Oppikoppi 2013: The Dust that made up the Hours of Bewilderbeast

So let’s list what I took to Oppikoppi:

  • No towel
  • No thermal underwear
  • No warm jackets
  • No blanket
  • No alarms (and no surprises)
  • No water
  • No food
  • No buff (what the hell is a buff anyway?)
  • No ticket (HAHA! But okay, I sorted that one out)
  • No booze
  • No toilet paper
  • No cap
  • No flux capacitor

Which begs the question – did I actually take anything? Well, it seems I took enough to survive. And we had ‘mum and dad’ and their palace so we will always be hooked up.

Now that we’re here, and grieve for me, not history
But now I’m dry of thoughts, wait for the rain
Then it’s replaced, sun setting
And suddenly we’re in love with everything

–      The shining

Let’s talk colonisation. Well, okay before that let’s talk about dust roads. To get to Oppikoppi, it’s pretty simple. The easiest route takes you up the N1, across on the N4 towards Rustenburg and up the R510 till you get to Northam. How can you mess this up?

Well, you can always take a detour through Marikana. Or should I call it Murray-kana? The preferred route actually takes you past the Lonmin mine but well, we’re obviously not normal (stay tuned for the chalk mines later on in this story) so we drive, in the darkness, through the town of Marikana followed by a rattling dirt road that made our GPS literally give up on us. LITERALLY! It told us that there was no ways we are ever reaching civilisation and then it giggled before launching into a plagiarised Dave Chappelle routine. Coupled with the most epic, dramatic music courtesy of Classic FM, this made for a marvellous dramatic entrance to the gardens.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast sign

I call it the gardens but no, this is bushveld at its finest. It’s all dust and thorns as far as the eyes can see and calves can feel.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Dust

“Shoes are for girls”

“You’re for girls”

“I know”

Into the valley we roam, where we fumble around
Till we find our way home
Yet all we have is an old ball of string
Will it reach to the end of this dark labyrinth

–      Stone on the water

Let’s get back to colonisation.

We ended up in the ‘burbs of Mordor if that makes any sense. Freedom, for us, lay on the corner of Wolmer Street. Our search party disembarked our large vessel and went on ahead to survey the lay of the land. This large, unclaimed tract with a great balance between vegetation and flat ground was now ours. We promptly claimed it with our orange as we negotiated with our white neighbours to where our borders should lie. This land was ours. During the final throes of colonisation, our first batch of pioneers set up camp with the speed of a cheetah. Urban sprawl was immediate thanks to these intrepid, enterprising members of our new society. We pitch seven tents and our kingdom is claimed. We still have a wide open space that will house three more tents and a few gazebos. We have colonised well.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Freedom Wolmer

This is definitely the ‘burbs coz in the heart of Mordor, tents are packed in to house as many orcs as possible. But out here, we’re relaxed. We didn’t have a Ben Folds song.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast headgear

This is our kingdom. This is because we have a palace. Inside the palace is a raised, queen-sized bed with a cupboard. Glamping anyone? Well not really. A neighbouring land (they don’t have a palace so they aren’t a kingdom) has a portable shower.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Trekker coffee

The first singer I hear sounds like the guy from Prime Circle.

I’m hoping I don’t freeze here
I fuel the fire, feed its glow
But there’s no use in feeling
All the things I’m feeling
There’s no one here to feel with me

–      Camping next to the water

Fire is quite an interesting thing. My experience with fire since I got to Jozi has been, well, special. The amount of wood that I have burnt and the heights of the fires I’ve fed only exist in legends that have been passed down since the middle ages. There was a night where half a ton of wood was burnt just to appease, well, ourselves. This is a regular occurrence. Feeding the fire with a single piece of wood is a joke. If you’re not chucking in a bag at a time, you’re doing it wrong. Anyway, the fires here are sadly restricted to knee height. If they get higher, a green laser shines at you and a squad of fire warriors on quad-bikes go all SWAT team on your ass and extinguish it. I didn’t see any lasers but well, ja.

It keeps on pumping
It still needs something
Just give it something
I’ll take nothing

–      Pissing in the wind

The toilet doors are quite high and have a really huge space at the bottom. This is probably so they can save the inebriated individuals that pass out. There is a definite need for toilets out in the campsite. Those long walks that you have to endure just to relieve yourself are not on.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Kennels

My first big band is Die Straatligkinders. I didn’t like them.

