Parklife Festial: Cape Town Has Vibe

You hear many things, besides the actual music, when you are at concerts and they are all dependent on what kind of concert you are attending. For instance, Mumford and Sons had a lot of women talking about how much they want to shag the band while their boyfriends stood around arguing about which brand of beer is better and whether checkered shirts and flannel shirts are one and the same. The sophomore edition of the Cape Town leg of the Parklife Festival sported entirely different conversations and sounds that were spread out over the course of the day. It happened to be Family Day and slap-bang in the middle of the school holidays so many of the conversations were family-oriented with parents calming screaming children, teenagers fleeing the oppressively embarrassing aura of parents who aggressively follow the “it is 6pm somewhere” rule and the occasional drunk uncle without a shirt.

There were two statements that have occupied my thoughts in the days following Parklife and they stand as immense points of contradiction. The one is a hopelessly negative and is, in my personal opinion, an ignorant indictment of all Cape Town concerts and parties. The other encapsulates my entire opinion regarding Parklife and the ethos embodied by the festival. The first statement was heard in the opening hour of the festival, which happened to be moderately delayed for some unknown reason, as Cape Town’s latest rock super group Sweet Resistance were tearing their way through an exquisite set of alternative rock songs tempered by the moodiness of blues rock. Halfway through their cover of Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive” – a snarky voice bursts forth from behind me saying how much she dislikes the festival because there is no “vibe” unlike the awesome house parties she attended when she was in New York and this cool trance festival she went to over the weekend.

There are two problems to this statement and they are connected. The later of the problems is that she equates that a festival’s atmosphere is only good if it adheres to that of a trance festival or that of an American house party – something that has never existed in South Africa. One could argue that one’s notion of what is good or bad is subjective, but there is a difference between have a subjective opinion and ignorantly pigeon-holing events into specific categories. “Vibe”, as an abstract concept, is fluid. Every festival has a vibe, but disliking the vibe does not equate to there being a lack of a vibe.

The other problem is the assumption that Parklife was going to have the same vibe as a trance festival. The festival was marketed as one day of commercial local music with the addition of two international artists that have a cult following in South Africa. People were not going to be dropping MDMA and trance stomping to the exquisite alternative rock showmanship of Civil Twilight. People were rather going to be treating most the day as a picnic concert as the dedicated fans piled up against the security railing and grooved to the electro-swing beats of Goodluck or twirled to Al Bairre’s infectious indie-pop cover of the iconic intro to Mango Groove’s “Penny Whistle”. The “vibe” of this festival was one of having a good time without feeling the need to drop a tab of acid or have your retinas visually assaulted by strobe lights. Those things are optional.

I suppose this brings me to the other statement I overheard during the set-up to Xavier Rudd’s rather underwhelming and drawn-out set. The person in question had just found refuge from the sun in the shade that was conveniently erected and remarked that one day festivals are great because you don’t get sunburnt, as badly, and don’t have to get incredibly dirty but it still maintains the feel of a full weekend festival. It is a notion for which Parklife seems to stand quite strong: that festivals don’t have to be dirty and you’re able to get the luxury of sleeping in your own bed and having a shower that doesn’t involve the fear of contracting athlete’s foot. The eccentric people, eclectic fashion, brilliant music and heavy drinking that is synonymous with the South African festival culture were all present at Parklife. Nature-loving hippies brushed shoulders with rugged rockers as they are engaged in the proudly South African tradition of drinking as much beer as humanly possible before losing themselves to Josh Wantie’s synth-pop tunes or embracing the culture of Ubuntu as Jeremy Loops powered through a jovial set that celebrated his return to Cape Town.

Parklife was an exquisite event that improved so much in the period of less than a year. The turnout was considerably higher than last year and the line-up gelled well with one another with each act delivering brilliant sets but the greatest of them all was that of Civil Twilight: the home-grown heroes that spent last week hopping between festivals. Their set was the perfect combination of showmanship and innate musical talent as they tore through classics like “Letters from the Sky” and flexed their alt rock muscles with new songs like “Oh Daniel”, “Holy Dove” and “When When”.

Parklife Cape Town. I’ll see you next year.

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