Review | Splashyfen 2017 – South Africa’s Friendliest Festival

All words: Cee – CeecesTravel

From a festival goer’s point of view.

Go to Splashyfen they said. It would be fun they said. And they were right.
Splashyfen, now known as South Africa’s Friendliest Music Festival and with good cause too was an absolute success. For the last two years, the festival has been run by Impi Concepts, with Stu Berry at the helm, leading a safe, fun and quality event for the last two years.

Splashyfen is one of South Africa’s oldest music festival’s of its size and scale. Hosted every year in the Drakensberg Mountains, not only is the location picturesque but home to Kwa-Zulu Natal. Durban city has this reputation of being left out when it comes to big concerts and festivals. However, Splashyfen is home to KZN and festival attendees travel from all over South Africa and even abroad to attend the event.

The event is open to everyone and that is one of the reasons it has such a special place in everyone’s hearts, including that of my own. Splashyfen does not discriminate against, age, race, religion, gender or by any other means. It is a place for you to bring your families, your friends, your partners. A place of good music, food, and people.

Speaking of music, Splashyfen caters to all music lovers, with several stages on site during the festival all allocated to a distinct type of sound, you’re spoilt for choice. This year saw the addition of a Treehouse stage, along with favourites, the Mainstage, Acoustic Stage, EDM stage and River Stage.  

Opening the Main stage was non-other than SAMA nominated South African folk musician Nibs Van Der Spuy. Followed shortly by an artist commonly referred to as “One Man – Two Guitars”. Rodney Branigan has Splashyfenners on their feet in no time. And just after that The Gus Brown Band. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to open the main stage myself.

Splashyfen this year took place from the 13th-16th of April 2017 over the Easter weekend. My festival partner and I choose to use the camping facilities of the Harambee Hotel which attending this year’s festival. Personally, If you’re going to go into the mountains and camp then I would suggest gathering a few friends, sectioning off a piece of land and creating a little camp village around each other. I personally, did not enjoy the camping experience of the Harambee Hotel and would rather choose to camp on site with everyone else, or to stay at one of the many guest houses in the area if you’re looking for a bit more comfort. However having said that, I must also give credit, where credit is due. The bathroom and shower facilities in the Harambee Hotel village were amazing. They were clean 24/7, never over crowded and easy to find.

This year saw Impi Concepts bring us several international acts including the already mentioned Rodney Branigan, along with one of my favourites Michael Franti and well known Headlining act, The Temper Trap.

Michael Franti, what an amazing, friendly soul. It was almost as though Michael Franti is Splashyfen? I could not have picked a better performer for the event, in its style, atmosphere and cause. I also got to give Michael a hug which was probably the most starstruck moment I have had this year so far. We hung out at the Treehouse stage briefly and then another new addition to splashy, saw a line of gumboot dancers, find their way into the festival grounds. While sipping on what I like to call, THE BEST hot chocolate ever, from Marley’s Coffee. I heard the sounds of Africa.  Proud, loud, passionate calls, and the shaking of the ground beneath our feet. Within moments, I was standing in front of a group of fearsome warriors. Shortly after that they formed a circle on an open space of ground and proceeded to give the crowd a stellar performance. With non-other than Michael Franti in the front row.

Well done impi, yet another small addition to a wonderful event that no one expected and everyone enjoyed.

Wandering around the festival grounds at Splashy is like walking around at home in your Pj’s. No kidding, that’s how comfortable one feels. You’re out of the city, you’re with like minded people and everyone is there to do one thing. RELAXING. And what better way to relax than by supporting local artists, local vendors, camping with friends and family and simply appreciating the beautiful surroundings and location that you’re in?

And if you were worried about any fights or bad vibes, know this. There aren’t any unless you’re bringing them. With a strict but friendly security team in place, a light police presence during the days and a no glass rule, the only bumps and scratches you’ll get are from jumping up and down in the crowd watching shows, or if you indulge a bit too much in Marley’s Irish Coffee.

