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Review: Ramfest

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RamfestIn all its dusty glory Nekkies, Ramfest’s previous home, was a fantastic venue. But after the weekend at the new venue of Riviersonderend I was more than content with the extra 60 kilometres drive, to the extent that the memory of Nekkies got rather blurry in the rear mirror.

The layout within Riviersonderend is wholly centralised. At the furthest point of the campsite you can hear the main stage just enough to know that you are missing the band you actually went there to see. Even through the rain on Friday we could hear the live music clearly… unless it was the pristine sound system of a car that would need a jump start come Sunday.  And while we’re on the basics, the mark of a good festival toilet is that you don’t have to hold your breath when you are inside.  These facilities were adequate with cleaners on duty most of the time.

And then there was the music. The international acts were perfectly chosen to cover the three genres at Ramfest:  Rise Against (rock), Pendulum (electro) and Bring Me The Horizon (metal). I won’t embarrass myself by saying much about the metal so I’ll keep it brief. Bring Me The Horizon put the fear of god’s evil counterpart in me. Not sure if that’s good or bad but it was definitely a more powerful emotion than other metal acts have evoked in me.

Rise Against is the kind of punk rock that needs to be sung by 4000 odd fans. In fact I’ll pretend that it’s not paradoxical that I now need a few good screamers for the chorus of ‘Prayer for a Refugee’: “…I can stand my own ground, I don’t need your help now…” After an hour of a high-powered performance (Rise Against) and lots of jumping (from the audience) I got what I came for, an acoustic ‘Swing Life Away’ by a sole Tim McIlrath on the stage.  By this point my own voice was long gone.

But the whole Ramfest budget was not blown on top notch internationals and the amazing cleaning staff. The Black Cat Bones were demented.  The lead, Kobus de Kock Jr, prowled the stage like a frenzied lion on Ritalin covering every inch with his well worn boots. Woodstock Mafia earned every minute of their main stage spot. I would have loved to see Taxi Violence but George van der Spuy was still rocking in Good Night Wembley.

Other than giving them a stage and an extra day, Ramfest gave the up-and-coming artists of the Boomstage the ultimate exposure by scheduling the line up to end just as the main stage started up. This way festival goers where gently “forced” to discover the new sounds in the industry.  This is how we came to hear Black Handed Kites with a blonde TeeJay (also heard in New Holland) and Richard Onraet. We’ve seen Onraet backing up Afrikaans legend Karen Zoid and international guitar maestro Andrea Valeri but to see him in a festival context lent a whole new dimension to his extraordinary talent. And athough I did not run to get their CD from the merch table, Black Handed Kites’ take on folk was perfect for the time of the day and the general vibe of the festival.

The atmosphere was a lot lighter at the electro stage, just what you need for helpless abandon. We lost ourselves in Dinosaur Sex, a DJ called Bruce Willis and the well-timed dropped base by Pendulum.

So, advice for first timers to Ramfest: don’t be scared of the rain or men wearing “Free Hugs” signs. And don’t be afraid to try something new.  Go to ALL the stages. The metal kids won’t chase you away for wearing a dorky blue raincoat. You might even learn something.  Maybe you will confirm what you already know and, if you are a breathing human being, maybe you’ll have the best party this side of the river.

The Yays

–          Free Wifi
–          Lipton Iced Tea’s glass box
–          Unisex band shirts that actually looks good on the female form
–          Rise Against
–          The Black Cat Bones
–          The beautiful metal chick with the exquisite cat make up and ears
–          Stellenbosch bar prices
The Nays

–          A few stray souls who took all week to wander over from the Holi One Festival
–          Lame cellphone network brand activation
–          Sexy outfits attempting  to compensate for a lack of skill
–          Where was the Mercury stage?!

by Jana van Heerden
@janadidthis

Ramfest 2013 took place at Circle of Dreams, Riviersonderend on 8 & 9 March 2013.

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