2 to 5 October 2014 was a weekend that would stay burned into the minds of all that attended for a long time. Rocking the Daisies 2014 was probably the best organized and most surprising festival I have attended (I have attended a few before…). The weather was hot, but a cool breeze and the biting water of the farm dam was enough to fight off any heat stroke. The festival itself was very well run, with well thought through security and crowd control. Although more than 20 000 people attended, I was only aware of the masses when the main international acts were on stage (who would miss that?). The line-up was also spectacular in my oppinion. Crystal fighters, MGMT, Rudimental and The Presets were invited, which is already double the international attraction of previous years. The electro-dome, the second biggest stage, featured a much more varied musical palette. In previous years, you could expect a lot of drum and bass and dubstep, which was typical of the time, but this year they offered interesting variations on house, folk, psych and anything that can be associated with the word “Electro”.
Every day at Daisies had its own offerings, suprises and acts-to-watch. If you were to partake in substance or alcohol abuse, the Red Frog society had two tents where you could seek help and get some food into your system. It was comforting to know that they ensured that people were able to responsibly enjoy the festival and they even gave councelling to those who felt abandoned, alone or heartbroken.
I arrived friday afternoon to an entrance line so long that I could have set up ten tents in the time that I waited just to enter the festival. The level of security offered by the Daisies organizers unfortunately mean that you will be inconvenienced at some point or another (rather safe than sorry?). I set up camp and headed into the scorching heat to start soaking in the festival. The layout of the terrain was well planned and allowed for the masses of people to flow seamlessly from one stage to the other. The menus on display in the food tent was local, fresh and absolutely delicious, albeit expensive!
I payed short visits to each of the stages to see what was available. In the end I stayed to watch Al Bairre perform at the main stage. They had crowds jumping and dancing to their indie-pop songs. Later that evening, the stage was graced with legends in South African music, including Albert Frost, Jeremy Loops, Arno Caarstens and Francois Van Coke. Albert Frost delivered a stellar blues-rock performance that could convert any sceptic. He has certainly trancended his Springbok Nude Girls roots. The same can unfortunately not be said for Arno Caarstens. He performed alongside Francois Van Coke where they played music from both musician’s past. When his hits were being played, it was underwhelming to say the least, but when it Francois played his songs, Arno seemed to refuse to make an effort, standing around idly, looking confused.
The main day has arrived and so has 10 000 more people it seems. The grass in front of the mainstage seemed to be constantly overflowing with angsty festival-goers, eager to see their favourite band. Stand-out local acts were definitely John Wizards and Beatenberg. John Wizards plays an incredible blend of every music style to have ever come out of South Africa. They play kwassa-pop, shangaan electro, ruwandan tribal music, funk, rock and good old electro-pop. Beatenberg followed them with a set of vibey, lo-fi pop songs that had a large audience danching and head-bobbing for a good hour.
The evening was one of the most memorable musical evenings of my life, starting with Crystal Fighters. These spanish electro-folk-pop musicians bring unbelievable energy and love to the stage, and this despite their drummer tragically passing away two weeks before. Their positive message was infective and I could see some people tearing up as they dedicated a song to their drummer. They sing about love and peace, and do it with so much conviction, that you can’t help but be left with a feeling of contentment at the end of the day.
They were followed by MGMT, who was, unfortunately, extremely boring. They had very little crowd interaction and delivered their well-known songs in a very plain manner, without making it special for the audience they are catering for. The crowd seemed to enjoy hits like ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’, so it is not a terrible loss.
After they left the stage, Rudimental started setting up and you could start sensing the tangible anticipation. I have not heard them before, so I was anxious about what I would experience. They started with a soulful ballad, coloured by brilliant trumpet playing. The slow, beautiful melodies quickly turned into racing drum and bass and had everyone out of their seats (which is to say, standing up from the grass). Each musician in their eight-man crew was incredibly talented and it resonated with the collective, producing beautiful, inspirational and down-right groovy music that ringed late into the night.
On the last day, I could sense that most festival goers woke up feeling less human than they were the day before. It was extremely hot, but the comedy stage delivered an entertaining line-up that one could comfortably enjoy while seated with a chilled beverage, something that the other stages rarely allow. Schalk bezuidenhout is an up and coming comedian with a bright future. He has relevant, local comedy that had quite a large audience in stitches. I enjoyed swimming in the farm dam, while listening to house music from the “Beach Bar”, a tropically themed stage that allowed people to dance on a beach… on a farm!
On the whole, the festival was amazingly well run, very enjoyable to attend, and I will definitely be doing a follow-up post for Rocking the Daisies 2015.