Let me make it quite clear that when Griff asked me to write a review on the STRAB fest, I was not only excited by the prospect of forcing my opinion on innocent people, but also made it very clear that I would be drinking excessively and would probably only watch all my tjommies’ bands. I’m quite happy to say I saw most of my tjommies play and even got to see a few guys I had never heard of.
My traveling party and I were set to leave Fourways at around midnight on the Wednesday of the festival, but were so excited we jumped the gun and hit the road with no sleep in a courtesy car (which incidentally took a large amount of effort to get up to Joburg). Massive hugs to my little sis Nicky for going the extra 1400 KM’s just so that I could get my drink on in style. My crew were all from Cape Town and were all STRAB virgins so excitement levels were at an all-time high, until we hit Ermelo where it was colder than a witch’s clitoris. By the time we hit Josini Dam we were slightly warmer and ready to take on all the rum Mozambique had to offer. It was only once we hit Kosi Bay that we realized we never had mattresses… luckily we managed to buy some foam jobbies for R 200, best money we spent all weekend.
Of course the border police were looking for bribes of any sorts but we managed to get through without lining any of their manky little pockets. After gaining entry into Mozambique we hit another minor hurdle…the courtesy bakkie was not a 4X4.
Fortunately I had an Afrikaans person in the car with me and as everybody knows, rockspiders and bakkies are like peas and carrots. So with a lot of speed, a near head on collision and a few jumps, which would have been proudly endorsed by Evil Knievel, we finally got to Ponta Malongane. We only later realized that we chose the campsite furthest from the bar and stage, this resulted in every person in our crew getting severely drunk and lost at some point over the weekend. Our traveling party included 4 people from Oppikoppi and 3 from Ramfest, together we have set up 2 of the country’s major festivals but between us we couldn’t muster up a single chair, braai grid or even a glass. Clearly we were on holiday and had taken leave of our senses as well.
As soon as we were setup we headed straight to the bar and starting caning it, not even the bees in our drinks could slow us down. Sadly in my drunken state I missed a collaboration I was meant to do with Captain Barbarosa, I am still bleak about this as Pedro and I got together a few nights earlier to write a track especially for STRAB. He did however repay me with a painted face in a very dark corner of the forest later that weekend.
Sadly not everybody shared our good spirits, after we painted one of our friends green and sent him to the bar, one old timer decided a sucker punch was in order. When ‘The Hulk’ hit the ground he was quickly helped up by two strangers, one dressed as Spiderman and the other Superman, I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried. Fortunately justice was swift and Old Man River got a little pop on the snout which kept him subdued for the rest of the weekend. Once again apologies to the organizers for the little spectacle and we cross our hearts and promise to never ever do it again.
First act we got to see was one of The Bearded Ladies DJ’ing at the Top Bar and this set still goes down as one of the all-time highlights of all my STRAB festivals. The Bearded lady was banging out beats that had us all on the tables and even had Bluesman aka ‘the chick whisperer’ Gerald Clarke lost his composure and bust the occasional move. The party got very messy and we all fell off tables, a few times. Award for most unsteady on his little green hooves went to ’The Hulk’ who had by this stage become somewhat of a legend amongst his fellow strabbers.
Thursday morning I was rudely awoken by what I thought was a free roaming Grizzly bear, much to my disappointment it was the snoring of a random dolly who had passed out in our tent. Not even a half-naked Hulk sprawled out across the floor scared this little winner off.
Thursday was our most chilled day. After our shenanigans the night before we decided it would be wise if we avoided the stage area that evening so we spent a good few hours with 10L of premix rum n raspberry and lots of giggles on the beach. We sat behind the stage and caught both Gerald Clarke and Stefan Dixon’s sets, which were really great and once again reminded us that we were in fact in rock n roll paradise. I have been saying it for years, Gerald really is one of the most talented artists in this country and if I had the money I would definitely invest in his travels abroad. Once the hunger set in we headed to the restaurant to order a pizza, sadly the two hour wait killed what was left of our vibe and we retired to bed. This is the only thing I believe STRAB could work on for next year, the restaurant food is not only overpriced but seriously shite. Maybe next year they can get one or two vendors in, would be nice to buy a cup of coffee to help with the morning hangovers.
Friday morning started with an adventure to Ponto where we enjoyed some great food and even better cocktails. I did however bump into Tam (SGQ) who made it very clear that she would not be happy if I performed drunk that evening, I’m proud to say for the next few hours I kept my shit together. From Ponto we headed to the stage, where we were blown away by Mr Cat and the Jackal who showcased almost their entire new album. Pierre who plays percussion and just about everything else he can get his hands on was a standout and I have to give the man props for dropping some of the most beautiful vocal harmonies. Next up were Feed the Wolf, and I still say Jean is the best rhythm guitarist in this country, making me think that a Not My Dog set at Strab might not be the worst idea. Just before SGQ went on, Mrs B played their last show. What a ripper, but slightly bittersweet, gonna miss those crazy putas.
