My Oppikoppi-photographs are always disappointing. So much for the careful charging of the little pink Nikon Coolpix camera’s battery, packing the extra cables, topping up the prepaid on my phone for some Instagram fun.
But afterwards, I cannot find the magic in them. I fail to capture the essence of the moment and I’m left with a sense of emptiness and vague disappointment. How do I explain to people how magical it was to be there without the help of visual aids?
But really, you had to be there. In the flesh. In the moment. And then, let it go – something our generation of hyperconnected individuals really struggle with. Because: if Sarah Blasko made me cry goosebumpy tears of joy and I didn’t selfie it – did it really happen?
It did happen, yes. And so many other things happened. Not always in chronological order and sometimes quite possibly in an alternate dimension, but they happened, all right.
I picked the 20th Oppikoppi to go on a solo mission, an Oddysey of my own. Nope, it wasn’t really “brave”, as one Oppi-goer told me – there were plenty of people I knew there, and I never felt alone. Even while chilling on the legendary Stoep of Tess and Boors’ house, sorting out some dustbunnies in my head and peering over the mushroomtown of Mordor below.
Going it alone gave me space to really observe. Oppikoppi is an assault on the senses. It’s easy to get caught up in the maelstrom: to simply participate rather than stand outside of it all and realise what it is you’re dealing with. An unique new life-form; what could be if music and creativity were the only rules. I realise that kind of microcosm might make some people cower in abject horror.
Rusty dust, bright-pink tutus and glitter and face paint, pasty-pale skin in short-short denim cutoffs, bloody noses and bright blue eyes, strong, beautiful back muscles slowly roasting in the Bosveld sun.
The smell of boerie rolls and potjiekos and portaloos and vomit.
Tent-to-tent surround sound: voices and melodies and guitars and drums and screams and bass thrumming deep in your bones. And that annoying guy on his four-wheeler.
If you stick your earplugs in late at night, all it does is kill the white noise and ambient buzz and crystal clarifies whoever is still left on the Wesley Dome stage.
Tinges of yesterday’s stale vodka and cream soda mix on your tongue. Earl Grey tea and some Cadbury’s raisin chocolate.
Heat on your skin and grit between your teeth and a blister on the back of your right heel. The long-suffering look on the faces of the medics.
There’s a Trojan Horse on a bakkie and a faun prancing through the dust. I think I just saw someone I kissed a decade ago.
At night the sixth sense kicks in: an invisible force drives the languor of the daytime masses away and “skielik is jy vry”. Free to dream and dance and discover. But none of us are really given to introspection at Oppikoppi . It’s a place that exists outside of everyday reality. A place to let your freak flag fly, and intuitively understand that when people laugh, it’s with you. Even when your boyfriend just told you in a worried voice to “vomit outside the tent when you vomit” or when you’ve faceplanted into mud to prove a point or moshed so hard your front tooth came loose. Okay, maybe sometimes we actually do laugh at you. But only in love, okay.
And, of course, the music. I don’t think the line-up this year was the best ever. But then, you can’t please everybody all of the time. And my Jack White obsession doesn’t help when hoping for a headline act I can get lost in. But still: amazing moments abounded.
Bittereinder’s new ballad made me get the warm and fuzzies. I don’t know the name. The new album is out in September, though.
Sarah Blasko blasted my mind clean of all doubt and worry and actually made me commit to reading a few poems off the same stage she’d conquered just a few minutes ago. Yup, in a small way I actually took part at Oppikoppi. And felt like a rockstar when a really drunk guy came up to me afterwards saying: that was really brave. This time, yes, I think it was. Small things, okay.
The Inspector Cluzo: The drummer wants to dance, okay! With you, and you, and you… And fuck the bassist! And Paris! And the Man! And Coca Cola! And that hat! I kept expecting Jack Black to get on stage with frontman Malcolm Lacrous and drummer Phil Jourdain. Their irreverent brand of “funk’nroll” was an energiser. The weirdly muted sound did them no favours, though: I’m not sure what it was with the Bruilof Stage this year, but the same stage that completely killed Cat Power’s vibe also put the brakes on the full-on aural assault that was the only way to do justice to Inspector Cluzo’s sounds. It’s a pity. I still love them, though.
Writer and poet Danie Marais delved deep and exposed his innards with some poems from his new book, Solank verlange die sweep swaai. His slot was marred by the raucous sounds of the crowd waiting for Willy Mason – but for those of us who listened, it was a rare treat.
I did, however, fall in love with Willy Mason’s particular brand of folk. One young superfan stressed that he started his music a decade ago, when 18, and was kind of the ‘proto-folk’ guy, bugger The Lumineers or Mumford and Sons. I tend to agree. Also, he played on a Gretsch. Win.
After Willy I was lucky enough to catch a bit of the Nudies – specifically, Blue Eyes. Standing stock still and keeping my eyes wide open to stop the tears from being too embarrassing.
Squeal made me feel all of 15 years old again. And then… I got to meet Dave Birch. He kind of looks like my dad. Your dad. And he still rocks. Hard.
Wonderboom are firm favourites of mine and I think I was laughing and bopping like a maniac when Jafta Rebel played.
Spoek Mathambo. Hugh Masekela trying his hand at Sarie Marais. The Editors’ belting Smokers outside the hospital door.
In general, I danced so hard I suspect I have shin splints now.
There’s more. There’s always more. But some of it I’ll just keep. Also, I’ve written too much.
Thank you to all the people who made this Oppikoppi so amazing. Next year, we do it again.