G'day folks...
Wingerdstok was BRILLIANT!!!
The stage and sound were superb. All thanks to Kevin Winder on the last count: reliable and consistently good throughout. I said to him that my only complaint was a brief hint of a wobble during the first Jack Hammer song. His smiling response was, "We-e-ell, there might be something wrong with your ears." A joke, but spot on in terms of faultless quality.
Then, Dirk "Trip van Winkel" Uys. Incredible to pull the whole thing together and land such a good line-up from all over. The access problems were apparently due to crimping tools getting lost and being unavailable in hardware shops anywhere between Stellenbosch and Paarl. there's always something...
Hopefully, the fact that dedicated and ardent supporters waited for so long won't be all that's remembered when the '98 festival posters hit the lampposts.
On Saturday I walked into the gate with a friend who remarked, "Hard to believe that to cover that distance {he pointed to a ten metre stretch} took two hours!".
Anyone who missed the festival should consider making plans now for their February holidaying next year. Ampie Omo (billed as a "Fire Wizard" since he's mainly playing with No ID now) touched on an interesting consideration: "Dis die laaste keer soveel bands sal almal bymekaar wees, want nou is daar Rustlers en Oppikoppi, en volgende jaar is hulle almal te groot om met anders te speel." Hope not, besides, it'll be Squeal we're first deined ;-).
Enough prattling and on to the reviews, one for The Argus Big Noise and one for The Sunday Times Cape Metro.

Wingerdstok '97
Groot Drakenstein Sports Club, Franschhoek, 21 and 22 February 1997
reviewed by Chippie Waterman

Wingerdstok brought together 28 bands over 2 days of wine-farm, camping and music in the lush greenery of the Boland at Groot Drakenstein. Springbok Nude Girls dazzled yet again, with a live set that took further the musical vision revealed in their EP release of late 1996. Valiant Swart's penultimate live performances for the year was a fine set, leaving fans eager for his new album (late March) and the solo CD from guitarist Anton Lamour. Judging from the number of T-shirts sporting their logo, Battery 9 were firm crowd favourites, and their set saw a late night frenzy at the level caused by the Nude Girls a few hours earlier. Lithium were in high spirits, their relaxed presence on-stage belying the hard/grunge storm they whipped up. Koos Kombuis' Warmblankes were joined on stage by guest-artist Wendy Oldfield, who added a vocal depth to some of the Tassenberg troubadour's tunes. Grungeniks Squeal seemed strangely demure, but satisfied followers who'd come specifically to see the Durban band.
On the gentler side, and also from Durban, Famous Curtain Trick soothed minds and won over the hearts of the Boland audience. Dorp and The Dynamics got the crowd up and a-boogie-ing, remarkable after so recent a line-up change for both bands. When it comes to the blues, The Blues Broers shine, and so they did on the weekend, challenged only by Jack Hammer, Piet Botha's long-standing Pretoria outfit. Thysis and Drain impressed in the realm of hard rock, the former with crystal-clear vocals and depth of insight and the latter with their sheer- power to age ratio (Lithium watch out). Nine and White Trash also hammered it out heavy, as did The Led (certainly a band to watch) while Adamu graced the line-up with at least one African group.
Wingerdstok is the biggest South African rock festival (rivalled only by Oppikoppi) and all credit is due to Trip van Winkel for organising the two-day, twenty-eight band monster, and Martell for exhibiting the corporate foresight to sponsor it. Things ran smoothly except for a problems with access - fans queued for over two hours - and a nervous titter of rain early on the first afternoon (during a surprise set by Uitenhage's Drench, no less!). The sound was huge and superbly well-balanced, food and drink facilities were good (R3 for imported beers!) and amenities more than adequate for the number of fans present. Make a date for Wingerdstok '98.
Watch the press for details on the Trippy Grape triple bills at The Garage (in the Neelsie) and at The Hidden Cellar (at De Akker), both in Stellenbosch.
You can next catch Valiant Swart and the Springbok Nude Girls at the Karoo "Kaktes op die Vlaktes" art festival, with Juluka, Miriam Makeba and Worsie Visser.
Dorp and Famous Curtain Trick are joined by Just Jinger (Gauteng) and Sons of Trout for the second B&H Bandslam on March 8.
The Blues Broers play on Wednesday March 5 at the Dock Road Venue Pizza Factory, at Lemon Fubar (old Jacob's Ladder) in Stellenbosch on Friday March 7 and as part of the Spier Jazz and Blues festival on Saturday March 22..
Also start preparing for the the Red Cross 24 hour blues marathon at The River Club, Observatory on Saturday March 29.

