I went to Rocking the Daisies to get high. Correction: I went to Rocking the Daisies to obliterate all sense of the self, to cut ties with my being, to separate my ego from my physical state. This was my primary concern. I’d had some kaka Daisies experiences before, and this one was going to be different. I was not going to be trapped by the wind in my tent. I was not going to run short of food, money or party favours. I was not going to obsess about the whiteness factor. I was going to get high as fuck. We, Dr Ray, Jess and I, took supplies: 12 grams of shrooms, a few hits of MDMA, a few bottles of whiskey, some Lorazepam; we stocked up on extra cash. I felt, although we failed to find a sex shop in Canal Walk, as if we were adequately prepared.
Disclaimer: At some point during the festival I was bitten by a spider, which turned into a giant abscess shortly after the festival. This story was pieced together on a steady intake of powerful pain pills and weirdly disorienting antibiotics and/or spider venom.
Let me describe the battleground. Rocking the Daisies is situated on a just-past-slight incline – it’s, enough to make it easy to get down to the tent camp, and enough to make it hard to leave. When you do leave, you pack well. Our tent camp was set up on Thursday by some semi-hardened festival goers, or not so enterprising as it was at the farthest point from everything. Capetonians do not know how to festival camp. Getting back to our central area involved walking through swathes of tents with no gaps between them, so actually through tents once the rage had taken hold. From or to the tent camp you must cross a scaffolding bridge over a muddy stream: the leaking of the dam. There is something about this bridge, and the fact that Capetonians don’t understand keep left, that evokes in me a sense of cattle being led to the slaughter. By Saturday afternoon, Daisies had installed a security guard to try to separate people into streams that flowed. At some wild high point on Saturday night, I somehow had a conversation with this security guard that went something like this:
Him “I’m just keeping them separate.”
Me: “You’re just keeping them apart.”
Him: “Ja, like apartheid,” He laughs nervously.
Me: “You’re not kidding, brah. Just look around you!”
This conversation ends in a distinct sense of not-lekkerness. Dr Ray drags me away.
Oh and the wind? Did I mention the wind? It didn’t help that the peanut was absent this year, so the Red Bull stage was left outside at the festival edge to catch the brunt of the wind coming off the prairie. The Red Bull dance vibe at Daisies has traditionally been a place to escape the wind. Not this year. This year, the only cover was the Jeremy Loops stage. Am I being a cunt? Look. Rocking the Daisies is an immaculately run festival, and has over the past four years become noticeably less uptight. Sure, you still get the odd festival organiser running around looking like someone took a giant shit in their mouth– unlike RAMfest, Oppi, or Splashy, where, whatever hell they’re going through, the organisers still manage to maintain a sense of wonder that they’ve pulled it off at all. (This is me telling the RTD guys to just fucking relax and congratulate yourselves. You’re doing good work.) But in general Daisies has a super high production value, and is becoming a well-oiled machine that is gaining enough confidence in itself to allow the chaos to seep in. And as much as I bitch (critique? Do my job?), I had a largely excellent festival. This might have had a lot to do with the large amount of shrooms we had ingested by Friday afternoon.
For some reason, we decided to leave most of the alcohol in the car. (The reason is that I was afraid we’d drink it all in one night.) I did not have the same fear about the psychedelics. This was an error. After a quick round of cocktails from Mixmaster Don, we gathered the team and headed off to find music. The shrooms kicked in and from here on out, I have only my FB posts to guide me as to what order things happened in, the time space continuum no longer on my side.
As I’ve reviewed the festival organisers above, I should at this point, just give them a shout out for the spectacular media area. We were sitting on the bean bags just outside the media tent, juggling caprese salads and meatball wraps, when we decided to increase dosage. The sun began to set. Dr Ray was worried because we haven’t seen Jess for hours. There was a large gap. I remember people trying to get me to watch bands. What’s amazing about psychedelics is that the jocks and the Newlands hippies and the Tiger girls and the AfrikaBurn refugees all blend into one.
Do Kidofdoom play? I remember them playing. I remember standing in the wind and feeling the waves of synth and air punch pushing out through the crowd. Kidofdoom are largely nostalgia for me. Back to the glory days of 2009, ahhh, Deep Space Champion Pop. But about half way through their instrumental grand gesturing, they kinda lose it, something slips out and I’m disconnected from them. The moment has passed.
