By Raquel

Where to start? The blur of images, the still sore feet or raw lungs, or just the sheer beauty that is Ponta Malongane where STRAB 10 took place a week back. That’s a good place.

It was everything I could have anticipated, of a festival at the coast. Beautiful, plentiful pristine coastline, warm water, and a canopy type forest where the campsite sprawls for what seems an eternity on foot. Luckily I didn’t have to walk that long road much, my first time being on the Sunday night. You see I was wise (or lucky) to have chosen to go with some old-time yet recently jacked up STRABers, which due to many years at it, acquired an awesome campsite close to the stage. Aside from that I was well watered and fed at all times. Albeit some meat from time to time (I’m vegetarian) expect the unexpected…

Wednesday 21 May 2014;

Wednesday night began with the girls of camp Nelsparta discussing what seemed for hours on what they would dress up as for the superhero party that night on the beach. What we ended up with was a Gareth Wilson look-alike. Aside from that, there was glitter galore and name badges with apt descriptions. I was “?” which allowed me to answer the question of ‘and who are you’ with who do you want me to be?

We headed down to the beach for the opening party of STRAB10. I swear I had to acquire ‘sea legs’ as on the beach sand, I just couldn’t stand up straight. The R&R’s could have played a part in that too. Thanks to those wicked things I can’t report much back about Wednesday night, but here’s what I do remember.

Oh yes I do remember a story of 1 of the artists getting too excited and jumping off stage to jam in the crowd and taking the cables with him, killing the music. And im sure I heard something about a stage dive too but that would need to be verified.

I too was lulled by the Mozambican rum and when the bands ended everyone made their way up to the deck. It also rained a bit but that did nothing to dampen the festivities. There, DJ The Bearded Lady played a bizarre mix of classics mixed with 20’s. Even a cartoon theme song or 2 made its way into the playlist, the people were more than happy to groove along to them too.

Diet R and R - Tipo Tinto and TAB
photo: Henno Kruger Photography
Diet R and R – Tipo Tinto and TAB
(photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

There was much dancing, much glancing, and much merriment overall. That’s where things get hazy and I realized that I and STRAB’s drink do not mix so well. After I’d spent half my budget destined for the entire next 5 days, R&R’s leaving their mark, I took a walk down to the ocean and stood close to the water’s edge. It’s cold, it’s windy, and difficult to smoke. It was then I realized it was time for bed.

Thursday 22 May 2014;

Thursday morning brought the rain along with it, and our very own Bear Grill – camera man made us shelter from a sail that was available. Sitting on wet camping chairs with still slightly spinning heads we hung around until life came back to us. A warm shower and breakfast helped, as well as the regmaker beer and we were good to go.

Jaco Mans, Stefan Dixon and Chris van der Walt STRAB 2014 Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
Jaco Mans, Stefan Dixon and Chris van der Walt
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

Now what I loved about this festival is the fact that they only have one stage, and then the bar deck stage (which is tiny) they use them at different times of day, the main stage being used from 18:00 onwards. So you get to see all the bands, and they only start at 12:00 till 17:00 on the deck stage. There is loads of time to do what you want or need to before the acts start. The other thing is the capacity. As they say on their website the venue can only accommodate a small number of people so it will never become a huge thing. And it’s a breath of fresh air when thinking about how much time I’ve spent searching for lost comrades at crowded festivals. Quite a frustrating task that, but none of it at STRAB. If you did lose your crew you found them shortly after and got to spend the time meeting new friendly people while you searched. Relaxed, such an awesome vibe all round. No fights (that I saw) and generally a bit more mature than the attendance at some of the countries more renowned festivals.

Albert Frost STRAB 2014 - Photo Henno Kruger Photography
Albert Frost
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

Albert Frost was first up after the official Festival opening. The deck was full before he started, and with good reason. Doing a solo set (not much space for more awesomeness than that on that tiny stage) he played many parts with the help of a loop station. What beautiful music from a beautiful man. Quite unsuspecting actually, I always get surprised at the talent lying in him in comparison to his calm demeanour.

I saw the beginning of Janice and the Half Jacks but had to leave shortly after, on a mission to fetch someone from the border. We picked up a lift seeker on the way and had much entertainment from this unique soul. On the way, we got stuck behind stuck cars. Having to take a by-route around them we ended up in someone’s backyard and had to pay a toll fee of R20 to be shown the way out… Thoroughly amusing.

