Day 1: The fox arrives
On a hill above the valley there was a wood.
In the wood there was a huge tree.
Under the tree there was a hole.
In the hole lived Mr Fox and Mrs Fox and their four small foxes.
We arrive at the farm after a long drive and promptly stake out our campsite. We colonise a huge space for the many people camping with us. And then beer. It’s the day before the festival. The calm before the storm. The quiet before the hunt. And the foxes are hungry.
We go on a hunt for Wayde and Alexander before bringing out a bottle of wine. The night is cold. This is what we’ve been counting down to.
Much wine and singing ensues as we prepare ourselves for three days of madness.
Day 2: The fox goes on a hunt
“My dear Foxy!” cried Badger. “What in the world has happened to your tail?”
We get up early, and we’re having breakfast booze. The farm reeks of dust, beer, smoke and excitement as we gear up to watch some bands.
Atom Band opens the festival for us and they’re a good wake-up with their post-punk style. They sound like they’re a mix of the ’70s and ’90s rolled into one with simplicity that makes for easy listening.
Japan and I give us some much-needed energy as we take in what we’ve been looking forward to for a while. The vibe is already incredible. There is no clear ‘scene’ dominating the festival as there are people from all walks of life all around.
I step on a rock or something and injure my ankle, but it doesn’t stop me. This festival is way too epic to miss due to a relatively small injury.
After getting geared up for the evening, we see The Curious Incident from the UK, whose maniacal energy gets us warmed up for aKing and the New Academics.
The Parlotones were a bone of contention for the festival, with fans wanting more and some saying that Oppikoppi was selling out. I think they were a great addition to the festival, playing old and new hits and their professionalism shining through. Yes, some may say they’ve sold out. I reckon that as much as some of their songs sound the same, they’re still a polished act that you don’t have to watch if you don’t want to.
The highlight of Friday was The New Academics. Armed with a tiger onesie and sick beats, the band ripped through their hits and got everyone on their feet.
Day 3: The fox gets drunk
“You’re drunk!” said Mr Fox.
“Mind your own business!” shrieked Rat.
Saturday was drinking day as all our friends got together and played drinking games with craft beer on tap.
We could hear Made for Broadway’s craziness and the dad rock of State Society from our campsite, and we enjoyed taking in the feel of the festival while we caught up with friends.
Gerald Clark and Luna Paige brought the sunset in with sweet harmonies, beautiful piano and guitar work and stunning voices. And we went back to camp jamming on the giant porcupine.
The conversation that ensued at camp was about horse penises and the zombie apocalypse. Fun. More drinking and then warming up for the night.
Oppikoppi is very different from every other music festival in the country. It’s as if time moves faster and everything is a blur. But at night, time stands still and the stars exist only for you. You take in the dust and let it become part of you. You let it seep into your soul.
Livingstone from the UK brings in the evening, the best part of which was a cover of the Springbok Nude Girls’ Blue Eyes. They were pretty average and their instrumentation was a hell of a lot better than when the vocals kicked in.
The Black Cat Bones set the bar very high for the evening with energy beyond compare, but then everyone converged on the James Phillips stage for what would be the performance of the night. Tweak, in a reunion show, brought back our teen years with a vengeance, with more swearing than a sailor’s pub and raining penises. Their hits like House Party and Birthday Card had everyone on their very sore feet and their covers of Blink 182 and Green Day took us back to yesteryear.
Tatran from Israel were fantastic musically, but kind of killed the mood a little. It was Desmond and the Tutus that woke us all up with their silliness and mania that had us all doing The German Modern and singing along to Pretoria Girls.
The Nomadic Orchestra pulled out all the stops and had us jiving to the tuba and their electric energy that was almost tangible. Afterwards, we headed back to camp still dancing, to be greeted by a fire and good conversation until 3am.
Day 4: The fox’s great feast
“To Mr. Fox!” they all shouted, standing up and raising their glasses. “To Mr. Fox! Long may he live!”
As the sun rose, so did our spirits for the final day.
We spent most of the morning chilling around the campsite trying to escape the heat and only really surfaced from our camp chairs to get another craft beer, which we had on tap courtesy of the Three Stags brewery.
It was for Johnny Clegg that we all made our way to the stages to hear this legend play. Between songs like Impi, Scatterlings of Africa and Asimbonanga, Clegg told us stories of his life and musical career, which brought the 20 000-strong crowd to tears. After his set, the entire crowd burst into the national anthem, which was a heart-warming and moving experience.
Karen Zoid gave us a lesson in how rock should be performed, with kick-ass attitude and a brilliant voice that filled the entire space with emotion, and Shortstraw were their usual energetic and silly selves.
It was Brand New that captured the night for me with an electrifying performance with a setlist ranging from songs like Sink and Millstone to Degausser and Sowing Season, they showed our locals what a polished act really is.
A highlight for me was hearing Francois Van Coke and Karen Zoid sing Toe Vind Ek Jou from his solo album; a stunning coming together of voices from different walks of the same genre.
But everyone was there for Gogol Bordello. This ridiculous eight-piece gypsy punk band stole people’s hearts with Start Wearing Purple and we were so not prepared for the madness that was to come. It was one-and-a-half hours of sheer craziness, with each instrument commanding our feet to move. It was something beautiful to behold.
Day 5: The fox finally goes home
“Keep it up, my darlings!” shouted Mr. Fox. “We’ll soon be there! Think what’s waiting for us at the other end!”
And just like that, five days later, we were done. Packing up is always a sad affair after Oppikoppi. But in its 21st year, we don’t see this madness stopping any time soon.
It’s always a whirlwind of a time, with dust, silliness and good vibes becoming part of you for the few days on the farm. And as we return home, we vow “Never again.” But we will see you next year, Oppikoppi. Until then.
“They sat there by the hole, waiting for the fox to come out. And so far as I know, they are still waiting.”
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