Rocking The Daisies: Play hard, tread lightly by Evan Milton
Baby darling doll-face honey? UK alternative-rockers Band of Skulls join electro-soul compatriots Belleruche, Israel's gypsy-punks Boom Pam and DJs from the USA and France as the international contingent of the more than a hundred acts for this year's Rocking the Daisies festival.
Co-founder and organiser Brian Little sounds strained, although perfectly composed, professional and polite when he agrees to a last minute interview about the upcoming Rocking the Daisies festival. With less than two weeks to go until the festival opens its revamped grounds, four stages and a new field to a roster of over one hundred band and DJ acts, and a host of lifestyle, conscious-living and brand experience areas. These include a much-hailed "unique sensory experience" from title sponsor 5 Gum, a VIP "flight lounge" courtesy of Flight of the Fish Eagle and, in what is a boon for any music-loving man trying to persuade a partner into attending a weekend of camping, the Brutal Fruit "Daisy Den", which offers hair stations, nail bars, mirrors and magazines and general pampering for the fairer sex. The British music calendar boasts a festival called Bestival, with more refined things like wine tasting and gourmet snacks on offer, as well as the musical madness and out-of-town hedonism that is any self-respecting music festival's raison d'être - and Rocking The Daisies on the verdant Cloof wine estate, just outside Darling, is South Africa's answer to such a concept.
"We've got a lot of changes this year," says Little. "There's a new main entrance, to better handle the volume of people; we've created a big ring road that loops through all the different areas; the barn where the World Music Stage was is now a theatre venue, for comedy and the SHNIT short film festival; World Music moves to where the Red Bull electronic stage was, and we've opened a whole new field for the Red Bull tent and their massive new Sound System. There's a bigger and better Daisy Den for the ladies and, for fans of the Bokke, we've got Carling Black Label doing a Rugby World Cup beer garden, and a big thing planned for the Sunday morning rugby."
Asked why Complete Events has made all the changes, Little responds that some are demanded by simple logistics - like improving access and safety, and catering for basic needs like access, food and water, and clean ablutions. "We have to tweak the layout to factor in things like maybe getting an increase of numbers, but it's also about mixing it up. You don't want the same product each year you get to Daisies - we want to offer something fresh; something you can explore for a good few hours and get accustomed. You could sit for three days just at the main stage and have a great time, but the idea is that you get off your seat and walk around and discover all of the hidden gems that are there. From things that are there in the detail and the planning, to the traders who're plying their passion with stuff that you're not going to see at an everyday Cavendish Square, to all sorts of new promotions and activations that keep it exciting for people."
Little's enthusiastic answer is a cue-in to a burning question, which is to enquire about what he does to ensure that he stays as excited about the festival as he evidently is. "Ah, man," he answers, "It's like any driving passion that someone has for something. It's like a baby, like a little child; it has its bad years and it has its good years; some things work and some things don't, but we started this thing and we've seen it grow and it's a full-time passion. You have to live and breathe it. It's a 12-month project of varying degrees of intensity - it takes a couple of months to wrap up the previous year's festival but, even before that, we're starting to look at the next year's one, talking to potential artists and potential sponsors. You have to have that long term strategy and look at is an ongoing thing."
What, then, are the highlights that might see the busy organiser turn down his field walkie-talkie for a few moments to soak in. "I'll give you the expected answer, I guess," he laughs. "The big international acts I can't wait to see: certainly Band of Skulls are someone that I have always enjoyed the music of, and we had a chance to bring them out so we jumped at the chance. We had a huge response to that, which has been amazing. Then there's Civil Twilight, who are local born, but are very much an international act. I'm definitely looking forward to Lark, and to seeing Boom Pam on our World Stage and Kevin Saunderson on the Red Bull Studio Live set. Then there's Belleruche, in that Morcheeba vibe, which I really like, and the Daisy All Stars, a 15-piece Motown band that was put together by Disco Dave and sees them doing nine songs fronted by someone from an established band - like Jeremy de Tolly from the Dirty Skirts or Francois van Coke from Fokofpolisiekar and Van Coke Kartel and George from Taxi Violence."
Finally, I ask Little to explain the festival for the uninitiated and the prospective first-timer. "For us, it's not about any one thing - Rocking The Daisies is about a lifestyle and about the experience. It's about going away for a weekend that is guilt-free - whether you join Walking The Daisies and walk there, or you 'Cycle The Daisies', or you car-pool to get there. It's like our slogan says: 'Play hard; tread lightly' - it's a good vibe that's friendly and good, clean fun. It's big and it's loud and it's progressive and it's premium. There's a dam to swim in, with a beach bar and lifeguards. There's great camping and clean ablutions. There is the best food tent you'll ever see at an outdoor festival, with real gourmet fare on offer. Plus, whatever music you are into, whether it is world music or rock or electronic, there is something here for you."
Rocking The Daisies
is from 7 to 9 October at the Cloof Wine Estate (Darling), featuring Band of Skulls (UK), Kevin Saunderson (USA), Boom Pam (Israel), Belleruche (UK), Mustard Pimp / Dim Mak (France), Civil Twilight (SA/USA), Tumi and The Volume, Prime Circle, Kwesta, Lark, The Arrows, Just jinjer, Jack Parow, Gazelle, Mr Cat and the Jackal, DJ Sibot, Julian Gomes vs Sisqo Umlambo, Shadowclub, aKing, Yoav, Haezer, Mix 'n Blend Band, Tucan Tucan, Toby2Shoes and more. See full line-up, list of attractions and directions at www.RockingTheDaisies.com. Pre-sale tickets R450 or R550 at gate (R150 Sunday only).
First appeared in the Cape Argus "Good Weekend" of 2011/ 09/25
Music journalist, Digital marketing strategist, SA Music Awards judge and radio DJ for Fine Music Radio.