Do you ever get tired of watching the same bands at South African festivals over and over again? Yeah. Always the same guys in the headline slots. Festivals are blessed with captive audiences, people are gonna watch whatever is on (I mean for effs sake, people were actually watching Woodstock Mafia); so imagine how good it would be in general if newer more exciting bands got better timeslots and the guys singing the same songs from last year were challenged to keep up. I’m not even going to list all the bands that I just didn’t bother with. I feel this way about all festivals by the way. I’m not even going to pretend any more. Plus, it’s exhausting keeping track of the schedule. I prefer surprises.
I’m lost now, stumbling around in the maw of the night.,The lorazepam the Dr gave me earlier has taken the edge off the hallucinations. I decide I need MDMA, but I don’t want to go back to the tent camp. The Dr is missing, looking for Jess. The night has taken on a distinctly carny air – everyone looks like a refugee from a broken drag revue. It’s glorious. I wander into the Jeremy Loops stage seeking a break from the wind. At least there is no dust. Of course I walk smack bang into the tail end of Bateluer’s set. It’s goddamn mystifying. I think it has a lot to do with frontman Nicolaas van Reenen’s hair. I think his hair has a lot to do with why I’m saying he’s the frontman. It’s fucking great hair. I get lost in the structured trip of Bateluer’s instrumental vibes for a little bit, but like Kidofdoom, it doesn’t hold me. I mill about.
There she is. The mutant offspring of a 60s Star Trek red shirt and an original oompa loompa, blue hair space jamming black and red bouncing in the strobe to the stripped down, static-infused beats, an aurora borealis of sound and funk dripping through the air. Moonchild. Syncopated off-beat, she bops hard, rapping like a nursery rhyme on paediatric cough mixture, then like some mad beautifully connected Japanese forest spirit, strung like a puppet jerked along by Tshepang’s drum pad unpredictabilities, she bounces on the spot, her voice lurking between jazz mama and baby talk, the tempos shift, the smoke whirls, the strobes, the strobes. Moonchild is simply the best performance I’ve seen anywhere for a very long time. I don’t even need that MDMA, I find myself crying in the brilliance. It’s some inner space shit. What’s in this music, I don’t even know, but it sounds like the future. The set lasts forever and not nearly long enough; the sandpaper sounds of an 8-bit sampler, overlaid with some laser liquid grooves, colliding, colliding, colliding into the night.
Straggling and tumbling I walk through the tents, back to the tent camp, down through the carnival, down past the mud bridge, cut adrift by the beauty of the performance, the ebbing of the shrooms, the night, the wind, the loners lost on the pathways.
I wake up in the tent, and I’m not dead. Crawling outside into the tundra, the civilised Don is making breakfast. I join him and drink whisky and watch the wind unmoor tents, and the tents like kites, and it’s beautiful. The Dr and Jess emerge, and make off to the car to fetch the rest of the alcohol. Don, Daryn, the Germans and I continue to watch the tents taken by the wind, pursued by overenthusiastic tie-dye-wearing sex dwarfs. When Jess and the Dr arrive back, there has been an error, somehow the rum and the whiskey has been mixed into one bottle: and we saw that it was Risky and we named it thus.. It will later be someone’s downfall, not mine. We tally up, and between the three of us, we’ve already depleted our main supplies to critical levels. We head off. I take the last of my shrooms.
The rest of the day is spent skipping between the food court, the VIP toilets, the media tent, preparing, preparing. This pleasant social experience is marred by the misogynist rantings that keeps pouring out the comedy tent. I am here to obliterate myself, and I will ignore. At some point I see Al Bairre; they’re shit.. Such hype. Daryn, our tent mate, obliterates his ankle trying to carry someone home. The Dr feeds him lorezpam, rendering his legs useless. We keep warning him that he won’t remember any of this.
I have lost all will to be vertical. I try once again to get into Christian Tiger School, but I just cannot. I feel like I need to be very stoned and in a suburban bedroom. Somehow it reminds me of the emotion of those weird ass Ninja Tune chill out records, yet it just seems so inconsequential. And it’s always the same kids in the front row at CTS gigs, always dancing too enthusiastically; it’s a bit too pally-pally for me. I lie on the grass, someone I haven’t seen for a very long time walks past and hands me a giant ziplock bag full of shrooms. Things are about to get iffy.
