By Leah Solomon
I experienced my very first Rocking the Daisies this year and to be honest, I think all the hype from previous years made me go into it with certain expectations and preconceptions. I was almost expecting a pre-determined set of moments and anecdotes to happen to me. It may not have been the best Daisies for a lot of people, but for me it was something special. I finally got to experience something I been longing for since first year. It didn’t meet my all expectations, but it did exceed many of them.
The first comment that I need to make before I go into full-force time travel back to the event itself through the majesty of words, is on the organisation. I was really appalled by the lack thereof. For its ninth Daisies and its prestigious reputation (rephrase), they really screwed this one up. Firstly, the organisers sternly stated on their Facebook page that the gates would open at 3pm, yet festival-goers boasted from the inside that they had entered the venue, set up and already started on the bottle from 11am. This didn’t set the best tone for what was supposed to be the best weekend of many people’s year. But this minor miscommunication was overshadowed by bigger issues. When we arrived at the festival, we were faced with a queue that seemed to be as long as the drive to get there. We waited in that line to get our wristbands for close to two hours. Exhausted and roasting in the heat, it wasn’t the best start to the festival. Four hours later we had successfully transported all of our luggage to the site, unpacked and set up.
The first night we walked around the camp-site food court and stage like zombies, silently soaking in the jovial atmosphere, the impressive stamina of the excited festival-goers and dodging being caught in the crossfire of drunk hugs, high-fives and lunges. Things only really begin on the second day anyway.
The second day was a monumental improvement. We woke up feeling fresh from our early, sober night and ready to conquer the day. I have to say that the food-court was amazing. The variety of food, mostly gourmet, was incredible and definitely worth going over the Daisies budget. The food court was like Long Street in a tent. Usually people who attend festivals overload themselves with Chip n Dip, Burger Express and boerewors rolls. Daisies on the otherhand, with all that still available, has more to offer. Not straying from the typical Cape Townian cosmopolitan lifestyle, Daisies may be the only music festival to have a sushi bar.
Amongst the array of food was a Greek stall tucked away in the corner. It may have been small but its two front ladies made it seem huge. Two small blonde girls dressed in blue and white stood at the front of the stall screaming at people to come and try their famous beef souvlaki. “Hey beautiful! Come over here and put some meat on your bones”, “Oi! Don’t go for that vegetarian shit, meat is what you need” and other variations were being shouted at unsuspecting strangers. They even pulled me in, almost guilt-tripping me into trying their food. I’m glad I did, it was the best meal I have ever had at a festival. And it was real Greek food, not their idea of real Greek food.
Due to the horrendous heat it took us a while to really get into a groove. We spent a large portion of the day trying to avoid heatstroke, journeying from one shady spot to another. What I loved about that day was people-watching, seeing everyone so excited about being at Daisies. Festivals have that power – they are a home away from home in another galaxy. No inhibitions, no judgement, just unity, good vibes and music. The treat of that day though was seeing Fishwives perform. I looked around as I watched them and all I saw were Rhodents. We all came together to show our sisters and brother some purple love. At one point I noticed a guy who had graduated from Rhodes the previous year randomly pointing at people. I then clicked that he was counting the amount of Rhodents he recognised gathered in one small space. He ended up putting his hands in the air and exclaiming, “I fuckin’ love Rhodes! We’re the only varisty that will end up together, whether you know each other or not, to support our friends”. It was such a beautiful experience, such a strong sense of togetherness.
The Fishwives really killed it on that stage. I hadn’t seen them play in a really long time, so when they started I was absolutely blown away. Their versatility never fails to leave me in awe. They all mesh so well with all their weird and wonderful quirks, cracking inside jokes and leaving the crowd confused and then laughing about it further. They got the crowd dancing and kept them moving until their set was over. Their engagement with the crowd was great; funny, endearingly awkward and magnetic. Nearing the end of the gig that I was dancing to their tunes at the back of the tent when my friend Bishop, the strangest cat you’ll ever meet, came bounding up to me. We hadn’t seen each other since Splashy Fen in April. He suddenly lifted up his shirt and showed me an incomplete tattoo on his ribs. He told me that he got that tattoo dedicated to Fishwives after he saw them perform at OppiKoppi. If that isn’t indicative of how good and memorable the Fishwives are then I don’t know what is.
