The Killers concert at Val de Vie review

When you pay R600 to go to a concert, included in the price is the bragging rights. You get to tell all your friends and people you meet  how awesome the concert was. Maybe you can even impress girls (or guys). And because they weren’t at the concert, you can even make it sound cooler than it was. Unfortunately with the Killers concert this was not the case. I’m too embarrassed to tell people I went to the concert. While they were off having a good time somewhere in Cape Town, or even happily asleep in their beds, I was sitting in traffic for 3 hours like an idiot. When people ask me how my weekend was, I tell them about the other stuff I did and leave out the Killers concert, because if I tell them I went they will know that I am a loser. If this was a game between me and Big Concerts, I lost. They got my hard earned money and then got to make me sit around in my car for three hours like a chop.

Big Concerts 1
Dax Villanueva 0

The performance of the Killers was pretty good and Zebra and Giraffe did us proud as well. The Killers played all their popular songs which was cool, but they weren’t very engaging with the crowd in terms of talking to the crowd. Lighting and effects were excellent and the venue (Val de Vie) was awesome because you’re out in the winelands, surrounded by mountains so it is beautiful. But all of this is not that important. If the cost of the concert was just the R600 for the ticket, then all of these would have been great things to talk about. But the concert did not just cost R600, it also cost everyone several hours of frustatration. Some people paid with more than 5 hours of frustration.

I’ve been reading some of the news reports on the concert and have been interested to see how Big Concerts has not apologised at all but rather blamed a) the attendees for not going early enough b) the municipality for apparently not planning for the traffic properly.

Now, I obviously do not know the full story, my observations are that of an attendee but here are my thoughts.

There are two separate issues, one is the arrival traffic which resulted in some people desperately abandoning their cars up to 7kms away from the venue in the hopes they could walk there quicker. And the other is the departure traffic which caused concert goers to get home from 3 to 5 hours after the concert.

Let’s deal with the first issue. Big concerts said it encouraged people to come early and that at 4pm there was only a trickle of cars. We arrived from the Franschoek side (very smart move on my part) just after 4pm and there was already a massive queue from the CT side. The problem was not with the municipal roads but that there was only one entrance to Val de Vie. If everyone had arrived earlier, the queue would have just gotten longer earlier. It was just not possible to get the cars in quick enough.

Big Concerts may have encouraged people to come early by sending out a text message but did they encourage people to come early by opening the gates earlier and providing entertainment, food, drinks and shade? The gates only opened at 4pm, why would you want to arrive before then? Why would I want to sit in the baking midday sun with no shade? The bar only opened at 6pm although they were giving away their warm beers for an hour before that. Anyone one with event experience would know that one entrance to a venue would require several hours to admit that many cars. They should have opened the gates at 1pm and had entertainment from at latest 2pm to encourage people to get there early. There should have been shade so that people did not die.

My rating of the arrival organisation 1/10 (the 1 is for the 2 free warm beers I received).

Now, as for the traffic after the concert, what a debacle. If getting people into the venue wasn’t possible over a 5 hour period, how the hell are you going to get them all out at the same time? They did open the second entrance at one point which meant that everyone got home before sunrise. If they had not opened the second exit, we would have got caught in the rush hour traffic on the N1 the following morning. Why was the second entrance/exit not used the whole time? Where were the marshalls? They all left after the concert so there was chaos in the parking lots and on the exit roads.

They did have a party in the Heineken tent for those that were prepared to stay and wait out the traffic jam. But the tent could only hold a few people and really, it’s midnight and you’ve been there most of the day and you’re tired. Why would you want to party? The food stalls ran out of food, the bar stopped selling booze. there was nothing to stay for. So about 19 000 of the 20 000 concert goers tried to leave. How is that even feasible?

The concert organisation was a joke. My 2 year old niece could have predicted the traffic problems and mitigated them. Have you ever heard of Park and Ride? What an abolute joke and embarrassment. The biggest problem is this, it’s a Sunday night and most of us have to be at work the next day. If I had any inclination that I would be getting home after 2am I would not have attended the concert.

My rating of the departure organisation -5/10.

The fault lies with Big Concerts and nobody else. They owe me an apology and compensation of way more than the R600 I spent on the ticket.


