Endless Daze: An in Depth Look Into One of South Africa’s Most Unique Festivals

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Written by Jenna Dreisenstock

Photography Credit: Jenna Dreisenstock

Shimmer heart-glow in the immersion of community; a spark within – an inherent sense of  understanding, of acceptance: intimacy in an intangible, often oblivious nature – a vulnerability within ourselves which we all share as creatives. Sphere of flicker strobe beat awareness, the sweetness of resonance beating within the rib cage; the twilight-scape rebirth and death of each star saccharine. Exploding, imploding; oceanic light years encompassing each and every one of us as friends, lovers or strangers. Our radical tenderness, our tenderness in radical enthusiasm: allows us into red-thread connection. Through auditory narrative, and the swallow of love within ourselves and others – vibrancy in flashes consume us, the sonority in which we stand engulfed; a community like no other, our six degrees of separation glint embers as we stand aside one another and allow ourselves that truth, those sparks – together as one, fire blazing in human connection as  we close our eyes, and the music runs through us as raw moondust.

Endless Daze Festival is truly an experience like no other, a space in which a niche community can come together and celebrate the music and culture which is often not recognised by the mainstream, in the spaces we inhabit. In 2016, the first Endless Daze festival brought an experience that no one thought was an actual tangibility within South Africa, a myriad of uncertain expectations. Yet, the organisers created a space in which finally – FINALLY – those of us with music taste that tends to fall outside of “mainstream” accessibility was suddenly – accessible. A glittering creation I don’t believe any of us in the community expected would ever grace our wildest of dreams; the passion of Psych Night and Vans Za allowed this experience grace our actual shores – an easy 45 minutes outside of Cape Town, at the picturesque Silwerstroom Resort. Our anticipation not only met with fantastic local acts, but revered international artists a local like myself, could have only dreamed of seeing live; in a uniquely South African alienation – within a culture that falls under the rather broad label of “underground” acts.

A loving ode, a heart-warm homage; a seascape embrace in an inspiration for all creatives and music lovers alike – to have such comfort as the waves roll in, instant, inherent understanding as we are all inherently connected in vivid expression. A sense of, previously imaginative safety; calm in the serenity of a festival where one knows, in comparison the velocity of massive, almost terrifying festivals such as Oppikoppi or Rocking The Daisies – feeling alone can sleep in the beauty of the reverberation of those we love, we admire. Yet suddenly, even if we find ourselves swaying isolated within a crowd – we are never alone. The red-thread, connects us all wrapped around each pinky finger; a small space so inclusive, we are ourselves. We can be ourselves, and we can celebrate in unity an experience we never even thought we’d be able to share. I mean, if it weren’t for this festival; the stun of beautiful friends in my life, after 4 years of living within a city in which I felt constantly rejected – cradled me, and I met those who mean so much to me. The music we love, with local acts losing hope as music venues have become so limited, for bands who have begun feeling jaded; who have began losing hope, that anyone would ever care about them. We all care about you. This festival reminded us all, of that. As South Africans, an intrinsic value and anxiety we hold within us as creatives; that we will never be seen, we will never be heard.

Endless Daze, in its existence said to us: “We see you. We want to hear you.” and to be seen, to be reminded that people care; and we as local musicians and fans have a place within a world we thought we would never be a accessible to us – to hear those I care about feeling that motivation again; “Hey, maybe our entire music career will not be defined by 15 people rocking up to a venue the size of a closet to maybe watch us play as they get wasted and we become static.” becomes but a cynicism we are able to grapple with. The support for local acts, and the culture within this specific scene suddenly feels – real.

When finally an experience that was completely intangible to us, embraces a community to such a tender, raw extent; it’s a beautiful experience to be a part of – one of the most important and noticeable differences this year that really instills this idea within me is the diversity of bands; this year, there was a truly incredible, myriad of sounds gracing the line-up – unlike last year, this experience was extremely noteworthy. With artists ranging in remarkable, unique styles and incredibly immersive energies in practically every single performance; whilst the festival itself retaining true to it’s personality – the faithfully distinguishable personality in which they encompass, engulfed us in twilight-scapes of sound that many festival goers had perhaps never experienced before: bringing the community even closer together with it’s remarkable inclusivity. It’s quite evident that the festival is exceptionally open to all folks of the LGBTQ community, allowing safety in free expression and those openly expressing their true selves – striking fashionistas who caught my eye at every turn.

