Take Me Back To Mieliepop, Please?

With Mieliepop only 2 months away, Bob Perfect looks back at last year’s edition of the boutique festival and breaks down why you should add it to your festival bucket list.


Photo by Paige Furness


Take me back to Mieliepop, please?


I need to go back to the oasis of good times and better music. A right and proper jol in a picturesque paradise made for Getaway Magazine photo shoots, or hallucinogens. Grass so green and lush you’d be forgiven for pulling out a 3 Iron, or a bong. A serene lake on the stoep of your tent that makes waking up in the morning with a hangover from R10 beers a way more bearable experience. I need a fucking Balkan Burger for breakfast, man. I want a tequila-laced ice-lolly as the sun sets behind the forest at the edge of a lake straight off a postcard. If you were there, tell me, do you crave it too?


Located in Lothair in Mpumalanga, Mieliepop is a bit of a mission to get to from Durban. My girlfriend and I flew up the week before so I could pick up gigs in Joburg, have a holiday of sorts, and then have a shorter drive to the fest on the Friday. I recommend breaking up the journey if you can, long car rides are a recipe for disaster. We rolled with Lil Bow and her artist friend, Jemma. I had the honour of being the second DJ to add to the soundtrack of the festival and Lil Bow was on later that night, so it made sense to carpool.


The trip from Joburg through Mpumalanga reminded me of the pothole-infested yet picturesque journey to Splashy Fen through the KZN Midlands. In many ways, Mieliepop reminds me of Splashy’s early days, just with more adventurous booking choices and bigger focus on making things comfortable. Small touches like fibreglass popcorn seats, fake giant wayfarers, and a yellow frame like they have at tourist spots in Cape Town aimed at said wayfarers, really go a long way in giving the fest a colourful identity and show that the organisers have a sense of humour.


While the venue is the best festival venue I’ve ever had the pleasure of wilding out in, it was the lineup that really sets it apart from many festivals in South Africa. The term “something for everyone” gets overused by most festivals, but Mieliepop kinda nailed it for a small boutique festival. BCUC, Tidal Waves, Shortstraw, Fuzigish, PHFat, Desmond and the Tutus, and Haezer were the names you expect to see at the top of many festival bills and offered a solid foundation to build around, but it’s the lower down the card where Mieliepop’s strength lies.



Tidal Waves


While Lil-Bow did damage with her set of swing mixed with hip-hop, the highlight of the first night had to be Half ‘n Half. Jean-Michel Wickli laid down a perfect blend of future wave, french electro, pop and house that made me miss DJ Bhashkar more than I already do. The track selection and flawless mixing reminded me of one of Durban’s finest exports, who would later feature by the pool (yeah, there’s a pool) but I missed his set because I was doing comedy on a boat (yeah, there’s a boat, sort of).


Speaking of Durbanites, a small Durban contingent made their way up to the fest. Fuego Heat and Missu carpooled up because they were both on the poolside lineup and set up tent behind us. Perfect for hearing them scuffle about in the dark, only to wake up to them sleeping outside because one of them (Fuego) had chundered in the tent (The more things change…).


The Dead Trends earned themselves a few new fans and showed off both a new pop-punk influence and Brad’s surprisingly delightful vocal abilities. The kid’s got pipes. I’d dig to hear The Dead Trends do more vocal harmonies, James, Caleb and Brad all have voices that complement each other and harmonies are a total vibe.


Mouse did their thing and they did it well. By now, I assume if you read DIY, you’ve seen Mouse live. If you haven’t, you should. They’ve risen rapidly over the last year (well, as rapidly as a noisy 2 piece garage rock band can rise in SA), and Mieliepop was one of the gigs that set the tone for their stellar year.


The forerunners of Durban’s garage/psych scene, Black Math, got people moshing in the afternoon with the lake as their backdrop. The juxtaposition would be weird if Black Math pits were ever the violent type, but instead, the good-natured push-pitting added to the all-around good vibes of the fest. Even the heaviest music was met was giant smiles and hugs.


Black Math


On the other spectrum of sounds, Durban gqom pioneers Rudeboyz tore the whole damn roof off the Rave Cave after ANG, and Thor Rixon (featuring Mikki San) got the jol started. It’s quite a thing to hear gqom reverberating around a cave in Mpumulanga and not a taxi to town. The acoustics are way better. Oh yeah, the Rave Cave was a total fucking rave in a real fucking cave. Not just a tent with some tie-dye called a “rave cave”, but a real cave hooked up with sound, lighting, and a bar – for both serving drinks and dance moves. Shit was magical, man. The rave cave is where most nights “ended”.  


It wasn’t just the Durbanites who laid down jams though. Medicine Boy had many of the musicians in attendance swooning. The Moths brought their fast-paced instrumental surf-rock to the table, always a welcome addition to any festival lineup, although I’d have prefered to have seen them once the sun went down. With only 2 band stages and about 50 acts to split between them, I get that tough scheduling choices need to be made. Nigerian saxophonist Femi Koya and his band were by far the best act I saw who I hadn’t heard of before the fest. I can still see Henk’s (van der Skyf, the guy who put the fest together) beaming smile backstage as the jazzy afrobeat band broke out into a powerful cover of Fela Kuti’s Zombie.


Femi Koya


All of that being said: HOLY SHIT HELLO BEAUTIFUL ARE FUCKING INCREDIBLE AND PRETTY MUCH THE SECOND COMING OF KIDOFDOOM. I may never get the image out of my mind of Makkie, foot on the monitor, pounding his bass, which was casually slung down below his waist, hair blowing in the wind, purple and blue strobes flashing behind him, synths, bass and drums washing over me. What a glorious experience. Granted, I was on 2CB at the time, so that might have influenced things a bit. Still, if you’re going to take substances that enhance watching bands, you should make sure you’re watching bands that are worth it. Hello Beautiful sure as fuck were worth it. Hopefully, we’ll see them in Durban this year (is that foreshadowing?), and maybe then I can give a more objective “review”.


As festivals go, Mieliepop is kinda perfect. I mean, there were a few flaws: The ATM took a while to get running, the showers didn’t always work, and there could have been lights in the toilets. Oh, and I didn’t like ALL of the music. To the surprise of nobody. But I liked more of it than I do at most fests. Other than that, I have nothing to complain about, which sucks ‘cause that’s my jam.


The final night of the fest was mostly spent drinking R10 beers backstage with musicians and other comedians. There was camaraderie amongst the artists that you only really get at festivals that book dope people who also happen to be talented artists.


By keeping tickets limited and focusing on curating a unique lineup that appeals to pockets of niche scenes and underground favourites, with a sprinkling of chart-toppers, Mieliepop provides adventurous music lovers with eclectic palettes an almost perfect music festival experience.



All photos by Paige Furness.


Mieliepop 2018 is happening from the 21st to the 24th of March, here’s the website for more details and you can check out their third artist announcement below.




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