kissed a girl’ is going to make me hate. And hate I did.

Holly

 

But all was not lost. Then came Rooibaardt. The name made me cautious. First thought: Boere musiek to sakkie op die plaas. Second thought: Dozi. The image of a bunch of afrikaaners in khaki busting out the backing music to an AWB AGM had me contemplating returning to the campsite for a refill. However, I didn’t end up leaving and I feel that I am a better person for it. Within the first track the pirate/gypsy/reggae/ska inspire folk band, armed with an arsenal of instruments including violins, djembes and penny whistles, actually had people on their feet dancing. Can you believe that? People at an acoustic festival dancing? (this does not include 40 year old women in tie dye dancing to the early morning community slot) But they did. Unfortunately not all audience members were as enthusiastic. “No dancing at Hippie Jam Fest 2011. I can’t see what’s happening on stage” I was told by one aforementioned 40 year old woman. But that stopped nothing, as the crowd of dancers grew to a hefty 30 strong. Despite starting off with an Afrikaans song, soon they were singing in English, then Sotho, then Spanish, showing the same diversity in linguistics that they had shown in their musicianship.  Rooibaardt, you made my festival and for that I thank you. After that Jesse Clegg stood no chance.

Rooibardt

 

aKING were the headline act and were, well, aKING. The band claimed that they had planned to rework their material into a more appropriate format for the festival but then self-admittedly decided to just bring their electric guitars instead and deliver another run of the mill aKING performance. With rumours of the acoustic changes circling the festival the entire time, the let down was deep and burning. On the brighter side of things, kudos to the guys for putting Katie in her place. When someone shouts “Play Safe as Houses. Enough of this other shit” for five straight songs, the only thing to do is shoot a bitch down.

aKing

 

A tip of the hat to the organisers for bringing back the post-main stage line up performances at Tom’s Tavern. I have nothing against stand up comedy (except that Bob Perfect guy) but the format just didn’t work. Nobody, frothing with the enthusiasm to party their tits off, is amped to sit down and watch a few jokes. Nightly performances by Jess Yallup, accompanied by a variety of other bands, allowed a release for rabble rousers to cut loose away from family camps sites. And that they did. “I was so drunk I was skanking to Catlike Thieves” one Joe Soap was overheard saying. Let’s be honest, that’s pretty out there.

So now comes the crunch question: is R500 worth it? The answer is a complex one. Musically, I would probably have to go with a no. Despite the stand out bands mentioned above, the festival lacked the Joshua Griersons, Deep Fried Mans (or should it be men?) and Miles Sievwrights that made previous years memorable. I know you can’t expect to be impressed by every act, but the watered down line up that was spread over a meagre two days (with only one stage) would not be a big enough drawing card for me to be back again. But then there’s the second aspect to look at, the experience. Festivals like Splashy are like getting fucked by two Asian strippers with straps ons. You’re unsure as to whether or not you’ve had a good time, definitely feel violated and by Monday morning you’re done, on the brink of crying for your mother and swearing you’ll never do it again…until next year. White Mountain is love making. Sweet sweet love making. And regardless of line up or price, I can’t wait to make sweet love to White Mountain next year.

*All images © Pascal Bennett

Check out the gallery below. Will try name everything as the day goes on.


Comments
17 Responses to “White Mountain”
  1. luke says:

    “I was so drunk I was skanking to Catlike Thieves” one Joe Soap was overheard saying. Let’s be honest, that’s pretty out there. – FUCK.

  2. Zweli says:

    Ryan! I loved reading that. White Mountain served as a perfect break from our grimy little metropolis. Totally agree with you about Rooibardt, they were great!
    Once again, very well written.

  3. pissingblood says:

    Nice one, man. Entertaining as I expected… Oh and fuck you, I can review the shit out of anything!

  4. MitchHATE says:

    loved the Dirk comment

  5. Stathi says:

    Oh sick I didn’t realise we had a gallery!
    i enjoyed this immensely.
    DJ Fuego Fokken Heat

  6. Hot slut with tits says:

    I wish i could’ve shacked up in a tent with this dirk fellow. He sounds hot.

  7. Hey guys!

    We’d just like to say thank you so much to all of you who came and watched us. We’re really grateful and stoked to have people taking such a liking to our music and vibe. We have more upcoming gigs so keep checking our facebook page! Thanks to Bob for writing such a nice review on us:)

    Peace

  8. Bob says:

    Hey guys, and girl
    Just letting you know that it wasn’t me who wrote it, I just put it up.
    Your thanks can go to DJ Fuego Heat.

  9. luke says:

    DA HEAT.

  10. Ozzie says:

    That was funny as hell in a brilliantly cynical way, everything that makes me pay a daily visit to D.I.Y!
    This kind of honesty is exactly what every band and fest needs to become better.

  11. Brandon says:

    Ryan has got a man crush on Miles Sievwrights!

  12. Nate says:

    Yo Mr DJ

    I’m going to quote you as you said such nice things about me…except, for your cynical information, I didn’t write my artist description… and it was Mike Smith of LMG music magazine in Cape Town who first said he thought my music was halfway between a more intellectual Jack and Radiohead. As far as I can tell, Mr Johnson, while painfully overplayed, is indeed a fantastic singer-songwriter;).

    Perhaps you wrote this while coming down from aforementioned illegal substance abuse? 😉

    Rad review, dig your vibes
    Nate

  13. DJ Fuego Heat says:

    Hey Nate

    Super sorry about the mix up regarding your artist description. I should have been more clear. I meant that artist submit their own artist description and was simply stating that comparing you to Jack Johnson was an injustice to your music and song writing ability.

    Anyway, I dig your vibes and hope to catch you at a show in Durban sometime.

    Sweet

  14. DJ Fuego Heat says:

    And my views on you were definitely cemented before any substances clouded my already suspect views.

    Lakka

  15. luke says:

    nah. jack johnson is horrible.

  16. luke says:

    DA. H.E.A.T.

  17. Krystle T says:

    Was @ the festival. My first ever. Agreed to most…especially Holly`s performance. I felt you could have given credit to NOSI AND THE ZULU`S and JOSIE FIELD and MARGARET`S DAUGHTER. To me they were just as brilliant. Holly should have performed earlier and Nosi later. Get the crowd going. However my friends and I were the loud crowd screaming away having a blast. All in All the festival was lovely. Nate is definately someone to look out for in the future!

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