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SPLASHY FEN ON TRACK (article first published : 2006-04-10)

Tickets for Splashy Fen Music Festival in Underberg from April 13 to 17 are flying out of selling points at a record rate and indications are that this year’s gathering will set new levels of attendance. Organisers of South Africa’s long-running and much renowned “Ultimate Outdoor Experience” attribute this super-keen interest to not only the widely circulated news that facilities will be the most sophisticated ever enjoyed at this legendary Southern Berg party but also the last-minute addition of interactive musical opportunities, revamped stage-arrangements and a draw-card roster of extremely popular bands.

Some of the alternative/indie groups from Cape Town, Jozi and other far-flung quarters will perhaps be unfamiliar to Durban gig-goers but they were chosen not only because they pull big crowds in their home towns but also on account of the fact that they’re really HOT – these are the outfits that everyone will be soon be talking about everywhere! Of the main-stage household names, Prime Circle are currently generating a high profile among CD-buyers thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign for their recently released album, while Polisiekar (censored) have been cultivating their ‘bad boys’ image via on- and off-stage antics with accompanying media frenzy. Music lovers whose memories can be measured in decades have made gigs by The Song Riders among Durban’s most well-attended events and their line-up for Splashy 06 so far includes Ken E Henson, Roger Lucey, Wendy Oldfield, Dan Chiorboli and Douglas Bean. The much-anticipated Blunt Magazine evening is yet another peak focal point of the moment.

Regarding the folk, pop and avant-garde artists of the Grant Erskine Marquee – formerly the Bamboo Stage – Los Angeles based Ben Lee will provide some international flair, fans of this year’s showcase singer-songwriter Fiona Tozer are eagerly awaiting her latest output, last year’s featured artist Richard Walne is always good for a musical surprise and long-time favourite Syd Kitchen has an ever-growing legion of devoted supporters. Blues-rockers Dan Patlansky and The Mississippi Muthers plus Splashy veterans Bobby and The Dynamites have each in recent months enjoyed enthusiastic turn-outs at shows up north and by the seaside.

On the SAMRO Free Stage - this year to be held in the main marquee during daylight hours – not only will there be the chance to see tomorrow’s stars in their formative days, but World Music train-spotters will also be able to boast having caught the first-ever festival appearance of the Msunduzi Music Centre. A recent interest-generating addition to the roster is a contest for up-and-coming bass guitarists with the prize an instrument and amp combo. Word has it that more would-be performers than ever before are going to be queuing each morning for a spot on the SAMRO Free Stage, so with competition for the limited number of openings guaranteed to be extra tight – remember to get in line early! It’s perhaps worth a reminder that the best will go forward to a final on Sunday night where the winner will be offered a main marquee bill at next year’s festival.

For the first time Splashy 06 will witness a dedicated Drum Village. This will be hosted in one of the SAB marquees by a more than 30-strong Talking Drums & Friends ensemble and some 120 percussion instruments will be available for festival-goers to discover their inner rhythms. In addition to interactive sessions and FyreStorm dance performances, will be face-, body- and fabric-painting workshops. This year, Teepees will have a different, sunnier layout with higher public profile and organisers say that an appealing array of complementary therapists and alternative lifestyle practitioners will be found within their boundaries.

The African Rainbow settlement – complete with a multicoloured ‘cave’ and all manner of attractions – will provide food and interactive entertainment for all ages day and night. Adventure-seekers are gearing up for river rafting, hiking and horseback trails plus camel rides, while the local tourism office is fully equipped to provide keys to this area’s noted cultural excursions, particularly those to the Southern Berg’s world-famous rock-art sites. Rugby fanatics, fear not - in keeping with Splashy’s all-inclusive approach the Sharks versus Cats Super 14 clash will have a plasma screens showing on Saturday evening in the Carling Black Label’s “Chuck Valley”.

For the youngsters – and don’t forget that entrance for under-12s is free – Ocean View Montessori School will yet again ensure that the Splashy Fen Music Festival is fun- and magic-filled time, while also providing a child minding service between 7 and 10 each evening. Kids will during the day be in safe hands and kept amused with plays, Talking Drum workshops and all manner of edutainment sure to guarantee a memorable and rewarding long-weekend.

There’s a buzz about exciting happenings in the eating and retail therapy arenas, too - Israeli cuisine is among new additions to the Food Stalls, while the seafood section is being expanded and certain old favourites are making a by-demand return.

Craft Market stallholders have sourced unique pieces from Africa, India, Southeast Asia and beyond, including - for the first time at Splashy - handmade hammocks from Thailand, an exciting previously unreleased range of T-shirts, a novel array of fluffy toys and personal items plus Splashy Fen Music Festival Commemorative Coins.

Festival organisers are particularly proud of the new and improved facilities to be enjoyed at this Easter long-weekend’s get-together. The on-site Standard Bank ATM with Saswitch facility will prove particularly welcome, as no doubt will the piping hot showers courtesy of Easigas and enhanced by Radox, plus upgraded loos as fresh as the surrounding mountain air thanks to the presence of Ambi-Pur.

While some hardened long-time festival-goers may find these developments a bit ‘soft’, Splashy Fen farm owner and festival director Peter Ferraz believes they are “proof that we constantly strive to make the experience as pleasant as possible, and that we listen to the feed-back received in our quest to ensure that this remains the country’s best-loved music and all-round fun outdoors festival for the whole family”.

Discounted tickets – while they last – are available at Game Stores and Shoprite & Checkers. For festival details please visit www.splashyfen.co.za and for enquiries regarding the Craft Market or The African Rainbow phone Di Sanders on 084 588 0149.




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