This is RAMfest – This is REAL

The SA Music Scene RAMfest Cape Town 2014 review by Karl Kemp.

INTERIOR. RAMFEST ABLUTION BLOCK. SATURDAY.

(for the Biffy Clyro fan whose E kicked in as he sat down to poo)

He tripped in, buckle flailing. The only thing worse than a festival shit is the porta-potty you gotta do it in. And he knew that. Parp, his anus utters. Ftttttt……plap, it replied. A few slaps of the shitter-lid. The first load was on its way to an evidently poorly air-conditioned tank, but the second was already whinging for attention.

He relaxed. He’d made it. He was safe. The chemical baby he’d been carrying for two days was being born and it wasn’t in public. His boxer shorts would survive. His reputation would remain intact. He faced the next assault not with panic, but with grim determination. Blat, his anus agreed. He remembers reading somewhere that humans squat incorrectly when they take a dump; that the intestines are unnecessarily strained by the generally accepted squatting position. He shifts his legs uncomfortably.

Right then, heat rushes to his cheeks. Serotonin and dopamine are rapidly dumped into his synapses. The air speeds up. Vibrations resonate from his toes up to his face, running the gamut from his endocrine system through his adrenal gland. What’s this? He’s rushing. It’s coming. It’s here. It’s in his brain. Palms out, he pushes against the walls of the plastic shit-house he’s confined to. His own Idaho. Wes Anderson couldn’t have written this.

‘JISSIS’, he grunts, veins cording on his crimson neck. ‘FOK. NIE NOU NIE.’

Suddenly his anus is happy. It’s nuzzled by warmth. The logs are rolling from somewhere in the vicinity of his chest. He feels the cylinders trundle through his intestines, down down down the conveyor belt, and slither through his nought to drop screaming onto the flat wasteland of that shitter-lid. Dup. Dup. Dup. Two turds and a connecting middle-section lump. The smell is suddenly alive; he anthropomorphises the scent. It is now a being, in the potty with him. He does not greet it.

Pupils rapidly dilating, he realises that the unholy shit will have to be finished before the E takes hold fully. Fighting against time and his body’s natural response to the chemical, he urges the last of the ghastly logs from his body, shooing and yelling. His feet are firmly placed, palms still steadying his shivering abdomen. From his right and from his left he hears his neighbours. They piss and shit and snort and fuck and flush and break down and it is the absolute last thing he needs to hear now because he is about to become all of their best friends. He is about to be injected with too much energy for this little shitbox. More than it can contain. He knew, in that moment, that if the E had to hit fully in the next 20 seconds, he’d come flying out of the potty with his skinny jeans around his ankles, unwiped anus showering the queue with flecks and specks of 2-day old festival shit. He turns left. Right. The roll is by his sneaker. Hurriedly he unrolls, wipes, frenetic and furious, sweat breaking out across his brow, his hand moving like a piston between his cheeks. He checks – once, twice, three times – goddamn his hairy nature, it’s just not CLEAN.

‘FOK!’ he screams, ‘IEMAND HELP MY!’, as the wave grabs him and forces him forwards.

Some stoners later see a red-faced comb-over flash past trailing a line of white paper squares. Porta-potty #46 was now doorless.

EXTERIOR. RAMFEST ARRIVAL GATES. THURSDAY

(for the girl who got lost in my words)

We arrive Thursday afternoon. There’re three of us. We quickly become fifteen. They stack bongs, we crack cans, some sort snort. The drugs are ubiquitous, the troops beautiful. We trek to the battlefield pawing at our noses and shooting on sight, firing off hellos and goodbyes and fuck you’s and catcalls and we make it into the night. The air is moistening, clouds growing fatter, minds growing sharper; heads floating higher. The trenches are to our left, supplies to our right. Straight down the middle rise the spires of the final fortress; Red Heart Rum. We have orders to engage the enemy, and we prepare to do so. If we were brave and our aim was true, we would survive the encounter.

Many did not.

We don’t fucking share.


