I went to a festival called Electric Picnic in Ireland in August 2012. It was my first international music festival experience, so the name has always stuck in my mind. For various reasons.
Along with some blurry memories of wandering around grass lawns in the dark carrying freakishly large cans of beer and trying to see as many international bands on the line up as possible.
Many of whom, to be quite honest, were quite shit live.
Don’t get me wrong, I did have a lot of fun at the festival. There were a lot of laughs, a lot of banter around the campsite and a lot of other people having a lot of fun too.
But for me, it gave me some insight into how much fun South African live music events really are.
So to jump back to 2019, seven years later, I went to a different kind of Electric Picnic last week on Heritage Day. And it gave me a different perspective on the name. Here are some of the reasons why.
Why an Electric Picnic in a Garden Was More Fun Than An International Festival
It’s just more fun partying at home
I say this a lot when I’m drunk (or otherwise), but South Africa is a fun place. Maybe not the most organised place, or the safest place, but for me, still the most fun place.
And while I’m not trying to deny the severity of our myriad social and economic issues, the focus of my life now is to have fun, and tell people about it, so being here works well for me.
Especially when you have friends who play in bands and decide to host outdoor music festivals called Electric Picnic in their back garden on a public holiday. On a Tuesday.
This is especially relevant in a place where the amount of fun that has been had in the venue over the years is obvious from the broken jacuzzi and rustic (fun)ctional bar at the bottom end of the garden.
I didn’t need to go anywhere once I arrived
And I mean literally nowhere.
When I arrived I couldn’t find the hostess of this Wêreld party, my friend Cynthia, or anyone else that I knew. But I did see her boyfriend, Retief, at the bar from the other side of the garden, so I made my way straight there.
And I didn’t leave for hours. Not even to get up to get the boerewors roll that I had been looking forward to eating for days.
(Luckily Retief’s brother Johan, who had actually already braaied most of the meat, was kind enough to go and get one for me. After I put some more money in the tip jar).
I did have aims of going out onto the lawn and seeing the bands play live from the other side of the stage, but the bar stool was just so comfortable. And the beer was just so close by.
Also, I figured if there was anyone I knew out in the crowd, chances were that they would eventually come to the bar at some point.
It’s all about the people
And I was right.
I saw my friend Katja and her pink pants in the distance from my barstool when she arrived at the party, but I figured I’d eventually make my way over to her, or vice versa.
And thankfully, she did , so I got to hang out there for longer, and not have to chase after live acts on a series of different stages, and be disappointed when Crystal Castles only played (badly) for 20 minutes.
From my extremely sedentary, but very enjoyable vantage point at this Electric Picnic in Pretoria, I could appreciate the bands and talk to people at the same time, which was a lazy, but welcome change.
Even though I highly recommend watching all of the bands on the line up from the other side too, because they’re all really good.
Like, in my opinion, more enjoyable live than The Cure good.
Small gigs are just better
I know, I know, The Cure is awesome. But here’s the thing. For me, watching a band live at a huge venue isn’t as fun.
In South Africa, there is often massive hype around seeing any kind of international act live, to the point where it always takes place in a huge venue that is far to drive to, and takes a lot of energy to get in and out of, and be in.
(Which most people will happily do, even if they’ve never actually heard of the band/act before).
I’m not saying these types of gigs don’t have their place, of course. And they make economic sense, for sure. There are also just certain bands you want to see in a large venue because they’re just that fucking awesome that no space can contain them.
(Unfortunately, I think The Cure has just been awesome for a really long time though, so they’re tired).
So while big gigs can be fun, and Sigur Rós was amazing to see live in the Irish countryside in 2012 even with a Guinness hangover, I think there is a lot to be said for watching local Pretoria bands, who you can talk to afterwards (along with a lot of other interesting people), in a smaller, more comfortable space.
Especially when you happen to find a very comfortable seat, good company and a stage with a series of talented live music acts performing in listening/viewing distance without having to get up from the bar.
What did you get up to on Heritage Day? If you had even nearly as much fun as I did I’ve love to hear about it in the comments below.