Conquering the Beast – an Infinite tale of dust, survival and the best time of our lives
It was early evening on the 6th of August as the Infinity crew gathered at a secret location in the East of Pretoria to prepare for the annual pilgrimage to the promised land (henceforth known as Oppikoppi). Initially, it was agreed upon to stick to the original plan of leaving at six o’ clock the next morning. Eventually, after a few pre-Koppi celebratory beverages, the crew left four hours earlier. It was the start of a journey that was so beautifully unpredictable that we couldn’t resist…
Day One – Wednesday, August 7, 2013
The crew streaked through a slumbering Northam and arrived at a very chilly Oppikoppi farm before the sun rose. It was a new experience arriving in the dark, but service at the gate was swift and once the wristbands were clamped, nothing could stop the sheer explosion of enthusiasm and emotion that had been building up for almost a year. It was a very long stint that awaited us and Sunday was a long way off, but the longer the Koppi experience, the better – just the way Mr. Infinity likes it. Arriving at such an early stage has its advantages: traffic was at a minimum and finding a campsite with the necessary size and prime location didn’t take more than ten minutes. Kramer Draai would be our final “resting” place for the week and once the bushveld sun shared its first rays, tents, gazebos and other necessary structures took their place in the Infinity camp. It didn’t take long for the first beers to crack open, which also signaled the beginning of an exploration trip through the vastness of the Oppikoppi campsite.
As the events area did not open until the next day, the Infinity crew took it upon themselves to make the most of a whole day and night in the bush. Throughout the day, many people made their way to the Oppikoppi farm and by late afternoon, a few thousand eager bewilderbeasts had already settled themselves in for a few days of merriment, to put it lightly. On return from our camp after the umpteenth refill, the crew heard some kick ass beats emerging from somewhere in the distance. On closer inspection, a mobile Red Bull stage had been erected in the middle of the campsite – a brilliant idea which was welcomed by loads of eager Koppi goers, including Mr. Infinity, judging by the constant screaming and dancing. Many visits were made to that spot and, along with a few other journeys and impromptu partying, ensured that our first night at Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast was a huge success.
Day Two – Thursday, August 8, 2013
The Infinity crew awoke on Thursday morning unable to determine how and at what time we managed to drag ourselves back to base camp. The hangovers were quickly suppressed by a selection of snacks and beverages and it was only a matter of time before Mr. Infinity made his way to the events area – it was now officially open and Oppikoppi was about to kick into sixth gear. There is hardly ever a problem with space on the Oppikoppi farm, but this year the organisers got it spot on with the layout. There were ample stalls that catered for just about every taste and food stalls were plentiful. The variety of food available and the Windhoek beer tents are huge plusses. There were six stages – Wesley’s Dome Stage, James Philips Main Stage, Skellum Stage, Bruilof Stage, Ray Ban Top Stage and the ever popular mecca of beats, the Red Bull Stage. It is impossible to see everything at every stage, so careful planning is advantageous, provided you are aware, or able to be aware, of the schedule for a specific day. Nonetheless, the Infinity crew made the most of the sunny weather and thoroughly enjoyed the sights and sounds on offer.
Time to Unleash with Corne and Beacon All Sorts got the day off to a hilarious start. Corne (of Corne and Twakkie fame) had the crowd in stitches and used crowd participation as part of this act, which was very successful. The mood was set and next up on our list was Savage Lucy, a progressive instrumental metal/jazz/blues trio out of Johannesburg. They made the Bruilof Stage their own and the technical ability of their music was outstanding. They make progressive metal along the same vein as a band like Animals as Leaders, and infuse that with an impressive mix of blues and jazz which causes haunting and thoroughly enjoyable rhythms. Mr. Infinity could sway on a journey the one moment and headbang the next – perfect Oppikoppi vibes.
