07 Sep Grietfest 2016 in review: Merging local sounds in a venue to remember
Linear superposition – it’s a term that science folk use to describe the moment two or more sound waves come together, the result being the sum of the individual waves. This is possibly one of the best, albeit stranger ways to sum up this year’s Grietfest.
Taking place in a gritty, appropriated container yard, Grietfest 2016 saw the merging of sounds from all over the country, channelled through numerous, widespread stages anchored into the earth, and pulsating through reverberating passages made up of seemingly endless towers of metal shipping containers. What you had then was a sonic amalgamation throughout the venue, where drum&bass rounded corners to filter into break-beat, and afro-house pumped out across open spaces to dance with ambient electronica.
Take the early afternoon for example, where on the Olmeca Main Stage, Cape Town’s Bombardier churned out bass-laden dance tracks to an audience enjoying their first few drinks of the day, and just a short walk away, Tha Cutt was opening the Science Frikshun stage with some classic hip-hop in a wide, metal alleyway. You see at Grietfest, music comes first. And at this year’s festival it came from all angles and across many a genre. As it goes, a few stand out performances continue to echo on.
The first memorable performance that comes to mind also happened to be the first performance of the day. It was a set by ambient beatmaker Buli and it belted out beautifully, start to finish. Buli’s music has this hazy element to it, but it’s underpinned by a thick and infectious bassline. Set up at the Red Bull Studio Live Stage, the producer found himself putting out a theatrical performance framed by high reaching pylons and alongside him, rows of low-lying containers, perfect conduits for those hard basslines. Something must be said about his crowd though, which comprised myself, my partner, and a handful of Jozi-based producers who also showed up early to support the first acts. Now it’s no secret that the first acts on the lineup are doomed to play to a sparse and mostly sober floor, but this turnout was pitiful. Yes he was on at 1pm and you were probably planning on saving yourself and staying until the venue closes, but showing up an hour or two earlier to support the opening lineup isn’t all that much to ask. In short – do better Jo’burg.
Later, as the sun sank lower in the sky and the larger crowds began to filter in, Thor Rixon took to the Olmeca Main Stage to belt out his own brand of alternative dance music. He held down a strong, unwavering set that saw a good blend of sound and genre. Later, after a small but committed crowd had kicked up enough dust and hay, Thami 2 Shoez jumped in for a surprise collab (something that’s become a regular occurrence now after last year’s surprise performance with Vox Portent). The two worked well together, Thami weaving vocals in and out of musical arrangements while Thor maintained a steady rhythm for the vocalist to really play around with.
The third act that stuck out, perhaps unsurprisingly, was Sibot and Toyota. It had just gone 6pm and waning sunlight gave way to what became a spectral and dazzling light show around the Olmeca Main Stage. Toyota brought the visuals in full force, a retro combination of hypnotic symbols and motion graphics, while Sibot delivered his usual brand of button-bashing, bass-heavy bravado, this time throwing a healthy dose of golden-era Real Estate Agent numbers into the mix. As if the strobes and sky-high screens didn’t provide enough on the visual end, a keenly placed GoPro allowed for a real-time look at Sibot’s hands at work on the controller. It’s worth noting Narch and Niskerone too, who also took to the Main Stage to absolutely rinse their respective sets, sustaining a collectively red-faced and ever-expanding crowd.
Lastly, if you caught ANG’s set at the Fiction Nights Takeover Stage, it’s safe to say you had a great Grietfest. ANG took to the stage with an aim to fill up the dancefloor and did just that. In the mix were tracks by international heavyweights like Skepta and of course, a good offering of local tracks too. Overall, ANG’s set kicked off on a hard and heavy note and came at you relentlessly. There was one kid who went through an entire litre and a half of water, not once moving from his spot up front. If that’s not the mark of a memorable set, I don’t know what is.
Altogether, Grietfest pulled off another memorable alternative dance music festival. The lineup was expertly curated, the drinks flowed at a steady pace and the venue, oh the venue – What other South African festival can move an entire container yard around and hook it up with fully functioning bars, stages, food trucks, and toilets that aren’t vomit-inducing, all for the love of electronic music?
The fault, I think, sits with the audience. Much of the romance of a festival like Griet lies in the fact that it’s an all day event, meaning if you pull through in the early afternoon, you can already start moving to a few great acts and really take in the venue before it packs out. If you show up five hours later just so you can ride the waves of the bigger acts like Sibot, Niskerone or the international acts, you’re going against the ethos of a festival like this. South Africa is home to some of the most passionate and talented DJs and producers across the electronic music spectrum. Show up early and show them some love. You’ll still make it through the night, promise.