This is not Daisies, bru, this is not lifestyle, this is not Mainstay or eco-friendly or EDM. This is RAM. This is real. This is about as real as it gets, who crowd surfs during Killswitch Engage? As real as the flying connies we dodge as the triplet-threat grind of a downtuned guitar starts pounding away on Friday evening. Who guards the guards? There are none. The place is still a no-man’s land. We’re left to our own devices. The Carnival stage sees us off on Thursday evening with black eyes and blue lips. Black Lung (8/10), The Dollfins (7/10) and Stoker (8.5/10) make me drunk enough to make fun of me afterwards. Skater fuck-punk anthems fade into Chris Bornman of Stoker’s personal nihilist-groove party. We aren’t many but we’re certainly loud, loudly praying that we don’t need any admin done tonight because everything feels so fucking unregulated and dangerous. Visions float past, we meet and greet but can’t see just exactly what we’re shaking hands with. The women fall fast – you don’t sleep in your own tent at RAMfest. It’s over, blindingly quick, and I’m left with the faint recollection of somebody filming me on their iPhone. Grainy – a snuff film. It’s a good thing Black Lung can hardly play their instruments because we wouldn’t have been able to relate elsewise.

Thursday nights at festivals will always remain a mystery to me.

38 hours to Biffy.

 

 

EXTERIOR. CARNIVAL STAGE. FRIDAY AFTERNOON.

(for the friends whose music I’m forced to like, and Hugh Upsher for enjoying Trivium despite himself and his lies)

We’re walking and stalking. The foe is The Ballistics. The foe is Kingdom for a Horse. The foe is The Very Wicked. The sky is open. On the horizon’s mantle we see grey clouds gathering. Many take to the lake. More we lose to the drink. Hours rot off the office clock and swell our ranks, poor souls wandering in, unwinding their hunched backs, blinking in reverence and disbelief that they’re finally here. Welcome, we say. The festival stands tall and welcomes the sensible late-comers. Jesus, we’re done, but we’re so ready. We’ve passed the first test, gone beyond the first gate. We feel stronger now. Virile. Corpses litter the barracks and their smell emulsifies into an entity. We break through the vapours and solid smells of a mercifully shade-filled tenting area, treading on cracks and friends and cans, and make it to the plain – the sight of the previous night’s slaughter. Clouds conspire all day. Darker, darker, darker, heavier. We can hear them breathing softly. Showers break out here and there. They’re cleaned almost frequently enough. 

The second round is never the hardest.

There’s more spirit in the 2 kilometre walk to the stages than there is at most other festivals now bigger than this. Tales rubbed into mud, waiting for the next drunkard to fall face-first into them. The Stellenbrau Carnival stage is active as we wait for the panic of the bigger stages to set in. Nobody’s shown signs of slacking on the pace – The Ballistics (7/10) certainly don’t. Their set is rollicking, whatever the fuck that means. Kingdom for a Horse (5/10) make up for it by being painfully slow and derivative. We skip Al Bairre, though many others don’t, and sidle over to the Monster Stage to see De Wallen (6.5/10) try and out-balls Conduit. It’s a valiant effort; the sound is dated but the performance all the more vitriolic for us reminding them thereof. The amount of Monster cans littered on the grass help us keep track of when the energy is gonna fail and desperate measures will have to be taken. The amount of dilated pupils on show tell us a that a lot of people already have.

The campsite becomes a pilgrimage. We’re not supposed to be bringing cans in but security doesn’t always care. Nobody’s paying R40 for a double vodka and a Red Bull. Black Label fits snugly in the back of the skinny jean. The smartest savages bring chairs and pre-drink in front of the entrance, leaving the shade far behind and revving the hydration situation into the red. Nobody’s noticing the clouds anymore. The ‘R’. It was coming for us.

Red Huxley (8/10) take us for a spin real quick and fill out the main stage with their arid grooves, although the crowd remains at a slow boil in terms of size. They’re “pretty damn cool”. Then The Very Wicked (6/10) play an ill-suited time-slot. It’s evil and visceral and painfully true at night – plodding and bloated in the day. Night finally frees most of us from inhibition and we see Foto Na Dans (7/10) play their second ever last reunion show for the second or third time on the Monster stage. It’s a sick set – a lot of us cry again, and again, and ‘Vergeet Van My’ seems the most inappropriate encore to ever grace a stage, Le-Roi Nel imploring us all to remember he’s an accountant (or something) now. Then Rot of Black Cat Bones (8/10) gets on stage and starts whaling away at us with his sledgehammer vocal-cock. I feel the bone and gristle of my face explode outward as my jaw is forcefully unhinged. One set later, we stumble to the main stage to catch Trivium (8/10), where we get more of the same with an international metalcore flavour. They’re tight. Amazingly tight. I don’t get to see Killswitch for more than a few songs – I’d rather skank with the souties to Fuzigish (???). Apparently they dedicated a song to fat girls though. Classy.

