Splashy Fen: 25 and still got it

Words: Leah Solomon
Photographs: Jono Hornby

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My initial thought for this piece was to write it as a review; a piece for those who were unable to make it to the 25th anniversary this year. But then, as I got home and was trying to unpack with a pounding hangover, I decided to take a different angle on it. 

I’m sure that most of you are not strangers to the article that circulated Facebook not too long ago basically explaining why Splashy is no longer worth the trek, time and cash. I kept that in the back of my mind at this year’s Splashy, and I have this to say:
Sure, Splashy has changed over the years. I can confidently say that out of the eight Splashy’s that I have been to, each one has been completely different and I have always left with great memories, even if it wasn’t the greatest Splashy that year. But, that is no reason to hate on a music festival that is basically the grandparent of all South African music festivals. This negative outlook on something that has been around for 25 years and has given countless South African bands and musicians the platform to be great is really upsetting and does nothing for our country.

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There is no point in complaining about the infiltration of the ‘dreaded’ electronic music and that Splashy is becoming too commercial. Firstly, there isn’t much you can do to stop it. Dubstep, Drum n Bass, Trap, Trance and others are huge in South Africa. The amount of trance festivals we have is incredible. There is nothing wrong with integrating it into Splashy. It caters to people who enjoy it and love losing themselves in the power of the bass that shakes your core. Each band and musician caters to a certain group of people and no flack is given there. The same respect should be given to this genre of music. You should be happy that Splashy has been able to make even more people happy and have the most memorable four days. Splashy is not the place for bad vibes. No music festival should be. This brings me to my second point:

As cliché as it may sound, Splashy is what you make it. If you go into Splashy with a negative outlook and a general judgemental way of thinking, then it is inevitable that you’re going to have an extremely average time; a time that you cannot blame on Splashy. That’s all on you homie. You can have the best time dancing to a band you’ve never listened to in the pouring rain if you are dedicated to making it the best time. If you’re going to bitch about it then of course you’re going to leave with a bad taste in your mouth.

You can’t expect the festival and its staff to cater to your every whim. You need to take the initiative to make it the best weekend of your entire life. And, to be honest, it really is not that difficult.

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Splashy is set in one of the most stunning parts of South Africa. The rolling hills, blue skies, icy yet refreshing river and near perfect weather should be enough in itself. It is literally the most picturesque place for a music festival to be held. So picture this: You have this almost heaven-like scenery surrounding you, and with you to experience this are your closest mates. What could be better? There is honestly so much to do with your mates, you just need to believe in it. Some of the best memories I have are just messing around at Splashy with my mates: missions to the river, debauchery in the beer tent, general campsite shenanigans, jamming out to the bands, and just exploring the amazing Splashy Fen farm. There really is no excuse to not have a good time.

Lastly, and I hold this point close to heart, Splashy does not need international headliners. It is the only festival left in South Africa that has really stayed true to its roots, and I find this really admirable. I understand how the increased price may be a problem, but we should want to pay that price to support our local musicians. They need us behind them every step of the way because South Africa has yet to be recognised for its phenomenal talent. We don’t need international bands! Our musicians are amazing and deserve to be on that stage.

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I was so overwhelmed by the talent that South Africa has tucked away. Each performance brought something new and entertaining. And it wasn’t just me – the crowd was loving every second of this year’s Splashy. The main marquee was packed almost every night. No matter who was playing, old fans and new fans were there and they made it clear. The shouting, the beach balls and blown up condoms being thrown around and the people sitting on shoulders were a clear indication of the fun, dedication and pure gees that Splashy still has and what it can evoke from people.

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Be positive about Splashy. Don’t forget what it has done for you and what it can do for you just because one minor change doesn’t suit you. It is bigger than that. You can’t tell me that you are able to leave Splashy without smelling your camp-fire doused blankets and smiling.