Even though 2017’s Splashyfen was a tad wetter than the year before, nothing could stop the Fenner’s from having fun. As I mentioned earlier, Splashyfen is one of the only festivals I know who are able to put together a South Africa line up, from A-Z across ALL genres, age groups, etc that ensure everyone gets’s to see their favourite bands.

I was in awe, as I got to listen to Capetown favourite Jeremy loops, on one stage, Durban favourites The Subway Run on another stage and JHB favourite’s Rubber Duc on another. Seriously and that’s before I even start going on about how Springbok Nude Girls totally stole the show from the International headliners. In my opinion anyway. Arno Carstens and the boys are living legends on the South African music scene. They’ve bought the T-shirts and pants, got dressed, sprayed themselves red, yellow, green and blue and proudly set the stage on fire with nothing but pure, raw, talent.

South Africa has this secret. We produce international quality, musically renowned talent. And we are spoilt for choice. Whether we know it yet or not I am not sure, I think we’re still a bit wet behind the ears, but after Splashy2017 I feel as though not going to a live show and not supporting the artists is a crime.

Mornings at Splashyfen were full of adventure, whether it was starting your day off in one of the YOGA sessions, or using the many trail run paths, or simply learning how to play the Didgeridoo. After that one could source breakfast from the various but selected food stalls on site. From pancakes to Mexican you could have it for breakfast or dinner. My favourite place to eat, almost a Splashyfen tradition for me now is the Stir fry Place. I think it’s actually called The Stir fry Place, and it’s delicious. What’s better than laying on a picnic blanket down at the River stage, while eating sweet and sour and listening to Josh Wantie on stage?

Or, walking over to Marley’s for one of those famous Irish Coffees in the cold of the evening and then watching Shortstraw Band absolutely own their set? I mean it, even Keanu Reeves was in attendance. Well, his cardboard cut out at least.

Speaking of South African talent, The Parlotones were at this years Splashy2017 and in addition to them taking us all back in time, they let non-other than The Subway Run lead vocalist and The Voice contestant Freddy Lalendle close their show with them.

The next day, bright and early, if you’d hadn’t been paying attention you may have walked into the vendor area and thought you were still dreaming. The day of the SplashionShow was upon the Fenner’s and everyone dressed up. In it to win it, I think the correct term would be. And who other than our much beloved and famed Splashyfen Mayor than Huck Auben to lead the proceedings. I don’t know what was more fun, watching the amazing contestants strut their stuff on the runway, or listening to Huck? What a character. Huck is basically Splashy Gold. It would not be Splashy without our Uncle Huck.

After the much-enjoyed show, the witty banter both from Huck and the crowd, votes were in and the Turtles took away the prize. Coming in second were Kathryn Ardier de Jesus and partner Dimitri Kalamoudacos in their ‘I found Wally” outfits.

Splashyfen is a special event. You arrive, with an idea in your head about how you’re going to spend the days. Which bands you’re going to watch, who you’ll hang out with during the festival. Let me tell you none of that ever works out. And it’s perfect that it doesn’t. You find new bands to listen to, take home, follow online, and support. You meet and make new friends from the moment you start constructing your tent. You end up drifting between stages, food stalls and the mountains.

Sunsets are watched from the top of the River stage hill, the city life drifts away and the small of evening fires fill your senses. Musicians and festival goer’s form circles around the bonfires, song’s get sung and laughs are had. And we all know it’s coming near the end. That last day, the last morning, the last band, the last time you can have sweet and sour chicken for breakfast and no one judges you. It’s bittersweet. There are tears of sadness, but then also the craving of your own bed at home. There are goodbyes to friends you’ve made who live in other cities, but then also excitement for plans to visit them. As mom and dad would say, it’s never good to have too much of a good thing.

And that is what Splashyfen is. It’s a good thing. It’s a very very good thing. For the artists who take part, for the people who attend. It’s a good thing. I am already counting down the days until Splashy 2018. I did the same after Splashy 2016, but now I know that it’s here to stay and it’s going to get better and better and better each year.

Granted it took me a few days to actually stop wearing my Splashy2017 shirt when I got back…….


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