A foreign girl’s perspective on RAMFest 2014 Johannesburg

A few weeks ago Evelien won the RAMFest CD hamper on Running Wolf’s Rant. She promised that she would share her views about RAMFest 2014 Johannesburg. Great news is that she fulfilled her promise, so here goes.

“Before I start voicing my opinion on my first South African music festival, let me tell you something about myself. My name is Evelien, I’m 29 years old and I’m from Belgium. Yes, that’s right, Belgium, the home country of Tomorrowland. OR if you’re a rock chick like me, home to Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop and countless other music festivals. I’m currently living in Pretoria to do research at UP, but that’s all I’m going to say about it, because that would lead me too far off my mark.

Now why am I writing a piece on this – most excellent blog? A couple of weeks ago Henno hosted a competition to win a RAMfest CD hamper and I offered to write about my experiences during the festival and that in three languages. So I’ll be trying my hand at some Afrikaans later on and will be ending in Dutch, the mother tongue. So here goes nothing…


It all started Thursday afternoon with the preparations to leave for Witfontein, Dronkwordspruit (aka Bronkhorstpruit). The last time I went camping on a festival was over five years ago, so I basically packed everything I could find for any type of weather. I still had my hopes up at that time. Bringing a shitload of stuff, our merry bunch of campers first went to the liquor store, then we were off to the venue. We could all pitch up our tents without rain ruining it (or our bakkies covered with a tarp and a gazebo) which was a definite upside of arriving early.

The first band of the night was the Martin Brothers. As they started playing, I realized I had seen Aidan by himself a couple of months earlier, but have to admit I like the duo better. After that it was time for beers / rum specials and holding on to your own cup. This was something awkward for me. Festivals in Belgium use those really thin disposable plastic cups and everybody just throws down on the ground wherever. Recycling is being done by people short on cash, because if you collect 20 cups, you get a free drink. Anyway, after my initial skepticism about the R4 for a cup with no refund and no cup exchange, I realized that this system works pretty well. Kudos to you South Africa/RAMfest.

The rest of my Thursday evening was spent wandering around the food stalls, drinks tent and the stage. I stopped to listen to Jet Black Camarro for a while, but have to admit that they didn’t really enthused me. And then the rain came. Shame for the last band on stage, because they had no audience left in a matter of minutes. From then on I felt like I was in the Mr Cat and the Jackal song “The Flood (pt 1)”: “The rain came pouring, pouring, pouring… the rain came pouring, pouring down…” The entertainment area was pretty much flooded after half an hour, but luckily our tents / bakkies stayed dry. I went to bed relatively early to be in good shape for the first real festival day.

My real festival day started with some stand-up comedy which I enjoyed a lot. Person to stand out was Monique – can’t remember her last name – one feisty chick. She destroyed her male colleagues out there. Thanks for representing our gender, you are awesome!

Later that day, it was time for a band I had been looking forward to see ever since I got my hands on a line-up, Mr Cat and the Jackal. I saw them for the first time in May at Park Acoustics in Pretoria and I might have fallen in love a little. My ginger friend and I were giving it our all during their show, dancing and singing and generally enjoying the shit out of it. Even though they didn’t play “Where’s my shoes?” which we were calling for, the set was great. Highlight number 1. And afterwards I bought their second album (again, I already had it on iTunes) because it looked so pretty and had all the lyrics. Support your local bands, people. And in this case with local, I mean the entire country.

Evelien and Jana

Next band I saw, was Vuvuvultures. I had never heard their music before and I was quite impressed by their sound and the lead singer’s presence. I would definitely go watch them again. Gangs of Ballet was new to me as well, and it was obvious why people around here like them so much, solid performance and good music. This was basically the same for the next bands on the main stage (I didn’t go to the metal stage on Friday). I didn’t know them but was entertained. People went kind of crazy about Foals, but I was not that impressed, to be honest. Maybe that had something to do with the amount of alcohol I had consumed by then…

The main act was Biffy Clyro, a band that some of my friends went bat-shit crazy over ever since they were announced (not looking at you at all, Mr Running Wolf). I thoroughly liked their style and performance, but I’m sure I would have liked it better if I had listened to the music before. And if the light show wasn’t blinding me. That’s something that I need to get off my chest. What’s up with bright white lights shining into the crowd every two seconds? It’s true that my eyes were over-sensitive from wearing contacts, but still… And I don’t care that everybody else was impressed with the lighting, I hated it. Put the lights on the band during the show.