  1. reto December 8, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Dax, I’m with you buddy. From my perspective the layouts of Golden Circle vs. main area should have been available somewhere, since anyone outside Golden Circle had a shitty view. I usually go Golden Circle, but my friends had booked earlier and I wanted to join them. I may as well have not paid and sat on the embankment like some smart people I saw, they had a better view than me. With regards to the traffic; I’m actually dumbfounded. It’s like they’ve never organised an event with more than 1000 people. One entrance, one road, one route, in and out. Appalling. Sensing the impending doom, I persuaded my brother to leave with me before the encore. We still took 45 minutes to get onto the main road and a young couple begged us to give them a lift to their car 8kms away. How do we make Big Concerts accountable and upgrade their service. Better bars, better toilets, better logistics, better venues? I have no idea. Simply avoiding them as a brand is not going to be fun, since they are a LiveNation partner, and so if you want to watch ANY big act in this country, it will have to be a BIG-f-up Concert.

  2. 6000 December 8, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I’ve had more than 4000 reads and over 50 comments on my blog post about this, including input about the local municipality, who sanctioned the event.

    Here’s some thoughts:

    1. Your tweet “My review of the Killers concert which consists mainly of my opinion on the traffic debacle” speaks volumes. If you allow a 1 hour delay (lest we forget, we were +/- 1 hour out of Cape Town and you were warned that traffic would be bad until midnight) to reduce your review of the actual performance down to 2 sentences, well – what sort of person are you?

    2. The stories going round about warm beer being given away before the bar opened at 6pm are simply false. We arrived at 4:30 and enjoyed [several] free, ice cold Heinekens with minimal queuing.

    3. Some people DID arrive before 1600 and the gates were opened at 1500.

    4. “There should have been shade so that people did not die”. Did someone die of no shade, or is this a bit melodramatic?

    5. I saw plenty of security and marshals as I left the venue just after midnight.

    6. All in all, I had a great time. I expected to get back late and I did (Back in Cape Town just after 1am). I wasn’t the last out, but nor was I the first by a long shot and so while I accept that those who were inconvenienced by long delays have legitimate complaints, you’re not hearing anything from the many thousands who enjoyed the day out and had a good ride home.

    I’ve read so many lies about the N1 being “blocked at 1500” etc etc that I actually don’t believe anything I read any more.

  3. hank December 8, 2009 at 2:13 pm


    You say your 2 year old niece could have predicted the traffic problems and mitigated them… so why couldn’t you?

    I also got caught up in the traffic on the way to the venue and realised that it was going to be a dogshow at the end, so I parked on the R301 about 500m down from the turn off to Val de Vie, on the Franschoek side. After the concert, I walked to my car, which took 30 mins and drove off towards Franschoek. I was back in Cape Town by midnight.

    The only people I had sympathy for are the people that did actually arrive early and parked in Val de Vie and weren’t witness to the traffic build up from 4pm. You and all those other muppets saw that traffic, realised it would be worse when EVERYONE left at the same time after the concert, yet still decided to go as close as possible to the venue.

    Pity you didn’t bring your 2 year old niece with to think for you…

  4. reto December 8, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Hank, you’re so smart. Big Concerts should hire you.

  5. Sue December 8, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Hey Dax,

    We arrived from Franschoek side too and got into the pile up just before the gates opened. We did what was suggested and cam early, sat in the boiling sun with no alcohol or bands to enjoy.

    Hank, we all could have predicted that there was going to be a traffic problem! But we also assumed that with all Big Concerts experience that THEY would have predicted it TOO!!!

    Where were the marshalls??? Where was the parking grid system?? Where were the signs warning “beware! only one exit once inside and we have sold 20 000 tickets!”

    Dont call Dax a muppet, he speaks on behalf of everyone who got home AFTER 12AM!!

  6. Brad December 8, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    When Big Concert where big news back in the 90’s, and we where all starved of entertainment and the sheer joy of watching our favorite bands live, and in concert, this kind of thing would have been acceptable.

    Bringing out the Cult, or REM, or whoever will come to Africa, charge us what you wish, squeeze us into what ever venue you find (no matter how back the sound), and what can we complain about?
    I mean, its not like we have too many other stadiums rockers to watch right?

    But things have changed.

    When you see how over-subscribed and well supported these events are (when Big Concert decides to put them on), how few great shows we have access to, and how badly they are organised(they could have sold 5 times the amount of beer had the set up 2 alternative tents), it shows you that like most ‘monopolies’ in SA, this one is ready for an alternative supplier.

    Come on! Someone give BC a run for their money!