Underground South African metal pioneers, Pestroy, again proved why they are so popular as they completely destroyed the James Phillips Main Stage with their set. Oppikoppi was also the scene of the launch of their new album, The Speed of Dark Part 1, which was available at the festival on a USB drive and which included fifteen years of bonus band material. The band’s live performances have become legendary on the South African alternative music and metal scene and this one was again up there with the best. There were sore bodies and tired necks once Pestroy was done with us and the satisfaction of going completely bonkers for that hour was motivation enough for a party which wasn’t anywhere near completion.
The highlight of the night was the performance of South African and Afrikaans rock legends, Fokofpolisiekar. This band never disappoints and they have long been a part of South African folklore, which was evident with the massive crowd present at the Wesley’s Dome Stage. In connection with the overall theme, organisers erected two massive horns on the dome, which glowed in different colours and which added to the epic nature of the Fokof concert. The Infinity crew was in awe of another brilliant performance, which included the premier of a new song, as well as another priceless Koppi moment: when Francois van Coke sang the lyrics “bid vir weerlig in die reën”, it actually started raining. No words can describe such a moment and the show was a perfect way to end off the night’s entertainment.
Day Three – Friday, August 9, 2013
After another epic and enjoyable night which lasted until the early hours of Friday, the Infinity crew was a bit worse for wear when we awoke on a breezy morning. This was Koppi, though, so no hangover could dampen the spirits and in no time round three in the partying stakes was in full swing. The dust, which has become synonymous with the festival and caused the coinage of phrases such as “in dust we trust”, was hanging thick by now, but there was enough wind to ensure that enjoyment of the festival stayed at a premium.
The first show on Mr. Infinity’s agenda was the legend that is Albert Frost. He delivered a flawless set that had the crowd at the Skellum Stage cheering and dancing with delight, not even minding the fact that it had become quite warm under the African sun. What made Frost’s performance even more remarkable was the fact that he had to start late because of a delayed flight, and also had virtually no time for his sound check and tuning. The Infinity crew certainly enjoyed themselves in the sun and not one song was spent mulling around – a fun gig with fun people with lots of dancing and laughing.
The sheer enjoyment of experiencing Oppikoppi made the next two hours until the Koos Kombuis tribute show seem like an instant. When the time arrived, Mr. Infinity made his way to the Wesley’s Dome Stage to be greeted by thousands who gathered to witness one of South African music’s all time greats. It was a show filled with emotion and happiness at the same time and seeing this master of the trade at work at an awesome setting like Oppikoppi was an experience of a lifetime. Old favourites like Lisa se Klavier, AWB Tiete and Verslaaf had the crowd beaming with delight, while a few guest artists, including Francois van Coke, Andra, Liela Groenewald and Albert Frost on guitar made their appearance on stage alongside Koos. It was an honour to witness this special performance and the Infinity crew salutes Koos Kombuis.
By the time the tribute show ended, Mr. Infinity was in the mood for a lekker jol. Frequent visits were made to the Red Bull stage where hours were spent getting carried away by the epic beats, while some of the crew spent their time all over the Oppikoppi terrain, whether it was watching other shows or hanging out with fellow beasts at the Infinity camp. Whatever was done was done well and by the time midnight arrived, the crew gathered for the bouncing beats of Bittereinder. The Afrikaans electronic group, consisting of Jaco van der Merwe, Peach van Pletzen and Louis Minnaar, has become a household name in South Africa, particularly for the quality of their live performances. Their set at Koppi took it to another level and Mr. Infinity was blown away by the amount of base provided. Bittereinder frequently calls on their fans to bons (bounce in English), and the call was answered by the enthusiastic bewilderbeasts.
With the bodies fatigued and minds blown, the Infinity crew made their way as swiftly as possible towards the James Philips Main Stage, where Jack Parow was next on the bill. For a while before the start of Oppikoppi, Parow announced that he would not be performing as he had been arrested. Turns out that it was a massive publicity stunt in conjunction with Captain Morgan Rum, which not many fell for but which was well done in the end – it made his entrance on the stage very spectacular, at least. Parow delivered a good set, perhaps not the best he’s ever done, but the crowd was big and enjoyment was plentiful. Mr. Infinity certainly enjoyed singing along to some old favourites and the calves were danced sore for the third night in a row.
