Not nearly everything that went down at SxRTD, but it’s a start…
Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Nick Gordon
TrashGodd must have been Snapchatting the Swartland scenery on the drive up, which included an hour-long bumper-to-bumper roadblock on top of the 80-kilometre drive, because when we finally arrive at the ticketing station, his phone is dead.
Normally a flat phone wouldn’t be a problem, but in this brave new world where your ticket is on your phone, no phone means no ticket, no ticket means no wristband... and you’re nothing at SxRTD without a wristband, as this is the life force of the festival. It's also the sole way of paying for anything, kind of like that movie where Olivia Wilde plays Justin Timberlake's mom.
Standing behind us in the terribly long line is DJ Fosta, who politely explains how he needs to play the Bridges for Music Stage in 20 minutes. We allow Fosta to slip in front of us in exchange for his mixtape, then deny a woman in hiking gear who tells us some sob story how she had just walked to Daisies without validating her ticket first.
Well, neither had TrashGodd, so it’s dark by the time we leave the ticketing station. But before joining the rest of our team in Daisyland – the premium camping site with accommodation ranging from R4450 (that's excluding a ticket) to R15 950 (still excluding a ticket) for the Queen Bee Suite, I must first drop off a Princess in Mordor. Or, as some call it, "general camping".
Navigating this immense settlement is daunting for a newcomer. Twenty-five thousand people, 11 stages, 250 local and international acts, activations, food stalls, beer tents, retail spaces… And when your first time is in the dark, with a coupla thousand party people either setting up camp, sport drinking, or both, it’s downright terrifying.
Which is why this girl is crying on a corner while her "friends" Whatsapp her emoji-filled directions like, “follow the gate until you get to a blue tent, then turn right when you see a tree...” And after two laps of general camping, carrying this girl’s sleeping bag and her backpack and her coolerbox and all her other baggage, we finally find the squad and I’m able to go and babysit my other children.
Which is perhaps the problem. I'm too old for this. Too responsible. There's not enough hair left on my bald pate to let down anymore. Also, I'm perhaps happiest when unhappy. There's a sort of bragging to seeing the rest of your colleagues off their face and you're carrying a tripod around and telling them about the next edit that you need to do. Also, my problems aren't even real problems. They're about as first-world as the guy who complained to me how Moët gives him heartburn.
Truth be told, it was my pleasure hanging out with someone who's as much fun as Doowap is, and if having to push through a crowd to pull her off of a dancefloor whenever we needed to do a video spot was tiring, or pulling her away from a security guard blocking a backstage area was a schlep, well, why would you want to bottle a rainbow? After all, we selected her based on her energy and then told her that we wanted her to “do you”, and if anything, the girl over-delivered on our brief. Doowap you are a shining star: don't ever let a grumpy old man like myself tell you otherwise!
Wait, 500 words in and no mention of the music yet? Glad you noticed, because the major takeaway from the SxRTD festival experience was that it’s nothing like the music festivals of old. This is something completely different: a hedonistic haven and a veritable assault on all of the senses, rather than allocating special rights and privileges to some.
But don't get it twisted, the music’s there – a constant beat that serves as a soundtrack to the festival, the incessant thud that grows more distinct as you approach the source, which you may then choose to either dip into or move away from, following your feet to whatever stage manages to hold your attention long enough.
Angela Weickl summed up the aural side of the festival perfectly when she told us how “Everyone is in a good position to learn or watch something new this weekend. There’s no pressure to have to do anything, but I can guarantee you that every single act that has been booked on this lineup is here for a reason. And you should give as many of them as possible a chance.”
We’d caught up with Angela after her successful #FillUpTheDome set, a challenge she’d set for herself to try and pull a normally small and unenthusiastic 3pm crowd to dance to her booty bass in The Electro Dome.
“There’s too much ego involved with who you are and when you play. I tried not to look up too often, but when I saw that we were five rows deep I was happy.”
