Coke Zero Fest 2009: I am the Walrus

I’ve read articles about there being a single specimen left of certain animals or a selected group that cannot successfully continue the species. I guess watching Oasis play is akin to that – they are one of the greatest bands to grace the music world and they have no direct successors.

Coke Zero Fest 2009 in Johannesburg just concluded about an hour and a half ago with Oasis closing what was an epic festival. The venue was moved to Riversands Farm just north of Fourways in Sandton as opposed to the Newmarket Racecourse in Alberton in the South. There were positives and negatives but from my point of view, it was mostly positives. The biggest negative was actually getting to the venue. The venue is not a new venue for music events – several smaller festivals have been held there with people coming over and camping for several days. This, on the other hand, was a single day concert with people getting there at an allocated time and wanting to leave once the bands are done. The problem with this venue was that it is off the R511, which is a single lane road. People sat for hours in traffic just to get there and well, at present, people are still sitting in traffic trying to get home. Thank for directions to the place even though the one road that I suppose to take ended up being a private road leading to a farmstead. I might have been shot had I trespassed.

Other than that, the festival was brilliant – some of the best organisation I’ve ever seen at any event. Most importantly, the bars were extremely efficient – lots of staff and they had a little production line thing going where there were people dedicated to pouring the drinks and others dedicated to serving. Prices were also reasonable with a set fee for all drinks (R15) which meant no messing around with small change or wondering what the price differences are. Toilets were adequate although there were some problems that came up around 6pm when, I think, some of them clogged up. The actual venue was superb – no horse poo to get on your favourite shoes and jeans. The actual area was huge with several shaded areas to sit and just chill out. The one thing that was missing was the music-focused feel of Newmarket. The ground here is uneven and at some parts of the grounds, you can’t see the stage. This can be seen as a good or bad thing actually. There were also enough landmarks so you won’t get lost and well; it felt SO much like a festival! Last year, I did criticise the organisers a lot for a job badly done – this year, COMPLETE opposite. Big up to BIG Concert and Coke Zero!

There has been a lot of criticism of the choice of bands this year. This became even worse when Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Bullet for My Valentine pulled out less than a week before the show. I think merely by attending the festival and seeing the enormous and diverse crowd, you would see that all this criticism was like a bumblebee buzzing during a hurricane. My thoughts were simply that the headliner was Oasis. For the price that you paid for your ticket, you probably wouldn’t be able to see Oasis play a show in the UK let alone an outdoor show. I saw no reason whatsoever for them to justify the line-up when a band of the calibre of Oasis is present. Coupled with that, you had a veteran band in Snow Patrol, what more do you want? I do hope that the organisers actually do bring quality bands next year rather than listening to some whiners who can’t recognise, respect or enjoy real music.

I got to the festival whilst Foto Na Dans were playing. Honestly, they just sounded so bad. It has nothing to do with the language that they sang in – I would rather have heard a heard of buffalo in childbirth than listen to them again. Then again, last years first band – Lonehill Estate, was not really that good either. Oh well. Evolver played an amazing show and although I haven’t been the biggest fan of theirs, I have such respect for these guys for stepping up to the plate at the last moment due to the cancellations and they played a brilliant set that got the crowd hyped – kudos to them. Cassette played a set which, it seemed, was a carbon copy of the one played at Emmarentia Dam a week ago but that’s not a bad thing. The Dirty Skirts also played an okay set though it seemed to lack, “Homewrecker.” I could be mistaken as I was past sobriety by that point.

The whole festival vibe of this year’s Coke Zero Fest meant that meeting people was a pleasure. Festivals bring out this side of you that doesn’t exist at other places. It’s this friendliness that is completely different from any other situation – you know that you are there to enjoy yourself, not take anything too seriously and have a laugh whilst engaging in conversation that is not entirely devoid of value. This was bred this year and well, I did meet some pleasantly off-centre individuals that did increase the entertainment value of the day. So, I give another big up to the organisers for actually allowing Coke Zero Fest to graduate to the real festival stage. This did prevent me from beating up an emo kid though. You can’t win them all hey!

