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Mieliepop 2017, South Africa’s Premier Festival

Mieliepop Festival 2017:

No matter how you look at it, Mieliepop is one of SA’s premier music festivals. How do I know this? Because every single person I spoke to ahead of the festival told me so. Seriously. Every. Single. One.

I couldn’t understand how all of my contemporaries could come to the same conclusion about a festival. Even at the likes of the Oppikoppi’s and the Rocking the Daisies of the world, people often get the short end of the stick eventually.  Either you fall down the hill at Kopi and eat a face full of dust, or you queue at the bar for what feels like days at Daisies as more and more people flock there every year.

But it seems as if Mieliepop has been paying very close attention to these festivals and the issues they are most often plagued with, because none of them were present. Don’t like dust? Don’t worry, Mieliepop is one of the greenest festivals around. Don’t like long queues? Well Mieliepop is a boutique festival that aims to keep its numbers down to a manageable level. Don’t like it when the focus is more on the event then on the line-up? Then the line-up at Mieliepop is just for you.

Driving in on Friday morning, I immediately found myself in awe of the location. The Tolderia resort in Lothair is a stunning mix of forests, green valleys, winding rivers and an impressive dam. The camping area is kitted out with top-of-the-line ablution facilities that include multiple warm showers, consistently clean toilets and a ton of power points. For those of you who love good old fashioned braai’s, Braai Boy is there, ready and waiting to klap your peri peri chicken and T-bone steak onto the flames and get you fed.

I also found myself impressed with the level of shade present in the camping area. While not everyone got to enjoy the comfort of a shady tree, it was far more abundant then many of SA’s top festivals. As much as I loved the camping situation, there was one issue that stood out like a sore thumb – Camping on a hill (even one with a slight gradient) is tough. The entire camping area at Mieliepop is set up on a hillside. At first I thought nothing of it, but every morning I woke up with my feet about to burst through one side of my tent. And every day we had at least two people bail off their low budget camping chairs. But all in all, it was a small price to pay for the level of comfort I was otherwise able to enjoy in the camping area.

The festival grounds itself were another sight to behold, with the pool area and ‘Rave Cave’ acting as a stunning centerpiece. A gorgeous bar carved out of the rock; a large wooden deck surrounding a large black-bottomed pool, flanked on either side by a river, was what greeted me first.

After a celebratory Jager, we went to check out the cave in which we would later most certainly rave. Whilst a little small, this stage encapsulated what made this festival so unique and effective; its clever use of mother natures finest raw materials.

The stages themselves, whilst slightly smaller than its festival contemporaries, packed a lot of punch with great sound systems and technicians.  The Willow Tree stage, the main stages little brother, also included ample shade and an astonishing view of the dam.

The Festival Line-Up:

I am one of those festival goers that puts a particularly large amount of focus on the line-up. As much as I enjoy a good camp-chill with the homies, I ultimately rate a festival on the strength of the musical acts. And damn, Mieliepop is strong.

The acts included in this years line-up covered a vast majority of genres, from psych rock to experimental. From chilled acoustic vibes to the heaviest of metal. From tech and minimal to drum and bass. Really, there was something for everyone, with local heavyweights like Shortstraw, Fuzigish, PHFAT and Grassy Spark to name but a few. As with every fest, certain bands stand head and shoulders above the rest and are deserved of special mention.

Acadamie are a husband and wife combo aided by an equally talented third member. Their musical CV includes top-notch acts like ISO and Dear Reader, and their set indicates as such. I found my mouth hanging open for the majority of the slot, as it felt more like a transcendental emotional experience than a musical set.

some 20-odd meters in the air, dropped his boardies to flap his mielie in appreciation of the band…

The Moths, hailing from Johannesburg, are a surf rock band that is increasingly becoming a must-have at festivals all over the country. Not only did they get feet moving and bums wiggling, but they resulted in one of the most memorable moments of the fest. A lone party goer who had been watching the set from atop a giant rock, some 20-odd meters in the air, dropped his boardies to flap his mielie in appreciation of the band, much to the delight of both the band and the crowd.

A final special mention must go to an act who debuted at Mieliepop this year, LUMA. This soon-to-be-recognized super group consists of Jenny Dison of Bye Beneco fame, Saul Nossel from indie rockers Go Barefoot, and Alex Coetzee, a DJ who is pioneering his way through the scene, otherwise known as LEEU. This eclectic mix of artists, who have become staples within their own respective genres, come together to create something that is inextricably new and groovy, whilst maintaining an air of African influence. They were ultimately the perfect way to open the Rave Cave.

The Floating Comedy Stage:

When you weren’t jamming with your mielie out to all of the bands, there was a lot to keep you busy. With plenty hike trails, food stalls, chill areas and a refreshing river to swim in, I almost felt spoiled for choice. But one festival addition stood above the rest for me. They had upgraded the booze cruise barge into a floating comedy stage. Not only was this a completely unique experience, but it also provided an opportunity to have a tour around the festival grounds as well as the large dam and surrounding areas while having a laugh.

It seems that the organizers over at Mieliepop have found the perfect balance between music and experience and I tip my hat to them for that. It’s hard to say what I enjoyed most at Mieliepop this year. It may have been the food, the scenery, the shade, the comfort, the great people who went along for the ride, the music or the river.

All that I know for certain is that I have most definitely become a Mieliepop fan for life. See you all on the river next year!

Tell me what you thought of Mieliepop 2017 if you made it there, or, check out some of this year’s highlights, courtesy of JP van Hel: (Please note, the following should be considered for viewers 18 and over)

What do you think?

Written by Jason Lume

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