Why do you have to make it so complicated
Can’t it just be beautiful

–      Disillusion

I really hate the NFC cards. It’s a fantastic idea and prevents people from carrying cash but they just don’t work. They cost too much (especially for the small business owners that are here selling food who are probably getting 15% or so shaved off their earnings just to use the stupid machine), they use electricity, they can easily fail especially if the weather goes sour. Also, if you double tap, you get charged twice. That’s just dishonest. It’s so easy to prevent this from happening but some greedy executive probably vetoed it. I’m pretty sure a lot of people got ripped off. These have potential but this is just not the way to do it. Many loved the system. Sadly I did not.

So some music.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Programme

Jesse Clegg is phenomenal. I don’t get to watch much off him but he sounds so damn good. The first proper set I watch is that of CrashCarBurn. Tweak, was the un-evolved form of this band. I am thinking in Pokemon terms here. Anyway, they played Oppikoppi in 1999. Wrap your head around that. They actually played a Tweak favourite in the legendary, ‘Birthday Card.’ Some say it sounded WAY better today than it did when the actual band sang it. What’s amazing about this is that SA has a lot of these mature bands who put on world-class performances. It’s splendid.

We lose Stuart forever.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Stuart

Next up on James Philip was Pestroy with kidofdoom doing the honours on Wes Dome. Holy mother of guitar, that kidofdoom set was something else. The crowd blew up when they played 2 Unlimited! Yes! THEM! Pestroy pleased the crowd even more. They have new stuff coming out soon. Like.

And if you should lose me
You will track me down again
Before the summer ends

–      Magic in the air

After being lost for a while, I went up to the Red Bull Stage just as the power cut. They got it working again but it cut again later and they had to make do with the mutant Red Bull DJ truck. It sucks when you’re tripping balls and then the music stops. Sucks to be them. I then found people as Hashtag melodically rattled on about Sandton. Great tune.

It was then that four women accosted an individual that shall not be named and grinded him like he was pepper. I watched this while sipping whiskey and apple juice. Entertaining.

We the find Stuart forever. Not really, he gets lost quite often. SPOILER ALERT: He makes it home.

Yes, Fokofpolisiekar played probably the greatest set of their entire life but Thursday night was Dan Patlansky’s. He’s only been on the scene for a decade (scroll up and you’ll realise CrashCarBurn is around for like 15!) That energy that exudes from his guitar reverberates throughout the cosmos. Some say the third moon of Saturn was formed after Dan wrote his first song. Emlyn and I did not move for the entire set. During the last song, he went demented. He played his guitar backwards, then upside down, then facing that same moon he formed yet he never missed a note. The bassist and drummer didn’t miss a note either. We stood their awestruck. This was the greatest song in the world that Tenacious D spoke off. Then for the encore, he topped it. Dan stole the night.

Don’t ask me where to fall in a river
Might not deliver you all the way home
I guess that you think I’m stupid or something
Well that’s a good thing
That’s okay

–      Fall in a river

As Friday morning broke, two pioneers joined our kingdom. Even though our lands stretched far and wide, these brave souls ventured beyond the orange and lay claim to this territory. We thank them for their patriotism and brevity that extended our kingdom.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Truck

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Cowboy Hat

 There was this Android app that ordered beer. That sentence wins everything. How? Well, the how is even cooler. A drone geo-locates you and parachutes beer to you. Sadly, the drone launches the beer way too high and by the time the wind has its say, the people at Rocking the Daisies are enjoying this free beer from the sky. Drones suck.

It seems high-fives are the currency of Oppikoppi. I was handed about 800 of them.

We have a couch.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Couch

The Red Frogs Christian medics gave free pancakes. Even to heathens. I refuse to tell you more stories about the Red Frogs. (Ed: Why? Me: You KNOW why!!)

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Red Frogs

Been feeling high, and then feeling low
Just strap your hands across my engines
I’m not broke so please don’t mend me
You’re like a neon sign, just burn so bright
Penetrates like an infection
Gives me feelings I can’t mention
Maybe all I need, you need too
Don’t wait for me, I’ll wait for you

–      Everybody’s Stalking

As Oppikoppi grows, the number of permanent structures on the farm grows too. This year, a bar has been built on the koppi that overlooks the Red Bull (Sipho Gumede) Stage. It’s a great addition. Well, until they ban alcohol. Then it would make a great table tennis venue. Pretty sure everyone will love that. To get to the bar, you can go the normal, long route or take the route up the mountain. This involves you pulling yourself up with the help of a rope. The rope makes it seem that you’re putting in minimal effort. But you’re actually putting in a lot of effort. It seems easier when you’re drunk.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast photobomb

I went up twice.

