Written by : Daniella Alasca Olivier
Photography by : ItsNot Phair Photography (@itsnotphair)
“Join us at the Dickies’ Dirt track and succumb to the smell of petrol and the roaring of the V8 engines,” proclaimed the MC. I had not even had the chance to take in my change of surroundings properly but these words stuck in my head all day long. It was as if I had spent my life growing up in Alabama and had walked into the fairgrounds which bought all us Southern-types together annually. I had never witnessed so much leather, studs, cowboy hats and boots in one environment and anxiously left the car feeling far from ‘bad-ass’ enough. These people take this shit super seriously.
The grounds for the festival was set up very similarly to any general festival except the merchant tents had a Southern twist; hay stacks and diner-styled hot dog stands galore. Almost every woman was adorned in bedazzled threads, pinup updos and red lips, which was being maintained by the talents at SCAR Hair and Mac Cosmetics. The man-folk below 40 seemed to have kept things way chilled but their Pops and Grand-Dads (I’m sure there were some there), would not rid themselves of their sweltering leather jackets regardless of the almost unbearable heat of the African sun. Parents had obviously taken the effort to let their kids reflect their penchant towards Western country life and so there were even more reasons for me to feel less in with this crowd.
I realize that some, like me, may not know about Rockabilly and all it entails. Rockabilly was born in the USA in the 50’s and is considered to be one of the earliest forms of rock and roll music. Bands like Kings of Leon and The White Stripes even draw from some forms of Rockabilly which is presently known as Neo-Rockabilly. Interestingly enough, it was often called ‘hillbilly music.” Pinups, hot rods, rat rods and tattoos are all keywords in the Rockabilly kingdom. Generally these guys remind me of pirates (minus the sea); as I envisioned the true Rockabilly life as pub brawls, scantily-clad barmaids and thick bearded men. I may be overgeneralizing but I will tell you that majority of the attendants of this festival definitely had this vibe.
The main stage played host to a solid line-up of bands and DJs all drawing from their rock ‘n roll roots to entertain the festivalgoers. Country, bluegrass, psychobilly, and simple acoustic tunes floated off the stage and into the crowds. As the day progressed, the festival attendants sat comfortably in the sun in front of the stage. There was a country cover of Gin and Juice which blew my mind. Them Tornado’s were set to play at 8 sharp. They are a psycho rockabilly band that have been around Cape Town for ten years and are definitely worth checking out along with The Vodun Haunts and Th’Damned Crows who all performed at the festival too.
The festival had also set up a Bike Polo and Roller derby arena in its centre. Bike Polo was pretty easy to understand as it is pretty much normal Polo except on a bicycle. Most of the time men were riding their bicycles into one another but it was pretty fun to watch. I still do not understand Roller derby though, the girls look awesome in team shirts and rollers but at some stages it looked as though they were going to beat the hell out of one another. Next to that was an installation from AM I COLLECTIVE, a collection of hand painted model hotrods had been worked on by graphic designers, illustrators and tattoo artists and were to be sold off through a silent auction for charity. It was interesting to see the different takes on the designs plastered over the cars as each artist had their own influences to draw from. Some of the works displayed were by NinjaBreadBoy, Alessandro Burzacchi and Marlize Eckard. For a festival, the first of its kind (that I know of) in the Western Cape, it was well prepared for all the diverse individuals attending.
At least it wasn’t long before we’d spotted familiar faces in the beer tent and as we’d tricked the Old Sherry promoters into one too many shots, things began to make a bit more sense. I’d even say that we all might have a bit of Country somewhere in us, and that watching what could be your neighbour race his car around a dirt track is an interest carried by all mankind. Yes, we deny it but deep down we do want to succumb to the sound of the V8 engine and spit tobacco at things. I know… generalizing, again. Regardless, I did think all these things for a while, well until we had spotted the old Confederate flag of the States hanging over the main stage. Now I don’t want to nit-pick here and it could all have to do with the theme of the event but I can’t say that sat well with me. We’re well past those days.
As the day came to an end we were entertained by a man drunkenly jumping into the dam and two girls hissing at one another for about half an hour about who Johnny belonged to, or some shit like that. I felt for those staying over at the event because all I could see was a shoot-off going down between these two females and the dragging in of too many innocent others. I digress, nonetheless as the sun set and the cool, cold air filled the grounds it was time for us to make our way back to the society we know and leave this one behind. For a little while, we had all left the comfort of the Mother City and gathered together somewhere in Minnesota and observed Rockabilly bending it’s tattooed elbow over at the bar.
My final summation; Rockabilly is pretty cool now and then but let’s not get too carried away.