Disclaimer: No real Dragons were found or hurt at this festival.

Choosing the way you welcome the New Year can often be a complicated and tedious process, if you’re anything like me.

This because you’re forced to make important decisions. These decisions include; who to celebrate the night with (your cat or your friends?). What party to attend and did you even crack an invite? Is your liver ready to handle the copious amounts of champagne and tequila you’ve set your heart on drinking? Does kissing your cat still count as an actual New Year’s kiss? It was for this reason that I made the decision to welcome the New Year surrounded by the mountains, music and awesome people which form part of Smoking Dragon Festival.Smoking Dragon Festival makes its home at The Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge which is found in a magical land over the hills and far, far away. The Northern Drakensburg, depending on who you ask. Equipped with four stages and a snazzy pink tent, all offering an eclectic and seemingly endless variety of music to cater to your every music need; a truly beautiful location, an ice-cold lake to fend off the (very offensive) heat and an amazing crowd of people to provide the best company any festival-goer could ever ask for, Smoking Dragon Promised to be a good time. Over the next three days we were treated to such amazing sets by so many different acts. I only wish that there had been enough time for me to watch them all.

Smoking Dragon Day-by-Day

Arriving quite late on Thursday afternoon, I made my way to the Main Stage which promised some amazing sets from female artists like Nonku Phiri, Push Push, Ann Jangle and Bye Beneco to name but a few, and which certainly did not disappoint.

Then, moving on to the Cherch Electric Jungle stage, sets from Ang, Danalog and Skepta, amongst others kept everyone dancing all through the night until sunrise.

Friday saw me, and many other people hiding out in the lake for most of the day in a desperate bid to avoid melting in the sweltering heat, whilst enjoying the great music being played at the lake-side Ripple Zone stage. The Main stage on Friday late-afternoon/night was definitely the place to be with amazing sets from Diamond Thug, Tidal Waves, Boxer, The Kiffness, BCUC and Veranda Panda. The highlight of my night however, was definitely Chris Chameleon of Boo!. He owned the stage in a pair high heels and gave an utterly incredible performance. Once again, long after all the other stages had closed, the Cherch Electric Jungle stage kept on going. Featuring sets from Card on Spokes, Vox Portent, Amseth and Roommush to name a few, made sure everyone was dancing all until the early hours of the morning.

Saturday evening saw Stelth Ulvang (The Lumineers) give an amazing performance at the Ripple Zone Stage. Followed by some awesome performances at the Main stage from; 7th Son, The Rudimentals, Todo Mundo and Grassy Spark. As the clock struck 12, heralding the start of the New Year, a great wooden Dragon was set alight. This cleared up any confusion about the Festival’s name. Innumerable fire crackers were set off, ensuring bright start to 2017. Almost everyone then made their way to The Cherch Electric Jungle Stage for what proved to be some of the most insane Drum and Bass I’ve ever heard. Cherch ensured that the party kept on going hard until the sunrise.A special shout out must go to the Fringe stage, and everyone who played at it. Fringe consistently provided a place in which good music and good vibes were guaranteed.  Shout out to everyone involved in creating and contributing towards the Pink Tent Stage. It was such a fantastic initiative, not only because it was providing a safe an inclusive environment in which everyone (especially LGBTIAQ people) could be themselves, but also because a certain portion of the proceeds were given to charity.I would however, have loved to have seen a greater number and variety of food stalls at the festival. Long queues and sold out signs left many people, myself included very hungry. I had to rely on chips and trail mix to get through the day.Thanks must go to the organisers for putting together a festival with such a wonderful and diverse line-up. A line-up that encompassed so many different genres. And thank for creating such an amazing environment which brought so many great people together in the best way possible. I couldn’t have asked for a better place, or way in which to celebrate the New Year.

Photos by: Lourens Smit