I first saw Zebra and Giraffe in Durban when they first launched onto the scene sometime last year. Since then, they’ve become a bigwig in the local music industry whilst still remaining pretty grounded. It’s so easy to speak to the guys in the band when you see them at a venue and they are genuinely into making conversation. The set that they played was probably the biggest gig they have played and well, in my opinion, they were probably better than Panic! At The Disco who played after them – not that the Panic set was bad! Zebra and Giraffe’s set was carried out, as I see it, with such passion and professionalism. I was seriously impressed by such a young, local band raising the tempo to such the level where the transition between the local band and the world-class, international band was seamless.

That said; Snow Patrol played a magical, mesmerising set filled with so many great songs. I met the lead singer yesterday at the press conference for the band. I also got a picture. I also told him I was a groupie. Lol. My friend complimented him on how great, “The Golden Floor” is, which he actually did play. I wonder if she had anything to do with it. Hmm…I was especially pleased that they played my personal favourite, “Shut Your Eyes.” Even better was the extended version of this with the crowd participation which satisfied me just fine. I really enjoyed the intensity that the band brought to each of their songs. Then again, Snow Patrol’s songs are complex songs and with the passion that they used to deliver these songs to the crowd, it had this magical effect that gripped the crowd and sent them to this beautiful place. That’s where music lives – real music and it does take a special band to take you there. Snow Patrol – salute.

At the press conference, Noel mentioned that he would like Oasis to be remembered as the seventh greatest band of all time. Above him were the likes of The Beatles (#1), The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Jam, The Sex Pistols and The Kinks. Noel then mentioned The Stone Roses at #8 and that just wowed me seeing that I hold them in such high regard yet so few people recognise this. I was wowed so much so that I actually missed the rest of his list. That list mentioned above is pretty impressive with the bands being of a calibre not seen in years. To have Oasis sit at #7, they would need to be pretty special. I would like to argue that they indeed are. After watching their performance, I am convinced that they are but I’ll get to the show in a bit. That list also got me thinking as to which modern bands, formed after 1990 or a band that came into prominence in the 1990s, can hold their own within that class of decorated bands. It’s actually so hard and the only bands that did come up were Oasis and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Nobody else comes close to even competing on that scale. It’s a pretty scary thought though – what is to happen to great music. Who are the bands that we will tell our children that we watched? Who are the bands that we will play for our children to demonstrate the power that music has and how special it can be? Hearing The Beatles for the first time is a religious experience. Listening to what Jimi Hendrix does with a guitar changes your life. Are we to rely on just Oasis and RHCP to carry on this legacy? It’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

So anyway, Snow Patrol did take us to this beautiful place that is the home of music. Oasis took us further – to a destination that is unfathomable with its beauty and splendour that the place we were taken to by Snow Patrol seemed like a concrete playground. Hearing Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back in Anger and Champagne Supernova – ok you know what, I can’t describe it at all. These songs are some of the greatest songs of all time from any genre or time period. I’m not even going to try explain what I felt when I heard them. It was just WOW. Anyway, no other band can have the lead singer walk off stage after the lyrics of a song has been sung whilst the rest of the band play for another three minutes. No other band can have this lead singer just stand and command such respect from those who are watching him. No other band can stir up feelings of pure bliss. No other band can end of with a Beatles song (“I Am the Walrus” in this case) and make it feel better than right. Sure, other bands put on better stage performances and make sure they sing in the right key but that is what makes Oasis so different. They are music. All other bands are music practitioners. Even though you probably can’t recognise it, what was witnessed was music perfection. And I am so glad that I did witness it.

The festival this year was probably the best event yet. I wish I could portray how good the Oasis set really was but well, I suggest you catch a show of theirs somehow. I can’t thank the organisers enough for what was a brilliant all-round package that exceeded my expectations. Next years festival is going to be really difficult to match up to this one.

And I do make a plea to the organisers to use their brains and move the festivals to 27 April and 1 May so the events do not clash with Splashy Fen – the reason for the clash is beyond my rational understanding but let’s not go there.