The road trip to Oppikoppi began as all great adventures do; with a blizzard.
We set off into the night, already a day behind schedule thanks to an unheard of snowstorm that chose to ravage South Africa the day before the festival.
The eternal optimism of youth on the verge of a weekend spent wasted on music, booze and two-minute noodles is boundless. Nothing could get us down, not even the forlorn fact we only had three CDs to get us through the fifteen hour snail trail to Joburg from Durban.
When we arrived, a bakkie full of Oppi virgins, we were more than ready to take on what we would realize is the harshest music fest we were yet to experience.
Oppi is a dry, dusty desert. It is great.
Endurance. Wet wipes. Whisky. Wet wipes. Where’s the jol julle? Wet wipes. When are they playing? Wet wipes. What whisky? Wet wipes. This is why we are here. Wet wipes. What’s on Dustin’s face? Wet wipes. Oh, a vienna. Wet wipes.
The sheer scale of the thing is immense and immersive; this festival really feels like an international event. For me it was even intergalactic as I was in a heightened state of enthrallment. My birthday fell on the first day of the festival and I was absorbed in the landing of Mars Science Lab, Curiosity, which roamed the red planet as we rode our own, the freak snowstorm and wondered if the zombie apocalypse in Miami could be solved by a combination of the latter list. I am easily excited and influenced so this was no meagre migration of my senses and sensibilities. This would be a full throttle rock ‘n roll revolution.
Oppi Koppi is a sprawling dust bowl in the Highveld which takes flight once a year as the dry earth is kicked up by over twenty thousand festival goers. This year, I had watched Facebook and Twitter shudder and judder as the line up was announced, with international act after act bringing the Oppi Koppi page to ejaculation as fans of Eagles Of Death Metal, Diplo, Enter Shikari and Bullet For My Valentine slid onto the bill.
As groovy as it is to have international ballers like Eagles of Death Metal here in SA, to be honest I was more excited to see some of our homegrown stuff, specifically BLK JKS, The Frown and Beast. In fact, Inge Beckmann was one of the first voices I ran into that Thursday night. Bummed to have missed The Makeovers whilst we were frozen in time on the snow-clogged road, I was relieved to see that we had made it in time to see the black-clad banshee with her new double bass outfit. Beast is cool and cloaked in bass that adds a nice heavy rock edge to the wild wailing vocals Inge is known for. However, it was less immense and more ordinary as a result which was a little disappointing. After operatic glitch a.k.a Lark, the notion of being underwhelmed is an inevitable one. Still it was good and I would really like to see the ensemble again.
Friday broke over our heads like a warm Black Label in the dry Limpopo dust ball. A full day of festivities at last. One of the most charming things about Sweet Thing for me was the luxurious lay of acacia trees that canopied over a lush, grassy area. Here, hundreds of beautiful, tattooed, tie-dyed, candy-haired youth lay in hammocks and upon strewn sarongs enjoying the shade and strong drinks while Liquorice Allsorts sponsors sprayed us with sweets. Totally wonderful.
What made me especially proud, being a Durbanite, was when Fruits & Veggies took to the stage around noon. The bales of hay became gypsy wedding confetti as Purity and her band put on a freakishly fun performance that had a full crowd stamping and jiving in the sun.
Fast forward through the course of a crazy day and a psychotic, leather lapel flaring mad man who after consuming some nasty batch of narcotics and scaring the camp, shouted, ‘Let’s go to Sun City. I’m gonna lay chicks and drink cocktails. What do people even do here?’
He careened his car around our tent and disappeared to almost certainly die in a fatal accident.
Wet wipe. Cherry schnapps. Dustin stoppit. Wet wipe. Was she hot? Wet wipe. You did what? Wet wipe. I love you boots. Wet wipe.
The BLK JKS made my music experience at this festival. Having not seen them for a while made the transformation from a great band with SA urban edge in 2009 who were going places to the tight, explorative, cutting edge, cult-quality band who have created their own space.
Having spent a good while in the States and becoming sweethearts of the eclectic and elitist New York music scene, BLK JKS returned to SA to deliver. They have grown in sound and scape and have no doubt been influenced by the suave aesthetic of metropolis life yet are more unique than ever. You know that feeling, when you get excited in the pit of your guts after hearing the first song of your next favourite band? I had that in front of the main stage at Oppi when the BLK JKS drummer became a caveman-alien and screamed soprano over the death-thrashing of this drums. I get shivers just writing this.
Eagles Of Death Metal was just the Texan-double-cheeseburger-rock ‘n roll-can-I-have-you-on-the-bill-and-then-backstage-hunny? order we needed to keep our energy up. I’ve been lucky enough to see Jesse Hughes’ handlebar moustache a couple times in my short life and daaannnngggg… is that boy bad news. So much so that girls were moved to unhitching their bras and gyrating unhindered to one of the funnest rock ‘n roll outfits you can hope to dig. I only hope to ‘Jaysus above,’ as Jesse would say, that I am as half as cool as those dudes when I’m their age. In between busting the balls of ‘Cherry Cola’, ‘I Only Want You’ and ‘Whorehoppin’’…. Jesse would snap his shades into place, saunter backstage and shove his devil’s tongue down a young girl’s delighted throat. It was the show of the goddamn year I think for both the audience and EODM.
Wet wipe. Mikey you caught EODM’s tambourine! Wet wipe. Black lips.
Wet wipe. Black Fish lips. Wet wipe. Where were you? Wet wipe. We are not like you. Wet wipe. Wake up. Wet wipe. We there yet? Wet wipe.
Wimpy. Wet wipe. Wow.
WORDS: Eliza Day
IMAGES: Valentine Mick Celliers