Seventeen Years On, Still Giving It Horns...

Category: By Travis Lyle a.k.a DJ Hedmekanik
Splashy Fen popped my festival cherry, and I've not been the same since...

In 1991 you could hit a festival with R100, a couple cans of beans, a 20-buck bottle of Russian Bear, a sleeping bag and a pocket fulla rizla and green, and you'd be set. Mind you, there wasn't much choice at that stage of South Africa's festival evolution, and things were cheap, so a meagre hundred and the most basic of portable pantries would satisfy. Well, satisfy my needs at the age 18, at any rate. I know this because I still have my scrawled note which listed the requirements for a three-day jol. It went a little something like this:

2 x cans beans
1 x bottle Russian
1 x bag apples
1 x R100
R10 - weed (got)
R30 - petrol (got)

As Dylan said: 'Things have changed.'

These days our festivals have bloomed from erstwhile crustfests into full-blown slick-ass extravaganzas that are as good as, if not better than their Northern Hemisphere cousins. Granted, we may not have the line-ups or Celine Dion-grade production and staging that the likes of Glasto, Coachella, V, Bonnaroo, Big Day Out etc can boast, but what we lack in international star quality and tech we more than make up for in terms of space, facilities and (surprisingly, considering) safety. It's true - you and your stuff are safer at a South African festival, because why? Because they're a relatively recent development, big festivals, and thieving brigades of inner city skabengas on cheap drugs can't usually get to them, what with most SA festies being way out in the bush, and public transport being so dire as to be nonexistent. At festivals in the UK, for example, you can be pretty sure that if you pitch a tent it'll a) be stolen b) get burnt or at least c) be used as a public convenience by selfsame inner city ferals. There may also be something in the fact that ye olde South African paranoia ensures that every festival is fairly crawling with security, and some of with them cops too. Che sera.
In any case, South African festivals have certainly come a long way, and are pretty damn jacked when it comes to facilities. Toilets and showers, (which some people complain about because they've never had to take a crap in the bush before, but then these are the people who come to festivals in heels and white trainers, and deserve a mud bath, just to adjust their attitudes. But I digress.) are actually not bad at all, compared to some overseas festies, which don't bear thinking about, Reading Festival being a notable no-no. And while some may grumble into their beards about the commercialisation of things, the fact is that the larger the event, the more market there is for all the conveniences of a small city, which of course takes away from the 'getting back to nature' mofofo that some hold so dear, which is to a certain extent understandable. That said, there is always going to be a sense of the incongruity when you see a goddamn big-name-brand burger joint taking pride of place in what used to be a hippie market. Dunno about you, but for me, there are plenty greasemongers back in the city. If I want a Triple Bypass Burger, I'll get one back in the big smoke, thank you very much.
Anyway, I'm off to Splashy Fen in two weeks' time, for the first time since...hmmm...I think it was 2003. And although I've been to some 30 or so other festivals since 1991, things are well different than they were back in the day, that's for sure. The one thing I'm looking forward to as a lover of all things electronic is a considerable presence of some shit-hot electronic performers among the usual line-up of Splashy Fen suspects (read: 'lots of folk, some cack-handed garage bands, a few pro blues and rock ensembles and a smattering of traditional African acts'). I'll no doubt be found front of stage for at least Seake (, Redflecks, Goldfish, Veranda Panda and last but not least the King Muppets of fidget house, The Social Workers.
Unlike my first festival experience, my needs and range of equipment are now substantial, and The Good Wife and I now travel with the whole kit and caboodle: 4-man tent, huge stretchy homemade shade-type tent, coolie box, ice box, larder, liquor cabinet, cashcard, change(s) of clothes, gumboots, mp3 FM transmitter for communal camp radio station, first aid kit and many other necessities. Like the man said, things have changed.
Splashy Fen, here I come.

See for the line up.

2 comments so far.

  1. Expensive Mistakes and Cheap Thrills March 10, 2008 at 10:33 AM
    giving splashy a skip this year....not too much fun running around a festival with a new baby.

    but definitely enjoyed it while it lasted....

    anyway, just wanted to invite you to join The South African Bloggers' Network - - still new, still recruiting!

    but sign up, so we can all hook up!!
  2. hedmekanik (at) gmail (dot) com March 10, 2008 at 10:38 AM
    Christ, you're quick.

    Certainly, will jog on over and see what's what.

    Will no doubt be a report-back in a couple weeks time, let you know all about what you missed.


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