This past weekend, I had the great pleasure of going to Oppikoppi – a South African music festival like no other in Limpopo near Northam. Generally it plays host to some of South Africa’s top musicians as well as some of our best up-and-comings and a few choice international bands, and this year did not disappoint.
We arrived on Friday morning after a relatively uneventful drive that involved potholes that could, in some cases, be considered archaeological digs for dinosaurs, and had the campsite set up in short order (after chasing up some blood-sugar levels). After setting up camp, it is (according to the regulars) tradition to take a stroll around the rest of the area to take a look at the other camps and see if you can find anyone you know. We didn’t, yet, but not for lack of trying. We literally walked until our feet blistered and we hadn’t yet walked to the end points of the campsite.
To put in perspective how full Oppi was this year: We set up about a stone’s throw away from the fence at the back next to the main road(Dionysus Drive) – which is almost equivalent to being about 3 days’ camel ride from the stages – as it was the closest non-cramped spot we could find, and the bulk of the people were still going to arrive during the course of the afternoon and evening. By the end of Friday evening we had quite a few neighbours – more on that later – and it seemed that even the huge expanse of campsite was cramped for space.
The festivities started Friday night on the main stage with Cortina Whiplash, Southern Gipsey Queen, Die Tuindwergies, Dance You’re on Fire, Philadelphia Grand Jury(from Australia) and Taxi Violence. I skipped out on the last band as it had been a long day. Others went on through the night at the Top Bar and Bass & Drums stage and, even though we were camped out halfway into Botswana, I could hear most of it.
Getting back to camp was interesting in the dark – more so, considering that there was more dust in the air than during a sandstorm in the middle of the Kalahari. Walking along the road with a headlamp was like playing a mix between Alien vs. Predator and Left 4 Dead – every now and then a drunken zombie would pop out of the fog of war and scare the daylights out of you, and there I was without my frying pan.
Back at camp we suddenly had neighbours’ tents that seemed to have sprouted like mushrooms, as the occupants were nowhere to be found. I’d find out in the morning that they were property of a father and son and some of their friends. Awesome people, one and all (like most at Oppi), and on Sunday morning they entertained everyone at camp with an impromptu guitar duet, with skills(guitar-wise and vocally) worthy of Oppikoppi’s stages.
Saturday, things started early and carried on until late with – amongst others – Knave, Strings & Skins, Lucky Fonz III (from Netherlands), Radio Kalahari Orkes, Flash Republic, Voodoo Child, Prime Circle, and Gang of Instrumentals. Saturday obviously involved a lot of walking to, from and between camps and stages, as a third(much more beautiful) person had joined our group, but was camped on the other side of the Milky Way with some other buddies. After Gang of Instrumentals, we headed back to camp to find out that our camera had been stolen – and the buggers didn’t even have the decency to leave a note saying “Thanks for the Acid trip!”.
Sunday, the final day of shows, involved Scicoustic, Wrestlerish, Zebra & Giraffe, Die Heuwels Fantasties, Straatligkinders and Billy Talent. Billy Talent was amazing. Seriously. They have a massive stage presence and their performance was filled with energy. Benjamin Kowalewicz(the lead singer) interacts with the crowd and does it very well, making sure that where there might be a lull in the performance, there is no such thing. To add to the talented (teehee) band, they had top-notch light & sound teams not to mention the (often underappreciated) backstage crew.
By Monday morning we were tired (having lived off of 3-4 hours sleep per day) and we all looked and probably felt like dirty hippies. We wanted to go home, but as fate would have it we first tried to help our neighbours with their car and then needed to push start our own car and change a nail-induced flat tyre before making a 2-hour trip home in 5 hours due to traffic reminiscent of central Johannesburg, where it took the better part of an hour to stop feeling like a dirty hippie.
All in all, Oppikoppi was awesome. It featured some of the best bands in South Africa and had some excellent ones from overseas. One of the greatest things about Oppikoppi is that you find all sorts of people there, from the actual hippies to the hard-core metal-heads, but at the end of it all everyone is there for the same thing: good music, good company and an all-round good party. We happily shared our fire pit with our neighbours and in so doing got to meet some really great people and experience something that was the embodiment, the essence, of Oppikoppi.
I got to meet a lot of awesome people and saw twenty bands play – many for the first time. I experienced a lot of things at Oppikoppi, many were firsts and some were much more memorable and particularly awesome than others. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the people who made it as awesome as it was – you know who you are – you guys (and girls) made it worth the walks, dirt, dust, heat, cold and the long wait.
P.S. I was mailed this a few hours ago – it made me laugh uncontrollably.