The Tea Party: A Flamjangled Experience

Image courtesy of Aumega Photography

After a year off and a change of venue, The Flamjangled Tea Party returned with a bang. Despite having only 6 weeks to organize it, Good Times Events pulled together a truly amazing festival. True to its eclectic, wholly original roots, The Flamjangled Tea Party was all that it used to be and more this year.

Festivals are all about variety and The Tea Party certainly provided that. There was the gorgeously embellished Main Stage, boasting some of South Africa’s finest musicians, interspersed with wacky games – examples include Smooch the Grapefruit and some sort of golfing – and grooving DJ’s.

There was the Night Time Mirrored venue, set slightly apart from the main arena, over a bridge and up a slope. With its own bar and dance floor this venue had funky beats going all night. Even the famous Miniscule of Sound made an appearance: an eccentrically exclusive 3×3 silver night club, complete with a red carpet, its very own bouncer and an increasingly ridiculous list of entry requirements.

And even if those weren’t enough to keep you entertained, you could peruse the market area’s tasty treats and fantastic clothes and jewelry. Or else make yourself comfortable on the shady lawn beside the river – right by the main stage so you don’t miss a thing – and brave a dip into its icy depths.

We were among the first to arrive at The Tea Party, which allowed us the rare privilege of front row parking and first pick of the camping ground. The venue was gorgeous, the campsite and main stage situated in a sparse, yet majestic forest of oak, willow and yellow wood, providing cool shade and an added beauty to the whole experience. A river separated the camping ground from the rest of the festival. After much contemplation we secured a camping spot directly across from the Main Stage – and front row spot if I ever saw one!

There were pairs of eyes hanging from trees, and stuffed purple caterpillars crawling along branches. One clearing was made into a bizarre household area. A washing machine with strings of laundry emerging from the door; a quaint table and chairs balancing in the branches of an oak; a television with multiple video tapes strung above it. Two red-eyed bunnies stared down from the top of a hill. Flamjangled has as many weird and wonderful things as anyone could hope to see at a festival.

The Mirrored Night venue opened at 8pm on Friday night. Complete with a massive mirror ball and funky ’20’s styled tunes – the kind which require you do complicated twists and fancy footwork if you want to make an attempt at dancing. Good cardio, great fun. I would have stayed there all night if the promise of more to come was not looming.

The Main Stage opened at 12pm on Saturday, slow and sultry with Oh Mercy’s country tunes, which slowly drew the festival goers to the main arena. By the time they were followed by reggae duo King’s Down South and Latin American group Los Tacos’, a lively, colourful crowd had gathered beneath the trees.

Festival goers trickled into the gates with growing frequency. The venue filled steadily with eccentrically dressed people. Multi-coloured top hats, lace parasols, bedazzled clothes, painted women, men in dresses, masquerade masks, 1850’s corsets – they were all there and they were all standard. Don’t be the guy in board shorts and a vest, avoiding the puddles of mud in your R700 Van’s – you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

Crimson House was one of the highlights of the entire festival. A gorgeously diverse group of musicians, complete with the circus ring-master front man, a grungy retired rock-star of a guitarist, and a toweringly beautiful top-hatted woman with an electric blue fiddle. They played a collection of their own songs, interspersed with some wildly appropriate covers – including Alice in Wonderland’s “A Very Happy Unbirthday”. In short, and to give them the highest of praise, they perfectly epitomized Flamjangled as a festival.

Night fell and we were presented with our seven dress up finalists. Among a sunflower and two bizarre, orange-and-black striped creatures we found our winner: a bearded man with a tea-table of a skirt – complete with cups, saucers and blue bowtie, he accepted his Tea Cup of Greatness, threw back a shot of tequila and went on his way.

The evening reached boiling point thanks to Al Bairre and Nomadic Orchestra’s sets. Wildly danceable and simply bursting with energy, the two local favourites spun us into a frenzy of fun, before abruptly releasing us and sending us all spinning off into different corners of the festival.

I found myself at the Silent Disco for some of the most original and crazy fun I have ever experienced. At the entrance, after crawling through a meter high tunnel with as much dignity as you can muster, you were handed a pair of wireless headphones, the earpieces of which lit up in four different colours. The colours represent the channel you are tuned into – courtesy of the four DJs – which you are able to change at the click of a button. The idea is simple: pick your favourite and dance. Tune into the same channel as your friends, or have a laugh as the one person grooving on a completely different wavelength to everyone else. The Silent Disco takes the biggest slice of cake I can give.

Sunday dawned, chilly and overcast. Those of us who had stayed up into the early hours were drawn reluctantly from our camps by the booming tunes of Bob Marley at 8.30. Puffy-eyed and tousle-haired we clambered from our sleeping bags to grab a coffee and catch Felix Laband’s set. Thor Rixon brought the sun out with his comfortably grooving tunes and The Kiffness were kiff – need I say more? – seamlessly merging their funky electro tracks into a 45 minute single.

The energy wound down quite quickly after 2 o’clock and few hours later there was only a huddle of about 50 devoted enthusiasts left, slapping drums and various percussion instruments beside the slowly dismantling Main Stage.

Take a break, take a breather. Recollect your wits and rework your outfits, and we’ll see you in Wonderland next year!

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