Review: Ramfest

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In answer to thousands of Ramfesters’ prayers, Friday’s pelting rain across Cape Town melted away in time for us to watch the bands in relative dryness – if with a slight chill.

French band The Inspector Cluzo started the weekend off on a very entertaining note. Although few could understand what they were saying, they had a charm and stage presence second to none, and a gem of a song called ‘F**k The Bass Player’, the words to which the audience learned very quickly.

Next up the collaborative Goodnight Wembley (composed of members of Taxi Violence amongst other bands) paved the way for SA’s legends of Afrikaans rock, Van Coke Kartel. Wait, did I say ‘Afrikaans rock’? I meant rock. Just rock. Even someone as English as myself was able to appreciate them for the fantastic performers that they are. From the head-banging party tune ‘Vir Almal’ to the soft, thoughtful ‘Tot Die Son Uitkom’, the set was flawless. And of course the flames shooting intermittently from the front of the stage were quite cool themselves.

And so with Saturday dawning warm and sunny, and with the added inspiration of my neighbour’s Rise Against playlist, I rose from my tent ready for a day of rocking.

Although the main arena only opened at 3.30pm, the morning was filled with entertainment in the form of the Boom! Stage which was located in the actual campsite. No rest from the rocking then.

The locals shone on Saturday, with everyone from Reburn (who will be huge, believe me) to Fuzigish to Woodstock Mafia bringing their A game in support of the international artists. “Are you ready for Bring Me The Horizon?!” was answered with cheers and screams from the gathering fans of the British metalcore band.

The last warm up before the headliners was Beast – a collaboration between Inge Beckman, Taxi Violence’s Rian Zietsman and others. Beckman shimmied and swayed and fell to the stage like some ethereal being, illuminated by dim stage lights, and emitting haunting sounds which may have been vocals.

Then it was time for the main acts, and the moshing commenced. Lead singer Oliver Sykes and his band roared through what I assume from the crowd’s reaction was a catalogue of Bring Me The Horizon’s greatest hits. Yes, everyone has an inner metal-lover, and this was the time to embrace it. It was impossible not to be swept up in the atmosphere and energy from the band. I don’t care how hardcore any of the girls in the audience were – there’s a rule in music that says when the frontman comes to your side of the stage, you squeal like a 13-year-old Belieber, and we had no problem following it.

Rise Against treated their fans to everything from their well known songs including ‘Satellite’, ‘Help Is On The Way’ and ‘Saviour’ to older, less known songs from when they started out. Although this was their first tour of South Africa, they talked about having seen SA flags elsewere in the world, from the fans who had travelled to see them. But that night they assured us that we wouldn’t have to wait too many years to see them on South African soil again. A highlight of their set was without a doubt the acoustic version of ‘Swing Life Away’, as an encore and just when we thought it was over, they returned for another three songs.

Minus one voice and plus a few minor injuries, I headed to the electro stage for some Pendulum before bed. From moshing to pure uninhibited dancing, the night ended on a high note of drum and bass.

It’s no secret that festivals are gross, but Ramfest was one of the least gross I have encountered.  Yes, toilet paper was lacking by the end of day two, and the shower room was under a foot of what I hoped was just water by Saturday morning.  But at least there were portaloos and showers. Food was another huge plus, with lines being short for the most part, and food actually being affordable. It seems to be a thing at festivals to make food as expensive as possible because tough luck, you’re hungry, you’ll buy it, but this was not the case at Ramfest.

It would have been useful to have had better mobile data coverage in the area – it killed me that I couldn’t Tweet photos of my Rise Against barrier spot – but then it was in the middle of nowhere, and the break from technology was actually quite refreshing.

If the festival goers had been in paroxysms of prayer over the weather on Friday, God only knows how the organizers must have been feeling.  Yet from the moment the gates opened Ramfest proved to be a well-organized, well-structured festival with a stellar line-up.  Hats off, and here’s to next year.

Farah Barry

Ramfest took place at Circle of Dreams, Riviersonderend on 8 to 10 March 2013.

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