I have a hollow feeling in my heart. It is a feeling I’ve only experienced once or twice in my life, but never before to this extent. I know what this feeling is called, but I still don’t know how to get rid of it. People who have never experienced this feeling will go out of their way to convince you that it’s not real, or that it is all in your mind…
I am suffering from Post Festival Depression. More specifically, Post Mieliepop Depression.
I went to Mieliepop 2016 with my own set of expectations, based on what I’d heard from others, and what I’d read and seen online. None of that could prepare me for what I was about to experience. This was by far one of the best weekends of my near-26-years of existence.
The drive to Lothair, in Mpumalanga, had turned into an epic road trip for two, after we had to make two U-turns (forgetting your own bed is a definite no-no for a festival). I had the privilege of sharing my ride with Christo Baas de Beer, a festival veteran who knows the roads like the back of his hand. There were sing-alongs to Phantom of the Opera, random videos being made, and one very serious discussion regarding going back to Delmas and saving a beautiful girl from spending the rest of her life there.
Admittedly, the best part of the drive was when we got to the gates of the Tolderia Resort, where we would spend the weekend. Upon arrival we were greeted by a couple of guys who had the immensely tough job of working the gate at the festival, without leaving their posts other than going to sleep for four hours. We got our wristbands and directions to our camp, the road to which was very well laid out, with clear indications of the best places to drive in order to avoid any nasty surprises.
When we got to our camp we were greeted by familiar faces; friends who had arrived before us and had set up camp already. Baas and I quickly got our tents pitched and settled in for our first beers of the weekend, watching the campsite on the other side of the river slowly filling up with eager festival goers. There were already floating devices of every imaginable shape and size in the river, supporting jovial individuals, not yet sunburnt and still relatively sober.
Close by, there was the Sun Bear Yoga tent, where peace and tranquillity was the order of the day. I have never seen anyone as relaxed as the individuals who were in that tent. Personally, I wanted to try the paddle board yoga, but after seeing how these yogi managed to contort their bodies on flat ground, I knew I had absolutely no chance of staying afloat on a paddle board while trying to touch my nose with my left pinky toe.
After a couple of drinks, and the resting of tired bones from the trip, we headed out for a bit of a walk-around. The food stalls outside our camp were amazing. Every flavour that you could imagine was represented at Mieliepop. From the Vegetarian stand at the Willow Tree Stage to the meat-packed sandwiches for which Braai Boy has become so well-known at Park Acoustics, there was something for everyone. The main bar was also well placed, next to the food stalls but still close enough to both stages to be able to navigate your way to either one without hassle.
From the main bar it was a straight shot through to the Main Stage, where the magic happened throughout the weekend. Unfortunately I missed the first three bands to play, so the first act I got to see there was Gerald Clark, whom I hadn’t seen before. The band owned the stage, marking the beginning of an epic weekend of music.
One of my favourite acts for the weekend was The Shabeen. They came all the way from Cape Town to deliver their quirky style of music in such a way that they were almost having a conversation with their audience at the Willow Tree Stage. As I was sitting on the stoep at the Media House, I watched these guys performing, and thought to myself that this is what made South Africa great; we had musicians from Cape Town entertaining an audience from Gauteng in Mpumalanga.
As a matter of fact, the whole of Sunday’s line-up was what I had been waiting for since I saw the bands that were performing. Adele Nqeto‘s cover of Gangsta’s Paradise was my personal favourite moment of the festival. She put a completely new spin on a classic and made the song her own. After Adele, there was The Lectric Monks on the main stage. The love I have for this band is impossible to describe. The first piece I wrote on this site was for their first live show at Rafters in Pretoria, and they have grown immensely since then.
The rest of the afternoon and into the evening we were treated to amazing artists like Coelacanth, George Town, Blomtrein, Albert Frost, The Black Cat Bones, Art Snakes and of course The Oh So Serious. George Town served as quite a pleasant surprise. I did not expect to see someone play a washboard at the festival! Another band that impressed was Art Snakes. If their style is anything to go by, South African music is heading in the right direction.
Special mention goes to Mr Cat & the Jackal for the way they closed the main stage for the festival. They have an amazing sound that captivates anyone who is close enough to hear, while also being some of the most humble musicians that you will ever have the pleasure of meeting.
Mieliepop is an amazing experience, even for those who do not necessarily like going to festivals for fear of dust and dodgy showers. Tolderia Resort is a beautiful green valley, completely equipped with warm showers and proper ablution facilities. There are swimming pools and a river/dam to cool down in when the days get too hot. There was some mud, but with some careful navigation it was never a problem. All in all the best festival weekend I have had in a very long time. Well done to the new management for keeping the festival clean, safe and awesome!
Written by: Michael King
Photos courtesy of Henno Kruger Photography