Spare a moment to note that of the 13 bands highlighted on that 1995 Oppikoppi poster, only two are still together and performing (Jack Hammer and Blues Broers). Gone are Sugardrive, Battery9, ZapDragons, N’goi and Electric Petals, although they birthed solo artists and acts like Paul E. Flynn, Heroes Wear Red, Paul Riekert, Wonderboom and Martin Rocka, amongst others.
“It was this amazing little place; literally just somebody’s farm, with a bar built on top of a koppie,” recalls Brendan Jury, viola player, keyboardist, vocalist and co-founder of Urban Creep, with later credits including the soundtrack for “iNumber Number” and “Unearthed”; a recent award-winning documentary on Karoo fracking; gigs with Arno Carstens and Warwick Sony; and as musical director for Miss South Africa 2014.
“The first time we played, there were about 28 people there. I think they booked us because the owners of the farm, Boors and Tess Bornmann, were Urban Creep fans. I remember meeting this amazing young guy called Carel Hoffmann, who was really involved and into live music and bands. We drove along this endless dusty road out to a little bunch of people who cooked us the most beautiful food and I thought, ‘What a lovely gig!’ Those gigs were the germs of the Oppikoppi festival – they enjoyed it so much that they hatched a plan to invite a few more music fans, and I really got the feeling I was coming across very real people who were also getting off on the chaos of it all.”
Jury is totally positive about Oppikoppi, although well aware of how much of an onslaught the three-day festival is. “The funniest story I can remember from an early Oppikoppi was where Rob van Vuuren (comedian, actor and creator of Twakkie in “The Most Amazing Show”) chased Arno Carstens up a tree. There was a reason; some kind of disagreement, but whatever it was, Arno ended up in a tree.
“I remember waking up one year wrapped in my tent, like it was a sleeping bag. Not enough energy to put it up the night before, I guess. There’s oceanic drinking at Oppikoppi, of course, but if you think of the amount of excess, there’s very little of anything unpleasant. It’s great for South African society as a whole – really opening up people’s minds.
“I think it’s because Oppikoppi aren’t fashion people. Definitely all the hipsters go, but it’s not meant only for them. I’m really grateful they put in all that effort and took all those risks to build it and make it happen. Oppikoppi was the first time I saw Francois van Coke and his outfits; I remember some outrageous Springbok Nude Girls gigs there, and discovering Mr Sakitumi – you always see the new rising stars.
“As much as I loved something like Rustler’s Valley, Oppikoppi never had that kind of hippie exclusivity. It brings music to everybody – not just the exclusive bunch of people who go to the right music venues and right clubs. Oppikoppi has brought amazing people together; and there’s part of it being in the middle of this bushveld adventure that makes it even better.”