Bookclub, Fever Trails and Gateway Drugs are all scheduled at more or less the same time, 5pm, before we dip into darkness. I’m torn. Gateway Drugs has technical issues, which is a fuck because imagine THAT shit on THAT rig. Bookclub only have like three songs or something. All of them pretty great in a kooky nervous kinda of way, like a bunch of upstate New Yorkers from the 50s who’ve just discovered jazz and are misinterpreting the howl into the night as the sound of a wounded Pekinese trapped in a cardigan.
I think that says it all. Fever Trails, with its ridic name, from the visual information on the night, is a Nicolaas Van Reenen – of Bateluer fame – side project featuring one of the dudes from Christian Tiger School and some guys with other instruments. Fever Trails are all sorts of kickass. Instrumental diversions, electronic collisions, a vast mish-mash of time signatures, down tempo, with mathy rock and general awe-inducing arrangements. That is not a good description. But holy crapsticks. Fever Trails.
Back at the tent camp, Daryn is legless, can’t stand up at all, is calling for more painkillers. Dr Ray explains that they’re not strictly painkillers per se. We’re all in the tent. There are other people – girls, I think. It kind of melts into a cuddle puddle, that twilight festival moment, the ebbing tide of the day’s intake. Someone starts a low bass intonation. Soon the cuddle puddle is resonating like a small outboard motor on a choppy lake. Peace, love and body warmth against the howling wind. “Are we about to have a sex party,” exclaims Dr Ray. Suddenly I’m at the main stage watching Woodstock Mafia. Not the best outcome. The less said about Woodstock Mafia, the better.
Alt-J are so far away. Little paper cut outs on a poster in Lena Dunham’s bedroom. I see them being all lo-fi and shit. But, my God, man, are they far away. They’re so tinkly and perfect, and I want to put them in my pocket. Not an unplaced note, bearded and “authentic” and not an unplaced note – tiny little organ grinder’s monkeys in a galaxy far, far away. “What do you think, hey?” interrupts Karl Kemp, music journalist. I look at him slowly. “I am tripping balls, Karl.” “But, they’re not as good as everyone makes them out to be, hey?” I try to ignore him. “Like I don’t even know if I like this kind of music, hey?” I step away. He follows, “So what do you think?” I look at him again. “I AM TRIPPING FUCKING BALLS, YOU MORON, AND I HAVE NO OPINION ON THIS JEWELLERY BOX WIND UP BULLSHIT BECAUSE ITS LOVELY. NOW, FUCK OFF.” And I turn back to the stage and I watch Alt-J and I think, “Grind little monkeys. Grind.”
“Yes, it’s fucking political. Everything’s political,” shrieks Skin, peering into the crowd. There is some kind of finely tuned irony to experiencing Skunk Anansie perform “Yes, it’s fucking political,” to an at least ninety-percent white festival audience in South Africa in 2013. Earlier, Skin had said that the last time she was here was 16 years ago. How very different it must look to her. “Yes, it’s fucking satirical, everything’s satirical.”
I just want to take a moment here. It’s not Rocking the Daises fault per se that the people who come to the festival are mostly white, that the demographics of the festival are non-representative of the country as a whole. RTD is but a reflection of Cape Town’s continued cultural separation. RTD is a commercial enterprise that markets successfully to an existing cultural segment in order to run a successful business. It’s not up to them to change the status quo. They could approach this with a little more imagination, and it would be beautiful if they did, but ultimately RTD did not create the social dynamics of Cape Town nightlife, and it’s not up to them to fix it.
This is a visual gag from the Mahala review of RTD. What’s wrong with this picture? Read the caption: “Rocking the Daises as a microcosm of CT,” not “Rocking the Daises as a microcosm of white middle-class CT in the central city”. What is interesting about this supposition of “CT” is that is doesn’t include Ace’s Place, Solly’s Place, Bru Bar, Phezulu Bar, Tagores, Eskhaleni, Mzoli’s, Duma’s Falling Leaves, Chippa’s Place, Uppercut, Vinyl Digz, Club 702, Galaxy, Atmosphere, nor does it include Asoka (which has become a lot more multicultural since the racism scare of 2010), Orphanage, Republic Lounge, or Alba Lounge. Nor does it include News Cafe Tableview, Fridays at Fire & Ice Hotel or Hip Hop nights at Ragazzi. This is how we, us, the white middle class, see Cape Town; we see it without all those places. How very fucking boring of us.
