When RAMfest announced it was taking a hiatus in order to regroup and re-plan, metal and rock fans alike were left with a giant ram-shaped hole in their hearts.
So when, after a few false alarms, the RAM once again reared its head in early April of this year to announce that it would be making a comeback, everyone collectively cried tears of joy and marked off the date in their diaries.
I was very relieved to hear that, in order to re-acclimatise the old crowds and debut the festival to the new crowds, the new owner of RAMfest 2019 had opted for a one-day event. Especially because this meant no tents, no camping in sub-zero temperatures, no lengthy road trips and no feeling sorry for myself because I left my pillow at home.
Packing in Father’s Day, Youth Day AND RAMfest, the 16th of June dawned with much excitement on my part. A festival in mid-June means one thing and one thing only: it was going to be freezing. With this in mind I put on my faux fur coat and made my way to the land of braais and rugby for what promised to be a night of no holds barred headbanging and some immensely attractive drink specials (I’m talking about you, R35 G&T mix).
If there’s one thing I miss the most when it comes to the South African music scene, it’s the hardcore make-your-teeth-vibrate electro that we enjoyed before the techno takeover. Luckily RAMfest’s electronic stage had me covered with Kid Robot’s set making me cry actual tears of joy as I, along with the rest of the crowd in the hot, smoky tent, lost my mind to the good old electro bangers, while Haezer’s set – which included a whole new kind of slower yet even more insane electro – was, for want of a better word, mind-blowing.
Conflicting scheduling saw me fast-walking back and forth between the electro tent and the Main Stage in a desperate bid to catch a bit of everyone’s sets. This exercise was welcome though as it played a key role in keeping me warm when the temperature went from, “Oh this isn’t as bad as I thought” to, “My snot has literally frozen in my nose”.
The Main Stage had a line-up that threatened total mayhem with the likes of metalcore heavyweights Attila, Facing The Gallows and everyone’s favourite vaginal pain band Vulvodynia set to take the stage. The night ahead promised some hardcore headbanging and maybe a bit of tinnitus.
Have you ever seen hundreds of people headbanging in unison to music that literally makes your brain vibrate and turn to mush? Well that’s basically what Main Stage was like in a nutshell. The electric vibe of the crowd definitely made the night as they went from singing along to the slightly lighter Crashcarburn and Straatligkinders songs, to losing their collective minds to the heavy metal.
Facing The Gallows, who have been on fire lately in all respects, came out hot off the starting blocks – with Reegan du Buisson leading the charge. The new frontman came into his own on that RAMfest stage and he honestly looks as though he’s been a part of FTG from the beginning. It’s a new chapter of note.
Metalcore headliners Attila took to the stage to roar from the crowd, which didn’t subside for the rest of their performance, as they all but incited riots with their songs like “Mosh Pit” and “Party With The Devil”. I was in awe of frontman Fronzilla’s vocal abilities and he went from wine glass-shattering shrieks, to possessed-by-the-devil growls without so much as taking a breath.
The highlight of their performance had to be when, after much encouragement from the band themselves, one brave soul went running across the stage and launched, like a bird in flight, into the crowd in the hopes of doing some serious crowd surfing. I lost sight of him after his magnificent swan dive and I honestly hope that dude’s alright.
Vulvodynia’s set was brutal in the fact that frenzy of their music is matched only by their live performance and the recognition that they’ve been getting – both overseas and at home – is duly warranted. Not even the cold could dampen the most devoted moshers during their closing set.
All in all, Ramfest 2019 ran like a well-oiled car. There’s very little – if anything – that I could find fault with. The bar queues, which always seem to be a problem no matter what event you’re at, were an absolute non-event. The amazing drink specials ensured that everyone comfortably drank themselves an alcohol blanket to keep the cold at bay. The porta-loo situation was, well, as pleasant as a portaloo situation can be.
The set up really worked and by putting the electronic stage in a tent they managed to avoid any cross contamination of noise – except during PHfat’s set which clashed with Attila’s and that was a bit of a fail.
The sound at both stages was also exceptional and my ears are still ringing from Vulvodynia aftershock. There was a wide variety of food stalls, to cater to any tastes, including a coffee stall (smart!) to keep the hypothermia at bay.
I left Ramfest 2019 feeling musically sated, after all how often do you see a band like Crashcarburn sharing a stage with metal mavens Facing The Gallows and legends like Attila, while the likes of Haezer and Timo ODV tear up the electronic stage? I arrived home with tired feet and a neck stiff from headbanging, not to mention excited for a warm bed and grateful I didn’t have to camp.
Here’s hoping for a Ramfest 2020.