I drank a lot hey…

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast koppie

Just promise that you’ll try
To give me all you can
I’ll never ask for more

–      Epitaph

It was the late ‘90s and you were busy learning your way around music and developing your own personal taste. Luckily for you, the year 1997 was one of the most golden years for music in a very long time. It was spring and this happy song came out. It was sung in a reggae-type style but sounded cooler. The song was ‘Even After All.’ You remembered it and loved it. Then in 2004, you were watching The OC (yes you were, just admit it) and you heard two of the most spectacular voices on this planet. The song featured the lyric, “Nothing, can compare to when you roll the dice and swear your love’s for me,” which melted you. The first was the exquisite female vocalist, Beth Orton. The other voice was male. You recognised his voice. It was the same guy that sang that “Even After All” song way back in your formative years. You smiled yet again. Now imagine standing against the rails at the Skellum Stage and seeing this man live. Finley Quaye is a pure legend. He traipses onto stage wearing baggy jeans and a cap. He looks like one of the roadies. After a few moments he grabs the mic, hunches over and lets out a few notes. The mic is a good half metre away from his mouth but this makes no difference. What you hear entrances your mind. Albert Frost apparently was the session guitarist and this just, it just, just wow. You close your eyes and you’re in your happy place. A place you stay in for the next hour. It was splendid. It was magical. A random (!) girl in the crowd showed Finley her boobs. Best performance on Friday night? Definitely.

I just feel satisfied.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Finley Quaye

This song will help you find a place to live
And teach you not to take but give

–      This song

Ok so Finley won Friday night but the local bands gave some insane performances. Bittereinder proved to South Africa that they’re actually one of the best bands (or whatever you call their EDM type setup) in the country. After chasing away all the inebriated kids with an intro that was WAY too trippy, they put on the performance of their life. I need to see them again. Shadowclub should really leave the country. Their songs are tight and that new one that goes, “All aboard my baby,” should be in the Top 5 of the Billboard Modern Rock Chart. During their performance, a girl was walking around playing the recorder. I was eating a lollipop courtesy of Corne en Twakkie. Ja.

Jack Parow apparently got arrested prior to the festival and was scheduled to be replaced. It was a publicity stunt and he actually performed. This left a lot of people rather peeved. I didn’t connect to his set. He’s good but I lost interest after five songs. Instead I trekked…

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Jack Parow

Now inside there’s a style going on
A head full of dreams only room for one
Now I know you can’t live without me
But I’ve no doubt that you’ll never doubt me
Like you did before

–      Say it again

All the kids that got scared away from the Wes Dome ended up on the Red Bull Stage. You know, I can understand the whole appeal of this whole dub step thing but seriously guys, why do you insist on cramming in 80 distinct songs into a five minute period? Maybe I’m just a bit too old. A guy staged dive onto a girl. It looked more like a WWE manoeuvre. Anyway, the sets were cool and Benson stole the night. I got mistaken for a mushroom dealer. Then the music stopped at 5am. Weird. The kids weren’t that happy.

One of the moments of the festival happened at around 4am on the Red Bull Stage. Niskerone’s MC instructed the crowd to put up their cell phones and let the light shine. What he got was maybe 10% of the audience complying. It didn’t have the desired effect but it meant something. These kids had come to this stage for the music. Their phones were secondary and either lost, dead, in their tent or at home in Jozi. What actually mattered here was the music and only the music. Music still matters. It does. (Ed: True story)

Take a left, a sharp left
And another left, meet me on the corner
And we’ll start again

–      Once around the block

So as I ventured into Mordor to get some rest, the darkness consumes me. I follow instinct as I am devoid of a light. In hindsight, I remember that I had a lighter from Red Huxley’s groupies but anyway. So I pass the Diepsloot sign which signifies the correct way home. Then I encounter a car. And then another. These two cars were not supposed to be on my way home. Earlier, I had scouted a route which would take me around the campsite but was quite easy. So I backtrack. Here I find a lost brother in arms. We discuss routes and venture down a deep, dark road. He freaks out and runs back. I turn around and just stand perplexed. I venture on and finally find a fire where I speak with the locals who show me the way to my Freedom. I then walk the wrong way.

