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Getting Dusty, with Rebels and Bombshells

Getting Dusty, with Rebels and Bombshells

The West Coast Ostrich Ranch (just outside Cape Town) seems like a strange place to host a rockabilly event. Wandering around at the second annual Dusty Rebels and the Bombshells festival though, it felt like the perfect space to showcase this thriving subculture.

Photos: Devin Paisley

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I’m not exactly the quintessential rockabilly cat. But then, that’s the festival’s biggest attraction—its inclusive nature. All that’s needed is a little nostalgia and a willingness to have a good time.

A love for vintage autos helps too: at the entrance to the festival was a park-and-show area, lined with ultra-cool cars and bikes that owners had parked for the day. It was an eclectic mix of classics, muscle cars, old pickup trucks, rat rods and café-racers, that had guys drooling and cameras snapping.

Once I eventually made my way down to the main festival area (conveniently signposted), there was plenty more to keep me entertained. Among the many stalls were joints like MAC Cosmetics and Scar Hair, showing off their wares and skills. I also ran into my favourite barber—Johnny “Razor” of Barnet Fair in the Woodstock Exchange—earning his keep on the back of a bakkie in the summer sun. Parked right next to him was Wildfire’s mobile tattoo studio—set up inside a bad-ass, murdered out VW Kombi.

Harley-Davidson were on hand too with some classic Harleys, right next to airbrush artist Bert Upton. Another highlight was a stand filled with all manner of classic petrol-head paraphernalia and a couple of old, unidentified motorcycles—with more patina than your grandpappie’s Cortina.

Food trucks were littered all over the place—including the likes of El Burro and Joe’s Diner—and there were ample beverages available, including a decent selection of craft beers on tap. The event was family-friendly too, with a dedicated area for little kids.

Eyes were drawn to the centre court, where local bicycle polo and roller derby teams took turns enjoying their respective sports. Off to one side stood the Red Bull Studio and House of Machines sponsored stage, playing host to various live acts such as Oh Mercy, Them Tornadoes and Martin Rocka and the Sick Shop.

“Then, in the distance, engines revved and a dust cloud took to the sky. This was the Dickies Dirt Track—where brave souls took turns thrashing all manner of vehicle around a very dusty oval.”

Los Muertos Motorcycles were there with their Honda XL500 (better known as “Swart Gevaar”) and a very fearsome Pontiac GTO. Local metal craftsman Barry Ashmole gave it everything in a hand-made roadster that he’d just run at Kalahari Speed Week. The excitement in the “pit area” was tangible, and I ended up stuck there for a while.

But the real jewels of the show were not the bands, the derby girls, the dirt track heroes or the exhibitors. They were the people. The Rockabilly subculture is one of extreme passion and dedication, and nowhere is this more clear than at Dusty Rebels. Guys and gals were dressed to the nines, flaunting their personal twist on 1950’s nostalgia and style.

My day drew to a close before sundown, but I have it on good authority that celebrations continued well into the night (especially since camping facilities were available too).

Will I be back next year? Damn straight.