[Sunday Times Cape Metro piece ends]

The Big Noise review was commissioned to accompany a piece on the festival as a whole which focussed primarily on the gentler bands:

Drain, hard rock heavies and the cast-iron laurel wreath at Wingerdstok '97
Groot Drakenstein Sports Club, Franschhoek, 21 and 22 February 1997
by Evan Milton

Touted as South Africa's answer to Silverchair, Stellenbosch band Drain are a hard-rock/grunge band comprising schoolboys the youngest of whom is fourteen years of age. The band deliver a powerful sound, structured around driving guitar-chords and stamped over solid bass and hard drumming. Each number is short and punchy and the medium is perfectly suited to the themes of pre-teen angst and crisis which inspire the songs. The band were something of a novelty highlight on the bill but held their own proudly amongst bands twice their age. Grunge grandpas Squeal had best sit up and take notice of the upstarts in their court. Lithium (who played a set impressively balanced between raw rock-anger and playfulness) might also need to check their rear-view mirrors. Nine continued to develop their conceptual/free-metal/grunge sound with sets constructed around long jam-songs that showcase the synergy between vocalist Farrell and guitarist James. Billygoat do foreground their homage to the raspy rockabilly sound, but seem to draw their influences rather from derivatives -- like The Cult -- than the early masters (even The Cramps, but ideally as far back as Bird). The Led are impressive too, and it's a shame they don't often play further afield than their native hometown. They mix lyrical skill with a strong guitar-sound and backline. Ark do the stadium rock thing with aplomb while Garden Variety do their bit to keep alive a punk-inspired sound in the Western Cape. The cast-iron hard and heavy laurel wreaths go, without dispute, to the Springbok Nude Girls and Battery 9. SNG seem to get better and better with each performance and here, playing on home territory, they definitively proved their premiere position as South Africa's top rockers. South African audiences should pat themselves on the back too, for making a commercial success of such innovative and progressive (avant garde? groundbreaking?) music. Then there's Battery 9, ardently supported by every third person at the festival, judging from the Tshirts present and the throng of signature-hunters. Here's hard, sequencer driven, industrial-inspired, art-complemented crucially South African music with a sense of humour and compositional flair that elevates it above international competition. Face it, you're behind the times and a softcore wimp if you still regard Trent as trendy. Down South Riekert reigns and Battery 9 are where the true fans are.
Wingerdstok backstage news snippets are that Jack Hammer's Piet Botha is planning a solo album of songs in Afrikaans, Valiant Swart's new CD is scheduled for release in March, Anton Lamour (Valiant's guitarist) has a solo disc out soon and Drain themselves are about to release a disc on Trippy Grape Records called "Exposure". Paul Riekert (of Battery 9) is remixing Squeal "just for fun", an EP is in the pipeline and a conceptual project with Breinskade and Gauteng artist Belinda Blignaut is underway. Also watch out for "Wingerd Rock" CD, featuring 2 songs each from nine of the Boland bands (new tracks by Springbok Nude Girls, Koos Kombuis and Valiant Swart are included).

©Chippie Waterman 1996, 1997. All articles by Chippie were orignally written for The Sunday Times Cape Metro Section or The Cape Argus Big Noise. Enquiries about Chippie can be directed to Evan Milton