Gerald Clark
Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
Gerald Clark
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

It took a little over 2 hours and I got back in time for Gerald Clark’s set. Man can he get the people grooving. With a few bluesy-swing type songs he had me jiving through his set, so much so that the next morning I had a case of boogey foot. After Gerald’s set, I was getting a drink and that horrible sinking feeling struck… I realised I lost my phone. I backtracked with no luck and eventually found another phone to call it. No luck. I headed back to camp to double check in my tent and called it again from a friend’s phone. Somebody answered! And that beautiful voice belonged to the body of Conrad. Phew. Yay. Celebratory drink in order!

STRAB 2014 Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
Photo: Henno Kruger Photography

I had faith (in the universe) when I lost it that I would find it, and so was very pleased to hear the announcers often calling out lost & found possessions. Thank you, the people of STRAB, for being opportunistic do-gooders. On the other hand, though there were a few not so do-gooders who raided some tents and we were warned about it too by MC Peter Mitchell. I caught some of Die See’s set and really enjoyed it. Somebody said something about a Pink Floyd cover band in Afrikaans, but I don’t know how true that is. Deep, soulful, thought-provoking music.

Dilana STRAB 2014 Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

I didn’t see SON but managed to catch some of Dilana. Wow! Powerful woman, such an immense stage presence, a work of art in her looks and style, and a voice to rival any man! It is not diva like it’s deep and husky at times but powerful from her core. Her music is alternative, rock, metal, heavy at times.

Willim Welsyn
Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
Willim Welsyn
Photo: Henno Kruger Photography

The upper deck has a flavour of its own, and if the live thing gets too much (I can’t believe I’m saying that) then it’s the place to be. Groovy, fun, light tunes and lots of happy, oft-drunk people talking, laughing and dancing. Spent more time there than I anticipated I would. Thank you DJ’s for keeping that floor going, and going, and going.

Arthur Dennis Akkedis STRAB 2014 Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
Arthur Dennis – Akkedis
Photo: Henno Kruger Photography

I caught a song or 2 in passing by Akkedis and Juggernaut played after them. Damn I wish I could remember more of their set (memory please, kick in now…) But, at least I have a CD I caught as consolation and to prove I was actually there (some part of me at least).

Juggernaut STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

To everyone’s surprise, the power went out. It was just a couple of songs short of a set so the festival organisers left it off and Boargasm was moved to the end of the next night’s lineup. Some friends said there wasn’t much happening but I remember having a jol on the deck while the bar still served drinks.

Jon Savage and two other musos began playing some acoustic songs and I needed no encouragement to fetch my drum. Unbeknown to me at the time, this was an actual band called Kite Rider and they seemed happy for me to play along.

Friday 23 May 2014;

By Friday I woke up a little strained, the minimal sleep was starting to catch up to me. The sun was shining and I needed a hangover cure, quickly. A nice swim in the Indian Ocean seemed like the perfect, most immediate cure, and it was heavenly. I had been waiting for the weather to play nice since we arrived, so I enjoyed the opportunity and made the most of it. When we had our fill we headed back to camp for a much needed breakfast. Breakfast consumed, clothes changed and I was ready for another day of music, beach and fun.

Camp STRAB 2014 Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
Camp STRAB 2014
Photo: Henno Kruger Photography

Absinthe was amazing, such talented musicians. They played some covers beautifully (there were a few favourite covers performed at this festival, “Hallelujah” being one of them and “Rockin’ in the free world” was another) and their own compositions. At one point Cito asked if anyone in the audience had a harmonica and he was in luck. I found that funny, especially when he thanked her for the gift, which he returned in the end.

Lyzyrd Kyngs was beautiful, I can never help but be mesmerised by Piet Botha’s voice. Such fantastic musicians. You will never be disappointed with one of their performances.

STRAB 2014 Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
Photo: Henno Kruger Photography

The Oh So Serious brought us back after the thoughtful Lyzyrd Kyngs. A big band, of colourful people, playing folksy, bluesy country. Using not your average rock band instruments, their sound is full and vibey.

I left just after Bacchus Nel started, in need of another swim and some food.

Bacchus Nel STARB 2014 Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
Bacchus Nel
Photo: Henno Kruger Photography

I made some friends at the pie stand and spent the rest of day missioning around, enjoying the beach, the R&R’s (I had to give them another chance) and the good music between jolling.

