Audio awesome vs the hunger at Synergy Live 2011

Posted by Tyson Jopson on 10 December 2011

Here’s a recipe: find a field, bring good music, and people will come. Is that not how music festivals started? Is that not what happened at Woodstock ’69? Sure, it got overrun by millions of hippies and some thongers probably stood in human poo, but then again who wouldn’t stand in human poo to see The Who?

Seuss aside, the point is, if the aim was to bring great music to a field for the weekend, then Synergy Live 2011 nailed it. I’m sure everything else was just fine: I heard someone complaining about swollen ankles and remember grinning wildly at the fairground, but all ultimately subservient. So instead of  half-remembered festival ramblings, this is about the music that made the weekend audio awesome. Because, honestly, when you’ve got great music, nothing else really matters … not even eating.

Friday: beer is food right? Can of a beer equals loaf of bread. Sorted.

The main stage, for me anyway, kicked off around 6pm with Fox Comet. Having played on Synergy’s LMG Stage in 2010 and locked in for Up the Creek 2012, their three-year progression from half-packed venues into festival dick-swingers is undeniable. Frontman Rob Coutts lit up the stage with his lionesque locks while the rest of the spacers thumped life into the crowd, and Friday night. Before I knew it the person next to me was moving around like a gypsey with a squirrel in her sandal, so was I. Way to kick off a night of mayhem.

Then I remember smoke, metal and nostalgia. Sabretooth rock hard. Period. When it’s not hair blazing in a purple backdraft, then it’s an ungodly fire licking the backs of their necks. Can you be more fucking metal? What a show. I spent the next while in a post-apocalypitc reverie before the high-octane Taxi Violence took to the stage and delivered an enigmatic string-of-cans-behind-a-hearse tangle of rock that completely blew me away. Is it not just the coolest thing when music takes you?

Saturday: instead of breakfast, I buy a hat. Before realising that we, the people, have once again destroyed the money machine. You can’t eat a bank card.  More beerloaf.

Hat on, I headed down to the main stage to catch an old favourite, aKing, before Hog Hoggidy Hog absolutely ripped everything to shreds. Like a moth to flame, every time I see the Hogs play, I’m immediately drawn to the centrifugal mosh, mostly at my own peril. This is how it went:

Hover on the outskirts a little. Find a gap. Jump in. Get tossed around like a salad at a salami party. Avoid one fist. Take an elbow to the face. Split lip. Sunglasses go flying. Get spat out the other side, bleeding and chewing on clumps of dust …

Something to eat … finally!

Desmond and the Tutus were up next. With lyrical anomaly and an in-your-head presence they are, for my money, one of the funkiest outfits roaming the republic at the moment. The Tutus have a way of resonating with the crowd on so many levels that I found it almost impossible not to turn to the person next to me and say ‘Are you hearing this shit?’ Cheeky bastards.

Isochronous and The Narrow were both equally impressive. By the end of The Narrow’s set I was back against the gritty ghost-faced walls at The Doors in Jozi, screaming ‘Lonely Lonely’ in unadulterated teenage angst … incredible as ever. It was also the first time I heard anything live from their new album You Don’t Get to Quit, and while not all the tracks have the almost-demonic vocal reverberation of Travellers, it’s still a feast of rock that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in abundance anywhere on the globe.

While it seemed as if the crowd thinned out slightly after The Narrow (perhaps it was just the area in which I was carelessly arm flailing) the arrival of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club picked up the mood to full-throttle Rock ‘n Roll. Everything was black, shrouded in smoke and dazzled with strobes. Their variation from bruised blues to razor-sharp rock is moody as hell, and the blend of leather and attitude makes it all-the-more real. They rocked my world, the rest is indescribable. Definitely the international headline highlight of the year.

The electro stage suffered some neglect from me. I vaguely remember throwing a few shapes at FOOL at some point, so they must have been good.

Sunday: consider asking for a free corn dog. Reconsider phrasing. Give up on the idea entirely.

Captain Stu saw out the festival on Sunday with an impressively energetic set that kept more than just the festival die-hards around until last call. Their smooth ska and bouncy punk-inspired reggae flowed through the crowd and gave everyone one last burst of energy and a reason to stick around on the usual pack-up-and-get-out festival Sunday. While it was cool to see them play out the festival, I couldn’t help wish they were kicking up the dust on either the Friday or Saturday night. Although, weekend soldier and Captain Stu keyboardist Matt Willis actually did play on all three days, cameoing on his trombone for Fox Comet on the Friday, joining the Hogs on stage on Saturday and waxing his board for Stu in the Sunday sun. Legend.

Finally everyone left … almost. I spent the rest of Sunday lying the shade of an umbrella in an empty car park reading a book because of an incident involving lost car keys. Not the most usual way to end off a wild weekend, but finally vindication for those years of bringing a book to a music festival.

Lie in the shade, hungry. Consider the universal significance of having survived on just ‘good times and music’. Start a revolution in my head. Buy two King Steer burgers on the way home.

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