Festival Review: Techno and sweat on the South African coastline at SpiltMilk 2018

Image: Arnold van der Walt

Written by Maya-Rose Torrão

This year’s SpiltMilk festival marked the third year of Full Cream Entertainment’s South African techno fest, featuring an exceptional line-up with Berlin techno DJ Kevin de Vries as the international headliner, supported by South African producers Ryan Murgatroyd and STAB Virus, to name a few.

The festival opened its gates at midday, with the Cape Town sun shining beautifully over the venue. The perfectly manicured lawns of the Green Point Cricket Club usually carry nothing but a handful of geese and some lonely puddles, but on September 1st the grass was decked out with a giant blow-up dome that reminded me of some kind of giant white adult bouncy castle, the faint doof doof of a chill-house track spilling out the side entrances. To the right of the dome there was a well-stocked bar, sporting many delicious local brews, that ran along the field, surrounded by excited festival-goers in glitter and sunglasses, lounging around the wooden picnic tables in the sun with plastic beer cups in hand.

Image: Arnold van der Walt

Before I crossed over into this magical land of beer, sun and bass, I decided to check out the cluster of smaller tents that lay just outside the main dome section. I took note of a small medic tent just outside the front gates that looked well-manned and ready for action, which made me feel positive about the evening ahead, as well as a cluster of portable toilets to the left and a mysterious darkened tent to the front of me. Walking towards the tent in front of me, I was interrupted by some extremely friendly promoters (who sponsored the dome for the festival) who offered me, as well as a group of other excited festival-goers, tasters of their brand new energy drink Carabao. All a-buzz with the Carabao, sun and anticipation, I stepped into the small darkened tent I had noticed before.

To my absolute delight, the tent’s walls were lined with vintage video games, the likes of Street Fighter II and many more, which were all free of charge to play. So as not to miss out on music pulsing from inside the dome, the organisers were forward-thinking enough to have speakers live-transmitting the DJ set into the games arcade. I was also happy to see a vegetarian and vegan stall nestled amongst the arcade machines, as well as a stand that I had never encountered at a festival before, a ‘cereal bar’, where you could choose your own cereal to munch on while you enjoyed the festivities. If cereal is not your meal of choice at a techno festival (or if you’re concerned about spilt milk, as it were), then there were also a cluster of other food options that offered more traditional festival food like pizza and burgers, a couple metres from the dome.

The dome itself didn’t fill up properly until the sun set, most guests understandably preferring to enjoy the sun and fresh air, while appreciating the chill-house beats of Illing, Cody Meyer and Ryan Sullivan, as well as the progressive tech-house sounds of headliner Ryan Murgatroyd, from the beer tent. Although marketed as a techno festival, SpiltMilk 2018 had some great house music to offer, plus the house beats made a brilliant warm-up for the late-night international acts, as the line-up went flawlessly from chill-house, to house, to tech-house, to full-on techno. As the sun began to set and the basslines became a little more urgent, the SpiltMilk dome began to fill up until it was almost bursting at the seams.

After Ryan Murgatroyd’s highly-enjoyed set, a deep mix of tech-house tinged with Afro-house influences, Dave Irish was the DJ to take us into the sunset, and he delivered a groovy tech-house set that turned the heat up on the pace, and prepared us for Dogstarr’s dark, industrial-inspired techno sounds. By this time, the light-show began to take more of a front-seat, with neon geometric patterns spinning psychedelically overhead on the ceiling of the dome and the screens surrounding the DJ decks delighting the crowd with surreal imagery made up of a myriad of bright lines and colours.

Image: Arnold van der Walt

Unfortunately, by this time I was getting a little uncomfortable in the dome; with all those bodies dancing, breathing and partying, the dome began to act like a giant blow-up greenhouse and was so stuffy by the middle of STAB Virus’ set that condensation began to gather on the ceiling above the dancefloor. It was also around about this time that I realised how loud the voices of the crowd were compared to the music and I wished that the sound organisers would just turn up the main volume of the event by a couple notches. Even the day after the festival, I saw social media posts complaining about only two things at SpiltMilk 2018; namely, the lack of ventilation in the dome and the volume of the music. By the time it was ten o’clock, condensation was falling like rain from the plastic roof onto our heads.

Even though these two aspects were playing on my mind, STAB Virus delivered a killer full-on dark techno set and were followed by the last act, Kevin de Vries, who took us all home with his pulsing techno tracks and deep bass hits. I was still hoping that the volume would be raised by the time that Kevin played, but no such luck. That taken into consideration, I left the dome feeling exhausted and impressed by one of the only big techno events in Cape Town and I look forward to seeing the line-up that Full Cream Entertainment comes up with for year four at SpiltMilk 2019.

Check out a live video of Ryan Sullivan dominating the decks early in the afternoon below.