Otterlake Easter Festival

Written by Dee Theart (@deetheart)

Photography by Stanley June (@StanleyJune_)

“Weet jy hoe ’n otter lyk?” This question was asked numerous times before and during the festival. After three days of non-stop fun, I still don’t know the answer. But what I do know is that the Otter is one heck of an Easter jol for the whole family.

We here at SA Music Scene like to focus on the music side of things, so hereby our top 3 acts of each festival day:


Friday, 3 April 2015:

Tuin eased everyone into the weekend good and solid. When you see Tanya Schoeman a.k.a Tuin, you won’t be able to imagine that such a big and powerful voice is capable to come from such a small body. Accompanied by the skilled keyboardist, Jacques Steenkamp, they form a mean team, belting out one sing-a-long after the other. Although the biggest part of Tuin’s set comprised of covers (from Foo fighters to Imagine Dragons and everything in between), their musical chemistry turns every melody and mash-up into a unique blend. I do, however, hope to hear more original songs from Tuin in the future.


Jaco van der Merwe - photo by Stanley June

Jaco van der Merwe – photo by Stanley June


Bittereinder frontman, Jaco van der Merwe, surprised everyone with a solo set, performing the group’s songs in a totally stripped down style with only a vocal and a guitar. Suddenly every well-known song’s words and meanings sprung out clearly. He confessed that he missed having Peach and Louis on stage with him, but that didn’t stand in his way to keep the crowd entertained the whole way through. Yes, the beats and the visuals are part of what makes Bittereinder who they are, but Jaco’s set illustrated that less can be more.


Francois van Coke’s appearance was just what Otterlake needed to become extra psyched up for his debut solo album that dropped shortly after the festival. Performing his solo songs ‘Moontlik Nooit’ and ‘Skree’, together with a mish-mash of Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel hits, no-one in the crowd could contain themselves. Jedd Kossew has become known as Van Coke’s right-hand man and his exceptional guitar playing and backing vocals makes him a key ingredient in the Francois van Coke experience.


Saturday, 4 April 2015:

I’ve never seen Jonathan Peyper perform before his set at Otterlake, but I’ve heard people talk. The good kind of talk. His blues rock sound stretches far further than his years and he has the mature outlook and skill of someone with years of experience. The sexy bass lady, Elmi Botha, and drum player whizz, Jason Hinch (formerly part of The Black Cat Bones), made this a show to remember. Jonathan does have similarities to Dan Patlansky, but if he is this good now, I can only imagine how good he’ll be when he is Dan’s age.


Naming James can get any party started. This three piece is a force to be reckoned with – tight like a tiger. Anyone can sense that James, Ivan and Leighton gel well together, creating a well-oiled show every single time. The crowd eagerly danced and sang along to songs from their ‘The Butcher’s Knife’ and ‘Into The Night’ albums.


Naming James - photo by Stanley June

Naming James – photo by Stanley June


Armed with a new drummer (Jason Oosthuizen), The Black Cat Bones put on their usual energetic performance. No other band can infuse anger and happiness simultaneously like the Bones. It must be noted, though, that Jason Hinch’s presence was missed. There was a general lack of band union. In time, I’m sure the new band formation will have more flow and synergy.


Sunday, 5 April 2015:

The Barbosa Experience brought some Mozambican magic to the Otterlake stage. Pedro Barbosa is pure oomph and made the crowd laugh, dance and sing, even though he was first on stage on the last day of the fest. Guitarist, Peter Toussaint (who also performed with other acts during the weekend), is such a sport on stage, while keeping the virtuoso guitar licks flowing.


I have always been a huge fan of Shotgun Tori, because of her mesmerizingly truthful music and performances. With her bare feet she placed herself in a voluntarily vulnerable position and let the Otterlake crowd peek into her soul. Her band members (called The Hounds), complemented her well on stage; not over-shadowing her, but playing a role in highlighting Tori’s musical euphoria’s. Her earlier music has aged well and her new tunes sound superb. Be sure to support Shotgun Tori and the Hounds’ crowd funding project so that they can record an EP in New York.


Shotgun Tori - photo by Stanley June

Shotgun Tori – photo by Stanley June


The Fake Leather Blues Band was the perfect band to end off the Otterlake Easter Festival. Fronted by Otterlake’s main organizer, Conrad Jamneck, they are a ball of vigour. Conrad is fascinating to watch on stage, taking on an outlandish persona with his top hat and red cloak. The guys are unrehearsed and unpolished without sounding sloppy. It is this element of surprise that keeps the crowd entertained. No two Fake Leather shows will ever sound the same.


Apart from the music, here are our top four pros of the Otterlake Easter Festival:

The size: If you’ve only experienced big festivals like Oppikoppi and RAMfest, then an intimate festival such as the Otterlake Easter Festival is quite a strange sight at first. Waking up in the morning, you can basically greet your buddies on the other side of the festival grounds, smell the breakfast rolls in the food zone and hear the first notes booming from the stage area.

The cause: A big chunk of Otterlake’s profit goes to the UniteAgainstPoaching rhino conservation program, making Otterlake a true party with a purpose. For under R400 for the entire weekend, this is a win-win for everyone.

The stage management and sound: There is nothing quite as annoying as a behind schedule festival line-up – especially for people like me that plan my festival time wise. Thanks to the phenomenal stage management by Kobus van Rooyen, the schedule ran smoothly and perfectly on time. The sound was also very set up and regulated during the weekend.

Late-night entertainment: There a feeling of sadness when the last band for the evening has finished playing and you want the party to go on. Luckily Otterlake foreseen this need and planned a DJ line-up, comprising of DJ Baasdebeer and DJ Dirtroad. There was also a DJ Showdown on the Saturday evening and I think Baas deserves the winning title, playing just the right type of music for the night owl party goer.



The Barbosa Experience - photo by Stanley June

The Barbosa Experience – photo by Stanley June


No festival can be perfect. Here are our three suggestions for future Otterlake fests:

The Otterlake regulars: I understand if a band member is shared by bands, but I don’t understand if a musician appears on stage more than three times during one festival. Then I start wondering if other acts that weren’t as lucky to be selected for the fest, couldn’t get the chance to strut their stuff instead.

Food stalls: At a small festival there is reasonably less food stalls needed to cater for the festival goers, but I did find that the variety was not sufficient at Otterlake. Some food stalls were just too pricey and at times there weren’t a food stall on offer to satisfy a particular craving. I also found it strange that most food stalls packed up and left by Sunday mid-day, although the festival went on until Sunday late evening.

Start time of the music: The music line-up on stage simply started too late. Otterlake provided it’s signature STRAB van in the camp site where a few acts performed in the mornings, but these sets could just as well have been performed on the main stage. This would have forced everyone to get up earlier and start partying earlier. By starting earlier, Otterlake could also have possibly given more up-and-coming acts a chance to perform on a festival stage.

All things considered the Otterlake Easter Festival did very well for their mere three years of existence. Be sure to mark 2016’s festival on your calendar, because maybe you will be able to tell me “hoe ’n otter lyk”.

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