(I am the type who will intricately plan my outfits before a festival, absolutely loving the unique styles and creativity of festival goers yet – I arrive, and: damn, I’m boiling alive in my skin. My sensitivity to the sun quite literally, ruins me and especially working as a photographer: I end up just giving up on how I look. I have absolutely no idea how these stunning folks do it. Please teach me your ways!)

There is quite obviously still an issue regarding inclusivity in many areas, yet it is to be expected: the main issue regarding LGBTQ inclusivity from my own perspective, is the lack of unisex bathrooms – indeed Silwerstroom Resort already exists as is with binary bathrooms and that obviously cannot be changed, and I am admitting that I am upholding an exceptionally and possibly unfair standard regarding this – but without a unisex safe space (that are not limited simply to awful portable bathrooms!) it creates a severe anxiety that for many is unsafe for those who identify, or “appear ” outside of the gender binary. I find this less of an issue regarding binary bathrooms for those who identify as womxn, yet within festivals there are always those who go overboard, and unfortunately those who fit outside the gender-binary yet have to use the male bathrooms, the chances of being accosted are a lot higher, and exceptionally uncomfortable: with the unfortunate truth that at every festival there will be bigots, who are, to be blunt: absolutely wasted – this is exceptionally worrying.

As I said, this is an extremely high standard I am pushing: yet with access to the media and artist bathrooms, despite the unfortunate expense – there was a huge difference in those around me who felt safer using those, which as not a privilege many were able to experience. Watching my partner be accosted by exceptionally drunk men, making awful comments – and myself, this year: being harassed as a queer womxn by men I quite literally ended up having to yell at to get them to leave myself and my friends alone – I implore the organisers to take that beauty of inclusivity and expand upon it. Regardless of whether one agrees with me, or have not experienced what we experienced: I am exceptionally glad you felt safe, but many of us did not – whereas last year, I ran around alone with my camera and did not have a single issue at all. Again, extremely high standards on my part, I am going to keep stressing this – and as a festival grows, it’s inevitable that more bigoted and awful people will appear: so it is imperative to take this into account.

A wonderful positive to see this year, was the rather exceptional change in inclusivity regarding people of colour. If we are honest with ourselves, each one of us –  last year was embarrassingly white. Looking around, it was one of the immediate aspects of the festival last year that left me feeling…just. no. ugh. why. Yet this year the organisers did a brilliant job in organising their overall diversity in sound and a true embrace in auditory journey; it was wonderful seeing all different types of folks gracing not only the stage, but the audience too. Racial integration may be so much slower than it should be, however I think many of us are able to say that we can genuinely look forward to future diversity and the embrace of true African culture, relation and experience from those within these scenes as time moves forward. It’s frustrating, but it is progressing: the bar feels relatively low, but seeing those actively trying to raise the bar higher is exceptionally positive.

So, moving on – regarding inclusivity and the various genres so distinct in personality, I would like to speak about the artists that I was able to cover, who absolutely blew me away. It was exceptionally difficult trying to balance work and play, especially when almost every single act is a musical experience one wants to get lost in: so albeit somewhat brief (goodness, I always say this – probably an accidental lie), I have added in some of my favourite shots from acts I was able to cover and the contrasts of their sound.

Lucy Kruger and The Lost Boys:

The raw mesmer that sings hypnotic in each performance by the the incredibly talented Lucy Kruger (also of now Berlin-based dream-noise duo Medicine Boy) and the loving Lost Boys: never ceases to engulf audiences in a shimmering, tender darkness; raw and loving in embrace, with a presence so spellbinding: not only is one unable to look away; but in juxtaposition, the need to close ones eyes and fall into a dream is a difficult temptation

The Brother Moves On:

Oh, man. The last time I saw the exceptionally striking performance of Johannesburg-based band The Brother Moves On was so long ago; to experience their performance live once again was so exceptionally special to me. Embracing the stage with a stunning, energetic presence: that incredible vivid haze and raw sense of South-African culture, truly blunt regarding the struggles within a country that is so horribly divided: The Brother Moves On brought us an incredibly passionate performance that quite honestly made it difficult for me to leave the photography pit.

Black Math:

Every single opportunity that arises in which I am able to experience the pure effervecense of Durban-based post-hardcore band Black Math: I will take, because damn. DAMN. With a sound that builds a pure, powerful animation screaming genuine in the lungs, the exceptional vigour of their performance left me jamming hella hard within the photography pit while doing everything I could to get photographs that truly encompass their personality; I am honestly not sure if I am even able to capture what it means to watch Black Math with my camera. 

