Daisies rocks like a sea­soned pro

What the fest lacked in all-out spec­ta­cle it made up for in lo­gis­ti­cal gloss, with the new cash­less pay­ment sys­tem a boon

Mail & Guardian - - Music - Matthew Right­ford

The first Rock­ing the Daisies took place in 2005, mak­ing this year’s edi­tion the 13th it­er­a­tion of the mu­sic and life­style fes­ti­val that took place last week­end at Cloof Wine Es­tate just out­side Dar­ling in the West­ern Cape.

With 25 000 tick­ets sold, Rock­ing the Daisies 2017 saw its largest au­di­ence to date — one of the many mile­stones in the fes­ti­val’s re­cent his­tory.

Steyn En­ter­tain­ment bought the fes­ti­val and its Jo­han­nes­burg satel­lite event, In the City, from Seed Ex­pe­ri­ences in April last year. “Our vi­sion is to take them to the next level in terms of pro­duc­tion val­ues, line-up and tech­ni­cal de­sign, ce­ment­ing their place on the in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­val cir­cuit,” said Ge­orge Avakian of Steyn En­ter­tain­ment at the time.

Fol­low­ing the shift in own­er­ship, the fes­ti­val seemed to broaden its fo­cus to ac­com­mo­date its com­mer­cial value and po­ten­tially even greater ap­peal. The in­tro­duc­tion of a hiphop stage in 2016, an­nounce­ment of Amer­i­can rap­per and pro­ducer Mac Miller as a head­liner and book­ing of South African rap­per AKA all sig­nalled the fes­ti­val’s ac­knowl­edge­ment of hip-hop hav­ing be­come pop mu­sic on a global scale, as well as its lo­cal com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity.

This no­tion was car­ried through into 2017, with lo­cal hip-hop artists such as Riky Rick and Cassper Ny­ovest mak­ing ap­pear­ances on the main stage, and DJ Black Cof­fee mak­ing an ap­pear­ance as an iconic rep­re­sen­ta­tive of South African house mu­sic.

The fes­ti­val set-up was sim­pli­fied, fea­tur­ing a main stage, a hip-hopthemed stage re­ferred to as the Trap House, the Elec­tronic Dome, the Beach Bar and a few smaller stages.

Lo­gis­ti­cally, it was per­haps the best Rock­ing the Daisies ex­pe­ri­ence yet.

Con­sid­er­ing that this year’s at­ten­dance was the high­est to date, it never felt like it. This may have been in­flu­enced by the cash­less trans­ac­tion sys­tem that al­lowed fes­ti­val­go­ers to load cash on to a chip on their fes­ti­val wrist­band. This erad­i­cated al­most all queu­ing — es­pe­cially at the var­i­ous bars, where long lines used to be the main source of the limited frus­tra­tion pa­trons ex­pe­ri­enced at the fes­ti­val.

The cu­ra­tion of the var­i­ous stages was an­other fac­tor in this year’s suc­cess, as each stage had a clear pur­pose and there­fore, at any given time, the fes­ti­val’s au­di­ence was equally split among the four largest stages.

Of course, the main stage would see flocks of in­com­ing fans when some of the big­ger artists were on stage, but it never felt nearly as crowded as pre­vi­ous years, when it seemed like the en­tire fes­ti­val was at one stage.

From a purely mu­si­cal per­spec­tive, Daisies’ ac­knowl­edge­ment of its com­mer­cial power was both suc­cess­ful and un­suc­cess­ful in its ef­fects. The pos­i­tive side was the lo­gis­ti­cal ben­e­fits; the neg­a­tive spin-off was a sense of com­pro­mise in gen­eral per­for­mance value and that all-im­por­tant fes­ti­val sta­ple: spec­ta­cle.

But of course, this is highly sub­jec­tive. From a mu­sic lover’s per­spec­tive, if you have a stronger pre­fer- ence for band mu­sic you may find DJ sets an­ti­cli­mac­tic in their lack of live in­stru­men­ta­tion, and those who en­joy hip-hop may find band per­for­mances lack­ing in en­ergy. It is this in­con­sis­tency in en­ergy, per­for­mance and spec­ta­cle that made this year’s main stage seem less im­pres­sive than was the case in pre­vi­ous years. How­ever, as hip-hop be­comes more of a sta­ple at the fes­ti­val, rap­pers and bands alike will prob­a­bly in­tro­duce new and ex­cit­ing el­e­ments to their per­for­mances to en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence for the au­di­ence.

Stand­out per­for­mances would have to be Black Cof­fee, Cape Town song­bird Alice Phoebe Lou, Xhosa folk-soul artist Bongeziwe Ma­bandla, in­ter­na­tional head­lin­ers Joey Bada$$ and Two Door Cin­ema Club.

The Elec­tronic Dome was the most con­sis­tent and im­pres­sive stage in terms of pro­duc­tion value, with light­ing and vi­su­als as con­stant sources of stim­u­la­tion.

High­lights here in­cluded gqom am­bas­sador and pi­o­neer DJ Lag, lo­cal leg­ends Si­bot x Toy­ota, DJ/pro­ducer Snake­hips from the United King­dom and Ital­ian DJ/pro­ducer Sam Pa­ganini.

The Trap House, how­ever, proved a point of con­tention as the stage was dec­o­rated to re­sem­ble the run­down, graf­fiti-cov­ered fa­cade of a real “trap house” — a col­lo­quial term for a drug den. Although strong con­no­ta­tions re­lat­ing to the mak­ing, sell­ing and con­sump­tion of drugs ex­ist in trap mu­sic (as they do in other gen­res), it seems im­mensely ir­re­spon­si­ble and lazy for a fes­ti­val to fur­ther en­trench de­struc­tive themes as an “easy” way for fes­ti­val­go­ers to re­late to the mu­sic be­ing played.

This crit­i­cism aside, the stage was well at­tended and man­aged to hold a con­sis­tently full crowd through­out the fes­ti­val, with im­pres­sive per­for­mances from Cape Town em­cees Patty Mon­roe and YoungstaCPT.

De­spite the sense of a slight com­pro­mise in per­for­mance qual­ity, par­tic­u­larly on the main stage, Rock­ing the Daisies 2017 was highly suc­cess­ful in mak­ing more progress to­wards re­al­is­ing its true po­ten­tial as an in­no­va­tive fes­ti­val.

There didn’t ever seem to be any clear cases of an­i­mos­ity be­tween fes­ti­val­go­ers and the sense of har­mony one hopes to get from a mu­sic fes­ti­val was cer­tainly present.

It’s clear that the grow­ing pains in the fes­ti­val’s jour­ney sig­nal the be­gin­ning of its next ex­cit­ing chap­ter.

Fes­ti­val high­lights: PHFAT (above) Two Door Cin­ema Club (left) and DJ Lag (be­low) at Rock­ing the Daisies in Dar­ling.

Pho­tos: Jonathan Fer­reira/Red Bull Con­tent Pool

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