The email from the event company stated that Mumford & Sons were coming to South Africa. I was still doing an internship in Paris, but assigned my sister the task of buying us tickets as the Pretoria date coincided with her birthday, for which I would be in the city. On the day, I asked whether she had gotten the tickets, but she had forgotten and by the time she looked they had been sold out. Well, they had been sold out in three minutes, so the chances of getting some had been steep in any case.
Then another email came, saying additional dates in Cape Town and Pretoria had been added. I changed shifts and coordinated with a friend at home to both try and buy some tickets. At 9.00 we logged in, and miraculously minutes later I received a confirmation email for three tickets. The friend also got three, so now we were locked and loaded for the concert.
Months later, the day of the event had arrived. I had been lucky enough (or stalkerish enough) to recognise the band members of John Wizards on my flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg and proceeding to observe them at a distance to come up with a brilliant plan for trapping them in a conversation with me, the results of which I hoped would be some backstage tickets or a shout-out for my sister's birthday or something. Sadly I am too chickenshit to actually follow up on stalking semi-famous people and never talked to them. Also, my bag was the first one that came out, and I didn't want to appear weird whilst waiting for them. Stalker mode not on fleek (which I guess is a good thing).
The concert was held at the Amphitheatre near the Voortrekker Monument, which showcased Pretoria's city centre as a backdrop and also had enough space for the audience to spread out across the steps from which everyone had a good view of the stage. We arrived in time for John Wizards and then really enjoyed The Very Best, before Beatenberg played as last introductory act. The Saturday performance had been cut slightly shorter due to a highveld thunderstorm, but Sunday's show had perfect weather and the crowd seemed exceedingly excited to be there. Marcus Mumford appeared during Beatenberg's show, playing the drums and singing along, as well as Senegalese singer Baaba Maal being featured during The Very Best's set.
From starting out with Little Lion Man to newer hits such as Tompkins Square Park and Wilder Mind to bringing out the boys from Beatenberg, The Very Best and Baaba Maal for a jam session, this concert was one of the highlights of my homecoming trip (if not one of the best concerts I have been to). Somehow the synergy between the audience, the beautiful setting and the great music worked together to make everyone enjoy the show. At some point I looked up and saw the Voortrekker Monument gleaming to my left, Orion right above us and the Southern Cross behind us as the capital loomed in the background, and it made me appreciate the wonder of that very moment, the pleasure in being able to gather with friends and strangers under a cloudless sky on a warm summer's night and simply enjoy the music.
There is a TED talk by Alain de Botton where he speaks about Atheism 2.0 and how some of the values and actions of organised religions still translate well to human behaviour even if some do not believe in a higher power. After the talk, he was asked by the moderator that this talk made it sound like he did believe in something more, but de Botton answered that it is a moment of looking at the universe and realising our smallness in contrast to its immensity that already creates a sense of mystery which he gets through basic observation and a belief in science, not necessarily in a belief that there must be something more.
I felt a similar exhilaration at the concert, being surrounded by the natural beauty, the man-made constructions in the distance and my friends around me. At times we just need to appreciate a moment for what it is, not expecting more or being disappointed in a perceived lack.
After the show we had one last drink before taking one of the last buses back to where the car was parked. It was a few minutes before midnight, so my sister's birthday was rolling in as we were stuck in a traffic jam. One friend got the last few beers out of the boot, I went over to the car in front of us to ask them to play something more birthday-sounding and we had an impromptu dance party in the parking lot. Turned out the guys were DJs at a Joburg club and were more than happy to oblige and play some of their mixes. Even the car guard came over and joined in the celebration.
We dropped one friend off and then returned home, tired, somewhat sunburnt but genuinely happy.