There was a palpable sense of caution in the air at RAMfest Pretoria, with people using the hand sanitizing stations that were provided by the organizers and doing the elbow greeting thing instead of engaging in any kind of physical contact, but hey, when has the looming threat of a pandemic ever stopped South Africans from having a good time?
I was at the gates bright and early so that I could catch Caution Boy’s set from the beginning. I’ve been following Andi, Finn and Trev on their hustle for quite some time and it’s always great to see solid bands get the break they deserve. Plus they didn’t disappoint – the crowd was lapping up their unique blend of alternative, punk and grunge rock.
Next up was L.A. Cobra who are entertaining as all hell with their stylish and energetic renditions of glam, sleaze and hard rock songs, they’re always a treat to watch. They were followed by the return of Joburg rockers Man As Machine, who had the crowd singing along to every single word of highlights “Force”, “The Panic”, “Here I Am” and “Zombie”. They might have taken a hiatus but we don’t forget.
I’ve never seen Sunken State before, so I was curious to see what they would bring to the party, but I wasn’t prepared to have my brain melted like that. They absolutely killed it and even got the metal heads to do circle pits and a massive wall of death (Coronavirus se ma). Definitely a band I’d go out of my way to see again.
Truth And Its Burden brought all the positive hardcore metal, and The Black Cat Bones prove yet again why they’re worthy of being hailed as one of the best live acts in the country. I wasn’t sure if their blues-rock vibe would fit into the rest of the line-up, but from Kobus de Kock Jnr’s first gritty growl my fears were put to rest.
Progressive rockers Newtown Knife Gang were up next and their set was topped when vocalist Spencer Martin was joined by Brandon Pratt from Red Helen for a cover of 16Stitch’s “Fallout”. Proper nostalgia right there.
There aren’t many things that I enjoy more than a Van Coke Kartel show, especially if it might really, REALLY, be the last time you get to see them live. And if it was, it was the perfect send-off, from the dreamy “Tot Die Son Uitkom” to the blisteringly fast “Sweef”. If the night ended there I would have left the grounds a very happy man.
But the best was yet to come.
The Black Dahlia Murder, were as tight as any metal band I’ve seen before, and it was very clear that we were all witnessing melodic death metal at its seasoned and very best. Frontman Trevor Strnad is a brilliant vocalist in terms of his delivery and control, and showman in terms of how he worked the stage and the crowd. It was as intense as it was brutal.
Ramfest Pretoria was very well executed and with the Coronavirus paranoia being felt nationwide, it felt like the well-being and safety of the attendees was a top priority for the organizers.
Sadly, I know that this will be the last big show I’ll be attending for a while, so with this in mind, I’m very thankful that I was there to see it all go down.