 It’s too dark to see the clouds now. We can’t find Jesus anywhere. Somebody says he’s changed into civvies. I’m being shoved into everyone else’s sweaty backs and I think the Al Bairre guys try to surreptitiously sneak a blow into my kidney at one point and I can’t stop laughing, pinging back and forth in a circle of Souties and comb-overs and sweet Christ the exhilaration is so real, so genuine, so devoid of pretence. Fuzi brings the soundtrack to the joining of the cultures. We decide to skip the EDM and tackle each other like drunk jocks instead.

It’s late and there’s no-one to entertain the electro stage.

20 hours to Biffy.

 

EXTERIOR. RED HEART RUM GATES. SATURDAY AFTERNOON.

(for everyone except Rian Malan and Bernoldus Niemand)

We’re at capacity. We stand at the gate demanding entry, beating our chests in the wind, sucking and blowing on war-pipes and rousing those that dare still sleep. The Red Heart Rum stage is delayed. It’s 8 hours to Biffy. People are apathetically angry, passively aggressive. Cash is running low – ATM’s are down, promises of repair no longer credible. A lot of us are sent insane by the hunger and local funguses we’re driven to ingest. Bug-eyed monsters patrol the length of the battlefield, from the joyously devoid grounds of the electro stage to the growing crowd in the eye of the storm. It’s urgent. We must get inside before the levee breaks. The Flaming De Villes, aKing and Vuvuvultures are relegated to the Carnival stage. This is the fulcrum upon which we release the tension, collectively cracking and grinding like a tremendous war-machine, braying for the gates to open, vanities left at Thursday’s door. 

Pretence, finally, has been thrown to the winds rising over the plain. The festival calendar feels complete again.

RAMfest_review_5

by Vetman design & photography

Junkyard Lipstick (2/10) is terrible. I know this because I was frozen to the spot by their bowel cancer-like performance. Sure, the music is only average. It’s derivative 80’s thrash in the vein of Anthrax and Exodus, minus the originality and skill. No, what’s cringe-worthy is the frontwoman. I can’t even describe it. Between shouts of ‘fuck the government’ and middlefingers being doled out for no particular reason, the performance is so forced that I’m scared it’ll snap straight through the middle of the stage at any moment in a cataclysmic explosion of pity pathos. She prances across stage with all the fake charismatic machismo of a drag-queen while her painfully awkward band-members remain rooted to the spot, faces tilted downwards, kitted out in high-school goth outfits, possibly for fear of being associated with the singer. I leave feeling awkwardly emasculated and sexless.

Vuvuvultures (8.5/10) are pure brilliance. We’ve stood around tap-tapping our feet to the aging Flaming De Villes (6/10) and waited out aKing torturing ourselves during Junkyard Lipstick, and finally the UK act makes its way to the inappropriately small Carnival stage. There’s an immediate buzz. Cape Town celebs come out from the cracks or peer from backstage. Rightly so – the guitarist used to be in Lark and he’s brought along a lesbian couple to make electronic rock ‘n roll music with. It’s brash, bold, melodic and blows away almost every single local act on show. We lament the sexual orientation of the nipple-sporting frontwomen – she’s a vision, a boyish body wrapped around an ethereal voice and stage presence that makes you question her and your ages. It’s all kinds of sexually confusing, not helped by the pulsating bass-guitar of her lesbian lover. Absolute class, and a knockout blow to the kids that dropped acid way too early.

