Rock the River 2012/2013 review
Written by: Ezelle Louw (@lupaphotography)
Photography by: ItsNot Phair Photography
People have a tendency to love to complain. Some percentage of the human generation have a certain disposition to revel in the negative or in the mere fact that someone put the wrong foot forward. I’ve experienced this first hand numerous times. So yes, I could do the same and complain about quite a few things that went wrong at Rock the River. Hell, I could write the whole review about just that. During the 5 day festival a lot of logistical problems ensured numerous unhappy faces. Basic things like increased water points (am I wrong or did I just not see too little?), safety measures in venue selection ( I saw so many people walking into barbed wire), better layout, proper signage to direct us to the venue (instead of small A4 poster), ample shading, the website was down 2 days prior to event, a dam which few people braved due to leeches (I only found out after I attempted water, eeeeeek!) and timing, especially for the metal stage.
A curious incident changed my mind though. While watching the bands, I stood next to a fellow festival attendee. Making small talk, I said : “Sheesh, this wind is bad hey? And the organisation on some points of this festival could have been better with small alterations.” The striking 25 year old was caught up in the current tune played by Dead Lucky. He took awhile before answering. “Dude, yeah I agree there’s some problem areas here, but hey, grab a beer, come to the stage and enjoy the music. Have you seen the line up? Sick! It’s all about the music man.” In short I could list a load of things that went wrong, but my sole focus will be shifted to the music.
Friday 28th December
Due to some misplaced directions to the venue, I arrived a bit later than expected. After setting up camp and gearing for the first of this monsterous 5 day festival, I was prepared to “pace” myself to survive whatever came my way. The rising moon greeted me with the tunes of Red Tape Riot. I haven’t seen these guys live yet, and was just in time to catch a part of their set. Songs that stood out was “Reinvention” (if I caught the title right) and of course their first single “Love is a feeling”. The way their music is dipped in some 80′s style, warms my heart. I am afterall a child of the era. Watch these guys in 2013, I expect big things from them.
The rest of the Friday night promised to soothe the craving of my musical palette with the likes of The Sleepers, who has grown exponentially since the last time I saw them at Rock the River. Although I’m not the biggest fan, these guys know how to belt it out and take the crowd on an almost theatrical journey, leaning towards the darker side of rock.
Rock the River brought a lot of “first” for me musically. Another one was the pop infused group, Wrestlerish who I also saw live for the first time. They brought their A game and made me long want to kidnap them and base them in Cape Town. Werner brings an emotional clarity to his vocals that reminds me of home.Have you listened to “Towns” yet, the album, not just the song. Grab it! To end of a succesful first night at main stage land, Van Coke Kartel preceded with their usual noise-bitten rock and unmistakeable stage presence. A mix of older and newer material soothed fans insistent hunger for more. Again, a bigger crowd would have added to the atmosphere.
Saturday 29th December
Day 2 with no “conventional” shower made me appreciate tapwater to a new level. I had soap, I had water, I was going for it, even if the organisers drove by and told me “ This is for tapwater only, please use the showers.” I would kindly sir, if they worked.
The venue itself was strikingly beautiful, the set scene, with open fields welcomed all with open arms. The Oxygen Thieves started the day filled with a wide array of musical selection. This indie induced band, ensured some feel good tunes and catchy melodies. I would have given them a bit later time slot though. Jakobyn followed with their Afrikaans rock fusion. I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of the genre, but hey, different strokes for different okes, right? They are however very tight on stage, with excellent guitar riffs and a maturity level which displays their musical talent. They managed to receive numerous cheers and ample support from the thinned out crowd. Sondagskoolhelde tasted better on my Afrikaans palette. Quinton is quite the frontman, with hard rocking vocals. Tunes like “Die Meisie” will ensure that fans walk a long path with them. Later this year they will be releasing their first full album. Keep a look out.
Skyt Muties (Pronounced: Skayt Mooteez). Highlight of my early afternoon music suprise. I cannot believe these guys was founded in 1989 already. Although they haven’t achieved huge success as band,they bring their old school tunes to the crowd. “Louis The Grunge” got the crowd going. They ended off their set with oddball tune “Easy”. I wanted more.
