Review: Utopia Festival

It’s a bold move to name a festival ‘Utopia’. The name implies an ideal world, a somewhat tall order to fill when you have a few thousand potential festival goers to keep happy.

The Utopia Festival at sunset

The line up was like a mixed tape made for a girl you like, but you’re not sure what will impress her. A few bands with radio-friendly hits such as The Plastics and aKing. A few newcomers on the verge of breaking out in the form of Red Huxley and Wolftown. Will she be offended by the frankness of Fokofpolisiekar and Karen Zoid? Best you make your intentions clear by including the alternative electro Moving House: one listen to Andre Gideon Montgomery Pienaar’s bedroom voice and she’ll know!

fokofpolisiekar at Utopia’s Phoenix Stage

Fokof was worth the trip out to Nekkies by themselves. I could even appreciate their new tune ‘Dag Dronk’ simply because it is just such an appropriate song for the event. Van Coke Kartel’s guitarist Jedd Kossew stood in for Hunter Kennedy and, being a much livelier performer than Kennedy, Kossew added an extra dimension to the set.

Desmond and the Tutus… what fun! Even the Plus One – who dramatically turns off the radio every time that they come on – had a blast. This is not a band that you listen to from a distance. You need to be in the crowd, dancing like an uncoordinated white boy.

De Wallen on the GoBos stage Photo: Bos Ice Tea Facebook page

The ‘Go Bos’ stage is an open mic platform for anyone with a voice, a musical talent or just the confidence (delusion?) of an Idols contestant. The stage was at the entrance ensuring that most festival goers would stop by. On arrival we caught half of De Wallen acoustic set. The Kuils River natives had a rather cute drinking game where someone in the crowd picked a card from a deck then everyone drank. I am not sure about the rules but I liked the direction it was going.


Clearly the organisers of Utopia have been to other festivals, with clipboard in hand. Some elements of other festivals, such as shade and lifeguards for the river, had not only been included but significantly improved upon.

The Oasis (electro) stage

The Oasis (electro) stage

The only thing I missed was… other people. According to the sandwich lady, the organisers expected around 1500. With my grade 7 maths my guesstimate is that the turnout was closer to 700. We had that awkward movie moment when the music stopped and we were still having a screaming conversation. Think Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You’s club scene.

The Phoenix (main) stage at Utopia

However this also translated in no queues – anywhere! In fact I have never seen a barman so happy to see me. Although considering the amount of barmen (and bars) the queue situation would have been under control even with three times the amount of people.


The Phoenix stage’s eagle trying out Denzel Washington’s Flight moves

Ideal world? Not far off. It will be interesting to see where they will take the Utopia festival next year. A solid foundation has been set.

Photos by @glanskind

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