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Mieliepop is undoubtedly hosted on one of the most spectacular festival grounds in the country and this is the big reason I continue going back year after year. It’s the rolling green hills split apart by a tranquil river that sets it’s apart from the rest. You are almost guaranteed warm days with blue skies as far as the eye can see. But don’t be fooled by that spring in the air feeling because come night time you will soon be breaking off icicles from your nose and looking for someone just drunk enough to drag to your tent so you don’t have to freeze to death alone.

By now you must be wondering why I am so concerned with the weather and setting. It’s simply to keep from rambling on about the chaos concerning the infrastructure and admin…

Camping is separated onto the two banks and allows campers to either have a good night’s rest away from the hustle and bustle on the one side or camp only a stone throw away from the stages and brave the noise on the other. Logically one would then provide equal facilities on both parts. In this case campers had to make a massive trek every morning to try and wash off their sins from the previous night in makeshift showers that where only set up on the second day of the festivities. That is if you where lucky enough to find them in a working order…

With a great venue comes a great responsibly… A lack of designated roads resulted in chaos as campers arrived after sunset in the mist covered valley… I also found myself constantly annoyed by the lack of garbage bins. By mid-day the terrain looked more like the streets of mid city Pretoria than the oasis you expect from this green arena.

One would assume that keeping on schedule would be a given with a jam packed line-up like this but when a show starts to run 3 hours late you make a plan. You certainly do not try and shove AN EXTRA act in during the prime slots, which most certainly seemed more like a favor to a friend of a friend than an actual attempt to uplift an unknown artist.

I guess the line-up still remains the most important part of a festival (but I still firmly argue it will not SAVE a festival). Mieliepop has previously tried to revive some 80s bands and failed dismally with Men Without Hats last year. Luckily this year they focused all their energy on the local front and we were treated to some acts that don’t usually fill festival stages. My personal favorite treat was Wonderboom who featured Mandoza. I am going to say that again, MANDOZA! You have never seen so many white kids dance so badly, but we enjoyed every moment of it. Die Blues Broers is certainly a bit more aimed at an older crowd and they were misunderstood, as they played right before Desmond and the Tutus. Die Blues Broers was downright one of the most brilliant acts I have seen in a long time but it is sad when such genius is lost on a crowd. Bittereinder launched their album at the fest and it was start to finish energy explosions as one has come to expect from them. It was just terrible that they played on the electro stage that most festivalgoers were not even aware of. It was a steep hike up a hill, which, as you can imagine, is not ideal for the average boozed up festival attendee. The last treat for the weekend was an Albert Frost and Albert Meintjies collaboration that entertained us on Sunday afternoon but yet again this phenomenal performance is under appreciated, as most people just want to get up and get home on a festival Sunday.

In the case of Mieliepop they try and stretch the festivities to late on a Sunday afternoon, which certainly does not get the support you would hope. They start off the weekend with a less than impressive lineup on a Thursday night and have you miss out on some great acts on a Sunday. The trek home might only be 250km but the road after Ermelo is filled with road works and becomes very dangerous after dark when you get closer to Hendrina. A 2hour trip easily turns into 4 hours and it is unpleasant to get home in a post festival state late on a Sunday evening.

I am a firm believer in the motto that no one will make something enjoyable FOR you; you have to do it yourself. But this does not stop me from highlighting some key changes that need to be implemented that could make a huge difference in people’s festival experiences. Even tough most partygoers don’t ever take these details into consideration; I truly feel that festivals must strive to reach new levels. These smaller festivals are the future of music in South Africa and it is imperative that every single aspect is executed perfectly.

Everything from the merch stand (or absence of one) to the bathrooms and food stalls could do with an upgrade and I can’t say with conviction that the pleasant ferry ride and lovely setting can make up for these things. I will certainly continue to support the festival and truly hope next year they can sort out all the little issues and host the truly phenomenal festival I know it could be…

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