By Marley

How to squeeze into words 4 days of a festival right here in the heart of Mpumalanga midlands?

With a lot of coffee and listening to a lot of new music. Mieliepop Festival 2017 was a new breath, impressive and of course, the weather is something to write home to about.

Day 1 – Friday 17 March

We located our little village of friends on the banks of the river on Friday afternoon. It was a beautiful hot afternoon but from our past experience in 2014, we expected the cold to come. After we got our tent up and camp set up a beer was enjoyed with friends. From across Mzanzi – Pretoria, Nelspruit and Swaziland.

Tune into the Mieliepop 'Radio' - photo by Small Town Music
Tune into the Mieliepop ‘Radio’
(photo by Small Town Music)

Since I’m the only one who really gets what DJ’s do as well in our group, I was encouraging everyone at camp to visit the Bar Stage. Here a line-up of DJ’s was expected. After we got dressed super warm we headed off to the bar. Since we were in camp overflow right next to band camp we didn’t miss walking over the bridge. We walked past the Willow Stage, the amazing food ale name The Maizey Food Court and into the bar. Jol Stransky from KZN was on but we spent more time greeting friends we only see at festivals or gigs. After him was the legendary, Catherine Grenfell, this lady is just rock ‘n roll in spirit and body. Her set contained punk, rock, dance and everything else you would like in between.

Lil Bow is another girl DJ that got the people dancing. By the time Rum Swinger came on, I saw people on the floor that swore they will not go watch some doef-doef. Rum Swinger is everything besides doef-doef and it was a little sad that the full band wasn’t there. However I just love them, their vibe and of course they had the dance floor on fire. By the end of their set, it was way past midnight, the whole week’s planning and travelling were slowly creeping up to us. As we walked back to camp we noticed the weather wasn’t that cold and the stars were beautiful in the sky.

Mieliepop 2017 - Photo by Small Town Music
Mieliepop paddle boat
(photo by Small Town Music)

Day 2 – Saturday 18 March

Waking up way too early it was coffee and showering planning. The Lemon Tree was the toilet and shower services and I just have to thank them and their amazing staff for the clean, fresh sanitary services. Since Mieliepop’s stages only open around 11 am it gave us a lot of time to have breakfast, shower and freshen up for the day. It was super hot already by 9 am and the showers decided not to work, which was okay – it’s why you take baby wipes with you to festivals.

The Willow stage at Mieliepop - Photo by Small Town Music
The Willow Stage
(photo by Small Town Music)

By 11 am breakfast came from Sumthing Fresh – the best damn chicken dish I’ve ever had. In a little bamboo boat, you get a slice of watermelon, cumber, fries, fried chicken strips with the most delicious spicy, sweet and sour sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Holy cow, it was good. We hanged around the heated pool area to do people watching, girls in bikini’s, tattoos and more. Adelle Nqeto was one of our first bands to watch and this girl is going places. Petite, black girl with an old soul. Take note of her friends. 

Bad Peter who was heading to Nelsparta just after Mieliepop, was up on the main stage after Adelle Nqeto. I had to see what they all about and just love their acoustic vibes. And oh boy are they tasty! I love their music. We caught a glimpse of Michael Canfield before we headed off to camp to dress warmly.

As much as Mieliepop is beautiful and warm during the day, the temperatures can drop very easily and after the sun has set it’s jacket time. The weather was a big debate over the course of the last few weeks, some saying they never get cold or you are like me – part lizard. Let me just say, the guys who thought they were tuff wished they bought more jackets.

Bad Peter at Mieliepop 2017 -photo by Small Town Music
Bad Peter at Mieliepop Festival
(photo by Small Town Music)

The first band of the evening was a STRAB favourite, Greg Georgiades and Ultra Natives. You haven’t seen jammin’ like this before and I saw Greg at all hours of the day and night. I rushed over to the main stage to catch another favourite of mine, Majozi. Humble guy, great voice, talented songwriter. He was joined on stage this time with a friend of his who was on a drum kit. Really brought something to the table. It was back to the Willow stage for Gerald Clark, I haven’t seen his show since 2015. I loved it. He just a fantastic artist, old and new favourites and I finally met his Golden Goose.