The one negative about Oppikoppi is that people aren’t as welcoming as other festivals. No, they are NOT unfriendly but the key to having a good festival experience is going with a large group of mates. I remember five years ago when I did Splashy Fen, I was basically adopted by this group of regulars that had probably been to the first Splashy Fen. I didn’t see that happening here. Then again, maybe I’m the one that’s changed since then.

Anyway, so after walking for a mighty long time, I decide to just wait for the sun to rise before I go to my tent to sleep.

I obviously don’t sleep and by 8am I am out and about again.

I blame this for the blur.

On Sunday morning, I remembered that I haven’t drank Bertrams and Coke since school varsity.

There was also a flying gazebo.

And a headache.

Dink. Dans.


And I made a MEAN Boerewors and Chakalaka with mushrooms.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Making breakfast

Ok let’s backtrack.

Jeremy Loops played on James Philip prior to sunset. There was a lot of brandy. Mike drank it all. That’s my recollection. See, even the picture agrees with me.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Coke and Brandy

You’re the jive guru and I want to sing along with you

–      Cause a rockslide

Anyway, we trekked back to the camp to put on warm clothes and made our way back just before 19:00. The sounds resonated from Wes Dome. The crowd erupted and so did the music. The next few minutes were just like a dream. As the beats erupted; saxophone, pennywhistle and Hellfire, I briskly made my way to the stage. Through the trees I marched. And there in front of me stood Mango Groove. Clare Johnston was visibly emotional. Think about it, here, in front of her was a crowd of predominantly white Afrikaner youngsters. Twenty five years ago, the band were campaigning against the system of these kid’s parents yet here were 20000 of them singing along to every song and having the time of their lives. Dave included. And yes, it was the time of all our lives. This was probably the best performance I have ever experience. Oppikoppi belonged to them. Thank you Mango Groove. Thank you.

Yellowcard, Manchester Orchestra and Deftones were alright.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Deftones

The Blind Tiger Sessions by Arno Carstens was quite a mind bender. There was a lot of Laurie Levine (which was a good thing) and a table made up of a bunch of people that were all strangers and stayed that way.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Top Stage picture of myself

Then there were two girls making out in front of us until one fell on top of the other. Hard. I think she decapitated her. Pity.

If you were a pirate…?

OMG! There was an “orgie” on the Skellum Floor when they played the Harlem Shake. Ask Leila for pictures because I couldn’t take any…

The next morning at around 08:00, Stuart and Dave stumble into camp. Dave then ends up on the roof of the Land Cruiser. I don’t know.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast Couch

Oppikoppi was over. We were here for a long time yet it felt so short.

But the story doesn’t end here…

Let’s walk to the sound of distant shells
To a place where life would have no end
You’d be the mother of my pearls
If you follow me into my world
Back to a place where we’d be free
Where I love you and you love me
This is the colour of my world
Watch me find another pearl

–      Another pearl

Now, when it comes to festival management, you always need to remember that these guys are special individuals. How special you may ask? Well there was an alternate way out. Seeing that it took people hours to get to the R510, we Murray decided to take said alternate route which was shorter and according to the special festival management dudes, completely doable with a non-4×4. Well, that was the theory.

First the chalk. They use chalk to grade the dirt road. Think about that for a moment. Remember that chalk is just above talc on Mohs Hardness Scale. Use your imagination to guess how elegantly a Land Cruiser and RAV4 would take a turn on one of these roads. We then ended up at the chalk mine with their limestone glare blinding us from every direction. Enter a security guard with a boom. He charges us a toll and then explains that the way out is not as simple as we think. We get to the apparent turn as per the directions only to find that road dug up for re-grading. Awkward. Onto the next dirt road. Here we watch a chicken cross the road. Then we get rattled. Finally we get to the R510.

Six hours after leaving the farm, we’re home.

What a weekend. Oppikoppi, you were quite amazing. The mischief was phenomenal and the music was of a different class. Going back to your comfy bed always brings about this depression. You feel as if you’ve experienced more in a weekend than you’re supposed to experience throughout your entire life. Is this the best festival to go to as a resident of Jozi? Possibly. Will I make it back next year? Well, these festivals are like tattoos. Once you get one, you never want to stop. In dust we trust.

Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast the aftermath of myself

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