Photography courtesy of Peter Abrahams
It was a blustery and gloomy Saturday morning as I progressed down the N1 on my way to witness the first edition of Parklife Festival in Cape Town. It is an already well-established festival in Johannesburg, but this is the first time that the unique fusion of gourmet food and live music shall be finding its way down to Cape Town. This was the test run, and the fate of the festival all rested on the amount of people that BreakOut Media could pack into the Greenpoint Cricket Club. The only problem was that the weather did not seem like it wanted to cooperate with getting people to leave their comfort of their own homes to attend the festival.
With clouds and mist obscuring Table Mountain, the turnout to watch one of South Africa’s best live bands was beyond dismal. I was able to count the amount people watching Grassy Spark on my fingers. However, this does not include the people taking shelter from the elements beneath the beer tent and the food court – even though many of them stared on in passive disinterest as Grassy Spark attempted to combat the dreariness, which the Cape of Storms was throwing at them, with their effervescent and upbeat brand of ska tempered with pop rock influences.
Coincidently, their attempts worked and the sun broke through the clouds while Jon Savage, in his capacity as a brilliant MC, coaxed more people into coming to the front to watch SAMA-nominated pop rock newcomers: Monark. This is what frustrated me about the crowd at Parklife. When you have about 20 people gathered in front of the stage to watch a SAMA-nominated band that has taken South African pop charts, and iTunes charts by storm, then there is something wrong. Perhaps it was the weather, but too often have I attended events like these and seen people completely disregard the premiere line-up of local bands. Luckily, Monark took this all in their stride and decided to work with what they had as lead singer Eugene Coetzer constantly engaged with the meagre crowd, and encouraged them to dance and sing-along as Monark powered through hit singles like “Build It Up”, “Smiling”, and other fan favourites off of their SAMA-nominated debut album Negatives.
It rapidly apparent that the festival organisers were getting worried about the crowd that Parklife was drawing as Savage constantly urged the audience to get on Twitter and encourage people to come to Parklife. Whatever Savage did seemed to work as the crowd swelled shortly before The Plastics took to the stage. However, the nervous smiles of the Righini brothers seemed to suggest that they weren’t particularly happy with the turnout, but South African bands are well-versed with remaining humble in-face of poor crowd participation. They swept through a stellar set of psychedelic indie-pop as they delivered fan-favourite songs and gave us a glimpse of a new song that shall be featured on the new album upon which they are currently working. At this point, I would have started stressing- if it was my festival. The musical embodiment of the spirit of Cape Town, and yet one could have fit the attentive audience into a small bus. If this was my festival, I would be stressed and hoping that the electro rap fury of PHFAT could draw a larger crowd before the international acts took the stage.
A snazzily dressed Mike struts onto the stage with a swaggering sense of purpose, and immediately the crowd grows. I attribute this to the fact that in the past year, PHFAT has taken the live music circuit by the storm with their rabidly energetic brand of disgustingly filthy electro rap. With one single performance, PHFAT prove themselves to be a live act that is perfectly capable of dominating a club stage, performing the evening slot at a major festival, or rocking a lazy 2pm time-slot at a gourmet food and music festival. PHFAT blazed through a heat-seeking set with numerous features from their favourite collaborator: Jung Freud, and promptly set the mood for one of the best life performances I have seen, short off Foo Fighters last year.
American Authors begin setting up their gear, and the excitement is palpable. The crowd behind me has swelled since I last checked before PHFAT’s set, and they’re all here for the same reason: to dance and have a good time. After an introduction from Savage, American Authors stride onto stage one member at a time, and begin teasing us with an instrumental section. Lead singer, Zac Barnett, promptly runs onto stage and launches into a musical frenzy. Barnett has one of the most lively stage personalities that I have seen of any live act. He refuses to stand still and constantly engages with the crowd, and he especially likes climbing onto the barrier to sing into the crowd and conduct crowd sing-alongs. The band powers their way through all the singles off of their debut album Oh, What A Life, and even managed to deliver a beautiful rendition of Coldplay’s “Yellow” – which saw the crowd erupting into passionate sing-along. Although, this was the case with every single song that American Authors performed. This was clearly evident that a visit to South Africa was long overdue. Sadly, their set was over as quickly as it had started, but everyone was left short of breath and with enormous grins on their faces.
It was now time for Jeremy Loops. After what looked like a very stressful set-up and sound-check, South Africa’s golden boy took to the stage for his final show in Cape Town for the next couple of months. He is about to embark on a tour of the US and Uk, and it is clear from his performance that he clearly deserves this accolade. As always, he was accompanied by the effervescent Motheo Moleko and the funky Jamie Faull – who each give their own particular character to Jeremy Loop’s live acts. Jeremy Loops had practically claimed a headlining spot as American Authors had, in a sense, just opened for him. A rather fitting event as Jeremy Loops opened for them two years during a club gig in America. However, the true headliners were about to follow and nobody was ready for what they were about to bring to the stage.
The sun had set. The sound check was taking longer than expected. The crowd was getting restless. Then the lights went black, and Modest Mouse began to walk onto the stage, and band members claimed their rightful positions with Isaac Brock being the last to pick up his guitar. Nothing could have prepared us for the display of rock royalty that we were about to witness. Modest Mouse, despite the poor sound quality, put on a fierce display of what happens when veterans of alternative rock visit a country for the first time. It was clear that Brock had lived up to his statement regarding deciding the set-list on the day of the show, and then changing it during the actual performance, as there were times when the rest of the band was just staring at Brock to see which song he would start playing. The chaos that resulted was beautiful as the band sped through a mixture of old and new songs, with my favourite “Float On” cropping up on the latter half of the set-list. However, what is a live show without a bit of a commotion? As Modest Mouse had just finished their set, some fool through a beer can at the band. This prompted Brock to angrily storm back onto the stage and, appropriately, verbally abuse the perpetrator for being a “fucking idiot”.
With the day nearly done, French DJ group Klingade took to the stage to deliver their upbeat and unique EDM sound to a large crowd of faithful fans. All of whom proceeded to dance the night away. I watched in mirth from the back of the crowd with a coffee in my hand as I mentally prepared myself for the journey back to Durbanville. Any worries that Parklife had to be eliminated by such triumphant displays of dedication from the fans. There may have been poor attendance for the local acts, which could be chalked down to the fickle weather, and sound quality that grew progressively worse throughout the day, but I do believe that the Cape Town edition of Parklife was a success. Same time next year?