“Where are your wellies, mate?”
I look up to see a man in a raincoat and gleaming Wellington boots, smiling smugly from under his umbrella. His friends, all of whom are just as suitably dressed, are laughing at me. I wave bitterly and look down to see my mud-caked Converse and continue towards the gate like a stork walking over a field of glass, asking myself at each squelching step why I was fooled into thinking the sun would shine in northern Scotland.
The answer now, as then, is easy: I was at one of the UK’s several “summer” (the inverted commas are intentional) music festivals, and despite the fact that I had four slugs on my jeans and smelt faintly of rotten pears, I wasn’t the slightest bit unhappy. After all, it’s hard to be miserable when you’re about to spend the day watching some of the best bands in the world. We’re better off in South Africa than we once were - a decade ago the only thing we had to look forward to was Mike & the Mechanics at the Belville Velodrome, or – oh lucky us! – that old fleabag Rodriguez, dragged out of retirement once again to sing us ‘Sugarman’ in a seafood restaurant at the Port Elizabeth waterfront.
Yes, things are better now, but Europe is still unmatched when it comes to music festivals and, thankfully, not all of them are designed for acid-tripping students or ageing hippies. In this month’s travel feature we select the best of the festivals and help you to choose the right one for your taste. Elsewhere, we ask Francois van Coke, lead singer of punk band Fokofpolisiekar, about his beer boep, getting arrested and being the son of a preacher man, we review the new albums from The White Stripes, The Gossip and the Travelling Wilburys and a book listing the best albums of all time. In Film, we review Half Nelson, for which Ryan Gosling earned himself a deserved Oscar nomination and wonder whether the decision not to screen The Simpsons Movie to the press before its release is an ill omen. In short, the Music Issue is the best thing since, well, since last month’s Extra Virgin of course.
But wait, there’s more. Last month, we asked you to email us with a description of the typical South African male. There’s only one word for the bevy of responses we got: Ouch! Read ‘Vox Pop’ for an edited compilation the most amusing entries, among which is the assertion that, for us lads, life is “centred around the heart - the heart beats beneath the navel”. We’re also accused of seeking the easy way out of compromising situations. Ahem, “taxi”!