The One Mad Tea Party Festival
After returning last night to my home base, 15 km outside Polokwane in the Limpopo province, I will admit I am still getting to grips with all the happenings from the last week. A few weeks prior I received a message from my now close friend, Johann Latsky. He said they are organising a music festival near Caledon, Western Cape, and asked me if I would like to join. There was no way I was going to miss this opportunity even though it was about 1700km away. The ONE was an exclusive state-of-the-art venue, situated on Shaw’s Pass, between Hermanus and Caledon. With 22 of South Africa’s hottest bands and luxury glamping facilities, this was truly Heaven on Earth and a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I left Polokwane, 14h00 in the afternoon, and after a quick overnight pit stop in Pretoria, I hit O.R. Tambo International Airport, early the next morning. I was graciously flown by Lift Airlines, who were also one of the sponsors for the festival. May I say that Lift Airlines are really a jewel amongst all the other local airlines? They even gave us free wine and chocolate coated, gluten free, vegan, roasted chick peas! Sitting on the plane, waiting for our departure, I saw the crew loading two guitar cases and a bag with drum-symbols. It was immediately clear that I was being accompanied by a band on my flight and I made it a mission to try and identify them. My son recently got into the “Where’s Wally” books and I think all the practice finding Wally, helped me. I had no problem identifying the guys from the band Shadowclub, as well as Mariska Geyer, road manager for the band Prime Circle. They were accompanied by the members from Southern Gypsy Queen and Andre Kriel, guitar player for the Black Cat Bones. On arrival in Cape Town, I had a quick chat with the band and then met up with my long-time friend, Leon Nieuwoudt. We were on our way to the One Mad Tea Party Festival.
Naturally we had to stop on-route at a few places for some chit chats with the locals and a few glasses of wine. However, we didn’t waste too much time because Anton Goosen was opening the stage and we had to be there. On arrival at the venue, we were friendlily greeted and shown towards our tents. Glamping was only a term I have heard before, but it became more meaningful to me once we got to our tents. The tents had a carpet, two beds, a power point with bed lamps and of course, electric blankets. Happiness!
We got our stuff together and decided to hit the stage. On our way we witnessed the most beautiful sunset and had to stop for a few selfies. The venue was amazing, with a fully stocked bar and seating surrounded by artificial grass. The atmosphere was one of excitement, filled with music lovers who knew what it was all about. Once Anton arrived, I was blown away by the sound and lighting. It was a proper job and way beyond what was necessary, but is it ever enough?
Anton Goosen is a legend in the music industry. Most people still remember his Afrikaans hits from the 80’s and he didn’t disappoint. He did a couple of his hit songs but his stories were the highlight for me. After more than 30 years of performing there were loads of snippets he could share with the crowd and we loved it. He captivated his audience and I was fully mesmerised. Afterwards, we had a quick conversation and hurried back to the stage for the next band. The Southern Gypsy Queen’s performance was talked about throughout the weekend. They went on stage without any flair or pretention but delivered something I will remember for a long time. It was pure passion and fun. They were happy to be there and we all agreed. With Andre Kriel from the Black Cat Bones standing in on guitar, they kicked it off with personality and energy and the crowd eagerly responded to their energy. They prepared a special ‘Rock n Roll’ set and we were jumping around with every song. I realised after their second song, that we were witnessing something special. It was only the second band out of 22 and I was already blown away.
After a quick photo back stage and a friendly introduction, we ran back to the stage to watch one of my favourite musicians, Dan Patlansky. A friend of mine who spent some time with Anton Goosen backstage, while Southern Gypsy Queen was playing, told me later that Dan was chilling next to them and while the band was playing, he was warming up for his set by working out their songs. He was improvising, but it took him no effort to play along with them, even though he had probably never heard them before. Dan is a musical genius unlike any musician I have seen before. His reputation stretches far and wide and I wasn’t surprised to see the guys from Spoegwolf standing close to the stage when I got there, waiting for Dan to appear. He was brilliant. Throughout his show I could see he was mimicking the music in his head. While his lips moved and the veins in his neck popped, eyes closed, he was a player possessed. I don’t think any review will ever do his shows justice. Dan Patlansky is one of a kind. I am honoured and blessed to have witnessed this maestro in his natural habitat. The thing about him is not just his music it’s his attitude as well. Just a short conversation with him will make you feel like you are talking to your best friend. His people skills are as natural as his guitar playing.
Dan was followed by one of the hottest South African bands at the moment. Every Spoegwolf show will be familiar if you have seen it before but there is something unique about them. Wherever they go, the crowd always enthusiastically sings along to their songs. Danie du Toit has a unique energy and I found myself smiling as they performed their hits. It’s this familiarity that brings people together. The four members of Spoegwolf are a brotherhood. No matter where or when they perform, they have a fan base. They are rightfully the current Face of Alternative Afrikaans Music, as someone accurately commented. I tried to grab another photo with the guys after the show, to add to my already growing collection; however they quickly disappeared into the night. Later I realised they had another show the following night in Pretoria.
