The Big Fat Oppikoppi 2016 Review
The Unsea Review
and for the lovely young taken to the sea for the first time
and for the unlovely unyoung taken to the sea for the last time
and for the unlovely young untaken to the sea
and for the lovely young taken to the unsea.
- Gert Vlok Nel
The Post-Oppi Depression…
I’m sitting at my desk, a week and half after Oppikoppi 2016, and the post-Oppi depression just got very real for me. You know that feeling: you look through your window, a few days after the festival, the sun filling your small courtyard, earphones in your ears listening to a new band you found on the Skellum Stage… it’s more than enough to make you long for the vast, open bushveld of Limpopo, the madness of 6 stages filled with the best local and international music, and warm days spent drinking tequila sunrise.
So, off we went to Northam on Friday.
Day 1 – The SEA
We landed in the dust just after 1 pm on Friday. We throw the tent in the dust, I step in a massive thorn bush, we crack open a beer, make friends with the neighbours and my hair gets stuck in a tree within the first 30 minutes – Welcome to Oppi-fokken-koppi! Ja!
First thing’s first – Load money onto your brand new Oppikoppi card (the festival works on a cashless system, so no card – no nothing). Then we go sit under a tree and listen to some music – Music first, music last! We landed in front of the Bruilof Stage in time for De Wallen. What an intro to The Unsea! Since I’ve seen them a while ago, they’ve grown into a proper rock outfit. Frontman, Jeandre Swanepoel, throws his body across the stage as he roars the lyrics – Pretty impressive. And this is the way we started the Beast off…
We then move to the James Phillips Stage for Satanic Dagga Orgy. The group appears on stage in speedos (or was that g-strings?). Not quite as hardcore as their name suggests, but they still provide some bawdy entertainment and make sure that the festival gets kicked into fifth gear. Ready? Absolutely!
We work in frequent trips to the tent to refill squeezy bottles with vodka, and to put on warm clothes. ‘Don’t spend too much credit on that card on the first day’, comes the ever-present reminder every now and then.
We catch Bye Beneco on the Main Stage. I’ve seen them on more intimate stages at other festivals, and are always impressed, but the Main Stage takes away a bit of their authentic dreamy tones and beats. We leave mid-set and move to the Skellum Stage for Wonderboom.
Wonderboom has been around longer than most other bands, in fact they have been around since the first Oppi! They are known for their live performances, and they show the massive crowd exactly why.
The highlight of the night, though, goes to The Narrow. All I can say is, they bring the rock ‘n roll in a big way – Hanu de Jong is one of the best local rock vocalists. Impressed.
Before we realise it, it’s 01:00 and the trip to the Top Bar seems a bit far. I appease my mind by saying to myself ‘it’s only the first night’, and it works a little bit – Last year I wasn’t so clever.
Day 2 – The MIDDLE
Our Saturday kicks off with a kaas and konfyt roosterkoek from Kobus se Gat (Oppikoppi has the best food stalls ever, by the way!). The doughy koek lines the stomach so intensely, you can drink an entire bottle of tequila and only get drunk 6 hours later… okay not quite, but something like that. We then make a turn at the Bruilof Stage to watch Adelle Nqeto as part of Oppiboosh.There’s a festive atmosphere in the air as groups of earlyish birds enter the grounds. Some never learn that first-night lesson…
The Top Bar (my absolute favourite!) is our next mission. Nothing quite compares to the Top Bar. Rumour has it that some people go up there on Friday, and only get down once the festival is over. So, up we go to the magical bar where it all started 22 years ago…
The Mitten Fits are up and I enjoy their laid-back vibe. The bar and stage area fills up and the tequila starts flowing. Adventure Man is next and we stay for a few songs. Never heard of them before, but quite a good pick for a lunch hour set at the toppie-stage!
We mission into Mordor later to look for the naked run (not quite sure why!), but we give up somewhere in Piet Botha Weg later. Prawn Central proved to be a bit too much so early in the day.
Back inside the belly of the festival, we join the large audience at the Comedy Stage. A festival is not a festival without a comedy stage, and Oppikoppi’s comedy is always outstanding! Veteran, Melt Sieberhagen was a favourite among the crowds, but the entire group did a great job to create a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere.
At 15h on Saturday afternoon the media were invited by Jose Cuervo to have some tequila and hamburgers on the Cuervo deck with Jon Savage. Their awesome team treated us to delicious tequila cocktails and shots made with the new Special Edition Especial® Silver Tequila. Thanks team!
The night was still young with Sannie Fox, Valiant Swart, Aking and Fokofpolisiekar on the line-up. First up, the queen of SA rock, Sannie Fox. She’s as souful as she is powerful (and did I mention beautiful!). An awesome set from the singer-songwriter – And props to Hezron Chetty for joining her on the violin for one song, incredible!
Later, legend Valiant Swart played at the Top Bar to a crowd of appreciative old and young. A soothing, familiar set from die Mystic Boer. To me, Valiant (together with Koos Kombuis, Gert Vlok Nel, etc.) represents the Top Bar. Hint – You can find a few golden old kiekies of them inside the bar Go check it out!