Taxi Violence by Vetman design & photography

Taxi Violence by Vetman design & photography

In stark contrast we have Dead Lucky (7/10), whose vocalist struggles at times but manage to shrug off post-Vuvuvultures’ soundscape addiction and make do with Neanderthal knuckle-buster tunes to pummel the crowd into submission. Night’s fallen by now and Haggis & Bong (8/10) play perhaps the most useful set of the weekend. I’d like to tell you that what went down wasn’t five middle-aged white guys in kilts playing bagpipes over thrash and death-metal tunes, but there it is. No vocals. Just pure theatre that bled out into a moshpit. Softly, like it’d been waiting for this cue, the rain starts falling. Mud’s being made. A schizophrenic light show breaks out, breaking up the drizzle into sheets of kaleidoscopic primary colours – behind it the bagpipes wail on over the guitar assault and everyone’s thinking Gandalf the White is about to rush down riding Shadowfax between the cows on the hill to exact epic vengeance on all EDM producers. Good god. They asked only for zol at the end; don’t worry about buying an album or anything like that. A quick tumble through a 5 piece Taxi Violence (9/10) (original bassist Loedi van Reunen joining for their 10-year anniversary) razor-tooth washing machine and we’re sent soberly spinning to the mainstage for a melancholic Foals (6/10) performance, whereafter we’re introduced to a Scottish three-piece fresh off their conquest of the UK and the official end of the festival.

 

Foals by Vetman design & photography

Foals by Vetman design & photography

Biffy Clyro (10/10) rampage into the memories of every fan and every nonchalant viewer with a set so sporadic, so skilful, so loud and blusterous and passionate and earnest and cock-sure, that I could finally believe not a single blogger, critic, muso or punter could’ve walked away with anything less than a singular reverence hollowed out from their heart to their brain. It’s sappy, but quite rightly so. A band at the top of their game, at the height of their relevance, the same act Reading and Leeds had seen mere months ago – RAMfest finally did it. They opened the floodgates for relevant, quality international acts. And as they did so, the night spreads its wings fully and launches into the brewing storm and calamity, for us to topple over the cut-off line with no acts to look forward to on the Sunday.

Fuck off with a smile.

RAMfest_BiffyClyro_3

Biffy Clyro by Vetman design & photography

RAMfest_BiffyClyro_1

Biffy Clyro by Vetman design & photography

INTERIOR. CAR AT THE GATE. SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY.

(for everyone who’s read this far; I apologise.)

It’s raining.

 

The campsite is spent, a flaccid cock with no more seed. The clouds weep for us, and those without tent are abandoned to a miserly trek to their car. It’s a terrible time to question your moral blameworthiness, your actions and yourself, but you do it anyway because nobody can speak audibly anymore. We’ve done this since 2006 now – enduring evolution and change and competitors and heartbreak and disappointment and ever-growing sin taxes to be here year upon year, to recognize faces and kickstart or break the dreams of young musicians with our cheers and insults, to make fools of ourselves worshipping at the altar of our heroes and vices. That blurred remnant of euphoria sticks at the base of your reptilian brain – it’s the only strength you can draw on to lug the tent to the boot of the Escort. You get in, befouling the interior with mud and the stink of wet clothes. You spend half an hour looking for your keys. You question whether it was worth it. All of it. Whether you’ll make it home with a half tank of petrol. Whether your friends made it out okay. You question whether you’re too old, not in touch with the kids, not in touch with what’s cool anymore. Whether RAMfest still has a place for you, and whether we still have a place for RAMfest. Any festival, for that matter. Why should we keeping spending the cash?

RAMfest_BiffyClyro_2

Biffy Clyro by Vetman design & photography

Because Biffy man. Because of what happened last night. It’s been building up to an imperfect point, and we were there for it. For all of it. Who knows what’ll happen from here? Was this actually a watershed moment? A landmark in the history of our sick little industry? Or should I have attempted to write this sober?

 

And for God’s sake, who drew the dicks on all the cars?

 

Your move, Daisies…

18 Comments

  1. Frederik Olivier

    March 18, 2014 at 11:30 am

    I would give foals 10/10 as well. For a technical band like them to improvise on stage like they did was amazing. Cool review!

  2. adrian du plessis

    March 18, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    improvise in what why? the guys who’s guitar had sound issues just walked up and down before throwing his guitar on stage. not a good image of the band

  3. chanel

    March 18, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    karl kemp really caters for haters.