Credit has to go to the two slush puppy booths, if I may. For the love of me I can’t remember either one’s name. Here is why each of them deserves credit, not only did they sell delicious slush puppies in the raging heat, each of them had some marketing skills to impress. Booth number 1 opted for direct marketing. It’s easy. Take a shirtless, well built individual, send him out in a field of thirst ridden crowd. Those slushies sold in seconds. Even though booth number 1 makes for a convincing option, Booth number 2 got my respect. Two words. Tipto tinto. Mozambique rum! Instantly I found myself back on the sandy shores of Ponta Malongane armed with ice cold R & R.
Geheime Skaduwee and Beloved entertained for the next two hours until Fingers in the Sky blew my mind. As far as stage presence goes, these guys aced it. They put out the energy and theatrics that I imagine they would do for a crowd of thousands. Again I would have loved to see them at a bit later slot, but they provided the much needed injection for the afternoon slump. Honestly I cannot box their style, as they bring different influences to the playground. They’re not afraid to adapt, change and experiment. You can keep a watchful eye on them. After their set, I attempted to find water, again. Shower. I was happy to achieve moderate success and felt rejuventated for the night session.
Jackal & Wolf kickstarted the evening with an ecletic rock sound which doesn’t fall into any mainstream category. Strange, these guys don’t gig live much, but yet, when they set foot on stage, it seems they are home. I’d love to see them at more venues. They did a wonderful rendition of the old school tune “Danger Zone”. Junkyard Lipstick, an all girl band, blasted unto stage and demanded attention. Full blown theatrics combined with excellent musicians makes you sit up and take notice. With hits like “Bus”, “Hollywood” and “Autopsy” Junkyard Lipstick speak their mind with no restrictions. Can I just say I haven’t seen a girl drummer as talented as Lucinda Viljoen in quite awhile. Damn, she’s got skill.
The rest of the night was complemented by The Vodun Haunts and Dead Lucky which stole the show for me. Both delivered unabashed and powerhouse performances in their own right. Full of attitude and good music. Bands like this keeps me excited for the local music scene. Ashtray Electric delivered their usual flawless performance and ended off a wide variety of musical buffet.
Sunday 30th December
Another full blown day of music. If I could only choose one day to come to Rock the River, this day would have won hands down. Oswald City which hasn’t been on the scene that long attempted to kickstart the day with numerous people with bad hangovers. Tatum means “light hearted” and fit well with the atmosphere of this band. Lelanie and Lelandi front well and the unspoken connection on stage is flawless. Their music is simple and direct. They surprised by doing cover hits by KT Tunstall “Black horse and Cherry Tree” and a very stripped down version of the Nude Girls “Blue eyes”. Their EP will be out soon. I especially enjoyed “City Lights” which is a new track from the album.
Tripjas came and conquered the crowd with their elite Afrikaans rock vibe. Frontman Rudolph Maree owned the stage for their set and made sure he included all that was willing to listen. DownontheFirst who I believe was a bit to “hard” for mainstage, made my day. Well paced and technically precise, they delivered.
Then my dear friends, came The Mysticcs. Ebi Johnstone was probaly born with a guitar. I’m sure of it. Everytime I watch the man ride those riffs, I have a JDM (jaw dropping moment). I cannot wait to see what these guys produce in 2013, hopefully a full length album.
Lucy Kruger, dear Lucy Kruger.When I think of Lucy, I think of the word poignant. Poignant in the sense that her music is profoundly moving and touching. A few months back she released her debut album “Cut those strings”, which I feel deserve even more acclaim than it has received. She was joined on stage by legend, Schalk Joubert which made a powerful duo. I’ll admit “Four white walls” remains a personal favourite.
As the sun set on day 3, Woodstock Mafia ensured to kickstart our evening on a high note. Once again, their appeal is immediately obvious, the culmination of grunge rock performed by talented musicians, armed with catchy tunes to an eager audience ends up in success. Again a bigger crowd would have added to the atmosphere. “Electric Light” and always “Eve” holds a special place in this Woodstock Mafia groupie heart.