Youngsta only arrived much later that afternoon, and like us ended up pitching his tent in the dark. “My man, this is Kaapstad. There’s no time for glamour and glitz.” The Wittebome rapper is humble to a fault, and after his set at the Two’s Up stage, he did a series of meet-and-greets with his fans lining up for their photo opportunity, before catching up with some of the other rappers whom he refers to as his “partners in rhyme”.
When we’re able to chat I tell him how it seems that everyone wants a piece of him.
“That’s how it is, bru, and then tomorrow nobody knows who the f**k I am. I’m working to reach that next level though, which, for me, is walking into anyplace, anywhere, and not having to tell anyone who I am. I’m pushing a whole city, trying to bring up the entire Cape, because it’s not really being focused on and we started this.”
Wait, is that legendary Cape Town DJ Ready D spinning everything from Afroman’s ‘Because I got high’ to DMX’s ‘We Right Here’ to Dead Prez’s ‘It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop’? It is, and instead of reminiscing on the past, Youngsta talks about the now.
“We are the Y-Gen. The ‘why’ generation. The 'question everything' generation. I represent these kids here today. The forward thinkers, the ones who are pushing ahead in whatever they do. Whether that’s art, whether that’s culture, whether that’s fashion or whether that’s music.”
Stilo Magolide smiles his 24-carat smile when he sees TWoU in the backstage area.
“Hey, I been using your guys' photos everywhere.”
We tell him that we’ve seen that, that it would be nice to get a credit, but Stilo just laughs us off and our reward is that instead of catching him on his day off like the first time we met, we get Stilo to walk outside for a portrait and a chat.
“This look is new-age rock star meets Renaissance man,” says Stilo, describing his outfit. “The secret to dressing for a festival is a band shirt you can rock for days, your best pair of denims and your Vans. You also need something warm. I’m wearing animal, so I’m good, the wind just bounces off me.”
Then Stilo starts sweating the backstage-rider manager.
“How we looking with that thing? Come on, yo! One bottle! I need that brown liquor.”
“I’m trying. I’m trying,” says the guy. “I don't understand why they give you the Grey Goose then?”
“I can’t blame anybody. I think this was done a very long time ago and hasn’t been updated. So I can't blame, I can only hustle.”
While we can’t confirm if Stilo ever got his bottle of brown, we’re happy to report that his set was worth leaving Mac Miller’s Main Stage act for – no shade to Mac Miller. You see, it’s just that, for me, hip-hop doesn’t translate to stadium rock arenas, and the Two's Up stage had a far more authentic vibe with Stilo doing an acapella version of his Umswenko verse and much, much more. And then, fortunately for PH FAT, most people leaving the Mainstage after Mac Miller’s set had to pass the Two’s Up stage. And again, Dimplez and the Pop Bottles crew have to be commended on this – it was the best.
“I dunno why it took so long for Daisies to get a rap stage?” says Smooth Mike. “Rap music has clearly infiltrated the pop space and I’m happy to finally have everyone here.”
The Daisies stalwart has been the festival's go-to rapper for years now, and despite having shed two-thirds of his weight, nothing was missing. I mean, obviously we miss Disko and Narch, but the set was unequivocally PH FAT, and with Christian Tiger School’s Luc Vermeer on the ones and twos, and then all the smoke, and lasers, and even flags raised in the crowd; hell, Smooth Mike even dragged a couch onto the stage with him, it made for a very special night.
“Shoutout to your face, girl. I hope you have the brains to back it up.”
Smooth Mike employed his strange pick-up line before serenading a front-rower with his new song, which we asked him about later.
“I’m working with a lot of new people now, which means I can try a whole bunch of new shit. It’s pretty exciting exploring things I’ve never really done before. Like that high-school crush R&B thing. Or maybe that’s the wrong description? They’re love songs that I’ve been writing with Dank, now Mac Mattel. Let's just call it the opposite of party music.”
The highlight of the lineup was Hugh Masekela, who between killing it on the trumpet, flugelhorn, cowbell and all the different singing styles and voices that he does, regaled us with stories, like the one where he first met his guitar player, Cameron Ward.
