It's Thursday and torrential rain is falling as we head East on the N4 over the highveld towards Mpumalanga. This is the perfect weather for staying at home, but we're on our way to Mieliepop. In the back of my mind, I keep thinking that maybe weather apps are like fake news and that it won't rain for the next two days at the festival.
But it did. It was my first time at Mieliepop. It's quite a pretty place. I was told that the weather was perfect last year, which I can believe because the festival is organised during a time in which the weather shifts from summer to autumn when the skies are normally crisp blue with a combination of wispy and big billowing clouds. Not so in 2018.
The drive in the rain was mildly intense but luckily the pilot of the VW Polo knew to keep footing the throttle in the mud, so we made it through without getting stuck. After all the rain the dirt road going into the festival grounds got so bad on Friday that no one could go out or come in for a while. Apparently, some of the clientele with their rabid minds accustomed to the perfections of air-conditioned environments got hydrophobic and attempted an escape from the festival but got stuck and blocked the road. Even the Road Scraper doing repairs half slid off the road and got stuck on the hill. Bands couldn't get into the festival to play their shows. It was chaos. Hellcats did the honours of playing an unscheduled, extra show to fill in for acts such as Femi Koya and his band who eventually only got on stage to play their set at around 01:00 a.m. It was a party.
On Saturday the sun was shining and people chilled out, happy for some sun, but seemingly confused by its return after two days in the rain. The festival has big soft green lawns, it's situated in a valley with a lake stretching out to plantations on the opposite shore. You can swim in it as well as take a ride on the Ferry. I missed the Ferry but enjoyed casually strolling around between the different stages and bars. The pool bar area had a pleasant Jurrasic vibe with a waterfall and people raving in a cave. For a moment I thought I had a conversation with Jeff Goldblum about the biochemical correlation between the EDM music and the pelvic movements of the cave people. No no, wait, that must've been the tryptamine. What day was it again?
Somewhere in all the fogginess of memories washed away, not by rain, I can remember DZ Deathrays from Australia came up on the main stage no holds barred, like Crocodile Dundee, and played a great set. And so did most of the local acts whose performances were generally at a much higher level than I can remember from other festivals years ago. With 60 acts performing throughout the weekend, there was a good spread of musical styles, from Bombshelter Beast with their Afro-Balkan music, to Easy Freak with their R&B electro-pop, to electro-DJ's and rock bands. Sticking out particularly in my hazy memory was Radio123 who got me hooked on their 'Mandela Pop' and their song 'Thando' which was on repeat in my head for a couple of days after their show.
It was also really great to see Boo! who were playing a rare show and celebrating 21 years of Monki Punk. Their sound is reminiscent of a bygone era of great South African rock. As if it's been cryogenically frozen, Boo! has remained completely unique in their sound and don't seem to have been afflicted by the allures of making generic music for more likes. Although only performing as a two-piece Guerilla Punk outfit, between Chris Chameleon's vocal extravaganzas and his syncopated bass playing, he and Rivar, the drummer, even vocalised the absent Ampie Omo's brass-lines noot-vir-Noot. It was a great performance, and for me, one of the highlights of the music at the festival.
On Sunday morning the roads were in functional order again as the sun had been shining since the day before. Feeling kind of relieved to be heading back home I realised the rain could've made things much worse had the festival not been, organised as well as it was. Maybe for some, it was a little too intense with all the rain, but hey… it's a festival, not a Day Spa. Debauchery ought to be the order of the day, so what is a bit of rain on top of it? Kudos to the organisers and the musicians, and generally all the good festival folk for making Mieliepop 2018 a kak lekke vibe.
Mieliepop Gallery - Photos by Henry Engelbrecht