Day Four – Saturday, August 10, 2013
Waking up was easy on this sunny Saturday and motivation was high – it was not only the last day of Koppi and attendees’ last chance to give it their all, it was also the day of Deftones. After a bit of lazing around and some banter between the Infinity crew (there were unconfirmed reports of some of the crew limping back into camp around six o’ clock), the last big effort in our quest to conquer the beast began. Mr. Infinity traveled far and wide on this day and did his best to make sure the Infinity crew was seen and heard.
The first act to be witnessed was Shortstraw, who performed on the Skellum Stage and provided their loyal and big fan base with a quality performance. The sun was baking down but could not alter the happiness amongst the faithful, as feet tapped and bodies moved to the rhythms of songs such as Good Morning, Sunshine, one of their biggest hits. Mr. Infinity was sure that the iconic chorus of “ooooooh, you’re such a bitch in the morning” was heard all the way back in Pretoria.
The Infinity crew again had two hours to kill before witnessing the legendary Mango Groove, and as before it wasn’t difficult at all to find some sort of entertainment. Mr. Infinity decided, amongst other things, to visit the new Windhoek Deck, a great new addition to Oppikoppi. It provides an almost 360 degree view of the Oppikoppi farm, which is spectacular to say the least, especially at night. Most of the deck was adequately covered overhead and a bar provided visitors with the necessary beverages.
The time had arrived to witness some old school, proudly South African beats in the form of Afropop legends Mango Groove. The Infinity crew shuffled along to old favourites such as Dance Sum More, Special Star and Hometalk and it was a unique and pretty epic experience to witness one of South Africa’s most famous bands live at Oppikoppi. Claire Johnston was humbled by the presence of so many people and she produced an epic vocal performance which certainly made most of the crowd a bit emotional when she sang her ballads.
A quick refill was needed and after getting the necessary refreshments, Mr. Infinity prepared himself mentally for what he was about to witness in those next three hours. First up on the headbanging mission was The Narrow, also legends in their own right in the South African alternative scene. They have also become known not only for their quality songs, but also for their energetic and heavy live performances. Hanu de Jong knows how to use the stage and the crowd to the band’s advantage and a lot of jumping around and headbanging was done to favourites such as Push up the Level and Lonely Lonely, which has become an anthem in mainstream South African rock. The Narrow have never disappointed and they certainly did justice towards their cult status and the Infinity crew was privileged to witness another great performance from the band.
A quick trip back to camp was made, which eventually went much faster because of the little paranoia creeping in to not miss, arguably, the biggest act of the weekend. There are some which had waited all their lives to see the Deftones perform live and dreams were made to come true on this clear Saturday night. Only a fool would argue against the legend status of Deftones and the anticipation amongst the crowd was almost too much to bear for some die-hard fans. Once lead singer Chino Moreno jumped out of the darkness and the sound of booming guitars and drums filled the Oppikoppi air, all hell broke loose. The level of Deftones’ performance was second to none and there were times when the Infinity crew just stood and stared at what was happening in front of us. Mr. Infinity was awestruck, but certainly used his chance to mosh away a part of the Koppi earth. To have witnessed such a legendary band do their thing on our home soil can not be put into words, because it will never do it justice.
Eventually the Deftones finished up, but it wasn’t quite the end of Oppikoppi just yet. There was still a party going on at base camp as well as some top acts at the Red Bull stage, so there was plenty to do for everyone. The Infinity crew eventually split up and geared themselves for one last push, one last Koppi experience. Mr. Infinity certainly wasn’t done for the night, but he couldn’t remember much after Deftones…
And so Oppikoppi 2013 Bewilderbeast came to an end. It was extremely well organised and as far as the Infinity crew was aware, only one major incident was reported: the band ISO’s trailer full of all their gear was stolen. Everything else went smoothly and Oppikoppi has certainly become a world class festival and a must see for any festival junkie around the world.
Adriaan van der Dussen
Philip de Kock