It was back to the main stage for Hot Water, it was only Donovan Copley and Xoliswa Tom on stage. Which was a little disappointing since the full band is quite impressive. It was back to the stage for the Oh So Serious which is always fun to watch. I gave Desmond and the Tutus a skip since I was dying for a cup of coffee. I, unfortunately, missed Crimson House but in our camp, they gained many new fans. A few friends duped them festival favourites, I’m taking their word for it.

We headed back to the festival and caught an ear to Pop Art Live which had the crowd roaring, we hung out at the pool bar for much needed catching up with our friends. On our way through the main bar we bumped into DJ Dirtroad, we can’t wait to see him at Woodcrock.

Hanging around on Mieliepop Saturdays - photo by Small Town Music
Hanging around on Mieliepop Saturdays
(photo by Small Town Music)

Day 3 – Sunday 19 March

What a shitty, miserable day for the weather we woke up to. The wind was blowing, the clouds were thick as cold butter and everyone was nursing a fresh hangover. If we saw anyone in shorts we immediately wanted to give them a blanket and a cup of coffee. The Swazi’s was busy packing up as they weren’t so lucky to have a public holiday on Tuesday like us. As we said goodbye to them we made our way to the Willow stage for our favourite Portuguese flavour, The Barbosa Experience. I don’t know if it was the music from Pedro and the boys or the vibe but the sun peeked out its head from the clouds making it into a beautiful day (despite the howling wind).

Nelsparta’s favourite boy, Jonathan Peyper was next. It was good seeing him and meeting his beautiful fiancé, Rozanne. The last time we saw Jonathan he was part of the Innibos Rock Rumoer competition (he was robbed we think). Anyway long gone is the boy, it was a man in front of us playing seriously good sounding blues. The new album is on the way and we can’t wait to hear it. Another old festival favourite was The Tidal Waves. Ag, what a band and what a vibe. You can always go home to Tidal Waves and with the sun shining brightly, their smiles were even brighter. 

Naming James opened the main stage and along with Jaco Mans they had the crowd gathering around. Naming James has been playing since the very first Mieliepop, impressive.

After dinner in the form of a Balkan burger (yummy), warmer clothes it was off to watch the Hellcats. Oh man, I’m in love with this band. The two-piece from Pretoria rocked harder than a tequila party. It was then time to go back to the Willow stage for Medicine Boy. I’m not sure about their performance, maybe I was tired or something. A lot of new people who saw them said it was a bit too dark for them. 

Femi Koya is an African band we missed to watch Late Night Fox. What interesting band, the lead vocalist, Dani Bakkes is fantastic. Grassy Spark was up on the main stage, I haven’t seen them since Up The Creek in 2015. They will always take me back to the Breede River. In between them and a flat camera battery, I lost my crew. I’m so thankful for Rob from the bar, he quickly helped me get my battery charged.

By the time Fuzigish came back on, I was ready to aim my camera. Fuzigish is a band everyone remembers from the glory 90’s rock days. Where in your life have you seen a rock band with a trombone playing rocking it? Only with Fuzigish. And while I was standing back behind the stage, the crowd rocked the poor fence out of its sockets. That is now one hell of a rock show then.

In the meanwhile somewhere watching Bye Benco and missed probably the one band you should have seen at Mieliepop if you are a 90’s teenager. A good friend suggested watching Haezer since this DJ is one guy you don’t want to miss at the Red Bull stage at Oppikoppi. Since I’ve never been to Oppikoppi I decided to see what the fuzz was about. Holy shit balls. What a mind blow. Whoever did the lights on stage for Haezer show was really good. It was better to watch it afar than to stand up front, it was really mind-blowing. And I really enjoyed his mix, what a kief way to end the night.

Monday – 20 March

It was windy the night before and we woke up to the wind howling around us. By now you feel like you will never get clean despite having a shower the day before. You had coffee but you need an IV of caffeine and you have settled being in a tent for the last few days. But it was a Monday, no better way to start the week with some live music.

