By Marley

“Some people feel the rain; others just get wet” – Bob Marley. This quote ran through my mind as the rain and mud-filled the camping grounds of Castle Rock in Sabie during the annual Sabie Tube Race. Even though it was my first time attending the race it wasn’t my first time ruffing it in heavy rain and mud. Nope, I cut my teeth on Mieliepop 2018 festival. But back to Sabie and the Sabie River that came down in flood and the rock ‘n roll that we watched and heard.

Sabie Tube Race 2019 - photo by Small Town Music
Make the best of the rain – play in the mud
(photo by Small Town Music)

The Sabie Tube Race is an annual event organised by the Round Table White River 64 crew and I must compliment them on it. Their organisation was really impressive and of course, improvements can be made but their determination to go on with the Tube Race, despite the rain, showed how passionate they are about what they do. Each year they also have a theme and with this year it was “For The Love of Rock Music” which of course suited me like a glove. With a line up filled with both local and Gauteng based bands and a tent that filled up with DJ’s.

Arriving at Castle Rock, the small low water bridge was overflowing and the puddles of mud were just a taste of what was to come. The cool weather made it so much easier to set up camp and hit tent pegs into the soft soil. It’s beautiful here, the tall old trees, the green grass and the small koppie nearby make this place seem magical in a sense. And the smell of the air, I can take deep breaths for days on end here. We were close to the ablutions and just had to take a long walk to get to the stage, which was difficult as the rain fell.

Friday night’s line up had Face Jackson (from White River), Back Stage (from Komatipoort) and DJ Rademeyer (from old Dropzone days). A “glips” in Joe F’s contract had him only play on Saturday night. But no matter, the crowd that was there was ready for a party and it kicked off with Face Jackson.

Face Jackson is from White River and since the members return from their induvial travels around the world, they came with some fresh faces and music. Playing just original songs, which is a BIG welcome in our area, they showed how they can turn anything into sound. Like clicking beer bottles together, shakers from different sizes and showed as well that a bassist can play guitar and vice versa.

Face Jackson at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - Photo by Small Town Music
Ricci of Face Jackson
(photo by Small Town Music)

Next up was Back Stage and this Komatipoort based band has their own followers. From bikers to rockers to pop heads to you name it. With Joe F not performing the organisers decided to give Back Stage two slots to fill up the stage. However, not everyone is a fan of the band and I saw how some of the crowd left to go braai in the rain or have a drink at the bar.

Back Stage at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - photo by Small Town Music
Back Stage
(photo by Small Town Music)

Then DJ Rademeyer took to the decks and the muddy floor was changed into a dance floor. This DJ is not your new age DJ, nope he used to be the resident DJ at the old Pretoria night club, Dropzone. He is now a farmer, a family man and still kicked ass. He created an amazing atmosphere and the party went on till 2-am.

Saturday morning the rain started to come down but for many tubers, it didn’t hamper their plans to part take in the tube race. Coffee and breakfast were slow and easy with discussing tips on how to go down the river and not get injured. One, I thought was the best idea ever, was wearing a thick wet suit. We teased the “R5 vir ‘n pomp” sign where you could have your tubes pumped up. I took a walk towards the entrance to see where the tubers exit the river and the rest stood in line for the truck that takes one to the starting point (near the Ceylon entrance). The line was a long one! I would roughly guess 200 meters, all standing in the rain waiting for their fun in the river.

Sabie Tube Race 2019 - Photo by Small Town Music
Fun in the mud!
(photo by Small Town Music)

The paramedics and SAPS diving team were present and the volunteers from CANSA were offering free sunblock. With the rain and the chill, one does get hungry, the bright yellow caravan had the best jaffles I’ve had in a while. The bikers group tent with their interesting food menu was also appetising. The Ice Cream truck was not missed either!

The first band on the list for Saturday was The Acoustics but with all the mud present I had to take a shower. Because with the heavy rain, the cold was creeping up into my bones. Voodoo Kudu from Nelspruit is a group of old schoolers. The youngest person is 45 years old. But they are a band that just really enjoy making tunes together and it’s a pleasure to watch them.

Voodoo Kudu at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - Photo by Small Town Music
Voodoo Kudu
(photo by Small Town Music)

The Expierreience from Johannesburg (with some Nelspruit connections) was the one band that stood out for me. With a voice reminding me of Crimson House and a sound that had the people at their fingertips, I was impressed. And I’ve been told by numerous venue owners to watch them. They weren’t wrong. Catharsis from Mbombela also had the bikers shaking their boots in the mud before Joe F filled up the stage again.

The Expierreience live at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - Photo by Small Town Music
The Expierreience
(photo by Small Town Music)
Catharsis live at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - Photo by Small Town Music
(photo by Small Town Music)

I had to sneak off to the dance tent that was situated over the now small muddy river of a camp road. With Prince from Johannesburg on the decks, it was welcoming to be in a tent where people made sense.

Prince at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - photo by Small Town Music
(photo by Small Town Music)
Jonathan Peyper live at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - photo Small Town Music
Jonathan Peyper
(photo by Small Town Music)

I had to return to the main stage for Jonathan Peyper. This old Nelspartan has moved back to his home town (now happily married) and together with Lee Savage and Robby Johns of No One’s Arc, we were excited about the show. And they didn’t disappoint! Their first show together was truly a mouth dropping moment in the crowd. I saw men just staring at Jonathan’s fingers as he slid them over the strings. I heard some girl giggling over Lee, and Robby’s face when he is drumming is just priceless. The 3 of them together made it truly special for a lot of blues fans. Just as their show ended I was back in the dance tent.

STM’s very own Ashleigh (aka Ashroom) was on the decks under the name Ashroom. She is still very fresh at DJ’ing but it is something she enjoys doing. And the people enjoyed dancing to her tunes. It was a proud moment and a rare moment because for the first time the whole STM team was at one event at the same time.

Ashroom live at Sabie Tube Race 2019 - photo by Small Town Music
DJ Ashroom
(photo by Small Town Music)

Martin Bester of Jacaranda FM was up next with his band and I must tell you, I was really surprised with his performance. It’s not every day you see a radio jock singing on stage never mind playing the guitar. The crowd loved him and interacted on every single level with him and the band. Plus a girl on drums, just shows you girls can do anything. DJ Rademeyer took the party on to new heights.

All in all, my first Sabie Tube Race wasn’t too bad, I must compliment the organising team on their work. Security meant business, the food was good, the bar staff were friendly and the music was memorable. For a Lowveld organised weekend, it was done very well.

However, the tokens from the bar we have leftover, it would have been nice to exchange the next day for cash. This service wasn’t available and now we sit with tokens? Also, the camping ground ablution blocks can do with a serious makeover. Some didn’t have toilet seats, some didn’t have working lights and the showers are really stuck in the 1970s.

For the venue, this upgrade can mean better revenue during the year, as Sabie is a must visit small-town in the Lowveld. Also, some more lighting next time on the roads will also help at night especially with the rain we had.

Next year, grab your friends, pump your tubes, pack your tent and join the fun because the Sabie Tube Race is here to stay.

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.