This past weekend was one I’ll always remember. A few weeks ago, a couple friends and I bought tickets for some random music festival called “Rocking The Daisies” we’d heard about in a nearby town— thinking it would be cool to get out of the city for some time. We just figured “hey it’s music, couldn’t be too different from back home.” So we went. It’s funny how comforting and safe, and even wildly entertaining some of the smallest things that remind us of home can be after being so far away for so long. A good example would be a terrible 90’s comedy we’d find in some drawer at the house. There’d be no shot anyone would pop a bad 90’s comedy in to watch back home— at least not for fun— but here, sometimes a bad movie from the 90’s is the best way to make for an afternoon at the house. Now, this is just to say that sometimes the small things that remind of home can become big cures in a far away place— this is not to compare “Rocking The Daisies” to a bad 90’s film, for to do so would just be wrong. Daisies was an entirely different element.
As the days got closer, we learned it was more than just some music festival close by— Rocking The Daisies is like the Bonnaroo of South Africa, only incredible more tame. Thousands of people travel from all around, even some from different countries, just to attend this four-day, nonstop event. Beginning in 1995, Daisies went all out for their 10-year anniversary. They celebrated it with a bang— 4 days and nights of one massive, non-stop party. People of all shapes, sizes, and colors turned up to celebrate their common love of music and fellowship alongside others in this Rainbow Nation. The atmosphere was a unique and appetizing blend of Southern California style, combined with counterculture hippie vibes from the 1960’s, and a massive university block party— all tied together with the deep and colorful roots of the South African homeland. Set at the Cloof Wine Estate in Darling, thousands gathered to party, listen, laugh, and of course rejoice in the joy of the jive. With everyone there pitching in and playing an equal part in this celebration, it was next to impossible not to have the time of your life.
Perhaps the ones who offered the heaviest load of cheer were the ones sporting ridiculous, multicolored onesies— I’m talking grown men wearing footy-pajamas. At first you’re like, “What the…?” and then you eventually come to realize, “That’s just Daisies.” Some had rabbit ears or antennas, others had tails, but all came with a full dose of goober. Between those wearing the adult-sized onesies, and the classic millennial hippies, there was also no shortage of gym-regulars. In moments when the onesie-wearers and hippies thinned out, and the shirtless dudes grew more common, it was hard not to forget I was at a music festival, and not a thousand man tryout for the national rugby team— ripped and chiseled physiques strutted around in every area. The combination of everyone’s differences, all thrown together in celebration of the same thing, made for an almost surreal environment.
This festival featured some big names and some of the best bands and artists around. With endless live music going on in nearly 5 different places at once, it was impossible to go to the wrong show— the only thing that mattered was what you were feeling at the time. If it was high energy you wanted, the Electronic Dome brought it; if you needed a good laugh, the Lemon Tree Theater imported fantastic stand up comedians to do just the trick; and, if you simply wanted to unwind, kick back, relax, and listen to some soothing folk music, or have structured conversation about important issues, or maybe even just play a board game, then the Hemp Stage could give you just that. No matter what state of mind, or what type of mood came upon someone, it seemed that RTD provided a solution.
Maybe the only thing RTD couldn’t give a solution for was the shower line in the morning. People lined up for hours waiting for their moment of sudsy bliss in a hot water shower. Somehow though, perhaps by some act of a higher power, all seemed happy to wait their turn. The real winners in this battle were the ones who just forewent shower time and carried on— however, I’m sure their tent-mates would beg to differ.
Knowing bands like Milky Chance and The Kooks were shoo-ins for the weekend highlight reel, perhaps the greatest surprise of the weekend was the breathtaking performance delivered from Australia’s Cat Empire. This band presented the gift of music in an uncommon package for a weekend music festival, but it certainly hit the spot. With almost as many instruments on the stage as the London Symphony Orchestra, this crew offered a sound totally different and unique from all the others. Cat Empire combined an uncommon mix of brass instruments, an upright base, and electric vibes for their performance. Overall, it seemed everyone agreed that they were simply masterful.
Out of all the other fantastic groups that didn’t get a chance to perform on the Main Stage, the local band Manouche took the crown for the weekend’s “Hidden Gem” award. They call their style “Gypsy Jazz,” and they taught us a little something about their way. With killer vocals and infectious energy from the band’s lead singer, Anneli Kamfer, combined with outstanding background musicians and vocals, this group was a must see. Who wouldn’t want to get behind a fantastic local band like this anyway?
When the weekend finally came to a close— sadly, but surely— people packed up their tents, picked up their trash, and made their way back to wherever they came from. With recycling and trash dispensers around nearly every corner, this eco-friendly event worked hard to make cleaning up after yourself seem easy. One of the few mottos for Daisies is “Play Hard, Tread Lightly,” and they gave us the inspiration and the means by which to have great memories, yet leave a small footprint after our departure. Cheers to Rocking The Daisies for paving the way— an incredible festival that doesn’t lose sight of the rest of the world.