Mr Cat and The Jackal STRAB 2014
Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
Mr Cat and The Jackal
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

In anticipation of not missing Mr Cat & The Jackal, I arrived ready for the night, but far too early. I hung around through their soundcheck (they have a lot of instruments) and eventually headed up to the bar to get another drink. I swear, that deck traps you. The DJ’s choice of music always keeps you happily bouncing along. And so that was where I stayed most of their set and eventually when I walked past the main stage I was happy to discover them still playing. I caught their last song, and it was as good as I thought it might be. Loads of percussion and many other instruments some of which I cannot even name. I will definitely be looking out for them in the future.

Feed The Wolf STRAB 2014 Photo Henno Kruger Photography
Feed The Wolf
(Photo Henno Kruger Photography)

I’ve become soft in my old age and my delicate constitution does not sit well with heavy music (unless I’m F#*@&$# ANGRY) so I didn’t see much of Feed the Wolf, but they were good for what I did see.

Conrad Jamneck The Fake Leather Blues Band STRAB 2014 Photo Henno Kruger Photography
Conrad Jamneck – The Fake Leather Blues
(Photo Henno Kruger Photography)

Off on a nameless search, I missed the rest of the bands but was lucky enough to catch the highlight the Black Cat Bones vs The Fake Leather Blues Band. It was an awesome, electric crazy show, with so many muso’s on stage I didn’t know who to watch. Conrad at some point bit the head of a plastic baby off and Black Cat Bones delivered their usual mind blowing performance, with Kobus seeming so connected. Tangible emotion came through and it was beautiful to watch.

Kobus de Kock Jnr - The Black Cat Bones STRAB 2014 Photo Henno Kruger Photography
Kobus de Kock Jnr – The Black Cat Bones
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

It didn’t take me long to realize that Boargazm was not my thing and I made my way to the deck for the rest of the nights partying. I did pop into the main stage again and sheesh, just the costumes (being these plastic pig heads) scared me never mind the music.

Boargazm STRAB 2014 Photo: Henno Kruger Photography
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

After dancing and partying and drinking some more, I dragged myself off to my tent before the sun beat me to it. Before I drifted off to sleep I remembered revealing some dodgy confession-type shit to some stranger on the beach earlier that night. I literally laughed out loud and silently vowed to never do that again.

Saturday 24 May 2014;

Saturday came slowly but quickly at the same time. With mixed feelings, I looked forward to the day ahead. On the one hand, there was only one more day of freedom, peace, paradise and blues. On the other hand, I was beginning to miss my baby girls dearly, and not managing to get through to them on the phone didn’t help.

So, I took to the day full steam ahead with another refreshing swim in the ocean. I chilled on the beach a while and banged my drum, and eventually made it back to camp for some food. We lazed around for a bit too long and missed the much anticipated bikini bottom beach run.

El Cantante STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
El Cantante
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

Intrigued and down-right confused by the name ‘Dreaming while I’m a whale’ (as stated on the program) I made a point of getting to the deck in time for the first band of the day. To my surprise, I found Jon Savage and the other 2 muso’s from Thursday night. And they had f-all to do with whales dreaming but were otherwise known as Kite Rider. Still dodgy, but better.

What I’m trying hard to forget are the lyrics from their songs. Their music was great but it was hard to take them seriously as musicians with that random garbage coming from Jon’s mouth. Incredibly entertaining none the less.

Tammy Jones STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
Tammy Jones
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

I enjoyed Tammy Jones (Southern Gypsey Queen), but was too engrossed in conversation with a fellow muso festival goer to pay proper attention. I really met great people at this festival, and spent many hours talking shit, interesting shit too at times.

Cito STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

I was excited to see El Cantante and when they started I realized that this is the music I was exposed to very young coming from Spanish roots. It struck a moment of reflection in me and I decided to walk on the beach and reminisce while hearing their melodies in the background.

Coelacanth STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

I went for a ‘wake-up’ swim and got back in time for a bit of Coelacanth’s set. Talented muso’s, so entertaining, and their blend of ‘outlaw folk’ as they call it kept the vibe happily grooving along. I enjoyed them from the sunny spot on the deck whilst chatting to some pleasant festival goers.

Naming James STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
Naming James
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

Naming James was next and I couldn’t help but dance to their awesome folk. Every time I’ve seen Naming James there are different muso’s with him, but he is constant. And totally enjoyable. Awesome sitting on the deck overlooking the ocean and just relaxing, great live music, having fun, chatting & dancing. Sigh, wish I was there again now, a distant dream in this here icy grip of winter that’s upon us.