The first night ended with something unique and I will admit it took me a few minutes to adjust to the change of pace and vibe. Pascal and Pearce have for a long time been legends in the dance scene. My buddy Leon knew Pascal and therefore they were on our list of artists we really wanted to see. Their show reminded me of my clubbing days and being a dance DJ myself when I was younger. They had it all! It was a high energy light show with a lot of personality, transforming my nostalgia into something recent and very enjoyable. After a quick photo and short conversation, I couldn’t help but wonder what type of adventures they’ve been on and what their day to day lives must be like.
We decided to end our night in the VIP lounge but quickly realised it would be better to save our energy for the next morning. Our warm beds awaited us and I had a good night’s rest with my warm blanket set on a toasty but still mild, no 2 setting. I was exhausted.
We woke up quite early the next morning, according to the Cape standards. We grabbed our towels and headed to the showers. The portable showers were clean and had enough hot water for me to sing a few of my favourite Rock songs. Leon and I drank our daily vitamins, specially designed for men our age, and then we decided to take a walk on the 5km trail. Leon wore his Ice-Cream coloured Tekkies, he called the colour ‘mint’, but this is my story. I am not sure we did the whole 5km but we ended up in a field somewhere with another amazing view of the valley. The Blue Mountains in the distance reminded me of something ancient and unchanging. We tend to fight our present circumstances at times, worrying about our day to day existence, but still the mountains tell tales of survival and durability. I am getting side-tracked; let’s get back to the festival. Needless to say the view we saw that morning was inspirational.
I really enjoyed the band SNAFU, not simply because of their weird name which I only later realised meant “a confused or chaotic state”, but also because of their weird hats and funky Afrikaans reggae beats. They were unique to say the least and created a refreshing atmosphere in anticipation for the bands to come. They did a cover of ‘Midnight’ by the band 340ml and it left the crowd happy and energized. After an “edible misjudgement”, Nomadic Orchestra had to postpone their gig and it caused a little bit of confusion, which is understandable and also legendary in the same sense. The break in the line-up gave Leon and I another chance to enjoy the spectacular views and sunset. Selfie time. Again, I realised the brevity of life and constants of tomorrow, but let’s get back to the festival.
I could write pages about the band Shadowclub. They are not just, in my opinion, one of the greatest South African bands, they are also very interesting characters and I am not just saying this because we met at the airport. Fronted by genius guitarist and lyricist, Jacques Moolman, with Louis Roux on bass and Isaac Klawansky on drums, they received a SAMA for best rock band in 2012 and deservedly so. They took a hiatus for a few years, but the boys are back to the delight of their many fans. Under the management of Mariska Geyer, I believe we will still enjoy their music for years to come. They played a brilliant set which included fan favourite ‘Good Morning Killer’ and their latest single ‘Dark Horse’, but I will admit ‘Dog Teeth’ completely took me by surprise. It was hauntingly beautiful, honest and inspiring. I could feel how the song captured everyone witnessing this hypnotic performance. Together with ‘All Aboard’, I was transported to music heaven. This is the stuff I live for and is a beautiful sunset to my fragile soul.
Laudo Liebenberg, being one of my favourite vocalists, and with protégé guitarist Frank Freeman playing one of my favourite albums, ‘Eet Kreef Herleef’ was another highlight of an already amazing experience.
Having met Albert Frost earlier that day and having played his music on my radio show, I still wasn’t prepared for what was to come. Albert, with his extrovert personality and infectious laughter, was another treat. I quickly realised that any serious guitar player has to have veins popping in their necks once they get going. The crowd went crazy every time Albert aimed his guitar at the crowd and everyone he made eye contact with immediately evaporated.
For 17 years, Prime Circle has been on the forefront of South African Rock music and their performance showed this. They delivered a spectacle of international standards. They will outlast many bands that we know right now and started before many of their fans were born. They are a class act that showcases the depth of South African Rock music.
That concluded day 2. Once again I had a warm shower and, together with a coffee made by the barista in the VIP lounge, I was ready for our walk. We treated ourselves again to the spectacular views of the Shaw Valley before we returned to witness the funny and entertaining Kalahari Boere Orkes. Ian Roberts has been someone I have been looking up to since he ran a race against Gavin van den Berg in the series ‘Arende’. He was so impressed by me greeting him, that he shook my hand two times. The festival ended with the majestic Karen Zoid. Tannie Karen is an enigma and even just getting close to her, puts you under her spell. I couldn’t help feeling small in her presence even though I might be older and definitely taller.
I felt so many mixed emotions when Leon and I packed up our bags and said goodbye to the ‘One Mad Tea Party’. Like many things in life, this amazing experience had come to an end. I knew already as we drove away, that this was an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime. Johann Latsky and Nicky Currie, the organisers, have become life-long friends of mine. The festival was more than I wished for. I felt new and rejuvenated again. Life is what you make it and once you understand the music, you will be free forever.
Philip Buys (Radio Presenter, Vinyl Collector and Lifelong Music Enthusiast)