The only times I’ve really been into Skunk Anansie is when I’ve had a girlfriend with anger issues, so I can’t really tell what is new material or what is old material. It’s all got that righteous 90s anger though, and I’m sold. I’m almost front and centre, drawn in by the raw presence of Skin, a force of nature that would have eluded even Jean-Paul Goude. She stalks the stage, laughing and menacing, and then she makes as if she’s about to crowd surf. Jana pulls me forward, I’m right close. And Skin tells the crowd to sit down. She shushes us all to our haunches, a field of people on their haunches, and then she calmly walks out into the crowd, hands reaching to touch her, total awe and she walks through the crowd, Jana reaching for her ass, getting her ankle, Skin laying hands, walking all the way back. And then she rises, not crowd surfing, she instructs us to rise and she walks all the way back to the stage on everyone’s upraised upturned palms. I’m finished.
It’s somewhere around here that I need to restock. It’s that unfortunate time of the festival where one must brave the trance hippies shroom tent. I am escorted there by, shall we say, the relief team. I seem to have lost my hoodie and am given a nice leopard print shirt. There is an Australian who is annoying, once the mission is successful, I ghost to Boys Noize. All I remember is light and treble. I am holding onto a metal barrier for dear life, light, treble, wind.
Seeking refuge in the Jeremy Loops stage, I discover DJ Danger Ingozi on the decks. I dance. It is amazing. He lays down an incredible set of, um, I can’t fucking remember. It was amazing and it lasted forever and he closed the stage down and everyone was just goddamn grooving. And he closes the stage down and I am ejected into the night, and alone, and I can’t find my friends. And I decide the only way forward is to find the trance shroom tent again. It’s that ugly desperate drug seeking behaviour time. I head down into the back reaches of Gen Pop. I find the tent. It’s deserted; even they have called it a night. I contemplate, a sound, am spooked, and decide to bail. I catch my foot on a tent pool and suddenly the trance hippies’ tent is collapsing. Freaked out I make a run for it, somehow losing the leopard print shirt in the panic.
Sunday morning. Again, still alive. The devastation is complete. People are packing up in haste. The leave-no-trace policy is a failure, as jocks bail they leave huge piles of trash. Assholes. Dr Ray and I head up to, I don’t know, watch some music, jack some food from the media tent, something. As we walk up the main road, we pass the queues for the shower, the queues for the toilet, the giant plastic vibe in the ground that may or may not be a septic tank, and Ray spreads his arms and exclaims, “IDEOLOGY!”
Up at the main bar, I am contemplating my options when a man in leopard print shirt sidles up to me. He wants to chat. I decide that it is time to leave.
A few days after the festival ends Daisies and Red Bull host, with Bridges For Music, a workshop in Gugs, with Goldfish and Boys Noize. It’s part of the outreach programme, the giving back. It’s not really structured as a workshop, more of a talk show, with host Trenton getting Goldfish to talk about how they got their big break by paying for their own tickets to Ibiza, and Boys Noize to talk about smoking weed with Snoop. There are some instructive moments though, some guy, a singer, Jazz from what he lays down, whose name I didn’t get, challenges Goldfish to improv a track with him, and they go for it. It’s kinda sketchy in the beginning but it finds a groove for a few golden seconds the jam is superb, and you can read the joy on the stage, palpable, beautiful. After Boys Noize’s lengthy chat with Trenton, he gets on the decks and begins to spin the standard Boys Noize stuff. It’s good enough, but it’s out of place without the lighting and the epic stage and sound. Then Boys Noize goes one on one with DJ Diloexclusiv, a man you should have heard of by now but haven’t because you never go anywhere but Fiction and The Assembly, and it’s magnificent; the high cut-up sounds of international electronica, cut with the deep groove of kwaito house. The clash, the meeting point a real actual moment of gestalt, and I imagine how incredible it would have been if this moment had happened on stage on Saturday night, how forward thinking that would have been, how Diloexclusiv would have become present in some minds, perhaps urging them to discovery.. How it might have just contributed just a little bit toward the easing of the separation that occurs in this city. Oh well, always next year.
Disclaimer #2: Dr Ray has asked me to stress that he is not a bona-fide medical doctor. As if that wasn’t patently obvious, I mean it’s not 1971 anymore.