10 things I learnt at Up the Creek

Posted by Kati Auld on 5 February 2013 Tags:

Up the Creek, a small music festival in Swellendam in the Western Cape, has a long history of giving people a fantastic weekend of fun, music and lilos. This year was my first voyage to Up the Creek, but I know it won’t be my last. I’ll keep these lessons in mind when I return next year:


1.  Less is more

When there are fewer than 3 000 people milling about, you are much less likely to lose your friends in the stumbly hours before dawn. Also, seeing as it’s only a five-minute walk to your campsite, you should be able to find your way there alone if necessary.

Up the Creek 2013

Mountains at sunset made a beautiful backdrop for our drive to Up the Creek


2.  Bring your own drinking water

Some is supplied, but the tanks were dry by midnight on Saturday. If you decide to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and just keep drinking Titanics, you’ll definitely miss the bands on Sunday morning. Whatever you do, don’t try to drink the tap water: people will fly-kick it out of your hand like it’s radioactive. When you realise that it’s from the creek, and that thousands of people have been getting happily drunk in there for hours, that warm patch becomes more significant. Don’t do it.


3. Moshing is the best exercise

Goodnight Wembley!’ was the closing act on Saturday night, and despite having the worst band name at the festival, they set the stage on fire. Metaphorically. A friendly shove here and some pent-up adrenalin there exploded into a rip-roaring moshpit.  Nobody believes me when I say that I make more friends in a moshpit than I do in the bar, but it’s true. Everyone walks away bruised and covered in sweat (at least half of which isn’t yours), but still smiling: until you wake up the next morning, and can’t lift your arms. I suspect that moshing on a regular basis would turn me into Wonder Woman.


4.  It’s a mixed bag of nuts

In addition to the moshing lunatics, there are families. When I dragged my weary bones to the music in the morning, I met (and was constantly prodded by) a chocolate-faced toddler who would’ve been annoying if she wasn’t so devilishly cute. When Mom told her that one chocolate pancake was quite enough, she replied, “But Mom, it’s a music festival!” Quite right, my child. Sun-spotted wrinkles, veldskoene, skinny jeans, bare baby bums, ironic mustaches: it’s all there. I bumped into a best friend from pre-school who I hadn’t seen for over 10 years, and also some uptight friends of my parents. There is no way to expect who you’ll find.

Up the Creek 2013 music festival

There was some serious lilo-traffic on Saturday

5.  The Creek is a creek

Having frequented festivals like Synergy, Rocking the Daisies and the Flamjangled Tea Party, I was expecting the “creek” to be a muddy pond. Imagine my surprise when faced with the majesty of the Breede River, festooned with hundreds of colourful lilos and splash-happy people. Apart from the sheer size and depth of the river, there was also the small matter of the stage set up in the middle. You don’t know happiness until you’ve experienced the glorious trifecta of a brass band, a lilo, and a clear blue sky.


6. There’s a bit of foraging for a veggie option

 Another lovely point about a small festival is the lack of food queues! Even when it was busy, I never felt the need to gnaw off the arm of the person standing in front of me. When it comes to veggie options, Oh So Peachy is an old favourite: a lovely stall with samoosas, curries, and life-saving fresh fruit smoothies. But by the time Sunday rolled around, many stalls were sold out. This meant that my hungover face got to munch on a schwarma filled with… A fried egg and raw cabbage. Delicious.


7.  Crickets are clingy

They will invade your tent. They know no fear. Accept them as your friends, because you have no other option.

Up the Creek 2013 music festival dirt road

The weather was turning thunderous as we left Up the Creek

8. Don’t trust the weather

When I saw a dust-devil whip across the campsite, spinning fly-sheets and camping chairs and gazebos in a whirlwind of chaos, I gained new-found respect for the weather gods – and also my tent-pegs. It was ridiculously hot and dry during the day, and then raining a few hours later. Come prepared.


9. When the festival gods offer flush loos, you graciously accept

There was a choice between the Portaloos and the lovely flush toilets. It’s a festival, so you should expect a queue for the ablutions. However, towards the end of the festival they struggled to keep up with the pace of the Portaloo bowels, which makes for a very nasty early morning surprise. Give yourself a little more time, and stand in line for the flushing loos. It’s worth it.


10. The music. Dear Lord, the music.

I was only disappointed by one band at this festival, who I shan’t dignify with a mention. But overall, the music was fantastic. BEAST was one of my favourites: It’s Inge Beckman’s new project, and they serve up some pretty dirty rock. I hadn’t even noticed the best thing about the band until Inge said, “Can we get some more light options, like red? It seems fitting that a band with two bass guitars goes with the colour of the base chakra.” That’s right: a drum-kit, two bass guitars, and the coolest woman in South Africa yelling at you with crazy eyes. You should see them. (Also, I think she was being ironic about the chakras. I hope.)

Black Cat Bones also provide music of the crazy-eyed variety, but it sways more towards the blues side of the scale. I wasn’t sure whether to be jumping or grinding to the mix of heavy-sexy-dark tunes. Then with Desmond and the Tutus, Jeremy Loops, Nomadic Orchestra and YOAV in the mix, I could hardly tear myself away from the stage for a refill.

Siv Ngesi Anthony Bumstead up the creek music festival

Don't diss the man in the blue bonnet. He's Anthony Bumstead, one of the main organisers. Left is Siv Ngesi, comedian and MC


I asked a few other Up the Creekers what they had learnt at the festival.

These were some of the answers:

1. It’s a great idea to spend a weekend without a watch.

2. South Africans know how to party (from an impressed Australian).

3. Flat tyres don’t float.

4. There are still festivals where you don’t have to worry about security: you can leave R500 in the shower, and it’ll still be there when you return half an hour later.

5. Jagerbombs taste the same in Swellendam and in Joburg: but the view makes all the difference.