A DJ booth is set up in the middle of a pool and in the water kids are playing with beach balls, writes Phumlani S. Langa. Mpumelelo Buthelezi took the pics.
It is many parents’ nightmare: when the kids finish matric exams and nag to go with their friends on a “matric vac” before their results come out.
You’re probably familiar with this. Perhaps your children are there right now, enjoying the closing moments of their schooling, and celebrating the beginning of the rest of their lives (or making a glamorous start to unemployment).
Last weekend, Ballito and Umhlanga, north of Durban, bore witness to the matric rage phenomenon: a blowout for school leavers, which many will remember for the strength of their hangovers.
Around 15 000 ragers booked into hotels and burst out of them every day to party.
While the organisers are preoccupied with safety, there is a fair amount of drinking. And as many of these kids are yet to develop their sea legs (as it were), things can get tricky quickly.
THE POOL PARTY
The La Montagne hotel is swamped by youngsters delighting in the sun, rocking bikinis and sungas of all shapes, cuts and levels of daring.
A DJ booth is set up in the middle of a large pool and in the water kids are playing with inflatable beach balls and splashing each other playfully – and suggestively at times.
Just outside the pool, but still in the vicinity, are most of the black sisters in attendance. That HTH can be treacherous to one’s weave or braids.
Nonetheless, they are jamming to the fast-paced electronic dance music while a group of tough-looking boys do push ups on the lawn a short distance away.
CHILLING From left: Keshav Gounden (sleeping), Joshua Beere, Reece Pillay, Josh Munstermann and their friend James are spotted chilling on the lawn at night, engaging with Joshua as he hands out water and connects with the party-goers
The dude who could do the most would win a bottle of the finest potency made this year. It’s about potency, so it doesn’t matter in what year it was made.
We overhear two well-built guys planning to approach two potency shot girls.
“Bro, I’m not entirely sure what we must say.”
His wingman responds with a hiccup: “The words are far until they are close.”
The scenes are jovial at the pool party despite the poor music selection and the testosterone-filled duel for a beverage with a heinous taste.
A lifeguard walks around, more hostel master than party host, blowing his whistle whenever he notices something a little too risky happening. The pool party session begins to simmer down with the prospect of the Samsung Superclub happening that evening.
Pheromones are in the air.
One blonde says she’s having the time of her life. After telling this reporter of her preference for black guys, she says: “It is a shame that there aren’t so many here.”
THE RED FROGS
The Samsung Superclub is a venue built for the purpose of the Rage Festival and it is impressive as far as elaborate marquees go.
Before the teens can go in, they are searched for weapons and contraband (read drugs). Security does such a thorough job that they go through the contents of cigarette boxes.
After a vigorous pat down, the club emerges in the doorway, the entrance flanked by two towering inflatable, lit-up horses.
There are a few older people in the crowd, wearing strange shirts and caps. These are the Red Frogs, who ensure the kids have plenty of water to drink, and a chill area to regain their composure or to pass out for a while.
At the Sound Factory the next day, we were able to see this chill zone. It had beanbags placed around it and a funky light installation, and even those teens who weren’t the worse for wear were there, hanging.
There is another not-so-chill area, which is to the Red Frogs what an intensive care unit might be to a hospital. The extreme cases on the night are taken to this not-so-vibey tent.
There is no music here, just a morbid energy as teens lie on the floor covered in blankets that would not look out of place in a prison.
GROOVE ON Samantha, Nicole, Karin and Zander are pictured enjoying the music next to the waterfall display at the Superclub in Ballito, north of Durban. About 15 000 out-of-town students flooded to Umhlanga and Ballito to party until December 8
Next to each of the passed-out figures is a group of their friends, huddled together with a combination of stressed and unimpressed looks on their faces. We are ushered out quickly.
Brett France, a coordinator for the Rage Festival and head of the Red Frogs, says they draw their volunteers from local churches.
“I’ve seen people just not looking after themselves, you know, not staying hydrated or perhaps having a few more than they’re used to. Other than that, we don’t usually see anything too bad happen,” he says.
Asked what the procedure is if something serious was to happen to a reveller at Rage, he says: “If we do have to make a hospital run, we’d ask the person to chat to their parents on their phone and let them know what was happening. Fortunately we haven’t had any incidents this year.”
Their approach appears to be more caring big brother than boarding school matron: they don’t eject teens from the club, they lightly suggest they come to their chill zone for some water or pancakes.
But the actual bouncers are the real deal. During rapper Riky Rick’s performance, a few kids were allowed to join him on stage but some forced their way up and security had to be called in. One lad got manhandled and tossed back over the barricade – and into the crowd headfirst.
GROUPIES A group of youngsters at the main stage alongside rapper Ricky Rick. Now in its 14th year, the Rage Festival is introducing several firsts for what is already one of the most innovative festivals of its kind in South Africa
A group of ragers agree to chat to City Press after Riky Rick’s set. Asked how they were finding it, one of the sisters slurs: “Wait a second, we thought this was just a photo shoot. Like you totally want us to, like, use full sentences right now.”
For his part, Riky Rick was enjoying it.
“These kids are a vibe man. They bring the energy. We didn’t have this exactly when I was coming up but, damn, these kids go in.”
THE NIGHTS THAT TURN INTO MORNINGS
Rage marketing manager Marina Oreb said they had been planning the festival for a year, and worked not only with the Red Frogs but with public and private security.
They also have a troop of fresh-faced undercover cops working the festival, trying to flush out any drug dealers. But they need to work on their game.
On entering the Sound Factory, City Press saw two dealers very unsubtly trying to flog their weed – directly after the security guards’ wristband checking station. Any real dealer would smell the bacon a mile off.
Oreb says the 14-year-old festival provides one last gathering for those who attend.
GROUP MIND More than 15 000 youth from across South Africa and other parts of the world headed to Ballito and Umhlanga in KwaZulu-Natal for the Rage Festival – eight days and seven nights of beach, sun, fun, parties, music and making new memories
“It’s about providing moments that will mark this beautiful time in their lives. We have this saying or quote: ‘To the nights that turn into mornings, with friends that turn into family’, and we’re fully about that.”
There were pre-Rage talks with parents at schools to reassure them.
“We also check all your information beforehand, putting it on to the chip on the band on your wrist. If anything bad happens we can just scan that and have all your details. This chip is also part of the cashless system at the festival.”
It has to be said that Rage has always been considered a white thing. This year was no different. But Oreb says the figures of black teens attending rises every year.
She concedes they have more private school pupils than state, but have added a day pass and a camping element to make it more affordable for others.
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