It was that time of the year again and this year Bryn, Natasha and I decided to be environmentally friendly. We met in Durbanville and hopped in Bryn’s car for the two-hour drive to Saggy Stone. Saggy Stone is an established brewery in the Nuy River Valley between Worcester and Robertson. Each year they host a one day music festival and this year there were to be 13 bands performing. You could feel the excitement as we drove through the Huguenot Tunnel.
Once again this year we had booked in to the amazing Nuy Valley Guest Lodge – there is a camping and “glamping” option at Saggy but being seasoned festival junkees, we prefer the comforts of a warm bed after a long night of beer and music. Nuy Valley Guest Lodge is massive and can accommodate up to 100 people in well decorated rooms or in the backpackers which is a converted cellar. It is an ideal venue for a wedding as we were to find out much later.
We checked in with the ever so friendly and efficient Elisia who managed to find two next door rooms for the three of us – again this would prove convenient much later.
The drive from the Lodge to Saggy is about 10km on a very good dirt road. We parked in a field about 500m from the entrance and as usual there were tractors and trailers waiting to take us to the venue, which is nestled in the very picturesque valley. We felt like 7 year olds as we excitedly climbed into the rickety trailer full of eager music fans.
At the gate we were met by efficient and friendly staff who quickly scanned us in and informed us that because we had early bird tickets, to help ourselves to a complimentary festival lager – and so it began. The first three hours until 1pm, beers were just R20 for a 500ml draught so there was no hesitating. In fact it felt like a race!
We caught the end of Crosscurrent who sounded pretty good and then settled in to our chosen spot under the shade of a bedouin tent in front of the stage. I had seen Josh Kempen perform before, as the support act to Just Jinger. I think his roots are in Australia, he sounds American and lives here. His music was perfect and mellow, easing us slowly into a long day and night of great music.
This year Saggy had arranged a selection of drinks, so it was not just a beerfest. There was pink gin and tonic on tap, red and white wine, rum and coke and Jack Daniels had set up a stand where you could partake in their famous brew. Natasha had a few festival beers and then switched to wine. Bryn and I stuck to beer. There were several varieties on offer – the Desert Lager, Dark Horse Lager, California Steam Ale, Rocky River Pale Ale and even a Big Red Ale. We tried them all – all were delicious and perfect for a steamy hot day. My favourite was the Desert Lager.
Manny Walters is a blues rock singer guitarist with long dreadlocks. When he took to the stage I though we might get some reggae but it was solid blues rock and excellent. It was the first time we had seen him perform and I will be looking out for his future gigs.
By now it was 2pm so the “happy hour” was over and an extraordinary band then took to the stage. Hellcats are a two piece down and dirty rock n roll band. For me this was the performance of the festival. Aless on drums and vocals was simply mind blowing while Warwick on guitar was outstanding. I have never seen a vocalist play drums and it must be quite difficult to do. I know we should never compare bands to international acts, but Hellcats reminded me of Wolfmother. They have an album out called The Hex and the Healer. I’ll be buying it.
We had seen Southern Wild many times before. With Dave van Vuuren, a past Idols winner on lead vocals and guitar, this is a solid rock band. Easy Freak were not my “cup of tea” but the younger generation seemed to enjoy them.
Opposite the Other is another band that we have seen many times before and they are absolutely great. With Sam Burger on lead vocals and keyboards, he really got the crowd in the mood for the evening session. We were up off the grass, singing and clapping along to their great pop/rock melodies.
By now it was time for some lunch which we decided to do while Freshlyground were playing. This year there was a vast selection of food trucks – we started off with some deep fried sticks from the macaroni truck and then I selected a fillet steak roll with chillies while Bryn and Natasha went for the burger and chips. All were absolutely delicious. We were a little disappointed that the pizza had again run out (last year was the same) but such was the selection of other food, that it did not matter much.
Time to get another Desert Lager and back to the main stage for a crowd favourite – Karen Zoid. She certainly is an entertainer. She started her set with the well known “Aeroplane Jane” which certainly got the crowd into action. The rest of her set was excellent as she strutted her stuff on stage.
The sun had now set and it was bit cooler. Thankfully the wind did not blow this year so it was not cold and there was less dust around. Shortstraw are also a crowd favourite and I love watching them perform. They played all their hits but the one I really enjoyed was a song I had never heard before – all about the Synthesiser. Must try to get it.
By now 11 hours had passed since we had consumed our complimentary early bird beer at the entrance. Francois van Coke from Fokofpolisiecar leapt on to the stage. He was excellent and again got the crowd rocking and singing along to his Afrikaans songs. We decided it was time to leave so unfortunately missed out on Jack Parow as well as The Kifness and Matthew Gold.
Back at the Lodge the wedding was in full swing and we popped in to see what was happening. Before we knew it, we were invited onto the dance floor and made friends with the bridal couple and guests. We even had our requests played by the excellent DJ. Eventually well after midnight we headed back to our shared patio for a final beer and some snacks consisting of chocolate and chips! Did I mention all the cigars?
Once again Saggy did not disappoint. An amazing setting in the Valley, delicious beer and food, and most of all a great line up of fabulous SA musicians. Saggy, we will see you again in 2020!