RAMfest this past weekend was many things – it was a lot of fun, it was loud, it was very well-organised and it is probably one of the last events I’ll be attending for the foreseeable future thanks to the alarming spread of the Coronavirus and the slew of event cancellations which have followed in its wake.
Despite my concerns over the potential impending doom of humanity, I made my way to Durbanville on Friday night with a pack of anti-septic hand wipes in hand and my neck prepared for some good old head banging.
As someone who has only recently moved to Cape Town and as such largely unfamiliar with the Cape Town metal scene, I was pleasantly surprised upon arrival to see the number of people who – despite the looming viral threat – came out to enjoy a night of brain-melting guitar shredding and that plenty of that frenzied growling that inevitably accompanies a good metal festival.
As I walked into the venue I was greeted by an awe-inspiring sight rarely observed during the day: hundreds of people dressed in head-to-toe black, with many sporting band t-shirts covered in logos I couldn’t possibly hope to decipher (metal band logos are the worst and this is a hill I will die on).
I was disappointed to miss the makeup-toting rockers Marene perform but unfortunately when it comes to Cape Town traffic it just do be that way sometimes. The Valley, who were playing when I arrived, definitely helped ease me into the evening thanks to their (comparatively) chilled sound. Stoker, who played next, started to get me (and everyone else) into the mood for what was to come, thanks to their distinctive hard rock sound and a high-energy set which saw heads starting to bang with gusto.
Peasant played as the sun was setting; and this, unfortunately, due to the location (a quarry), was accompanied by a massive temperature drop which was an absolute shock to the system for someone (me) who had been enjoying Cape Town’s seemingly endless summer weather.
The Metallica Tribute Band were an interesting addition to the line-up, as cover bands of any sort tend to be a contentious issue – but they were pretty good, (I see you Jedd Kossew) and nobody can resist getting down to a couple of good o’ Metallica hits.
It was only when they brought Francois van Coke onto stage to sing a few songs that things got a bit weird – not because they were bad but because bringing someone with such a distinctive voice on stage to sing a cover can change the whole feel of the performance, which had me wondering for a brief and confusing moment if Van Coke Kartel had taken to the stage too early.
I decided to make my way to the Metal4Africa stage to listen to Ohgod because I’d heard good things about their unique brand of instrumental progressive post-rock metal and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Oftentimes when listening to metal songs the unclean vocals (read: growling and screeching) can overpower the music itself, which is a pity because metal has some of the most complex and arguably beautiful instrumental sounds of any genre. Ohgod gave me the opportunity to really experience and enjoy the music behind the metal and I loved every second of it.
Next up were Facing the Gallows and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super excited for them to take to the stage. I’m a huge fan of their dynamic performances and it was nice to have a slice of home on the line-up. Their set was accompanied by a thick mist (or fog) which had rolled in, creating an eerily surreal atmosphere which only added to the awesomeness of their performance – plus you couldn’t see much except the stage which meant that everyone focused their undivided attention on the band, which was cool. Also, they absolutely killed it.
The opening act for the headliners was the esteemed Van Coke Cartel, who brought a slight reprieve from the heavier sounds that had filled the night. It’s always lekker to see Francois van Coke in his element and he was playing to a home crowd, which made it all the more special. It was only when they did a cover of “I Want Candy” but changed the lyrics to “I Want Brandy” that I had had enough courtesy of a traumatic flashback to my varsity years in Pretoria.
While The Black Dahlia Murder’s brand of black death super hardcore summoning demons from the pits of hell metal isn’t exactly my cup of tea, it was impossible to ignore the infectious energy and sheer showmanship of their performance which made them absolutely enthralling to watch. It was also pretty cool to watch the people in the crowd seething around in a giant catastrophic mosh pit.
All in all, Ramfest was an absolute blast and I woke up with an adequately stiff neck and a slight ring in my ears which as of yet hasn’t abated – the signs of a really good night.
Whether it was brave or stupid to go through with and attend an event in the midst of all this Coronavirus drama, it was definitely worth it if it’s the last event I get to attend for the time being.