Rocking The Daisies

In the relatively few years Rocking The Daisies has been around, it’s grown into one of South Africa’s biggest and best music festivals. If you didn’t make the trip down to CT for this year’s festival, don’t worry, you can still get a feel for it as Nick Mulgrew takes you through the weekend after the jump.


On Saturday night at Rocking the Daisies, the heavens abruptly opened. Two days of dryness ended as the first notes of Bloc Party’s “So Here We Are” chimed out. Drizzle began to gently fall, catching the stage lights in shining, shifting hazes.

Kele Okereke’s shrill cries filled the air, prompting men to be raised on shoulders and women to start ugly-crying.  Voices joined in tone-deaf chorus as an English flag was raised from somewhere out of the crowd and arched back and forth on a tent pole.

On the surface, most people came to Rocking the Daisies to buy animal hats, eat expensive faux-artisanal food and wear tights as pants

Feet made sore by hours suffering through a colour-by-numbers succession of opening acts were summarily forgotten. After Arno Carsten’s inoffensive but ultimately bland straight-to-TV anthems and 45 minutes too many of Shadowclub – arguably not even South Africa’s best Wolfmother tribute band anymore – it was a sublime moment that encapsulated the reasons why people come to gatherings like this; why they suffer through cold nights, unforgiving hangovers and people telling them where they can and cannot funnel a tallboy of Milk Stout.


Music festivals are strange. Many people are drawn to them by the promise of big name international acts or a solid local line-up. Some come to have regret-filled sex with strangers on air mattresses. A few use it as an excuse to blow two grand on caps of MDMA and bug out from 2 ‘til 2 to DJ’s playing Balkan trip-hop in a converted shed.


On the surface, most people came to Rocking the Daisies to buy animal hats, eat expensive faux-artisanal food and wear tights as pants. While Splashy Fen becomes an Eastertide home to semi-alcoholic Natalians of all ages, Rocking the Daisies is a strikingly young crowd, an opportunity seized upon by the dozens of companies who littered the grounds with their branding and installations, dreamt up by the same particular kind of advertising school graduate that attends this colourful festival year-in-year-out, regardless of the line-up.


But that’s not to say the line-up was bad this year. There were ample opportunities in between and around the inarticulate heavy rock dross that tends to characterise main stage schedules at South African festivals: the Nu World Beat Barn brought together diverse local DJs and live acts in an old stable kitted out to facilitate both tripping out and heat exhaustion; the Hemp Stage was the obligatory hippie hideout, replete with tee-pee, hula-hoops and well-meaning environmental activism tempered by linen pants-wearing teenagers wolfing down R50 pumpkin risotto; and the Red Bull Studio Live tent was a steamy, sweaty and thoroughly satisfying electro-and-trance mess.


Add that to a comedy theatre, a 34-hour non-stop short film festival and a cane-fuelled bar on a fake beach – it was too much to try to take in all at once. Which, I suppose, is how a festival should be: excessive, busy, and thoughtfully planned-out, allowing for a hazy, happily drunk weekend requiring minimal foresight on the part of the reveler.



That said, some things needed to be seen.  The hype surrounding Grandmaster Flash’s first-ever appearance in the Western Cape was weakened slightly by the realization that the man who had invented many of the tropes of hip-hop DJing – scratching, back-spinning, phrasing – wasn’t going to play anything else other than the world’s most conventional hip-hop DJ set. Those thousands that were perfectly happy to watch the 54-year-old New York jockey spin Dead Prez’s “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop” while shouting “Cape Town!” over and over again probably had much more fun than those watching Lark’s Inge Beckmann and the guitarist and drummer from Taxi Violence slunk about in their new, dual bass guitar-driven project, Beast.


Better bands, it turned out, would come during the sunshine of the afternoons. The best probably came from Beatenberg’s strikingly eloquent Paul Simon-inflected indie pop and the rising star of Capetonian one-man band Jeremy Loops, who brought together beatboxing, loop stations and effected banjo and acoustic guitar to create textured, bouncy and undeniably fresh-sounding folk-hop. Later in the evenings, instrumental post-rockers Bateleur celebrated compositional nuance in the Beat Barn, while Desmond and the Tutus continued their careful transition away from circa-2009 twee with an assured, almost heavy performance a few hours before the entrance of Bloc Party.


And that headlining set in the rain, equal parts rollicking and springy-soft, was always going to be the defining moment for Rocking the Daisies this year. As fireworks shot out by the side of the main stage after the London band ended with a surging triptych of “Helicopter”, new single “Octopus” and “This Modern Love” – with an accompanying 20 metre-wide mosh pit – the festival had undoubtedly reached its climax.


After the afterglow wore off, however, all that was left was dirty fingernails, some sticky residue, and perhaps – depending on how you played it – an empty wallet. A good festival, like good sex, doesn’t happen as often as you’d like it to.

This weekend, 15 000 people got one out of two, at least.



*All images © Nick Mulgrew

6 Responses to “Rocking The Daisies”
  1. luke says:

    haha, those last lines are fantastic. nice.

  2. xdoomx says:

    65,000 people less than the Gangnam Style concert.. SA got talent.

  3. Amy says:

    The festival was sold out. The capacity was 15 000, and you could feel how full it was. But it was amazing!! Definitely a festival that everyone should go to at least once.

  4. N says:

    It was sold out, Brandon.

  5. cynic says:

    “…arguably not even South Africa’s best Wolfmother tribute band anymore”

    Wolfmother…. arguably not even the world’s best Led Zeppelin tribute band anymore…
    Led Zeppelin… arguably not even the world’s most notorious music plagiarists anymore…

    See where I’m going with this?

    Cool review though.

  6. Micaela says:

    Nick Mulgrew needs to write more reviews. I don’t care that he lives in Cape Town. More, more, more.

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