Num Num

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August 17, 2012

Oppikoppi: Sings to the senses

When you go to Oppikoppi you must leave your anxiety at the gate.
There is no space for it inside.
There are just 20 000 other people looking to dance and jump and gurgle with laughter.
We all experienced Oppikoppi in different ways


My knuckles are cracked, skin still dry. My hands held another’s. Weaving in and out.
Skin a sun-shade darker. Dust in every crevice. Black boogas.
My knees shook and they shook; and my feet throbbed from adventures in tommy tackies. Boots, next time.
My arms waved, in praise, and in happy hellos, and goodbyes.
My mouth screamed and sung along. It giggled and laughed.
I licked my lips over and over, dry air. Kiss, kiss.


As we walked up and down our home stretch, Beton Boer road, there was a constant cloud of dust above us, punctuated by bursts of conversation. About shows, about beer, about philosophy, about race and about South Africa.

But we came for the music and we flocked to see Die Heuwels Fantasties on Friday night, as did many who reveled in the electric air “It gave me goosebumps” someone said. Not to mention 340ml, Bombay Show Pig, Kongos, Aking, and Jeremy Loops who all blew my skirt up. 

Lonehill Estate was my surprise band highlight. Donning green streaks and pink goggles the lead singer was cheeky and vivacious, drawing the crowd in with his antics and confidence on a hot day amongst the rocks. 

Shadowclub and Beast (and many other grand bands) also graced the stages, although I confess I was at that time holed up in my tent. I hear they were fantastic.

French band Babylon Circus were a feast, but Eagles of death metal
were my main attraction, and man, to hear the crowd respond to Hughes'  surprise that “a little ol’ hillbilly like me could come play for y’all out in the African dessert” was hilarious and awesome. That’s rock and roll. 

Same goes for Enter Shikari whose bounding energy transfixed me, and it was cool, cool, cool to watch Seether respond to the roar for Sarongas by playing the old favourites that sweetened my highschool years.
Not really being a Bullet Fan I enjoyed their guitar show. But things like walls of death scare me and I think they scared a girl who fell on the floor. I hope she is all right.


Your eyes are treated because it feels as if the festival is framed by thatch and white Kalahari thorns. Suspended from trees are lampshades and baubles in pastel colours and whites that seem to sew everything together.

My favourite was the Skellum stage, with the tree poking out back, right. Watching a rock and roll show while perched on a boulder with your feet hanging over the edge is gratifying. The Red Bull stage, although squished, was a natural amphitheatre that let the sound roll off and slam back and made you feel safe
and happy.

There is hot sunshine in the daytime that bakes the earth and sends us to retreat in the shade or beneath hats. Some people spun a slack line between the low trees and did their tightrope jig. Sometimes they fell off, injuring sensitive bits, and the crowd responded in guffaws and laughs. Others sat on their trademark Oppikoppi couches, surrounded by curios people.


There is wonderful food to be had. We visited ‘Kobus se gat’ more times than can be good for your heart. But the roosterkoek, slathered with butter or even jam and cheese, was heavenly. After all the shows were done, and all the bellies filled with drink and laughter, we roasted our hands over the dying coals, scraped together to cook a final rectangle of dough that would be munched and cherished. The pizzas were fabulous, the burgers looked good although I never sampled any; and the chipstix phenomenon of deep fried swirled potato had many followers. I ordered one with a cheese griller in the centre, very high on the list of life’s creepy foods, but it was salty and satisfying. More so than the deep-fried corn dog that appealed to the eye, but upon tasting was not as gratifying as I hoped. For lunch we ate mostly fresh things- a welcome oasis. I packed seed rolls, cheese, tomato and lettuce in for rolls along with apples, naartjies and bananas that, I believe, along with my insistence to mix tequila only with orange juice, saved me from stinking hangovers.


The crowd was a bizarre and beautiful collection of beings. Everyone in love with everyone else. In love with their presence there, grateful to share the energy, the space and the celebration of music. The mutual human appreciation led to shouts of “Oppi” to which strangers responded “koppi”, that echoed throughout the festival, roping people together. Random shouts were not random, daily societal norms get revamped and toppled. Littering is not littering, there is a reckless enjoyment in tossing things into bushes. These things are only revealed as vulgar on the last day when we pour out in rows and rows, leaving behind a wasteland of scattered chairs, clothing, bottles and memories both frantic and romantic.

For me

I went to Oppikoppi with someone I love, which is liberating, and a great bunch of comfortable people. I took a real holiday despite the toll on my body.  I lassed my stresses at the gate, and within hours the music, people, and irrepressible atmosphere helped me let go, let go, let go.

(Photos by Andrew Pullen and moi)

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