I have to confess I went to bed before the end of the show in a combination of too much alcohol with allergy medication and eyes that were burning through my skull. When I arrived at the tents, I found out I wasn’t the first one to crash so that made me feel a little better about myself.

Dawn on Saturday was not that pleasant as our neighbors decided to start blasting Die Antwoord from their car at exactly 7 AM. Not cool, people. This made for a highly irritated and grumpy Running Wolf when he emerged from his tent. I wasn’t really my cheerful self that morning, but refrained from handing out PKs all around.

RAMFest 2014

The day started with stand-up comedy again, but I missed most of it, because we were just chilling at our tents. The rain didn’t help either. The first band I braved it for was The Frown, which was way out of my comfort zone, but very entertaining. Later that day on the main stage, I watched Man as Machine, and writing this, I remember that I really want to buy their album
as well. So yes, I liked them. And I think they deserved a spot a little later in the day.

My next highlight was Loveglove Pyrotechnic. They had surprised me earlier in the weekend with their hilarious flyer and since my awesome friend convinced me their music was good, we put ourselves directly in front of the stage. I was blown away by their performance. The energy, the music, the innuendo, the humor, it blended into a perfect mix. Great job, guys!

After that, there was basically only one band I still really wanted to see and that was The Black Cat Bones. And talking about being blown away, I think Kobus had the best stage entrance of all of the lead singers that weekend. Walking on with nothing but a sarong, hair done up with porcupine spikes and carrying a buck skull (might have been a goat, not really knowledgeable in that area). Their performance was highlight number three of RAMfest.

The rest of the evening, we walked around, ate, sat down under a tent and enjoyed the bands from a distance. I can now say that I’ve seen Trivium, Fuzigish and Killswitch Engage. And that was it. Festival over for me after some drinks at the camp site and a short night’s sleep.

Ek moet sê, in hierdie naweek het ek baie vriende gemaak en ek is baie dankbaar vir die manier waarop julle my in julle hart ingesluit het. Dankie vir Henno en Liana om vir my die plaaslike musiekaante leer en vir Liana om my die mense agter die musiek uit te wys. En danke aan al die ander mense wat die naweek kleur en alcohol het gegee, Baas, Charlie, Samuel, Jana.
My eerste Suid Afrikaanse festival is een success gewees. Dit was baie kleiner as enigeen festival ek het gedoen in België maar ek het dit net so hard geniet. Dis door die mense, die musiek en miskien ‘n beetjie omdat die reen my aan huis doet dink.

En om te eindigen een woordje in het Nederlands aan mijn vrienden (of totale vreemden) van thuis die dit misschien gaan lezen. Als jullie ooit naar hier willen komen en het is toevallig RAMfest, gewoon gaan. Voor mensen die in Euros verdienen is het zelfs heel goedkoop. De atmosfeer is niet zoveel verschillend van die thuis, het is alleen de schaal die anders is. Maar dat is zelfs een opluchting op sommige momenten. Niet naar voren moeten wringen uren voordat de band die je wil zien begint op main stage, bijvoorbeeld. Eigenlijk doet het festival een beetje denken aan de kleinere podia van Pukkelpop en dat is geen toeval, want de organisatoren hebben al enkele jaren een uitwisseling tussen de twee festivals. Moraal van het verhaal, Real Alternative Music is universeel en deze ervaring heeft mij zowel meer als minder heimwee naar België gegeven.

To conclude, this was a great experience and thank you to everybody who has made it happen!”

I would like to take this opportunity to thanks Evelien for taking time to write this interview (mostly in her second language nogal). I will definitely make an effort to give her a proper high five next time I see her at Aandklas.

If you’ve enjoyed reading Evelien’s account of RAMFest 2014 Johannesburg, feel free to share this article with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Remember: Sharing is Caring.

Watch this space for regular updates in the Music category on Running Wolf’s Rant.

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Henno Kruger
Blogger, Desktop Activist, Twitter / Facebook Addict, Music Festival Addict, Avid lover of South African music, Founder and owner of Running Wolf's Rant and co-founder of SA Music Zone
Henno Kruger

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