Oppikoppi came and went in a heartbeat, and like a one-night stand, which I’ve never had but I’m sure is true for some, left me with a series of mixed emotions. Part of me was glad that I did it, and another part of me felt a bit unsatisfied and longing for more. I think a lot of people experienced the same thing, some leaving disappointed, and others leaving the best Oppikoppi they had ever attended. Each to his own. I’ve decided to put my post-Oppi thoughts on virtual paper and provide an account of my experiences, both good and bad (and ugly), as a first-time Oppi attendee. I’ve also included some pictures (which don’t directly correspond with my accounts).
For the most part, it was a damn jol. Being able to float around in a semi-lucid state, immersed in continuous sounds and rad vibes, was a beautiful escape. Everyone was there to enjoy themselves. We were all there with a common objective, which bonded us together whether we knew it or not. No one cared about who you were, where you came from, where you were going. All that was important was that moment. It actually took some readjusting for me and Dan. Between refilling our drinks at the campsite and running in between sets, we really felt a sense of freedom and an ability to breathe.
Upon our arrival, we were challenged with the task of setting up our tent in between thorn bushes and giant mounds of cow dung. Every step required careful calculation and flexibility. During the tent construction, I had more cow dung under my feet than Dr Martens’ sole. Thankfully Dan and I were over prepared and we brought along a shovel which helped us clear most of the obstacles. We set up the tent in no time, had a quick snack, and scoped the farm. It really was a stunning setting, with a surprising abundance of bird activity in and amongst us noisy humans. After marveling at our surroundings, we checked out the various stages and entertainment. It wasn’t too chaotic at 9am on Thursday, so we spent an hour familiarising ourselves with our location and the nearest toilets* (priorities) and then headed back to camp where we enjoyed a nice siesta while it drizzled outside – that’s when we realised that our tent had a leak – so while Dan tried to fix it, I cooked us some 2-minute noodles. We knew that we were super over prepared when we returned home with two-thirds of our supplies. We even took rooibos tea with lemon, ginger and honey in case we got sick. Who are we?
Anyway, once we felt human again, we resurfaced to watch our first band, The Pollinators. Dressed in evening gowns, they fucking rocked the stage with sick guitar solos and impressive vocals. We stuck around that side to see what else Oppi had to offer that night. We watched a bit of Van Pletzen which was equal parts hilarious and fun! We danced the rest of the night away to bands who’s names I can’t remember and then miraculously found our tent and called it a night. On Friday night it bucketed down with rain, and the crowd became an army of disposable raincoats. I was lucky enough to have a full length raincoat which kept me both dry and warm, but poor Dan got soaked and we had to venture out in search of a plastic bag to cover him. We eventually found one and got back in time for Two Door Cinema Club, who were too good to miss! Afterwards, we trudged through the mud and I could have kissed my gumboots because we were almost knee deep in it. It sounds terrible but it was actually quite entertaining watching all the poes drunk people slipping in the mud. Some just gave up entirely and proceeded to ‘swim’ back to camp, subsequently passing out and waking up as dry statues the following morning. Saturday was hot AF and I was very happy about the rain because there was zero dust to contend with. I know what you’re thinking; what is Oppikoppi without dust?
Pleasant, I’ll tell ya!
A highlight worth mentioning was being invited to Jack Daniel’s ‘VIP’ tent for a free burger and drinks. This happened in the late afternoon of our last day so it was a perfect ending to say the least.
Hi, my name is Maxine, and I am a music snob. Hi Maxine…
I blame my dad. From a young age he gave me no choice but to listen to a wide range of exceptionally gifted musicians and now I can’t listen to anything less than that. Curse you for making me have high standards, for not allowing me to appreciate simply lyrics, even lyrics attached to a sub par melody! Jokes aside, I was less than impressed by most of the acts. Unfortunately I didn’t go to Oppikoppi with the intention of being wasted for three days, in which case a high standard of music would have been low on my priority list. I did not want to peak on the first night and crawl my way through the next two days. I did not want to stand in a somewhat dispersed crowd, listening to a band that sounded like the one before, playing what sounded like the same song for 45 minutes. Okay my rant is over, but I really was looking forward to discovering new, good local bands.
I wanted to head bang, I wanted to mosh, I wanted to get down and dirty like you can only do at South Africa’s biggest music festival. Unfortunately the only head banging I did was when I caught the end of Francios Van Coke singing Fokofpolisiekar’s songs. Not taking anything away from them, I loved Francios Van Coke and his band, Die Gevaar; they were extremely professional and of international standards in my opinion. It was lovely to watch what seemed to be the entire Oppikoppi attendance standing in the crowd singing along, word for word.