  7. Sean December 8, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Hank – you’ve clearly never been to a concert anywhere else in the world – having to park 10k’s away and walk is generally not how these things work.

    Apparently the only reason why the warm beer was free to begin with was because their liquor license only kicked in at 6pm.

    By international standards 20,000 people at a concert is not that bigger deal. Big Concerts wants to bring out international acts – charge international concert prices – then they need to provide international service.

    The venue is beautiful – the Killers were awesome, but big concerts organisation was less then poor. Fact.

  8. Dax December 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Hank, well done on your foresight, my friend, and I’m glad you felt the concert experience was worthwhile.

    I did in fact “compensate” for the traffic and arrived from the Franschoek side in time to enter without difficulty. However, why should I have to “compensate”? It is the job of the concert organiser to make sure that they can accommodate the people who paid them for tickets.

    Are we all meant to park half an hour away from the venue? It’s just not feasible.

    There are plenty of events that handle this without a problem. Why did they not implement Park and Ride?

    6000, thanks for your thoughts. I’m not sure how focusing on the traffic element determines what sort of person I am. Considering the percentage of time spent listening to the Killers vs not, I think the review is quite balanced.

    As I said in the review, it was my experience and my experience involved warm beers (both free and later for sale). I guess I have you to thank that there were no cold ones available when I got there.

    Yes, the comment about people dying from the heat was melodramatic. It was for effect, a little bit of humour for those with a sense of it.

    Again, as with Hank, I’m glad you had a great time, I’d hate to think nobody did.

  9. Meegan December 8, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Dax, your review had me in stitches because it’s exactly what myself and everyone in our car (yes we carpooled) experienced. What a dogshow! I’ve already e-mailed Big Concerts and sent them the Hellopeter link with all the complaints about them.

    Never mind getting out by midnight, our car only crossed the line out of Val de Vie at 2.30am! And I didn’t see a single marshall until that point.

    Hank, well done for being so brilliant and predicting that Big Concerts would stuff it up. You were right – they did. But some of us couldn’t leave our cars parked just anywhere because we’d travelled a long way and had luggage in our car. I’m surprised you’d rather defend Big Concerts’ incompetence than admit that it’s their fault that they chose a venue and parking space with one road in and out. I think you’ll find they’re the muppets…

  10. Sean December 8, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    6000 coming from Sheffield I am not 100% sure of your ability to guage a warm beer from a cold beer. I could be mistaken though.

  11. Fiona December 8, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Dax, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Nevermind the hassle and frustration of sitting in a parking lot for 3 hours after the concert…what about the safety of paying concert goers? What if there was a fire or an emergency? And don’t say I’m being melodramatic – look what happened to the nightclub in Russia this past weekend.

    The number one priority of events companies staging events of this scale should be the health and safety of the attendees. Adequate exit and entry points is event management 101.

    Clearly, Big Concerts were all to happy to take our money and not give two hoots about what happened thereafter.

    No matter how good The Killers were, it wasn’t worth it.

  12. Sam December 8, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Dax – I lost my sense of humour in my car at that concert. But you’re review managed refresh it! There was absolutely nothing funny about sitting in the same spot and staring down with the dude in the VWKombi in my rear-view mirror for 3,5 hours!

    In fact something did die at that concert and that was my faith in South Africa’s ability to host large international acts – did BIG CONCERTS learn nothing from the Celine Dion concert debacle at Vergelegen!!

    Fact: everyone was so desperate to get out, get home, and get to bed – that no matter how amazing the performers were – their experience of South African concerts is left severely scarred. If I were an international performer or act – I would think twice about visiting and performing in South Africa if the organizers manage to get wrong in exactly the same way continuously and the fans are going to be left disgruntled and bitter anyway.

    Its an embarrassment.

  13. A December 8, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Killers were AWESOME, Big Concerts are KNOBS!!

  14. CATH December 8, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    What a crap review you wrote Dax! This was the most incredible concert – yes Big Concerts (big Joke) really messed up but we all know that and all of us experienced the traffic so let’s move on and what about reviewing the concert. Sounds like you don’t know their music much – we were really privileged to see the best band live band and studio band i think in the WORLD right now…would they or anyone come back after big concerts f*up no of course not, but thank goodness we got to see them! Let’s focus on the poositive – BC’s press release was full of lies so what’s the point in even mentioning that they had NO traffic people/wardens/ after the concert – NONE!! – to help anyone ease the situation, but TONS when we arrived. Useless! BUt what a concert! let’s not lose the beauty of that experience amidst the disaster of the organising – and organisation, BC!

