On a must-have list of all the things you can take to Splashy Fen, gumboots stand first and foremost. You’d think that with a name that fairly screams ‘bog of the year!’ that it would give some indication to punters that a downpour will precede a sea of mud. You’d think. Some don’t - perhaps they’re from drier parts of the country where Oppikoppi and Woodstock are held - but the results are spectacular because it pissed, it bucketed, cats and dogs, like all the sprinklers in heaven were turned on at once. Mother of god, it rained and across the hills all was mud. But ah, the show that comes after – that makes it all worth it.
Because a substantial portion of the acts at Splashy are folky bands that have scraggly beards, brazenly wield violins and flutes and have names like The Hairy-Legged Lentil Eaters, anyone between the ages of 18 and 30 (about ‘80% of Splashy Fen’s 8 000 attendees) does what any normal person would do – they drink away the ‘Gotta Get Bent Till The Rock Music Starts Blues’.
And then of course it’s time for the Mud Olympics!
Such a spontaneous and impressive spectacle must start with someone, and at Splashy Fen it starts with the general decline of those who do not come prepared for wading through Lake Muck. It starts with the shoes, then it spreads to the legs and after a few too many, maybe a tipsy tumble into the sludge. But soon enough they succumb, and then it’s game on. The prime instigator this year was one muppet who had skull tattoos - generally a good sign of a top-quality muppet. One who is open to public displays of lunacy, and isn’t going to let a little thing like a split pip stand in the way of a good jol. First a little warm up with that old crowd pleaser the table slide, soon enough a contender steps in, then it’s a trio, a couple of girls join in, their tops go astray, the crowd goes wild. It’s rugby tackles, over the shoulder hoists, ass over kettle, two on one and any number of variations. Of course, such a spectator sport requires commentators well-versed in the in and outs of the game.
Overheard in the main bar:
‘Now Clive, I don’t know about you but as far I’m concerned this pitch just isn’t suitable – for a start the splatterbility is too low, and it hasn’t got the necessary fluidity to spread over a wide enough area. Shoddy, if you ask me. A well-trained athlete could do themselves some damage.’
‘Couldn’t agree with you more, Murray. Now that pool outside the Grant Erskine marquee for example, that really is quality quagmire. It’s a superior blend that’s been deeply mashed over the years, ripening it to the consistency of thoroughly whipped chocolate mousse. Far more suitable for a sport that needs a consistent playing surface. Hereby nominated Best Bog 2008. ’
‘I second that. Cheers!’
Event security looks on sternly, but doesn’t stop the wanton enjoyment of sludge. A winner is declared, and it’s back to the music.
Dan Patlansky, he rocked that guitar like a lothario ravishes a lover. Goldfish rocked it, City Bowl Mizers rocked it, and Your Name In Neon, Japan And I, Voodoo Child, Redflecks and Love On Rollerskates rocked. The Rudimentals rocked, with a non-stop set of slick and pacy ska that got every ass in the joint jumping. But the Best In Show ribbon goes to Napalma, who kicked ass up and down that muddy fen till way past their cut-off time with a high-energy assault of Brazilian-style techno and drum ‘n bass accompanied by djembe. And when they absolutely had to get off stage, they headed for the massive stone circle bonfire, and continued to rock into the wee hours, leading a full-blown bongo fury that attracted a large crowd. Now that’s enthusiastic.
Some punters moaned about the rain, the mud, the fact that the music ended at 2am after various DJ’s including the NoNoNo!!! crew played on the Red Bull van but at the end of it all the rain did pass and they’re whining wimps for the moaning – Splashy Fen is overall a well-run gig, with something for everyone. But if you wanna have a good time there, get yourself some wellies. You won’t regret it.
This review also published on Levi's Music Online.