By Marley

Muddy waters. Brown sinking mud. 48 hours of continuous rain. Sunshine and sunburns. This and much more is what I can say nature threw at Mieliepop 2018. Never in my life after the 2000 floods that hit the Lowveld, can I say I have seen that much rain and mud. But in spite of this, Mieliepop 2018 brought us new and old favourites on stage and gave us new found love for rock ‘n roll and quality DJ’s. It even featured a waterfall that nature provided.

Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Growing waterfall at Mieliepop 2018
(photo by Small Town Music)

For the last two weeks or so before Mieliepop our fellow camper buddy, Troy Dodson had followed the weather almost hourly before we all packed up for Mieliepop. We were expecting the rain, packing two cars full of the ultimate things to survive Mieliepop for rain or sunshine. Gumboots, lots of water and alcohol and of course all the things you need for camping. We set up camp on Wednesday afternoon early, our good neighbour helped us to pin down the tents and gazebos with the wind. But it was a cool, semi-humid afternoon, perfect to have a beer.

Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Prepared for heavy rains
(photo by Small Town Music)

We set off to the main festival where we found roofs over the WillowMain and Cool in the Pool stages. A big welcome to the weekend. Loads of new and old food favourites at Maizey Food Court. Wednesday evening was filled greeting friends you only get to see at festivals and meeting new people. 

Lil Bow and Nick Hamman brought us tunes where the two of them had a competition playing old school tracks to see who can make the people dance more. You add Jägermeister (again no tequila or wine at the bars) and some beer and it was a party to kick off the night. The rain started as well and we all headed back to camp, excited for the next 5 days.

Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Cloudy, rainy weather at Mieliepop 2018
(photo by Small Town Music)

Thursday morning was raining – lightly – but raining. More friends from Swaziland and Johannesburg showed up to set up camp. Our neighbours of Mix FM 98.8’s poor tent were flooded from the previous evening of rain. We helped where we could and we set off for the day. Everything was wet. Earthworms were busy crawling from the ground making it look like a wired Sci-Fi movie. Snakes moved to higher ground.

The Willow Stage was wet, wet and wet. However, we set up a groundsheet and had a drink while watching Werner Bakkes who strangely reminded me of YOAV.

Greg Georgiades, an old festival favourite had our spirits high. I decided it’s time to test the food available and found the BAHA TACO, a Johannesburg North based restaurant. Best. Mexican. Food. Just like that.

Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Pine needles path at the food court
(photo by Smal Town Music)

Since I have food allergies they proved to be the best choice even if you are a vegan, vegetarian or a meat eater. As the day went on, the festival had organised pine needles to be thrown onto the paths we walked on to control the mud, which helped until the festival goers grew in size as the rain got more.

Greg Georgiades live at Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Greg Georgiades
(photo by Small Town Music)
Jonathan Peyper live at Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Jonathan Peyper
(photo by Small Town Music)

I found a band called Strait Jackal on the main stage. I became an instant fan. I love funk music mixed in with brass instruments. I just had to meet them. After them, I headed back to Willow to see Zionruts Family who had been frequent visitors to our region. They were everything I thought they would be, a full-on reggae band supported by the Rastafarian colours and songs. Loads of covers of songs we all know and love giving it their own unique signature.

I missed the next band because it was time to layer up. The rain was coming down pretty hard and I was glad to have purchased my poncho earlier that week.

Looking like a blue smurf and got ready for Jonathan Peyper. Jonathan is busy raising money via Thunda Crowd to record his second studio album. He told me that Dan Patlansky will be producing the album. Joined by Jason Hinch on drums and Jaco Mans on bass, Jonathan gave an excellent matured blues performance before a crowd that truly appreciated his music. He was proof to me that this man, who’s been on stage since the age of 14, is truly an artist.

I headed to the main stage to see Sol Gemz who didn’t impress me at all. Easy Freak was better but Van Pletzen feat Early B was the highlight for me. I knew from social media what Van Pletzen sounded like but Oppikoppi 2017 goers knew this already. I was partying my butt off and with Early B gave everyone a great time.

I missed Made for Broadway who was a hit with my fellow camp family. The bar stage power was cut off by the rain and the main bar had to close. The night before caught up and it was off to a rainy night.

Van Pletzen live at Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Van Pletzen
(photo by Small Town Music)

On Friday morning it rained hard. All our moods were now bleak. We were comparing festivals stories now from the UK and Scotland. It was that wet. A snake visited our neighbours but it was just passing by, heading for higher ground. After a few cups of coffee and hot chocolate, we headed off for some breakfast. I headed to the one spot we saw the spirit was high at. The Cool in the Pool stage where the DJ’s entertained the crowd. It was pouring rain and the mud now has risen to ankle height. 

Bongani ZuluB2B and Khatu Must had a great set. We all danced while the growing waterfall was a reminder of how much it’s been raining. During the day more and more people were arriving late because of the mudslides that used to be a road. After a Red Bull cocktail, I was heading back to Willow Stage for Luma. I was bored with the music.

We headed to Main Stage and was waiting for Native Young. This is where we realised that the mud is serious because neither they or African Rhythm or Femi Koyahad arrived. So the backstage manager, Kobus van Rooyen quickly made a plan. HellCats from Pretoria quickly set up and had the filled the front of the stage in a matter of a song. While they played the rain stopped and the clouds cleared. This gave us all a lift again from the rain and mud.