  4. mike d

    March 19, 2014 at 5:50 am

    Ummm.. Junkyard Lipstick 2/10? Bru, I was at that show and those chicks rock hard! I’ve never ever moshed like that in my life! And so what if their singer was giving middle fingers?That’s rock n roll bru and she can fucking sing! Your review of them has nothing constructive, it just goes on to attack their appearance (really mature) and what they wore (yawn).You didn’t mention technicality or sound, not even once. Their guitarist, bassist and drummer kicked the shit out of some of the other bands I saw that day. Sounds to me like you’ve just got some serious personal issues with them. Oh and another thing, how come you didn’t review Infanteria and Sacrafist? You missed out bru! But then again, maybe you just hate metal… That’s probably why you left feeling emasculated.

    • Ryno

      March 20, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      This is what you call a hate campaign. I have worked with JYL since their beginning, have personally invited them to play over 5 of my gigs and events, they are brilliant people, real musicians who have come a long way and still will go a long way.

      They are ten times more professional than 80% of the male bands I have hosted, interviewed, reviewed ect. They set an example of how they conduct and run their business. They are down to earth and do what they do because the love what they do and not to impress “bellow the belt writers” Who the hell starts a review in the Shiite house, really I want to read about your poo.

      Lucinda (drummer) is the nicest woman you will meet, she spends hours behind her drum kit, bet the writer of this review doesn’t spend half the time on that she does behind her kit as he/she does behind a pen. .

      OH and btw guys you all do know their vocalist is a teacher, highly intelligent and she also just kicks plain ass. I do magazine work and write reviews myself and I will never stoop as low as this guy has, holly crap, Ill never bad mouth a band and insult them in this manner, Ill give constructive criticism. Which in my opinion is what reviews are about, not plain out hate.

  5. Derrick

    March 19, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Is this what passes for music journalism these days? Obviously you are some straight up hipster twat with zero journalistic integrity. Sadly I wasted precious minutes reading this piece of crap. Even more sad is the fact that this was even published on this site.

    • Ashley Brown

      March 19, 2014 at 8:07 am

      Thanks for your opinion Derrick, but I assure you we are proud of publishing Karl’s point of view.

      Ashley Brown
      Owner of SA Music Scene

      • Derrick

        March 19, 2014 at 8:13 am

        If what you trying to punt is drunken, drug fueled opinion pieces, then hey, go for it. Doesn’t say much about your site dude. Anyways…..each to their own. You’ve lost me. Cheers

        • Johnnie

          March 19, 2014 at 9:44 am

          Derrick, luckily we don’t live in a world where opinions from people like yourself actually matter. The way you are acting doesn’t say much about your knowledge of the internet and society as a whole. People differ and different people like different types of reviews, who the hell are you to decide what passes or not? And don’t use ‘each to their own’ if you are not going to apply correctly. It actually implies tolerance for difference, something that you clearly no nothing about…

          • Johnnie

            March 19, 2014 at 11:41 am

            Derrick, luckily we don’t live in a world where opinions from people like yourself actually matter. The way you are acting doesn’t say much about your knowledge of the internet and society as a whole. People differ and different people like different types of reviews, who the hell are you to decide what passes or not? And don’t use ‘each to their own’ if you are not going to apply correctly. It actually implies tolerance for difference, something that you clearly know nothing about…

          • Derrick

            March 20, 2014 at 7:49 am

            Said the hipster twat. See, I do know how the internet works!!! LOL

  6. hipster Karl

    March 19, 2014 at 8:29 am

    NOOOOOOO! Wait, Derrick, come back! Please! I can change, I swear! I’ll sober up, cuddle up close to Jesus! Anything, just don’t go!

  7. Annemarie

    March 19, 2014 at 11:17 am

    I was at the jhb ram and ISO deserves a 10/10 too

  8. mike d

    March 19, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Me too. Cheers!

  9. silent s

    March 19, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Firstly… Good article. Save that it was a bit long. My attention span isn’t what it blah blah blah… I agree with the writer on junkyard. Bad performance. Bad songs. Forced chemistry. I left 3 songs in. As far as metal hatred… Well when metal in this country produces more than carbon copies of what’s already there then we ca. Talk. All Guns Full Ammo are an example of a great metal act! Ok my rant is over

  10. Johan

    March 20, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Hierdie artikel is vol “kontstruktiewe” kak. Teleurstellend.

  11. mike d

    March 20, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Laughing so much right now bru.

  12. adrian du plessis

    March 20, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Drunken and drug fueled. This does sound like a music festival. Why keep calling everyone hipsters? The comments dont say anything about the review of the bands its simply an attack on the writer’s way of writing

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