Thirty minutes East of Johannesburg, a pretty special thing is shaping up to happen once again. For the third time in four years, a group of promotors are coming together to host a 24-hour+ electronic music experience called Churn.
What exactly is Churn, at its core? It isn’t easy to get a soundbite-like quote from any of the promotors responsible, and that owes entirely to the fact that Churn isn’t much like what we’re used to. It is removed from the club space, taking place outdoors at the Tweefontein Melkery and so the temptation exists to call it a ‘festival’, but the collective has moved to resist that term and the implicit connotations that come with it. It certainly isn’t a money spinner. Profit is not the goal – there are no sponsors, and this year their ultimate hope is to break even for the first time. It’s a celebration, of course: of music, of life, of partying – but it’s more than that. ‘It’s a legacy thing,’ says Colleen Balchin (aka Rosie Parade) known for Pussy Party and one of the team of promotors. ‘A social and political act. It’s more like a thank-you to those who support our kinkiness regularly enough that we scrape a living from it, than something we’re trying to make a living off.’
The event was born out of the collaboration between Broaden A New Sound and Andrew the DJ, otherwise known as The Team That Runs Kitcheners. Riaan Botha and Colleen – the two halves of Broaden A New Sound – and Andrew met almost a decade ago. ‘Ever since I remember, Andrew was on the scene,’ says Colleen. ‘He was always the guy with the joint in the parking lot.’ Andrew and Riaan (and Colleen by proxy, as Riaan’s better half) moved into a house share at the time Kitcheners started happening. They both threw events – Riaan focusing on band-oriented events, Andrew throwing raucous house parties. In many ways, the roots of Churn were sown in those days, pipe dreams laid for future use.
The first Churn took place in 2013, a joint venture between Broaden A New Sound, Andrew the DJ and the team behind Pretoria’s Park Acoustics. Felix Laband, Dirty Paraffin and Vox Portent played at the Tweefontein Melkery venue that they had come across. There was a recklessness to the endeavor, by their own admission, and it was criminally under-attended, but the experience left a mark on everyone who was there – on those who performed, on those who attended, and, most notably for where they are now, on those who organised it. ‘That first time a farmer hit one of the electricity poles along the road and we had to scramble for a generator at the last minute,’ says Andrew. ‘I think the party started four hours late. Basically after that we knew that anything can happen and we just gotta roll with it.’ Riaan elaborates on the slapdash nature of it. ‘It was mostly just an excuse for Andrew and Broaden A New Sound to throw a party somewhere other than Kitcheners in a space that we really fell in love with. It was super low-key, but we saw the potential for something special in the space. Churn wouldn’t be Churn without Tweefontein Melkery.’
In 2014, the team took a year’s hiatus to reconsolidate and ensure that, when they relaunched, it went off without too many hitches. It was around this time that BeatNN and Hadedah, two other promotors who had begun operating in Johannesburg, were brought into the fold. ‘BeatNN and Hadedah are crews we respect for their mutual principles which are firm, more vibe- than profit-driven, and hugely personal,’ says Colleen. ‘Adding them helped us better execute the vision we have for Churn.’ Riaan says the capacity was also much-needed. ‘After I blew the original ‘minimal’ concept for Churn way out of proportion, haphazardly wanting it to be more, BeatNN were the logical choice for increasing our work force. Our tastes and ideas are very similar so it’s easy working together. Hadedah were enlisted for their festival and event decor expertise and we also respect what they’ve been doing with their ‘original live electronica’ events, hence changing things up a bit this year and giving them their own stage.’
If the 2013 edition was a raucous learning curve, the 2015 edition was their triumphant emergence. ‘Everything came together beautifully,’ says Riaan. ‘The line-up, the flow, the crowd, the vibe. It was something to be really proud of. And the positive feedback was overwhelming.’
LA’s Daedelus headlined that night, complimenting a line-up that included Christian Tiger School, Rudeboyz (making their Gauteng debut), Card on Spokes and many others. It was the moment when the spark of an idea caught fire. Daedelus himself was highly-impressed with what he saw. ‘You are vibrant people of now who should be talking in that tone, with that tense,’ he said.
The event’s success has meant that this year’s Churn is the most-anticipated yet. There are fewer ‘big’ names and more exciting up-and-comers. Frederic Robinson is being flown in from Germany and is set to deliver a beautifully-orchestrated, emotive set at 2.30am. Other notable (and unmissably excellent) names on the line-up include Fever Trails, Jumping Back Slash and mono_sono, but really the line-up’s goal is to blare out consistently excellent music and never stop. “We’re all suckers for ‘one more DJ'”, says Colleen. “At Churn we don’t have to turn down the music for anybody.”
Churn takes place on the 1st of October at Tweefontein Melkery. Music starts at 13.00 and ends the following evening. There are some limited presale tickets available still at R150 and R200 and there will be tickets available at the door. Full lineup here (worth perusing!), and tickets below: