South Africa’s hottest music festival during the coldest time of year beat all records this year, in its 18-year existence. Just a few days before, Gauteng was celebrating its first winter wonderland in 30 years, with lions at Joburg Zoo captured playing in the snow.
The theme for this year “Sweet Thing” gathered an estimated 23 000 fans to celebrate over 100 acts in SA’s finest music and international acts like Seether, Bullet for my Valentine, Enter Shikari and Eagles of Death Metal.
Oppikoppi cames from Afrikaans slang, translated as “on the hill.” Those brave enough to walk up the hill drunk or stoned, are greeted by a beautiful view of the campsite and a few more hidden stages. The festival includes three nights of camping in dust and thorn bushes, surrounded by friendly strangers. You also have the choice of staying at the Kreef Hotel for an extra R1000 and may even bump into your favourite band members. Expect to pay between R600-R750 for a ticket, R500 on a tent and R400-R500 on booze and food.
This year’s festival even included a collection of short films, an extra stage, a sand-art competition (on audience members’ cars… No, that huge phallus was not sand art, but that beautiful baobab and eye were), colourful couches (apparently if yours was cool enough you could join band members backstage), free pancakes and coffee served by the Red Frogs (made up by members from various churches from Pretoria and Joburg) and the unexpected surprise acts doing duets with others (Jack Parow singing with the Kongos drove the crowd wild).
If you were lucky (or unlucky) enough, you could witness drug dealers getting busted in your camping area. One guy at our site shouted at the cop who was dressed like a civilian: “I’m just a user!” as he removed his back-pack filled with marijuana and other goodies. They even kindly packed away his tent for him. Or, you could even be part of a movie… My friend and I were shouted at with “Cuuuuuut!” for helping out a guy covered in “blood.”
The worst part of Oppikoppi? The endless queues; whether you’re waiting to go in, come out, get food or go to the toilet. But that’s how you meet people from all walks of life, from the banker in Sandton to the street vendor from Cape Town. The best part (apart from being part of a mosh-pit or noticed by your favourite lead singer) is the treasure-hunting afterwards. If you wait till noon Sunday (when most people are sitting in their cars in an endless queue), you could pick up an abandoned tent (zipper can be fixed), a cooler-box, a few Energades, the Cuervo ring you really wanted, etc.
The regulars like Henno Kruger (a photographer who has been to 14 Oppis) really enjoyed Wesley’s Dome and the Top Bar: “It was by far one of the best Oppis… Highlights included the international acts, Southern Gypsey Queen tribute, Yoav, Beast, Black Cat Bones and no disappointments.”
As an “Oppi virgin” as they love teasing us, I can safely say it was one of the most mind-blowing experiences of my life. Be prepared to see yourself at your craziest, filthiest, most joyous self and others at their most raw and naked. Your friendships may bond over hours of endless drinking or dissolve after one gig they refused to go watch with you. You will probably bump into a guy dressed as Borat, see your best friend’s girlfriend flash her breasts on his shoulders or on stage and hear voices from the heavens. These tend to be the naked, tripping guys who decided to climb a thorn tree to discuss the weather. Enjoy!
One Night in Cape Town party: Cape Townians got to rock out the night before the actual Oppi festivities started and see most international acts before the rest of us.
The old boys from the PBHS pipe-band adding some Scottish tunes to the weekend of debauchery…
Bullet for my Valentine playing the national anthem “Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika” on their guitar. The crowd sang along in unison!
The crowd cheering “Saron Gas! Saron Gas!” before Seether went on stage. Lead singer Shaun Morgan (a South African) charmingly replied: “Yeah, I always knew that was a cool name!”
Seether breaking their guitar on stage, throwing the fragments into the cheering crowd.
Fokofpolisiekar making the earth tremble and grown men cry!
“The naked run:” only a dozen or so guys took part because of the changes in time (11h30 instead of 12pm) and distance (from 1km to 500m).
The giant floating balls: a nuisance for photographers and tall people. Some people ended up piercing them with their car-keys, causing drunkards to use them as cushions. A scary sight when they looked suffocated, after passing out on them.
The Cuervo collection desk. So every time you bought a Tequila slush, you got a ticket. You excitedly go to the collection counter only to be told by some bad-mood blonde to come back later.
Lack of communication with the crowd. The black and yellow Cuervo wristbands had an ID number at the back. Apparently there was a huge draw but when and where?!?
Last minute cancellations or changes (obviously unforeseen by Hilltop Live, those in charge).
Your ticket and ID
A pair of shorts (it reaches past 30 degrees in the day)
Gumboots (you will end up throwing away whichever shoes you bring with)
A map of the camping site (cleverly print it onto your shirt perhaps)
A few shirts (you will win many more)
A warm jacket, beanie and cool hat (so your friends can spot you from afar. Everyone starts looking the same after two days with the Cuervo straw hat)
Lots of water (for drinking, cleaning, brushing your teeth)
A large water bottle to hold your booze (cans and glass bottles are forbidden in the entertainment area)
An old cellphone (your smartphone will definitely get lost, stolen or extremely dirty). OId Nokia batteries last much longer anyway.
Plasters (those thorn bushes are a nuisance when you stumble back to your tent in the middle of the night)
Snacks. The food stalls are pretty expensive. Expect to pay R50-R90 for a burger and R38 for a pancake (rather go get a free one from the church people!)
SPF cream, sunglasses, money for food and petrol. Money can be loaded on a card for food and more booze. Be advised don’t put all your R500 on a card. It may get lost or slip out of the plastic sleeve. Leftover money can be used next year or be exchanged this year for airtime
Sleeping bag, pillow, extra blankets (brandy will only keep you warm for so long)
A torch and toilet paper (those portable toilets are a nightmare in the dark)