Regular Oppikoppi rockers aKing was up next. They drew a massive crowd as usual. Like me, most 20-somethings will always feel a sense of nostalgia when the four perform, and the dancing will come automatically, but their set was just a little bit too drained. We need new songs or a different set…
Fokofpolisiekar drew the biggest crowd of the night by far. For a moment we considered making our way to the front, but decided against it – We know the songs, we know their set, we may as well listen to it in the comfort of our own spaces. Die Bende did, however, give the masses what they came for – Loud Afrikaans rock, amplified by Wynand’s leaps and kicks, Francois’ crowd surfing and Snake’s mad drumming skills.
After their final song, we head back to the media area to refill drinks, and come across a neat bonfire with only two lonely souls enjoying the warmth. This, dear readers, is Eldorado in the belly of the beast…
Day 3 –The UNSEA
Woke up on Sunday feeling less than fantastic.
But it’s the big internationals day! YelaWolf, August Burns Red and Kongos. But first, we pack in as many local acts as we can.
Strait-Jackal and Fever Dogs are both new to me, and I enjoyed them thoroughly. Quality local music. The Jackals from Benoni offered us some funk, while the Dogs provided us with some proper rock ‘n roll – A good mix for a good dag-dronk Sunday!
We caught a few songs of 7th Son in between ordering vegetarian springrolls and samosas (you can really eat like a king!), and making that inevitable trip to the loos – the PORTALOOS! Not your favourite time at the festival, but an unavoidable must every now and then. Thanks to all the teams that worked day and night to clean them! Oh and 7th Son had a lekker set so in between!
Medicine Boy were up next on the Skellum Stage. Duo Lucy Kruger and Andre Leo gave an intimate, dreamy set that calmed the hyped up bodies a bit to just appreciate good music for 45 minutes. The two create beautiful music and perform incredibly well together.
A highlight of Oppikoppi 2016 was of course DJ Ready D. The famous Oppikoppi Belt was offered to him this year, and with good reason! The man has been providing South Africa with beats since the 1990s – From Prophets of Da City to Brasse Vannie Kaap. It was an emotional tribute to him, but one well deserved.
A trip to the Top Bar lead to the finding of Ruby Gill – A diamond between the thorns of the vast bushveld; a lady with an enchanting voice that we will hear of for many years to come. A new discovery – Thanks Oppi!
And of course, then it was time for the man himself, Gert Vlok Nel. Few people know of this man’s incredible talents: he is not only a remarkable poet like no other, but also a gifted singer. The ones that got to experience the man behind the name of this year’s festival theme, were only but lucky – An intimate, special set that I will remember forever. Viva The Unsea, viva Gert!
And then Michael Wayne Atha, better known as Yelawolf, graced the Main Stage. It was a moment I had been waiting for for a long time… I really had no idea what to expect from the American bad boy. I know Yelawolf as an interesting… phenomena, a hip hop artist from Alabama signed by Eminem’s recording company, Shady Records.
Sometimes you stumble upon artists that try to be rough and thuggish and don’t succeed at all, but I have a feeling Yelawolf is not even trying hard – It’s who he is. He spits out lyrics like an old Southern auctioneer, but the exactness with which he hits every word is remarkable.
An unlikely rapper, but an intriguing one. Cool choice Oppi!
August Burns Red was up next. Do you know that they’ve been nominated for a Grammy? Probably irrelevant, but once you see them live, you’ll see why the world has taken notice. DPC did an interview with drummer Matt Greiner a few weeks before the festival, and I realised they aren’t only extraordinary musicians, but genuinely good guys.
Their set was everything and more I had hoped for – Solid, loud and precise. Vocalist Jake Luhrs impressed the crowd over and over with his strong voice, powering through their songs. A big 10/10 for the 5-piece and a massive 10 for Oppi for bringing them!
At last we made the mission over the hill to the Redbull Stage – A traditional necessity. Tommy Gun provided some good beats to accompany the dancing that followed on the last night.
On Monday we slept in – Yes, at Oppikoppi you do that on the last day. We dusted off our faces, hands and feet, and packed our dirty desert igloo into the car.
We left the farm at about 12h00 – I can tell you this: it’s a bitter pill to swallow leaving that gravel road. It’s like leaving family, your home, your good times (yes, it feels like you will never ever have good times again!) and your best friend behind. Sigh.
Oppikoppi you get older, but you get better every year. Other festivals can only learn from your style. Aweeee!!
Top 3 Rock/Metal Acts
August Burns Red
Top 3 Most Legendary Moments
DJ Ready D receiving the Oppikoppi belt
Gert Vlok Nel at the Top Bar
The Narrow’s Lonely Lonely
Top 3 Strangest Moments
Random guy at the Top Bar wearing a carpet and then asking other people why they are wearing carpets
Naked guy slapping his privates at the DJ Ready D set
Eating a rooster koek during the August Burns Red set, right in front of the stage.
Top 3 Most Surprising Acts
Top 3 Most Beautiful Moments
Sunsets on all three days
Seeing the entire festival from the Jose Cuervo deck
Top Bar moments – Valiant, Gert, Ruby, etc.