KIDOFDOOM:

The last time I saw KIDOFDOOM was when I was 15, just before they split up. They played Kirstenbosch Gardens with Isochronous (ISO, we miss you.) and that experience will always be such a precious memory to me, their incredible vivation and animation, a symbol of my growth and excitement during my teenage years and suddenly: 8 years later, when Endless Daze announced the return of KIDOFDOOM – my excitement skyrocketed, and I felt as though I became exceptionally irritating to all those around me as I could not stop going on about this. My self-doubt of irritation turned to embers as those around me equally gushed over the fact that we finally got to see them again. I don’t really know what else to say, except that I spent a good portion of their set crying – but you know, in the best possible way.

NONN:

The opportunity to see Swedish post-punk, cold-wave trio NONN was definitely not an experience I thought I would ever witness. With a progressive submerge into early-morning azure, the sheer magnetism of their performance drew Friday evening to a close with a dreamlike entrance, an experience allowing true absorption; the rolling waves of chills on the shore, closed-eye in dreamscape.

With participants (somehow) wide-eyed at dawn despite the mania of the previous evening, on Saturday morning in collaboration with The Beach Co-Op: a collective of 80 people worked together for 1 hour and 30 minutes – doing their best to collect and gather as much rubbish as possible in a fantastic eco-friendly initiative. The sheer amount of garbage found is extremely worrying, especially considering that the Silwerstroom beach is one of the “cleanest” beaches I have witnessed within the almost 23 years of my life.

Photo Credit: Aaniyah Omardien

Here are some of the statistics regarding what was found:

All in all, the collective filled 11 full bags to the brim. The Beach Co-Op counted the number of specific objects found, and although I will not list them all in this piece – here are perhaps the most terrifying individual numbers in total:

  • Cooldrink Lids: 1142
  • Individual Sweet Wrappers: 403
  • Earbuds: 412
  • Rope: 557

In all honestly, I thought the number of cigarette butts found would be higher (100) as, due to my experience at the festival: I am not sure why it is so difficult for others to simply stub their cigarettes out, and throw them in the bin. This is something that frustrated me to the point where I actually found myself walking around – disgusted and confused – individually picking up cigarette butts. I don’t even smoke myself. I simply could not take it. As one of the most harmful forms of litter to the earth’s eco-system, despite the wonderful eco-friendly initiatives that the festival put in place: the sheer disregard by those who could not even take a second to throw away their cigarette butts, just as an example – was staggering. I quite literally found tons of cigarette butts lying on the ground right next to the many garbage bins provided by the festival – the festival had trash bins in almost every space, so incredibly accessible: but the amount of litter left behind by horribly inconsiderate festival goers – the same people who praise Endless Daze for their eco-friendly initiatives: pure hypocrisy. I’m still furious, evidently. It’s really not difficult to throw your trash away. It’s just not. It doesn’t matter how wasted you were, there were bins everywhere (placed perfectly in certain spaces by the organisers) and to see people just leaving cans, cigarette butts, cups that were made to be reusable – food packaging that could very easily be recycled; I mean, one could take the finished food packaging back to the vendors who would take it back and recycle it. Why in the world did the most environmentally conscious festival in South Africa end up harbouring so much trash? I lost further hope in humanity due to this: it’s someone else’s job to clean up after you, right? Not only is it so extremely selfish: actively destroying the planet; disrespectful to the organisers and other festival goers; and those who have to clean up after we’ve all had a great timeto take absolutely no responsibility for our litter: to go home, and forget all about it. It’s the least you could do, to just. Throw. Your. Trash. Away. However, I did see many others going out of their way, too – picking up cigarette butts and roaches, bottles, cans and so on; similarly frustrated like myself at the alarming amount of people who were so horribly inconsiderate. Thank you, you are the people who return that hope within me, and hopefully within those who organised the brilliant eco-friendly initiatives put in place by Endless Daze and The Beach Co-Op.

Continuing the focus on these environmentally conscious initiatives – it is always fantastic to see festival food stalls genuinely, and lovingly catering to vegans. In the past, after 6 years of being vegan and someone heavily involved in the music scene: at the majority of festivals, fries are our best friends. Good ‘ol loyal potatoes always there for us vegans: up until now where it’s almost 2019 and everyone is becoming increasingly conscious regarding the horrific environmental impact of the torturous animal agricultural industries. At Endless Daze, not only was it genuinely vegan friendly, just like last year I could actually eat a full, delicious meal from almost every stand: with the vendors actually taking us into consideration, sharing ingredients and cooking methods to the tee as opposed to many festivals that half-ass plant-based meals and one has to spend an annoying amount of time irritating everyone inquiring exactly what is in the meal and so on; after being vegan for a long period of time, accidentally consuming animal products are foreign, sickening ingredients our bodies reject and can make us ill. It really ties in to the eco-friendly initiative that the festival promotes, and we are truly grateful for that.