I’ll probaly regret for saying this, but to me Goodnight Wembley is winning this, game, set and match. For the short lived period they’ve been performing and quick growth they’ve experienced, I just cannot get enough of them live. George fronts well, as he always does, but there’s an edge to his performance which I can’t explain. Nic, Alex, Gideon and Jean all contribute their unique style to form a force to be reckoned with.
The rest of the night was complemented by Gangs of Ballet, Taxi Violence and of course Lark electro. Before Inge Beckmann steps on stage, the crowd creates buzzing electricity of muffled suspense. Her presence on stage impresses and armed with the talented Mr. Sakitumi by her side, I lost myself in their undulating combination. “Brave” took the show for me, I could stumble to my tent with a huge smile on my face.
Monday 31st December
The festival started to take it’s strain, or perhaps age is a factor. I would like to admit this in hushed tones. Nothing a good breakfast and cold beer couldn’t fix. Right?
I didn’t have high hopes for the first act of the day so early in the morning. Sellah which means to have freedom from everything through praise and meditation. With their electric vibe and hip hop tunes they attracted a large crowd. I was impressed with the way the handled themselves on stage. Not my cup of tea, but respect to them for starting the day. To be quite frank I would have started off the day with the Jesse & The Process, and follow by Sellah.
“Die Gunstons” leadman Johan ensures visceral voice attacks in Afrikaans. I love Motorhead and I adore Ace of Spades. They do a reasonable version, which made me sit up and notice. I’d like to see a full length dirty rock album from these guys. In search for shower, food and plans to reinforce our tents before the “hurricane” transported it to another land, I missed quite a few act, but was lucky enough to catch half of Crimson House Blues set. I have no actual words. Show stealer of the day perhaps? Well polished downright dirty blues makes my soul happy and these guys deliver without any effort. They deserve to be on mainstage and deserve a massive crowd.
Crossfire Collision, established in 2011, these guys brought their punk flavours to the fest. They pulled out all the stops and went full throttle for their whole set. They need a big stage and I’m not sure the main stage made the cut..
We Set Sail created a soulful ambience with the perfect mixture of instruments, to create music to speak to your soul. I’m so used to wait for vocals, but this band grabs your attention and makes you listen to the music. Just music. Another great discovery for me. Half Price. You either love them or hate them. Although I cannot think of anyone in their right mind that wouldn’t appreciate the dirty punk this band displays without inhibition. You can almost always count on free beer and a damn good time. Fox Comet followed and didn’t drop the bar. Funk, ska and energy, they bring it all out. The on stage chemistry on stage is evident between the members and they relate it well to the crowd. If you missed their set, be sure to watch them soon. Rob Coutts high energy levels will infect you instantly.
As the wind was starting to take its toll on me, I needed to break and made me miss 7th Son and Reburn, which I regret. Damn you wind. Before midnight struck The Rudimentals worked their afro beat magic and made me forget about the gale force wind. Upbeat, energy and loaded with talent, I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate the New Year.
What a privilege to lose control and submit to porkrock as Hog Hoggidy Hogs do what they do best. The Hogs reads their crowd like a book and know how to handle them. Despite the wind, the crowd flocked to experience the Hog love. Such legends. To end of this New Years party Mr. Cat and The Jackal subtly reminds us why they are one our top acts at the moment. Their shows are always innovative in more ways than one. “Bad man coming” and “Where is my shoes” always ensures for a nostalgic experience. Sometimes I imagine MCATJ resort to creative hibernation to come up with the shows they deliver.
I was done and dusted, Tuesday morning, Rock the River owned every part of my sould and body. Home called my name consistently. The thought of the last few acts for the day was pushed aside and I went home.
Thank you Rock the River, for every new live act I experienced and for reminding me why I love the one’s I already know. This festival is a diamond in the rough, I sincerely hope they take note and learn from their mistakes. I would like to see them back end of this year. Bigger, better and more prepared. Nothing wrong with the musical selection though. See you there.
Some of our favorite shots of Rock the River by ItsNot Phair Photography:
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