Many of the international headliner acts at Rocking the Daisies 2014 are electronic ones, pushing the boundaries of the rock festival’s traditions. Defining music is never simple – but it is clear that new developments in both rock and electronic music are up and stretching.
Arguably the most highly anticipated headliner, Rudimental, offers an extraordinary performance which is undoubtedly a band, yet also clearly roots electronic drum n bass. The band has had massive attention from popular culture recently with “Alive”, “Tell me” and more. Watching videos of live performances one is immediately struck by the live musicianship of this full on live band, with a host of varied instrumentalists on stage including the drummer – the virtuosic star of the show – trumpeter, guitarist, bassist, keyboard and synth player, three vocalists and an MC. All the musicians on stage are incredible at what they do live, following the tradition of the legendary rock bands who have come before them, yet playing music which is from a scene altogether different with its own distinctive history and audience. This is the most powerful representation of a new development in music which combines the virtuosity of live performance with the infectious speed electronic dance music offers. (PS: Rudimental will also be playing a DJ set in the Electro Dome at 2:30am Sunday).
While purist rock music stalwarts of the festival may be unimpressed with the new trend, for the most part it proves a winning combination as it does draw in crowds from both sides and with the arguably more “trendy” massive electronic crowds being treated (“educated”?) to the skills of experienced and talented performing instrumentalists. The combination of the elements also simply brings the experience to an entirely new level.
Australia’s Presets are the only international headliner playing in the Electro Dome rather than the main stage. Rightly so. The Presets present power electronica and dance which alternate between retro 80’s pop-synth, high energy dance along the line of trance romantica, and REM rock style. What’s interesting here is that on first listen many of the songs are like time warps to Bryan Ferry while others sound like cutting edge hard trance anthems. This act has the potential to be the highlight of this year’s festival, even though they are not a rock band.
Crystal Fighters does something similar to Rudimental within the vein of indie folk rock, with some tracks having near invisible traces of electronica (“Love Natural”) while others flip the switch from jumping rock to massive bass one minute in (“Swallow”). Here is a chance for Cape Town’s enormous hipster crowd to jam with their electro counterparts who often stay in demarcated venues when in the city.
MGMT is the exception to the trend here in the headliners lineup. They are, surprisingly (at least to those who don’t know them that well), a full on live band only. If you’ve just heard them a few times on the radio, you might be forgiven for thinking that they’re an electronic act, because of their style. But do a little research and see them as a real psychedelic funk pop band. This also illustrates how far we’ve come in blurring boundaries between genre soundscapes.
The South African acts and other international artists on the main stage line up are live bands for the most part; the festival will not lose its authenticity. However, one must remember that the Electro Dome will be only slightly smaller than the main-stage, and with the extent of the line up one could happily attend for electronic music alone and have an amazing party. Be sure to check out popular acts like Pascal and Pearce, Okmalumkoolkat, Lazersharkk, Das Kapital and LHO and find your own electric current in SA’s biggest music festival.