Andra STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

Absolutely a fan of ANDRA I rushed back to camp to prepare for the night. I met up with the fellow Nelspartans, drank some, ate some, smoked some and was off. I’ve seen her many times and I enjoy her just as much every time. One of the few shows where I was in front of the stage for a whole performance, and just enjoyed it. She too, like so many other acts had a few guest artists performing some songs with her. I swear it’s like a big interbreeding pool of talented musicians. Everyone has jammed with everyone and will continue to. Love it!

Jean Swiegers STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
Jean Swiegers
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

Emile Swiegers‘ drummer, Jean Swiegers was the talk of the festival at some point as he burnt his hand falling in the fire. We walked past their camp and chatted to them at some stage and he said he was basically saving another girl from falling in and got hurt himself. Good job! What’s even better though is that he still played and the gig went well.

Guy Collins Mean Black Mamba STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
Guy Collins – Mean Black Mamba
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

Mean Black Mamba I remember vividly. And the only word I can think to explain them is raw. Raw blues. So surprising that so much punch can come from just 2 guys. Gerald Clark joined them for a song too. Revolutionarily simple. Pulsing and delightfully groovy.

Jack Hammer STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
Jack Hammer
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

Jack Hammer hypnotized me, literally, with their beautiful music. Piet Botha, oh, that man’s voice. Like honey. I also realized that this was the first time after seeing them at many festivals over the years, that I really listened to them, and now know why they have been around so long.

Albert Frost STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
Albert Frost
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

When they were done I needed to lighten up, so I went to the loo. Then I went to the deck for a drink and got sucked in till after Albert Frost’s set started, meaning I totally missed Raoul & Black Friday. I realized and tore myself away from the party to appreciate this legend. I watched 2 songs and realized I was all blues out so I ran back to the sanctuary of the deck. There I danced, partied with strangers, laughed and drank, occasionally stealing glimpses of the showdown below. Dan Patlansky’s set was incredible I heard, I saw a bit of it and he was his usual amazing self. He didn’t catch me like he normally does but that was definitely just me I think. The music on the deck was contagious and that was my happy place for most of Saturday.

Dan Patlansky STRAB 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
Dan Patlansky
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

Just before the main floor ended the band started on the deck, I’m not sure who they were and its near impossible to deduce who they are, from who is in it – with all this cross breeding.

A violinist who played in several bands captured me with his crazy skills; I’ve never seen someone play the violin like that. The band was up-beat and vibey, and whether I liked it or not my foot was stomping. Boodey swinging, wide smiling music! I stood on one of the table chairs for the entire gig to get a good view and felt like it was a concert just for me.

And just like that STRAB 10 was over. The next morning when I finally took a walk around, the campsite was more than half empty with those still behind relaxed and continuing the kuier. I tried to make a plan to get home on the Sunday but was unsuccessful, so I eventually resigned myself to the terrible fate of a lazy day spent on the beach.

STRAB beach 2014 (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
Lonely STRAB beach
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

We eventually dragged ourselves back to camp and got cleaned up. We heard that there was a get together with some acoustic guitars at one of the campsites, so I summoned all my strength and took my first walk to that end of the site with 2 others that still had life in them. We arrived at a cosy bonfire, with half the side of it lined with as many guitarists as chairs. Some of them being Piet Botha, The Akkedis broers, Stefan Dixon, and a few other musos I have the shame of admitting I don’t know. I pulled my drum up to the side of them and played along to beautiful fitting music, which the last die hards of STRAB enjoyed and sang along to, bleeding the last moments for all they were worth.

I must say was my festival highlight. Jamming with Piet, the “God-father” of SA blues, and all those other musicians. It was a beautiful way to end the festival.

Paintings by Chan Koch (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
Paintings by Chan Koch
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

Monday morning came and we broke down and got ready to leave. With a last stroll on the beach, I gave gratitude and said my goodbyes to that magical place, leaving with a sense of knowing that I would be back one day.

Mozambique flag (Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)
Till next time Mozambique
(Photo: Henno Kruger Photography)

My biggest gratitude goes out to Small Town Music for the opportunity to attend and cover the festival, to Andries of STRAB for allowing us, to my Nelspartan campers for all the love, food, drinks, patience and endless hours of humour. And finally to STRAB, thank you, you beauty. See you next year.

A special thank you to Henno Kruger Photography for the use of his amazing pictures.

Marley is the founder and owner of Small Town Music. Born and bred in Nelspruit aka Nelsparta. Marley loves music (rock being a firm favourite), tattoos, festivals, animals and South Africa. Self-taught photographer and writer.