You gon’ done good fellas. However, I still hope to see more vegan options next year – but I trust in you to hold up your ethical standards and initiatives

Moving on to Saturday; perhaps I am an amateur photographer, or perhaps it was the fact that I had to spend over two hours in my tent dealing with heat-induced headaches and nausea (for clarification – I was not hungover, I had not consumed any alcoholic substances that day and I carry water around with me every where I go – as I mentioned, the sun – summer, we don’t get along well. I love that I had to justify myself there.) I was unable to capture many of the acts I hoped to watch and photograph during the day: plus, I absolutely hate taking photographs of bands in full sunlight. It’s boring. Sunlight sucks. It’s probably something I should work on. Anyway. Luckily.

Diamond Thug:

I was able to capture the enchanting performance by honeyed dream-pop band Diamond Thug. With a distinctive, sway-sweet sound; layered in visceral engagement – to be swallowed up by Diamond Thug’s powerful, yet simultaneously tender performance is a spellbinding experience, capturing the audience in true glittering haze.

Morena Leraba:

The privilege of seeing Lesotho-based musician Morena Leraba live was by far one of the most incredible sets, I can say with absolute confidence: I have experienced, and photographed. The astounding fusion of genres combined with a breathtaking, enigmatic stage presence – I was absolutely blown away.

A Place To Bury Strangers:

A Place To Bury Strangers. How do I even approach writing about this experience? How am I able to truly share with you, the readers: I mean. It was just phenomenal. Drenched deeply in fuzz, smoke-soaked in the choking thrill of awe and the spectacular ability to hurl one’s guitar some 10 metres into the air (hyperbolic, obviously. However if one has been lucky enough to catch APTBS it seems completely reasonable.) – as one may tell I am at a loss for words, two weeks later. Despite feeling somewhat heartbroken at my lack of photographs that feel genuine to me: the fire that blazes within the band’s presence – it felt as though out of thin air – a platform in the crowd appeared: a phantasmagorical apparition in which the bassist emerges like a phoenix, sweeping his guitar over the cheer of enthusiasm as fans scratch and claw at the strings, a power in the extreme, guttural noise as fans became a part of the experience. It was beyond anything I could have captured, or anything I’ve even attempted to describe in this article. If you were there, you will know.

My main, personal grievance with the festival actually did not have much to do with the actual physical setup, line-up or experience at all. Rather, I found myself in extreme frustration, to the point of shedding tears – it was my experience as a press photographer that tore me apart emotionally. Last year, five platforms were available within the pit that allowed us all to get genuinely dynamic photographs; to truly capture the energy of those we love and admire, the pure raw experience of the festival in photographs and film: this year, the platforms were gone. Aside from a very nerve-wracking centre platform that often had drinks spilled all over it and – uh, scary much? – unless one had special privileges, the accessibility regarding getting the shots we all aimed for and were there for was so exceptionally limited; my incredible fellow photographers and I struggled – I had all these ideas spinning in my head regarding who to photograph, how to capture them as they truly are and just: grow as a photographer, like I did last year. Perhaps quite literally having the ground pulled from underneath me has assisted in my growth as I had to adapt immediately but it just – hurt: with monitors blocking one side of the stage, a terrifying centre platform | not being able to even see the stage unless attempting to tackle that thing: essentially, there was one angle to shoot from. That straight up sucked. Especially if you are a rather small human being, like myself: it felt rather disingenuous being there without the platforms and there were so many talented, brilliant photographers around me who too, adapted and did an incredible job – yet their frustration was also evident. To the other photographers, I love you. Your shots are amazing. I don’t know what was up with that, but overall it was pretty upsetting to a lot of us.

In conclusion, aside from my own personal grievances, or opinions and experience: overall there is absolutely no denying that Endless Daze is by far, the best festival I have ever been to in my almost 23 years of existence on this terrifying planet. The creative and eco-conscious initiatives, the awe of scenic stun in the face of a bright moon, sweeping the waves inward as the beach cradles the community – I genuinely don’t want to attend any other festivals after my experiences at Endless Daze. It is a festival that is so unique and truly beautiful, growing and progressing so impressively in such a short period of time: every single festival organiser in South Africa should take notes from those who have worked so hard on creating something so real, so true – so inspiring, and breathtaking. Endless Daze Festival is an experience like no other.