Thursday, December 13, 2012

Synergy much? #travel #entertainment

Under normal circumstances, the DH and I *don’t* do music festivals. Beyond the expected glut of inebriated youngsters, dust, excessive UV radiation, lack of civilised ablution facilities and typhoid-inducing food, we’re also not great fans of roughing it in a tent. The list goes on…

But on Saturday, December 1, we were tempted from the comfort of the Treehaus and indulged in a mini road trip to Theewaterskloof Dam to attend part of Synergy. Of course it helped that we had VIP media pass status thanks to the fact that we were, technically, working. (Or at least the DH was – put to work filming Th’Damned Crows perform on the LMG stage early that evening.)

Me? I went along for the ride. It’d been more than a decade since I’d last attended any sort of big live music festival (not since Wingerdstok 1997, if my half-addled brain serves to correctly inform me).

Very happy to reach Strandfontein intersection... 
Since we live in the far south Cape Peninsula, we felt we’d do the sensible thing and take our usual route along the False Bay coast. This way takes a bit longer than the N2 National Road, but it’s definitely prettier, with much of it passing through the Wolfgat Nature Reserve.

But first, the detour…

The southeaster, our wonderful summery prevailing wind, was howling. This meant that half the beach on the False Bay Coast was crawling across our intended route. The result: road closed. The way the husband figured it, we had two options: backtrack up along the M5 north then join the notorious N2 where the two intersect or… Google Maps! Yay! And uncharted territory for us through the Cape Flats.

The main stage at Synergy
Big-ass disclaimer: what you see on Google Maps is in no way a guarantee that your eventual arrival at your destination will be a) on time or b) go smoothly. Please also take cognisance of the fact that we were aiming to traverse a densely populated suburb on a Saturday afternoon shortly after payday. Everyone was a) either going to the beach or b) going home after a hard morning’s shopping.

The logical wifely suggestion was: “Dear, it might be a longer route to go via the M5 but it’s a highway, and we’ll be on the National Road soon enough, and then we can drive like all the demons of hell want to drink our blood quite happily.”

The DH knew better, of course. So in the time that it took us to sit in the traffic *trying* to get into Fifth Avenue from the M5 (where we could already have made it to the N2) we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic through Grassy Park’s CBD… Then in the detoured traffic trying to get into Strandfontein. A word to those who try the same: the outlying areas outside Strandfontein are still agricultural. They farm onions and cabbage, and fertilise with pig shit (or human shit). Either way, it was 36ºC outside, we didn’t have aircon, and we sat in congested traffic next to these wonderfully fragrant fields… For a long, long time.

These guys had the greasy food vibe totally pegged
Needless to say, I was very, very happy when we rejoined the R310 at Strandfontein (while a little voice in the back of my head said that if we’d followed my route, we’d have been ascending Sir Lowry’s pass by now). For the sake of marital relations, I bit my tongue. Hard.

Anyhoo, we took the scenic route via Grabouw, through apple country and into the Hottentots-Holland mountains. [Cue the soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings films.] Yes. It’s that pretty. Try to contrive a visit here during spring when the orchards are in blossom.

Of course the weather wasn’t really playing along. Though iGoogle lied and said we’d have thunderstorms, the Cape weather said it’d only go halfway, so we had messy, bruised clouds and a howling southeaster which whipped up dust and was hell on my sinuses. Husband and I parked the car and ventured forth, obscenely glad we were not camping because hell, it was broiling hot.

Theewaterskloof Dam looking suitably gloomy
Synergy is one of those festivals that’s got a little bit of everything. This year the big act everyone was working themselves into a frothy about was The Prodigy. But they played on the Friday night and we honestly couldn’t be arsed to mission through for that. But if you’re looking for a way to dip into a large variety of local acts, some new, some old, then you’d be spoiled for choice due to the main stage and the smaller tent. Also, there was comedy (apparently) and they sensibly kept the dance/electro DJs very far away from the live music.

Apparently the ablution facilities were aces (which was a big improvement on past festival experiences for me), and there were loads of vendors supplying all manner of culinary treats. The DH and I had calamari burgers from the one, and were impressed by the size of the portions, and also the price (student fare, if you ask me). I noted that the vendor also sold painkillers and coffee (reckon he’d cornered the market). Lots of greasy, greasy food to make up for that morning after the night before, hey.

The LMG tent with The Dollfins on stage
On Saturday everyone was gaaning aan about watching Jack Parow, which was apparently the big act for the evening (or at least the one I kept hearing about) but yeah, as stated before, we were there for our mates Th’Damned Crows who were performing in the LMG tent. Happy little goth that I am, I was glad we were in a tent. Have to keep my ghastly pallor out of the African sun. And I bounced around screaming and hollering, and instigating the well-aimed tossing of underwear (thanks for lending us your shocking pink bra, Marie). For those who don’t know Th’Damned Crows, they’re a rockabilly band from Cape Town, with a mean, voodoo-blues edge courtesy of their harp-man, Zoltan. And Liam really does illegal things to that upright bass. All in all they are consummate showman and all are seasoned musicians who know exactly how to entertain.

I must make mention of my new discovery, The Dollfins, a three-piece female-fronted punk band from Cape Town. I’d love to see them again and was glad to make their acquaintance. They played before Th’Damned Crows and got the crowd all worked up.

The marketplace... Lots to buy
Overall my experiences at Synergy were good. If I get the opportunity to go again, I will, though this time I’ll look at booking into a B&B in the area instead of camping. As always, I found myself trying to avoid being pawed by drunk teenage boys, who conveniently ignored the fact that I had a husband hovering nearby. Oh, and watch where you walk because there are often bodies sprawled at inconvenient spots. I expect these are the kids who couldn’t afford to drive up to Plett to celebrate the end of their school daze. Some things never change. Lots of people smoking weed quite openly. Don’t think there’s any way for a ban on *that* to be enforced. One thing that has changed since those early Wingerdstok festivals is the amount of brands setting up their own tented vibes. Indoctrination much? Also, since I don’t drink booze, I was annoyed that SAB dominated the bar, which meant no non-alcoholic beer. Also, courtesy of Red Bull there was lots of that horrid energy drink, and at half the price one’d normally pay… Yuck. So no prizes guessing what I drank. What was left of my poor liver nearly died but on the plus side I was nominally alert to help the DH on the drive back.

Zoltan, Liam and Ronnie showing some muscle.
 At 9pm, the DH and I said our farewells. Our friends all looked a bit dusty and frayed around the edges by then and, although we had a two-hour drive back to the far south Cape Peninsula, we were more than happy to take to the road. Rather two hours’ drive than a night listening to our neighbours brag about how much they’d been drinking/smoking and where they’d puked. We’d stayed long enough to enjoy ourselves and be glad that we were able to go home before we turned into pumpkins. And I was certain there’d be hundreds of pumpkins on Sunday morning.

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