Splashy Fen: I’m just a middle-aged dirtbag, baby
Braving the Berg and defying his bald spot, this reporter waded in at ‘SA’s friendliest festival’
It was hazy when I opened my eyes on Sunday morning. Objects were nothing more than blurry shapes, and words had become mere sounds – uninterpretable by my ears.
My mind was misty, much like the Underberg mountainside I’d found myself perched on. It took a few seconds to orient myself. I tapped my pockets. Wallet? Check. Cellphone? Check. Car keys? Check. Okay, that’s the important stuff. At least I was a semi-responsible adult the night before. I’d also taken my contact lenses out and put them away properly. That’s nothing short of an Easter Sunday miracle.
I blamed the man flu which had set in two days earlier but, if I’m honest, it had nothing to do with that at all.
I stumbled out of the back of the bakkie I slept in – because setting up a tent is far too much hard work when a blowup mattress and a canopy will do the job – and looked around the campsite. Clearly I was not the only hazy-headed one.
Splashy Fen will do that to you, I guess.
This Easter long weekend was the 30th edition of the iconic music festival, set in the heart of the Drakensberg. And it was magnificent. Just ask the 9,000-plus people who attended – most of who were feeling at least as poorly as I was in the aftermath.
Splashy takes pride in being “SA’s friendliest festival”, and it shows. At various times during the weekend we huddled around strangers’ fires for warmth, gave alcohol through a funnel to people who took a shortcut through our campsite without paying their tolls (snacks of any variety, because we do actually care about the people we’re tolling), and even secured three condoms from our neighbours to play an elaborate prank on our drunkest member. Our neighbours even came over to watch the prank.
Kumbaya, I guess.
We braved the wind and the rain to watch Youngr, a magnificent act out of Manchester. We, alongside people we’d never met, and friends we hadn’t seen for ages. We took food suggestions from random people, some of whom even offered a taste before we spent our own money on it. We laughed at inflatable dinosaurs. It was that kind of a weekend.
And that was just my day one, Saturday (and I was playing catch-up, my mates having got there two days before me).
So there I was on Sunday morning, blurry-eyed and fuzzy-brained. The birds were swaying and the trees were singing. And it hit me in that moment: Maybe I’m too old for this.
At 34, perhaps my body was telling me that it’s time to sleep in a real bed, drink adult things like water, be clean and showered, and eat food that doesn’t come out of a truck at the recommendation of someone who hasn’t been sober for the better part of the long weekend.
But as morning turned into a slightly less headachey afternoon, and afternoon turned into a fully recovered evening, a second wind started stirring. I listened to the immaculately talented one-man band Juzzie Smith (even though he’s an Aussie, he can stay) and bopped along to our very own Mi Casa. I felt more human and more alive, and even strangers felt less strange.
Now in my element, although fading fast, the clock ticked towards 10.30pm in the main tent. The international headline act, Wheatus, were warming up. You know them from that one song, Teenage Dirtbag. No, they didn’t do that other song you’re thinking of. Actually, you might know Little Respect, but probably not. But that’s it.
It mattered not, because when Teenage Dirtbag landed, and the crowd went mental, the wonders of a one-hit wonder hit home. It was sing-along awesome.I might be a middle-aged dirtbag, baby, but I felt, just for two days, like I could be a teenager again. Splashy will do that to you. And then you’ll spend a week recovering, realise you’re not, curse loudly ... and then start planning for next year.