"One day we went to play a benefit concert, deep, deep, deep in the Kalahari Desert, at a reformatory school for criminal boys. When we were coming back it was six hours into the desert, and we heard a rumbling in the luggage rack, so we stopped the bus to have a look and there this little guy was smiling and holding a guitar. And we said, ‘Kid? Kid? Sheeeit… You going to get us into a lot of kaka. How can you do this, man?’ and he said ‘Iwannaplaytheguitar! Yougottahearmeplaytheguitar!’ So we said, ‘Okay Sonnyboy, play.’ And when he started playing we all looked at each other and went, ‘Sheeeit…'"
We said the same thing after we bumped into YouTubers Caspar Lee and Josh Pieters during Eats Everything at The Beach Bar, and then again when we managed to convince them to meet us at the media centre for a video interview later on.
Some hours later an entourage of eight people show up – nine including Caspar’s bodyguard, who needs to step in whenever drunken louts do things like throw their beer cans at Caspar, who is in extremely high spirits and starts off telling us about his Kanye-inspired pink hoodie and then goes off on a tangent about Kim.
“I’m wearing a lot of layers. I found this in my tent and decided that I had to wear it because it was really cold today. I’m really proud of Josh, he’s been working really hard. Shoutout to diabetes! That’s Josh’s mom. I love your outfit. Do I keep this Xbox? I’m so drunk! Come guys, let's go. Let's go do this.”
Josh is far more demure, probably because he hasn’t slept in 36 hours, which is a challenge he accepted after someone dared him to do the entire festival without sleeping.
“This morning, after everyone went to bed, I just walked around the empty festival grounds. So far it’s not too bad. After tonight though, it might be tough. The aim is to get to 50 hours.”
A model from the YouTuber’s posse, Victoria Lang, tells us how Nasty C was “my everything” and we tell her how our musical highlights were Card on Spokes' set at Headspaza, where he played alongside the rugby screening (massive turnout, who would've thunk?) and gave us an even bigger thumping than the Springboks got; how Lag’s set at the Nu World Beat Barn was a hypnotic affair that provided the beat for some of the most memorable festival dancing we’ve ever seen; how Sibot has turned DJing into performance art; the special spectacle inside the Secret Stage, where it's okay to stroke the furry wall; and then something that I would’ve never guessed could be so much fun, The Silent Disco. Well, she went off with the YouTubers anyway...
Still, it must be said that being able to switch between Tommy Gun's funk, the R&B and hip-hop that Uppercut were playing, and The Robfather's classic rock, was the most empowered I've ever felt on a dancefloor before. And it was fun to watch which DJ’s colours would light up the dancefloor, as well as extremely strange how couples would dancing together, totally in sync, while listening to completely different soundtracks. Silent Disco for the win.
Unable to fall asleep on Sunday morning, even after Mey had closed Headspaza with the sounds of flies buzzing, which was just one of the weirder things he did in his extremely weird set, I took Josh up on his recommendation of wandering the eerily empty grounds by myself, often stopping to eavesdrop on the various conversations that all these young campers were having, perhaps forgetting how a tent's walls are as thin as a pair of board shorts.
“Yeah, but I need mine for tomorrow, you can have a half.” (Talking about antihistamines.)
“Dude, no dude, dude we have gone hard the last couple of days, hey?!”
“I’ve had a threesome before, but never with best friends.”
“I just checked in on Facebook and can confirm that nobody is living a better life than us right now.”
That's it, that's just what I was looking for – the quote of the festival! Because everyone who was at SxRTD was living their best life.
Laying in the hammock at the Superbalist beach lounge, I watched the sun rising over the Kasteelberg Mountains, thinking good thoughts and being grateful for all I have. And so it's probably not the thousand moments that made me grumpy that I'll remember – not the traipsing, not the carrying, and not even the babysitting. And you'll likely forget the guy who spilled his drink on you, but you'll remember seeing your favourite local artist finally getting the recognition they deserve, hearing the international act whose music moves you no matter how mainstream they're made out to be, and all of those moments that almost translate to Instagram, but not quite.
Take it from a jaded old man.