At first there’s a naive sense of excitement at the prospect of living through a four-day live and electronic music festival spread out over some of the most to-be- seen-at places in Johannesburg, South Africa. Slowly though, like a tincture your mother gives you before the end of the holidays and beginning of the school term, your stomach starts to churn slightly. The line-up, set out day by day in fat black letters on glossy white paper begins to swim, as the brain tries to calculate the likelihood of your physical and mental survival of it.
The Red Bull Music Academy Weekender is hedonistic and overwhelming; it is a plot conceived by the world’s most established energy drink brand to force the putrid, golden coloured drink down your gullet in gallons to feed your insatiable thirst for never-ending good times.
The most mature and practical way to go about it would have been to buy a day pass and, after an aural nuru massage, lie in your bed and toss and turn until the Red Bull wore off. Instead, you thought yourself fit for the Barkley marathons.
At Bassline club in Newtown, Jah Seed, Admiral, local reggae artists and the Bassline barmen spin your bowels into believing the possibility of surviving it all. The sweetness of marijuana scents almost make you forget the misogyny of dancehall music lyrics. Water is vital, you gulp down glass after glass like a Sahara survivor after having survived the long queue to anywhere you want to be. See part of the race has been a psychological test of convincing yourself how badly you wanted to see a washed up version of Kwaito star Thebe or one-time Drum n Bass boss Niskerone.
Finally you have made it to the night that actually matters – a night which will end with New Zealand band Fat Freddy’s Drop’s lyrics serenading sleep towards your pillow. Instead you fight yourself through a swamp of vodka mixed with inconceivable permutations of Red Bull flavours and sway to the acts that actually matter. Patoranking, the Nigerian dancehall star, has been disrespected with a sound set-up that makes him seem like a start up DJ – when really he has flown in a DJ and dancers to try and school your drunk ass.
You catch an aural glimpse of rap star AKA screaming an autotuned “Amandla” at the socially politicised audience. By the time Fat Freddy comes on, you think that they are on autotune because their sound set up outscales any act before them. Does it matter? By the time they try to leave, they are like a lover you once kissed decades ago and need to bed tonight – no matter what happens. The crowd is screaming the chorus of Foxy Brown’s “Oh Yeah” and you make a mental note to find the original. You never do.
By the time Sunday rolls around, you are looking cynically at day pass holders doing the “Mlume Bobby” to Stilo Magolide’s hit. You have become cynical to the amount of lip syncing the festival has offered, save for hip hop doyens Youngsta et al. By the time Black Coffee comes on, you are too unappreciative of his international acclaim. He meeds to compete with your pillow. For some of your weekend pass compatriots, he loses.