Finally, The Moths also arrived and was setting up. I headed off to the Rave Cave to get out of the mud and to see Haezer on the decks. I love this man. His dynamic way of pulling together a crowd ranging from 19 to 45 in ages to dance was just amazing.

Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Having fun at Cool in the Pool
(photo by Small Town Music)
Hellcats live at Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
(photo by Small Town Music)

My next band was Australian based DZ Deathrays which was hard rock meets metal. This had the whole festival split in two now. Since Moonchild Sanelly could not get to Mieliepop due to the heavy rain on the roads and the muddy road to Toldeira.

I was impressed with DZ Deathrays, they are really good on stage but the music got too much for me. I am a rocker but too much of a good thing is also not good. My fellow hard rockers loved the band. They couldn’t get enough.

I was dead on my feet from all the mud and headed to camp, walking past a semi-empty Willow Stage for Cortina Whiplash.

Australian based DZ Deathrays - photo by Small Town Music
DZ Deathrays
(photo by Small Town Music)

Saturday morning was warm. Of course, this meant colder but we had sat in the sun for the first time since Wednesday. We had blankets, jackets and socks getting dried out. And our spirits were high. Our first band was Gunshot Blue. LOVE THEM. It was my kind of music and Frans on lead vocals was just the best. I really hope that the crew from STRAB and Woodcrock keeps them in mind. 

Wolfgang Marrow I finally managed to sit down and watch. Sally on vocals with her beautiful lavender colour hair was just amazing. I want an album now. I headed off to the main stage to wait for the Jägermeister Brass Kartel to find African Rhythm on stage. This 7 piece entertained the small crowd. They managed to make it to the festival after getting stuck in the mud. The Jägermeister Brass Kartel quickly had the crowd fill up and played songs like the “Game of Thrones” theme song, “Ghost Busters”, “Hemel op Tafelberg” and more.

I bumped into an old fellow Seerower and we slid our way to the Jager Truck. The mud was something crazy. It’s the kind if you stand still in it, you will get stuck. 

Moonchild Sanelly finally got on stage also missing her original slot the previous evening. First time I saw her and I was in love with her. Dressed in fishnet stockings, a skimpy blue outfit and her trademark blue hair. I missed Georgetown to go back to camp for a drinks refill and warmer clothes for the evening.

I got back to the main stage for the last songs of Klopjag who was a great band to hear again. They seemed out of place in the lineup but let me tell you they had the crowd eating out of their hands. BOO! With Chris Chameleon on bass and Riaan van Rensberg on drums was up next. Chris, in true theatre style, walked up on stage with a striped, tight fitted outfit and high heels. BOO!’s Set was amazing with crowd favourite Boo! songsCrimson House was, of course, another highlight I didn’t want to miss.

Keep it up, boys and girl! I was off to Willow Stage for another round of HellCats original slot time.

Gunshot Blue live at Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Gunshot Blue
(photo by Small Town Music)
Moonchild Sanelly performing at Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Moonchild Sanelley
(photo by Small Town Music)

The mud show, which we called it, was hell to walk through. But we all went to the Main Stage to see Bomb Shelter Beast. And what a beast size of the band. It was an awesome show. After them, the Jägermeister Brass Kartel band was again on stage to prepare the crowd for The Black Cat Bones.

It looked like a mud fight from where I was standing but it was fun. Our ‘veteran’ Mieliepoppers who survived the week’s rain was just jolling. The Black Cat Bones entered the stage. In black feathers, black makeup and Kobus de Kock Jnr in a blue sarong and his trademark porcupine quills. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. I joined my friends in front for ‘a rock out’.

Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
The Black Cat Bones
(photo by Small Town Music)
Crimson House live at Mieliepop 2018 - photo by Small Town Music
Crimson House
(photo by Small Town Music)

I survived Mieliepop through all the rain and mud because of three things:

  • My trusty CAT boots (that I’ve owned since I was 16)
  • My best friends and festival family
  • And the music

I must compliment the team of Mieliepop. You guys and girls worked overtime to keep us safe from the rain and mud. So many things probably went wrong behind the scenes but it was nothing we truly noticed. Also to the bands that managed to make to Mieliepop safely, it was an honour to see and/or hear you. 

Mieliepop 2018 - Small Town Music
Muddy boots and beer
(photo by Small Town Music)

My complaints are that there were only toilets near the bar, in a new location which was welcomed. However, with the mud, you had to walk far from Willow Stage to answer a nature call. Which was difficult at times.

From the Main stage as well but that was unexpected mud. There can be a few more night lights from the Willow stage towards the ticket checkpoint going towards Band CampMaizey Stray and overflow camping. It’s super dark here.

Adding railings or balustrades at the Rave Cave to help people not fall off the openings will also help. The lack of tequila and SAB beer (if not a more choice in beers) was a complaint. Not everyone enjoys craft beers. Also, the lack of wine (again) at the bar in the cold weather was dearly missed.

Mieliepop 2018 was one festival I will not forget soon. I still can’t believe how much rain and mud was present! And how we all managed to keep our spirits high. I can say I survived Mieliepop with a great smile because we stuck it out. We made the best out of the situation and enjoyed ourselves.

Thank you Mieliepop.

Full Mieliepop album is on our Facebook page, check it out

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.