The good old days are here. Bob Perfect Breaks down the inaugural Winnifest.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Winnifest was a prime example of this. That’s not a diss, by the way. Durban has sorely missed these DIY day fests expose underground acts with big name headliners. Thankfully, The Winston and T teamed up to put together this nostalgia fest that could‘ve been called “Uprising 2015”.
It wasn’t a “10 stages, 50 international djs, 200 local acts” extravaganza that everyone seems to be trying to do these days. It was a humble 2 stage set up, one inside the pub for the DJs, and a bigger rig in the parking lot for the bands. On the bill: one international act, a Cape Town rap outfit, a tribute, a throwback, a CD launch, a rap act that switched from DJ to band, some fresh blood and a handful of Durban’s electronic misfits. An eclectic bunch to say the least, but that’s always been the Durban way.
I missed Life Below but I heard they had a fast and furious 18 minutes to a handful of people.I’ve caught them before and they’re noisy and aggressive af. It’s a bit weird to kick off with a hardcore band. Usually you’d want to build up to the higher energy acts, but Life Below are still new to the game so they have to earn their slots. There are a couple new hardcore bands and hardcore/punk influenced bands popping up at the moment so there’s a chance there could be a hardcore revival. Time will tell if it’ll resonate with kids like it used to
I got there in time to catch Common Creatives who are also new on the scene but have been relishing every chance to get some live experience. They’re still figuring out their sound but at the moment it’s a mix in some indie, brit pop and punk and their set includes a TV On The Radio cover. They didn’t have their best set with equipment and timing issues plaguing them, but they are new to the game and are working hard to improve with each show. They’ve got a lot of work to do but if they stick at it, they could be one of your favourite bands in 2016.
I’ve seen Raheem Kemet perform a lot over the years. From his time with T.H.O.T.S to freestyling in the streets. He’s always been on the cusp of breaking through to the upper tier but never quite reached it. Lately though, he’s been on fire and seems determined to finally achieve everything he knows he can. Raheem started off his set with his DJ Raw Kidd and finished with most of his band. Apparently the keyboardist had been double booked. That didn’t hold Raheem back from letting the crowd know that the party had officially started. The crowd got behind him and both fed off each other in a symbiotic exchange of energy. If Raheem keeps delivering performances like these, it’ll be hard for the mainstream to ignore him for much longer.
Things calmed down a bit when Stelth Ulvang from The Lumineers took to the stage. I know exactly zero Lumineers songs so this wasn’t a big deal to me and other than Ballie Mike getting on stage for a song, I was pretty bored for most of the set. It wasn’t that bad, he could play the piano and sing a bit (although he should have left the guitar at home), it was just long winded and lacked charisma. I’d probably have felt different if the set was shorter with just the best songs.
Hours got the crowd going again with a tight emotional punk set to launch their ‘Bastard History Orphan Future’ album. Hours sound like all your favourite punk, pop punk and emo bands put together. Against Me? Check. Flatliners? Check. The Get Up Kids? Check. Blink 182? Check. It’s natural that they’d go down well at Winnifest with many people shouting along to their catchy self-loathing choruses. Hours have such a niche appeal but yet they keep doing what they cause it’s what they wanna hear. If you grew up listening to Warped Tour mixes, it’s probably what you want to hear too.
I’m not sure how I’ll feel the day Sibling Rivalry hang up their instruments for good. They’ve been such an integral part of the punk scene in Durban and South Africa and each time they play they whip the crowd into a frothy mess. I’ve been watching them play for over 10 years now and I think it hasn’t gotten old because they only play a handful of shows a year. Their set inspired stage dives and circle pits and it felt like “the good old days”. They really just are “that band”.
After Sibling, things got emotional. Hog Hoggidy Hog were meant to play Winnifest but George Bacon passed away the weekend before. In their place was a tribute set by members of Sibling, Lowprofile, Black Math, Meth Breath and Roachy. Nobody could ever match up to George and the Hogs but Durban’s punks paid their respects to one of the godfathers of SA punk as the crowd sang along to every word. There were tears and there was skanking and for many, it was a way to process the loss of an SA music legend. George’s impact will be felt for a long time to come.
PHFat had the unenviable task of following up what was essentially a wake. This was their first time at The Winston but they made themselves at home on the DIY setup. PHFat have been playing some huge shows over the last year but they transitioned to the smaller stage easily with Mike taking the opportunity to get more intimate with the crowd. They started to build up steam when, boowp-boowp (that’s the sound of the police). The outside stage got shut down due to noise complaints. Probably because it was 10pm on a Sunday.
The party continued with Veranda Panda inside but by that point I was done. It had been a long weekend and my body isn’t conditioned for Thursday to Sunday anymore. I’d say the inaugural Winnifest went down a success although there could have been a bigger turn out. I think the more of these they do, the bigger it’ll grow. Park Acoustics in Pretoria started out relatively small and it now attracts thousands of people every month. Even Uprisings grew to the thousands. With some persistence and clever booking, Winnifest could grow into an institution.
Fests like these are important to help a scene grow. Diverse lineups mixed with a touch of mass appeal attract a wide range of people who might not know about all the different shit going on. They get introduced to something they’ve never seen or heard before and suddenly they’re coming to shows every week. That’s what happened to me. It’ll be interesting to see where the team go with it, they just announced Al Bairre and Niskerone for the next one so they’re sticking to the whole “fuck genres” thing. If Durban gets behind this, who knows what could happen?
*All images © Travis Cottrell