  15. Sam December 8, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Cath – Small picture: Killers rocked!! Big Picture: We may never experience the next rocking live international band due to lack of professionalism and service delivery from the company which holds the monopoly in terms of South African live entertainment co-ordination. Reason for public opinion platforms: to improve service delivery.

  16. Dax December 9, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Thanks Cath. I’m sorry you didn’t like my review. For me the experience consists of 2 elements, the Killers performance and the event management.

    I’m not denying that the Killers put on a good show, but I did expect they would. After all, as you said, they are one of the best bands, on stage and off, around.

    So there wasn’t really much to say, we got the show we expected and paid for. What did come as a surprise was the event management, in particular the traffic situation. It ruined the whole experience for me. So that was the focus of my review.

    To be honest, I would not do it again and that’s the simple truth.

  17. Nick December 9, 2009 at 7:28 am

    I don’t understand why they don’t have these events at a place that is designed to accommodate 20000+ people and their vehicles. I’ve enjoyed all the concerts I’ve been to here in Durban (when we get them) and depending on support venues have ranged from Kings Park rugby stadium, ICC, Exhibition Centre and even Westridge Tennis Stadium. Sure, a wine estate is an aesthetically pleasing venue for a concert but it’s traffic infrastructure is not designed to handle such a large volume of vehicles. It might not be pretty but ultimately I go to watch the band perform, have a good time, get into my car at the end and be home in half an hour. My only complaint at these events is that they always run out of beer!

  18. Erika December 9, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Also attended The Killers concert. But we heeded the traffic warnings, mainly due to experience at last year’s MyCokeFest at Lourensford. We live in Paarl. Arranged for a drop-off and pick-up. Left Paarl at 16:00, were seated 17:15 (already a queue and slow moving traffic by then). When we left, arranged with our lift to meet us half-way up the exit path and were in bed by midnight. Planning goes a long way… And ja, even though it was a fantastic day out with stunning music, we and our group of friends also felt slightly disappointed with the show. Expected more somehow.

  19. 6000 December 9, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Hi Dax – just thought that your post should have been entitled “a review of the traffic issues at Val de Vie” rather than anything to do with the concert. It is wholly negative and there is virtually nothing about the actual acts in there. Just my opinion.

    As for the traffic issues – of course we hear from those who ahd a terrible time – as we should. We don’t hear from those who actually enjoyed themselves. Sad indictment on the SA mindset. And those reports are getting more and more exaggerated – I’m half expecting to hear from people who are still there today, dying in the sun. 😉

    There are those that had a good time and experienced very little traffic (Erika and Hank above are good cases in point, as am I) (agree with Erika on the show, btw – as I pointed out in my review).

    Oh and BTW, Big Concerts didn’t organise the Sicky Dion gig at Vergelegen – I would have boycotted them instantly if they had.

    Those who expected to be home by midnight must have been the ones in the GC behind me enjoying a little ‘WaccyBaccy’.

  20. Bee December 9, 2009 at 10:27 am

    It took us three hours to get into Franschhoek and one and a half hours to get out but it really didn’t matter to me! I had an incredible day out; loved Zebra and Giraffe and thought The Killers really rocked it.

    Yes, I do think that Big Concerts could have done A LOT more to make it a less frustrating experience and I have said as much. My suggestions were:

    1. Far better traffic management
    2. Additional bars
    3. Keeping the bars open until midnight. We did as they suggested by not leaving right after the concert and I couldn’t even buy a bottle of water.

    However, I was with friends and together we made the most of all the inconveniences and had a really stellar day out!

  21. gaby December 9, 2009 at 10:50 am

    how many times have any of us gotten home um AFTER 2am and put in a full days work, and it not been a problem, well, other than your boss’s voice IN your head, the empty wallet (spending more than R600), the odd desire for kfc at 9am and a recall of a moment you’d rather forget.

    Next time, listen to the warnings from Big Concerts. This isn’t the first time its been a problem, you should have anticipated it and doubled up with people.

    Still love you though.:P

  22. 6000 December 9, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Did everyone get their personal email from Big Concerts with an apology and a request for customer input? (if you wrote to them or Kfm, you should have done/should do).

    I’m impressed.

    Gaby > Hehehe. Yes. Good point.