I don’t really want to talk about my own performance much but I thought Southern Gypsey Queen with the two new members Jaco Mans and Nathan Smit played a banger of a set. It was an emotional one for both us and the audience, STRAB was one of Paul’s favorite shows to play and Nathan did him proud. We were also joined by Albert Frost for a song we wrote with him called ‘chains’. With Tam howling like a banshee and Jaco and Albert dueling guitars I had to step back and just acknowledge how great this moment was. Tam and I had a little cry afterwards and then got ready to get our party on. Next up were our homeboys Black Cat Bones and Fake Leather Blues Band who did the versus show, I did enjoy it but to be honest I would have preferred to have seen each band doing their own sets as well.
Thursday night the power went out, so nobody got to see Juggernaught or Boargazm. I’m still highly upset that I never saw Juggernaught but atleast they managed to fit an extra slot in for the varkies. I honestly think that these guys are the tightest metal act in SA. From the main stage we headed up to the deck where I stumbled onto Martin (Wonderboom) and Paul’s (Sugardrive) new hip hop act. This was all I needed to change gears and these guys unique brand of West Rand Hip Hop got me from tipsy to full blown messy in next to no time. With Doctor Khumalo and DJ Bongwater on the decks we all knew this train was about to derail and oh my fuck did it ever. I have been to a lot of odd parties before and seen some sketchy things but STRAB was the first party I ever went to where the only white powder being offered at the bar went onto your balls. Yip you heard right, cocaine for your dangler. Though everybody denied enjoying it you couldn’t help but notice the faraway looks we all had in our eyes, much like a dog having a crap on the beach looking into the distance. My balls have yet to feel that fresh and I am now on a mission to find out what this substance is and organize another ‘balpoeier’ party.
I don’t remember much after this except being woken up on Saturday for a Coelacanth rehearsal, of course this never happened but Andre and I did manage to sneak a few cold vodkas in beforehand. Before Coelacanth hit the stage I guested on a song with Tamryn Jones who played out of her socks, not sure if it was my hungover state but she had me in tears on more than one occasion. After her it was El Cantante’s turn (Cito’s new project). These guys were super slick and a very broken looking Coelacanth knew we were going to have to bring it. I don’t remember much of the set but I was told by very credible sources (well as credible as you get at a music festival ) that we played out of our socks as well. Apparently the black cat bitches had a bet going, not sure what the wager was but to win one of them had to suck my toes which at this point were starting to resemble the claws of a prehistoric bird, just dirtier. I stuck around to watch one of my favorite local acts Naming James do a solo set, I really hope next year they book the whole band and put them on the main stage.
Next up it was snooze time and I hit my R200 foam mattress harder than Ike used to lay the beat down on Tina. Sadly at our tender ages going as hard as we did on Friday definitely put a damper on our Saturday jolling. I did however manage to stay awake to catch Mean Black Mamba, who’s two piece vibes had the entire party on tilt, make a point to see these guys if they are in your hood. Of course I stayed to watch Strab legends Jack Hammer and Albert Frost, who were both firing on all cylinders. It was awesome to see Chris and Jason from BCB backing Albert, hope this is something we will get to see soon again. Sadly fatigue got the better of me and I never managed to see Dan Patlansky who I saw a month or two back at Splashy and he blew my mind, still bleak I missed that.
The next morning we woke up and had to make peace with the fact that we all had to head back to our mundane little lives. I thought of some of the other insane sets I saw but was too drunk to remember which evenings they were on. Akkedis honest rock n roll which had the beach bouncing (love those guys so much) and Scicoustic with Greg Georgiades which was somewhat of a spiritual experience. As good as the party was I did however have regrets that I missed Die See, Willem Welsyn and The Oh So Serious who I believe all had cracker sets, but at parties like this it is impossible to catch them all unfortunately.
Strab is unlike Oppikoppi, Ramfest or Daisies, it doesn’t compete on a level close to them and they don’t try. In my opinion it is equally as important as all the big festivals and has a vibe so unique to itself. Just want to thank Conrad, Hanna and Andries for an amazing weekend. I have done 9 Strabs and this one was the best by far, as long as you keep inviting me I will keep coming back. Had a really special weekend with great people and can’t wait for next year. On my way out I went and said goodbye to Paul Wilson Street one last time, saluted the heavens and went on my merry little way.