I have never been a morning person, but on the 29th of March my eyes flew open at 05:30 and I could not wait to get out of bed and into my car. It was a beautiful sunny day and thanks to Lush’s recommended road a long-winded road turned into a smooth sailing road trip to Linwood Guest Farm that is about 7 km outside of Clarens in the Free State province.

Once we arrived we quickly settled in under our gazebo with cold beers and laughter as a light drizzle passed over us, kicking off Lush 2018 on a high note while waiting for the rest of our group to arrive. I would like to apologize for not passing on the information about the recommended route and getting my friends stuck in Frankfort’s stop-and-go.

My Friday started off with a bang and a lot of gin as the party started even before breakfast time. The rain also got an invitation and soon enough we were stuck in an unanticipated muddy situation. Having attended a rainy Mieliepop Festival the week before, I was a bit unimpressed as I was really looking forward to a sunshiny festival and also because I forgot my gumboots at home.

Luckily festivalgoers kept their spirits high as we gravitated to The Willows Stage to see Yo Grapes, who was fantastic! I loved how he moved from the front of the stage back to his drum set and back to the front again all in one song, owning the whole stage and almost making you forget that he is a solo artist doing a whole bands’ job.

The band I was most surprised with at Lush was definitely Pierce Bothers. They are on a Mumford and Sons level, just a lot more underrated. Their stage presence and energy was phenomenal, from doing somersaults on stage to jumping in the crowd to get the fans even more hyped up for playing together on one guitar. They were one of the highlights of my long weekend.

Due to the rain Lush had to close down The Owl Stage for the Friday evening and all the acts moved to The Willow Stage, which made the slippery slopes struggle between the two stages a thing of the past. Unfortunately, this caused a delay in the line-up times which resulted in Goodluck landing in a competing time slot with Timo ODV and half of PHFAT’s set. You cannot expect a girl to choose between those three acts.

Nicpreen & The World of Birds finally came on at The Owl Stage and it was the best nostalgia-soaked performance I have ever seen. It filled my heart with so much joy to hear Nicpreen sing and witness his incredible dance moves again. Some girl in the crowd (okay fine, that girl was me) shed a little tear when they started playing some Al Bairre songs. That took me right back to when I was but a young girl seeing Al Bairre live for the first time back in 2014, and it was beautiful.

Shoes were quickly abandoned as it got muddier and the journey to and fro the stages got perilous. I had a chuckle every two minutes at all the attendees falling in the mud around me. Yet we missioned on to go see some of our usual favourites, Diamond Thug and Desmond & The Tutus. There really is not much in life that beats Diamond Thug’s female vocalist’s voice, because if someone’s voice could have been made of milk and sweet dripping honey, it would have been hers.

Our night still did not end there though, as Lush brought their A-game with their line-up this year. Boo! definitely wins the award for the most interesting band that I have ever seen. Chris Chameleon looked stunning in the tightest striped pants and black high heels I would have had trouble walking in, all while dancing around on stage. What a man! I mean lady..? We also saw one of Goodluck’s best shows thus far, which almost made my best friend cry from being completely overwhelmed by all the excitement. Last but by far not the least we ended off our Friday night with PHFAT in The Woods, which seemed like a good idea till I nearly lost an ankle from jumping too much and landing on some rocks and tree roots.

Saturday’s highlights include playing all the drinking games at our campsite while creating new inside jokes and trying to keep warm from the rain. We embarked on our mucky journey back to the stages to see aKing, Dave Depper (from Death Cab for Cutie) and Van Pletzen. Seeing Dave Depper play while the sun was shining its last bit of light behind him was one of the most peaceful and pleasant sights of the whole weekend, which was in complete contrast of Van Pletzen’s “Shit die beat’s amazing” vibes. I was also one of the few of my friends to go watch Bittereinder instead of Clout, and I must say I have no regrets. That was one of the best Bittereinder shows I have seen in a long time. The Woods stage just felt a bit small for them, seeing as they nearly broke the gazebo above the stage from “bonsing” too hard. At the end of the evening and half an ankle left I moseyed back to The Willows Stage to watch one of our legendary local bands, Fokofpolisiekar play. As I stood front and center of all the action I experienced it as an excellent show, but I have heard complaints from people who were at the back concerning the sound of their show.

It eventually started clearing up on our final day and the sun finally revealed to us just how beautiful Lush’s venue really is, which is nestled in the middle of sky-punching mountain-ranges and luscious green hills. It was not too long before we were back at The Willows Stage and dancing to the fantastic Grassy Spark. Bye Beneco was up shortly after them on The Owl Stage, which also felt a bit too small a stage for them. They still made it feel like a space travel love dream going back to the 80’s and I completely agree with the guy who stood in front of me yelling “YOU’RE SO AMAZING. CAN I HAVE YOUR NUMBER”. I think my favourite act of Lush Festival 2018 was Bowling for Soup “the greatest band in the world”. A lot of people came for their best song, ‘Stacy’s Mom’, which turned out not to be a BFS song. I came for their music and stayed for their jokes. The crowd even taught them “Down of Fokkof”, which got misinterpreted to “Down or Butthole” which lead to a lot of butt jokes. I have never laughed so hard while watching a band and simultaneously feeling nostalgic about my younger days with their songs ‘Almost’, ‘Girl All the Bad Guys Want’ and of course ‘1985’. Jack Parow ended Lush 2018 on the most fitting note possible, with a drunkenly sick voice. The champ that he is still downed his drink and asked for more Jagermeister on stage while bringing the house down.

In hindsight, Lush was fantastic despite the rain and small hiccups. I’m proud to see how far they have come since their first festival. The only thing that is still bothering me is the fact that you cannot take your own alcohol with you to the stages, seeing that you had to wait in queues at a muddy bar that smelled like old beer by Saturday. I understand that their bars need the money, but drunken people will still buy at a bar instead of walking all the way back to their tents. I really do hope that you can work out a system next year, such as buying an extra tag for an extra fee to take your alcohol in with you and letting that money go to your bars.

All the sleepless nights, post flu, being voiceless and half ankles-less was worth it and I hope to see it again next year.

Photos by Xavier Loubser