  23. Liz December 9, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    I’m surprised by some of the people who have commented (on this blog and others) that a little bit of forethought (ie arranging lifts instead of driving, and perhaps thinking to park further up the road) would have solved the problem.

    These strategies ONLY worked for the minority few who did them, purely because they were in the minority. If 20,000 people parked up the road, we’d still have had a problem. If there had been even 5000 lifts coming and going there would still have been a big problem. The nature of the problem may have taken a different dimension, but there would STILL have been a big problem.

    The simple reality is that trying to get that number of people in and out of that small road is complete insanity, no matter what strategy the attendees had adopted.

    The only possible solution could potentially have been with better planning and coordination from Big Concerts in terms of a serious amount of park and ride options, really tight and nifty signage and warnings all along the inbound roads, but even so, I think that the only way this could have been prevented was to have a venue that had decent access.

  24. Chris December 9, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Hmm, never underestimate the potential of people on the internet to do simple things like overreact, make personal insults and to make sweeping generalisations.

    The point here everyone is that its not enough to say: oh, BC warned you, its your fault. People paid money, they expected a service. Why should they accept a service that involves a single exit and no traffic marshals? So there were people who managed to avoid the traffic – well done. I still don’t see how that negates the argument that BC failed to accommodate the issues on the night.

    Although we weren’t involved in the post concert mess, we arrived at the turn off at the N1 at 4pm, so we were slightly late according the the BC instructions. The service road alongside the N1, the N1 & the road in from the North all coverge at this point and get funnelled into a single lane. It was a complete jam and just navigating the offramp from the freeway to the stop street took 30mins. Thats why concerts shouldn’t be held at this estate again – the road network is not designed to take the volume. I’d love to meet the person who feels that little logistical nightmare can be overcome.

  25. Tazzy December 9, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    BC Totally ruined my Killers experience! Killers were fantastic and I really enjoyed their act. Unfortunately sitting in traffic for 4 hrs after managed to totally ruin the experience.I say that any profit made by BC for this event should be donated to charity on behalf of the Killers because of their monumental stuff up!

  26. Dax December 12, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    A source has informed me that there was another entrance/exit to Hell de Vie but Big Ripoffs didn’t want to pay the R45 000 hiring fee. That’s about 100 tickets out of 20 000.

    It would be nice if South Africans had some solidarity and we could stand together and boycott companies that scew us over. Chances are slim though.

    Elton John at Hell de Vie will be sold out I’m sure. Good luck to you all.

    Check out this Facebook group and note the limited support:

  27. Rob December 12, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Ah…The Killers…I DO love them, and I loved their shows in SA. Saw them at the Dome in Jhb (no waiting in traffic yet sh1tty venue) and in Cape Town (endless waiting in traffic yet stunning venue). Lets not forget that its not the band’s fault that Big Concerts cant organise a piss up in a brewery – which might explain why the traffic was as ridiculous as it was. I still love the Killers and loved every second of their 100 minute show. The fact that they performed “A Dustland Fairytale” and “Bling” my fave Killers trax were my personal highlights. The only other thing I have to say is that should there ever be another band coming out to our shores (whom I happen to love as much as The Killers), I’ll probably think twice before actually going to the LIVE show. The temptation to enjoy the band’s DVD in the comfort of ones own home is just too great when I think of the hours one has to sit in traffic, as a trade off for the real thing. Sad, but true.

  28. HIla December 16, 2009 at 8:08 am

    When I told my SO about where the concert was being held he groaned and said there will be a problem. He also said that if they want to get it right they need to speak to a tour company. Incentive tours sometimes have thousands of people that all go to one venue at once. How do they do it? Coaches. They dont all stay at the same hotels so they have several of them. If big concerts insists on doing the Wine Estate experience they should organise coaches (add the cost to the ticket price or have it as a separate charge, whatever) from several pick up zones (that have ample parking) and get a tour director from one of the big incentive companies to co-ordinate it.

  29. Aussie Wine Chick January 5, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    This says it all: they used Big Concerts. Celine Dion disaster was pretty damning I would say – clearly not evidence enough for some…

    1. Dax January 5, 2010 at 5:54 pm

      Actually I don’t think Big Concerts did the Celine Dion concert, it was some other company.

  30. Ana February 19, 2010 at 9:40 am

    The killers were insane I loved it! But definitely didn’t love the 4hour traffic jam I mean it was ridiculous!! Big Concerts really has to go back to the drawing board.Epic Fail!!!