As the night progressed the creatures of the dark came out to play. As soon as the sun goes down people shape-shift into really weird versions of themselves. The night somehow triggers absolute mayhem and debauchery. It’s as if the parents have gone to bed and now you can pick at the liquor cabinet. The Electro Dome took the night by storm. Firstly, the dome itself was crazy. You could hear the sound ricocheting just by looking at it. Secondly, the lasers and visuals were unreal. They really did well with that stage, it was an incredible sight. Okmalumkoolkat and Das Kapital powered that stage that night. Okmalumkoolkat offered something completely different to the traditional electronic music that is played at festivals. It took a while for people to find their groove with him, but once they did it was game over. People fell in love with him and his stage presence, myself included. He had me moving and smiling the whole time. Das Kapital was phenomenal. I think it was probably one of his best sets yet. He strayed from his usual moombahton genre and went into the depths of the grimy cave that is Trap and Glitch-hop and some good old Dubstep. It was a refreshing change and a pleasant surprise, the crowd loved it. The Dome was packed to the back and then some. People were bringing out their inner thug, hands in the hair, pulling out Illuminati signs and getting low. I just wish that he had ended the night. He was followed by a Deep House and Techno dj, two genres which require an acquired taste. Some people loved it, but I find them both to be one of the most boring and pointless styles of electronic music. I think the night would have taken a turn for the better if Das Kapital was the one to take us jamming into the early hours of the morning.
The third day was a little harder to combat. Three hours of sleep, a completely random throbbing headache and waking up in a tent that is basically Dante’s Inferno is probably the worst combination ever. It’s safe to say that we were feeling far from fresh. We started the day in the same way as we did the day before: hydration, food and shade. Once we had done all three we were set to go. There was such a strong buzz in the air that you could feel it in the pit of your stomach. That night would see MGMT, Crystal Fighters, Rudimental and The Presets grace the stage. But the line-up leading up to those acts was pretty fantastic. Beatenberg, Nomadic Orchestra, Christian Tiger School, The Black Cat Bones, Ard Matthews and Shortstraw are just a few names to give you a small idea of how Daisies did good on Saturday. Once again, as the sun went down the weirdos came out to become one with the night. After Shortstraw played everyone gathered to await the arrival of Crystal Fighters. On they came, dressed in their wonderfully bizarre attire and dominated the stage, making them a crowd favourite. The most beautiful moment was when they paid tribute to their late drummer and friend, Andrea Marongiu, who passed away soon before the band was set to come to South Africa. They played and they were amazing. There isn’t much more to it. Next up was MGMT. Unlike most people, I was really impressed with their performance. I completely underestimated them. Most of the crowd found that they were very ‘blah’, not engaging and awkward to watch. I found them to be fantastically strange. I really loved their nonchalant entrance, a mere ‘hello, how are you’ and then straight into playing. It gave them a really cool and unique vibe to them. I didn’t find their lack of chatting offensive or pretentious. I just think they’re two really socially awkward, weird dudes who make weird but good music. Time to Pretend, Kids and Electric Feel did steal the show though and forced the crowd to take their stupid sour looks off their faces and acknowledge that they’re listening to a really great and profound band. The visuals that they had playing on the screens were trippy as all hell, like a completely natural and legal acid trip. Coupled with their music, MGMT took you on a really other-worldly journey. Then when their set was over they gave us a quick thanks and then went on their way, leaving 20 000 people in a state of confusion. It was awesome.
Rudimental ended the night and they really made the R700 spent on a ticket worth it. Seeing over 10 people on one stage having the best time was a sight and a half. The vocalists were flawless and pitch-perfect live, such beautiful voices that created the most goose-bump worthy harmonies. The musicians were remarkable. People who can make Drum n Bass with actual instruments is quite something. They just had such an incredible energy that sent out such a positive vibe. When they asked us to clap, we clapped. When they asked us to put our hands in the air, we did. It wasn’t cliché, it wasn’t annoying, it was them actually being there with us and it was a lovely moment.
They made Daisies come full circle. The unity and love that everybody felt on the first day was reignited that night and was the perfect way to end a great weekend.