Be Lekker on a Monday at Mieliepop festival - photo by Small Town Music
Be lekker on a Monday
(photo by Small Town Music)

So in shorts and a jacket, we set off to find some food for our bellies. By now you found your favourites, mine was still Sumthing Fresh and Balkan burgers. Probably because I’m allergic to pork…anyway our first band was The Dandies on the Willow Stage. What a cool surprise they were for the afternoon. They are a really cool band and would like to see them again.

Ruff Magic after them didn’t quite impress me, I think it was the girl’s blouse the lead vocalist was wearing. Like dude why? Let me know. Mouse, whose lead vocalist is about chest height was a bit, err…Maybe I felt it was a little early for their music. Somewhere I lost an hour since I had a headache from hell and fell asleep in the hot tent….by the time I woke up the sun was setting behind the pine tree line.

We managed to see Ben Dey & the Concrete Lions (very creative name), it was good to see our first full-band almost the whole day. I was advised to watch The Tazers and I was impressed. I’m glad when I follow music suggestions from friends and fans. BCUC from Soweto brought the African flavour with their two drummers, percussionist and vocals. They are the perfect example of taking cool photos, it’s about the stage presence. Black Math which is not completely my taste really impressed as well. 

The Willow Stage seemed to please all the metal and hard rock fans over the course of the day. ShortStraw, of course, is a festival favourite for me. Their music makes me happy in a way and they have a special place in my heart. It was nice to recognise some songs for the first time in the day like “Keanu Reeves”, “Bikini weather” and of courseBowsie. I love “Bowsie”, the story behind it. It’s so sad because we all have lost that one pet that was the world to us. And yet ShortStraw makes you smile in memory of. Thank you, boys, for that song. Of course, they had strong competition with the Willow Stage with Boargazm on stage.

Now Boargazm, those space pigs are favourites. It’s metal but comedy metal and yet it’s still metal. The outfits and the style with the Van Der Walt brothers on vocals. You haven’t seen piggies do it until you’ve seen Boargazm live. It took a lot of bribery to get a friend at least to watch PHFAT with me (and thank you Riz for doing so).

PHFAT has always had my interest and I was surprised when the good looking guy I saw backstage was the one rapping on stage. PHFAT is really cool, but you have to ignore the swearing. “If he can’t dance” was the favourite of the crowd and surprising you do know a lot of his songs if you are listening to commercial radio. I must admit that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but PHFAT was also a good artist to see live.

PHFAT performing at Mieliepop  2017 - Photo by Small Town Music
(photo by Small Town Music)

We walked back to camp for a late night coffee and hot chocolate and we spent a good 20 minutes looking at the stars again. We all reflected back on what we saw the day and evening before we headed to bed for our last night at Mieliepop.

My all in all feeling about Mieliepop was it was great music choice and it was good to spread. I although I did venture into the Rave Cave one evening for a quick look it was like entering Alice’s rabbit hole. The band selections were really good and you can thank Henk for that. Well done sir, it couldn’t have been easy.

I can only compare this year’s Mieliepop to the one we attend in 2014. What a big improvement! The bathrooms were much better, the camp layouts was a lot better and there was actually a place the media could do their thing. And there were actual signs to direct you to where you needed to go as well as the gate staff was helpful. The stages were well managed and on time, there was plenty of happy faces and our tummies were full.

The beer option, Striped Horse, wasn’t a favourite amongst the beer drinkers and they felt more options in beer would have been better. Next time, please sell wine as well, not all of us drinks beer or other things. There aren’t big complaints, we all had a good time. We all safe and sound, we had a fantastic time. You take the cold weather with the warmth of friends and lovers. 

Mieliepop 2017 is now a festival that made its mark on me. I will definitely recommend it to anyone. Mieliepop had such a wide variety of people from different backgrounds. Mpumalanga we can be proud of it.

Quick thanks to the following people: our camp friends, the fellow photographers and media people (especially Schutte), the staff of Mieliepop, the staff of Lemon Tree, Rob the best darn bartender, the bands and the festival family. Check out all our Mieliepop photos on our Facebook page.

See you next year at the next Mieliepop.

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.