Two Door Cinema Club definitely stole the show. Even though I almost never like indie rock, I was completely taken aback with their level of showmanship. It was awesome to forget about the rain for a second and just dance. I was surprised at how placid Die Heuwels Fantasties have become. I remember losing my shit to them at Splashy Fen a couple years ago, and now all I remember is leaving to find Dan a plastic bag to protect him from the rain – a few years ago we wouldn’t even have felt the rain!
Other bands surely rocked out but didn’t necessarily play good music – there is a difference. I’m not sure if Oppikoppi is solely to blame, because it’s quite apparent that good old fashioned rock music is a dying breed in South Africa in general. It’s extremely sad to see rock music being phased out once again, when it never really ever had a place here. From the days of Apartheid where you were not even allowed to play rock music on the radio, to present day South Africa (and the rest of the world) where electronic music has replaced instruments. It’s for this very reason that I think South Africa’s rock industry standards are low; how can you be good if there is no one to be as good as? And why should you try when there is no incentive.
Growing up in my generation, it’s nearly impossible to not enjoy EDM to some extent, and I don’t mind swapping the headbanging for some hip-shaking! However I wasn’t even impressed with the electronic music. I made an effort to engage with the acts on The Redbull stage. I eagerly pushed my way into the crowd to watch DJ Black Coffee for the first time, but my enthusiasm went unrewarded after he arrived late and didn’t advance past a monotonous introduction. It was at that moment that Dan and I decided to call it a day and return back to our campsite. We had seen what we needed to see, and we were happy to leave it at that.
Definitely the worst experience was waking up in the early hours of the morning to find our tent broken into. I remember waking up, Dan already sitting up, both wondering why our tent was open. Dan said he didn’t open it, and the zip was broken. It’s one thing coming back to your tent and finding it open, it’s another waking up and realising that someone ripped the lock off your tent and went through your things while you were asleep below them. Fortunately all our valuables were locked in the car, but Dan’s knife was stolen out of his pants’ pocket – which is an uncomfortable feeling in and of itself, knowing the knife you once used to cut rope and slice cheese, is now in the hands of a criminal. It was actually an inconvenience more than anything because it was freezing outside, and we couldn’t close our tent as the zip was broken. Dan and I spent an entire hour trying to reconnect the zipper. This happened on our first night, which tainted our feelings about Oppi right from the start. I felt angry, I felt violated, I felt sick. And the paranoia that followed was endless; constantly checking that the car was safe, walking around with a heavy backpack because you wanted all your valuables with you at all times, reaching for the shovel as you entered your dark campsite just in case they were back. We thought we had escaped reality but we were quickly reminded of it.
Not that we’re ones to blame ourselves, but our campsite was pitch black at night, with little to zero activity, and about 20 metres from the pathway, making it ideal for someone to come in and take our stuff without anyone seeing. Learn from our ‘mistakes’ and install a battery powered light on a tree, go with a larger group to increase the probability of someone being at he campsite most of the time, and keep ALL VALUABLES either on you or locked and hidden in the car.
As someone with no previous experience, it is my humble, non-biased opinion that Oppikoppi might be losing itself to the masses, and compromising it’s individuality in order to appeal to everyone. It felt scattered, literally and figuratively. Six or seven different stages each drawing different crowds kind of pulled us apart. This might have been due to the fact that less people attended the festival this year, therefore it felt emptier than usual. Again, this is just my opinion and I’m sure there are some people who will say that this was their favourite Oppikoppi yet. Maybe this was an experimental year, maybe I just happened to attend Oppi during it’s transition, maybe next year the organizers will have everything ironed out, or maybe I should have got wasted for those three days.
I will say that I do appreciate Oppikoppi’s attempt to reinvent itself, and realise that things change and evolve and so must Oppi. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I just hope that it doesn’t lose sight of what made it what it is, and the people who supported it all these years. I hope I haven’t missed the dirty, rough, unscripted, beautiful chaos that Oppikoppi has been known to deliver, year after year. This is not to say that I didn’t make the most of it! And I got to make a kick ass video which can be found here. No ragrats and nothing but love. You haven’t seen the last of me!
*I want to express my gratitude to the amazing ladies of Lemon Trees Toilet Hire for the great job they did in keeping the portable loos clean and usable. Seriously, I had heard some gruesome stories about the infamous toilets at Oppikoppi, and I am no stranger to festival toilets, but these ladies did a phenomenal job; as soon as someone left a ‘cubicle’, they were in there in no time, making sure the toilets were flushed, clean, and smelt better than when they first entered. It’s a shit job, pun intended, but excellently executed!2