A Look Back at Mieliepop 2014

Mieliepop 2014 in review

I had an exciting ride down to Mieliepop Festival this year. Actually, I’m lying. It was scary. Like the start of horror movie scary I soon realised, with nothing more than an empty cooler box, 3 borrowed panini rolls, a small bolt cutter, a leaf-spring gladius and a poncho. It’s not the correct assortment of things to have in your inventory if you have to endure, miles of dark winding bushveld highways, in the middle of nowhere, obviously, two startled bovine beasties comically appearing into the middle of the devilish dirt road I had been on for the last hour. Killer kamikaze bunnies running into my car as if they were actually hellbent on trying to rip my head off (lest we forget about Tim’s warning). A road so scary, the organisers said to “NOT TAKE THAT ROAD” and when those words echoed in my mind and I saw flashes of a Google Map, I realised that I could probably live to see my next birthday, if I throw my sadistic, angry ex-wife incarnate GPS out of the window right now.

That was a bad piece of the cob. But hey? Such is life.


Damn straight it is.

There is no telling when the next large farm animal will stumble out of his meticulously painted camo shrubbery in front of your fast moving car like some sexy steampunk hobo (Sorry Dan) to quickly end your fleeting time on earth. We also don’t know when our lives will change completely either. Or where for that matter. For there is no button on a GPS to guide you, or directions you can Google to point you to happiness, or in my case, in the direction of a place where Tom and Huckleberry will be waiting to row you upstream every morning, to take you to a hidden magical place. A place where people you like become people you love, where music becomes more than just sound, but becomes an inescapable aura of energy and emotion, where dancing includes a smile that’s damn near impossible to hide, where laughter becomes so shared and contagious that people will run up to you and laugh with you, even if they don’t really know why. This is what Mieliepop Festival is. That is what I found.

A scenic streamside camp amongst the frogs, fairies, willow trees, tents for booze, cosy campfires, crispy bacon mornings and the “Where the fuck is MY!?! Oh. Wait. Here it is” moments. A place so riddled in mystery that you never quite grasp the fact that adventure and freedom lie right up around the river, on a big green stomped grassy patch where the girls don’t have too many flowers in their hair and no one minds that you’ve brought an emerald blue dragon AND a lightsaber with, cause they’re all far too busy living in their own imagination.

In a way, it’s that continuous idea, or cold shiver, or dark omnipresence of sudden and gruesome death that should be setting us all free. Free to be who we want to be. It took me a while after my father asked me once, after doing something bizarre in front of him, “Who the hell are you?” that I considered the way that I am living, is not quite at full capacity. I set out to do so and I became, after a lot of destructive, abusive, depressive and insane behaviour, rather fantastic! I also developed a remarkable knack for smuggling (well, at least in my own mind) and as far as I’m concerned, the most important opinion, the one you really need to worry about, is the one you have of yourself.

So when I tell you, ‘Susan that Whore’ is a terrible band, they know it’s my brutally honest opinion. In the same manner, when I openly wept, when the short hairy ‘Shaun Jacobs Band’ played and he does that little August Rush slappy-slap-tap guitar thing, you know it is the truth because to me life is too fleeting and fragile to not cry when something beautiful happens. It’s not often that I find a place where I feel more alive and apart of this world. Dancing all alone but in no way lonely.

Or rarely do I feel so proudly South African, as I did when ‘Mandoza’ walked onto the stage after ‘Wonderboom’ (Nkalakhata* the “steal a laptop” song… I surprised many a tendon and onlookers, doing my own rendition of a western Texas line dance mashed horrifically with a Zulu war dance. I’m so glad no one took photos. Apologies. That’s a lie). With the likes of, the artful ‘Naming James’, ‘Shadowclub’, the vibey ‘Desmond and the Tutus’, ‘Shortstraw’, the headbanging goodness of ‘Bittereinder’, the enthralling beauty of ‘Josie Field & Laurie Levine’, ‘The Blues Broers’, ‘Radio Kalahari Orkes’ and so many more, then that alone is
no small feat.

The way festivals are not just about the music, so our outlook on life must also not be just about one thing. The same goes for when you inevitably run into Susan (that whore) – Figuratively speaking of course. I mean Susan can be anyone, even yourself (unless you are in fact Susan That Whore, I then suggest giving that poor guy some closure). Accept it, learn from it, brush it off, and just look forward to the next act.

Go ahead and share your last panini with a broken-hearted man in your car. Take a solo walk around, try a new food stand, buy something ridiculous, talk to ALL the strangers you meet and make sure when people walk past you or traversing by boat, even with your lazy face on the grass that they will spot you, point and say, “Look! There’s that guy I was telling you about!” (I still had the majority of my clothes on. It was a proud moment).

To have a whole bunch of girls following you around and be neither tempted or swayed by their advances, knowing in your heart you will not settle for second best. Say what’s on your mind to whoever will and will not listen, because that may be the only chance you’ll ever get.

In the end, what is life if it’s not about taking chances and having a whole lot of fun doing it?

Mieliepop was a perfect reminder, that generally, we all only get one Mielie. It’s what you do with those individual kernels, how fantastically you decide to use them, what you’re willing to risk, that can make your average looking Mielie really Pop.

Words: Ben Stefan Gericke
Photos: Adelle Van Der Merwe


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