This past weekend I made my way to RAMFest 2014 Johannesburg for what can be described as a weekend jam-packed with rain, sunshine, mud and epic live performances. We arrived at the Witfontein farm (which is actually located closer to Bronkhorstspruit than Johannesburg) around 4 PM on Thursday afternoon. Some die hard and hardcore musical pilgrims were already there having an awesome time when we arrived and after setting up our campsite (which should always be done before the sun goes down on day one at any festival) the logical option was just to go with the flow and join them in their partying ways.
The first act was up on a tiny stage (next to what turned out to be the “small” beer tent) at 7 PM. Aidan Martin and his brother Jonatahan (who is also a member of Piet Botha’s rock outfit Jack Hammer) entertained the tiny (but growing) crowd with some acoustic tunes, followed by Carri Wolfe and Justin Swart. Next up were old school Bluesy rockers Jet Black Camaro and their travelling Indian statue (and its incense). They played half of their set with balaclavas on, giving me the impression that they planned to steal the show, but I have to admit that I’ve seen better performances by them.
Black Market Riots made their way onto the stage at 11 PM, but could only play 4 songs before an “annoying but hectic rainstorm” cut their set short. It poured for about an hour and a half, but it did not discourage festival goers and people who don’t like mud from getting completely hammered at the “small” beer tent. Eventually we braved the mud and wet terrain to make our way to our campsite around 1 AM. We tried to help two dread-locked twins to find their campsite, but soon found out they did not know where the hell they camped, so we eventually left them to find it themselves and ended up drinking brandy and coke and attempting to argue about music in general and Johnny Cash till about 4 AM.
I woke up on Friday morning feeling slightly hung over, but full of zest for the long day ahead. After enjoying a breakfast beer, Creme Soda and an epic bacon, egg and cheese Panini coupled with some early morning comedy (courtesy of Vittorio Leonardi, Monique Nortje, Ryan Wittle and Mojack Lehoko), I was finally brave enough to tackle day 2 of RAMFest 2014 Johannesburg. The day started slowly with Sutherland and Elevated Motion, but eventually started picking up the pace around lunchtime with Mr Cat & the Jackal. The rain stayed away the whole day, allowing the sun to have its way with me and tan my face a bright red color (and giving Christelle Duvenage the opportunity to give me a new nickname, “lobster” the next day).
The main stage area finally opened up around 4 PM, causing a flood of festival junkies to stream into the large beer tent and enjoying an awesome performances by UK based rock band, the Vuvuvultures. Next my time was spent being amazed how awesome Gangs of Ballet have become as a live act at the main stage and taking a trip down memory lane to the 1990’s with veteran hard rock / metal act Agro at the Monster stage. Before it was time for the international acts to start their sets, I enjoyed watching ISO entertain fans on the main stage, getting my ears reminded how loud Facing the Gallows were and starch reminder that rock ‘n roll was not dead by Taxi Violence at the Monster stage.
Foals made their way onto the main stage at 9 PM and just completely blew music fans away with their blend of Indie rock. I may not have been standing in the crowd, but I have to say that I enjoyed listening to their set from behind the crowd barrier. It was not really what I expected but I got the sense that they did not really know which genre they want to be, but I have to admit that hearing “Inhaler” lifted my spirits a bit and gave me hope for the evening ahead.
At one stage it almost seemed that this point in time would not arrive, but Biffy Clyro FINALLY made their way onto the main stage at 11 PM. I know that I may have said this in a post earlier this week, but they stunned any music lovers who doubted their ability as a loud rock act and just completely blew everyone away with a 2 hour set. It was exactly what I expected and I consider this one of the top 10 live performances that I’ve seen to date. Hearing the crowd singing along to songs like “Captain”, “Machines”, “Mountains” and “Black Chandelier” just made the moment more epic. We ended up drinking brandy till 4 AM on Saturday morning again, before finally settling in.
On Saturday morning some idiot decided to play Die Antwoord too loud at 7 AM in a camp site near us and woke a few of us who were still recovering from Friday night. After crashing for another 2 hours I finally dragged myself out of my tent at 9 AM. I was just finishing my breakfast Panini and my first beer of the day when Mother Nature decided that it was going to be a rainy day. Things got a little but more muddy in the camp site and stage area, but that didn’t discourage people (including your’s truly) from gearing up in plastic bags and rain coats for the day. I did catch a glimpse of Yo Grapes and the Frown before finally settling in at the large beer tent in an almost full Lord Voldemoot kit for some drinks with people looking to have a good time in the rain.
The first real act that caught my attention on the day were Joburg rockers Man As Machine. These boytjies really brought their A-game to the party and had people rocking out in the mud in no time. Before I knew it, it was time for Martin Rocka & the Sick Shop, Newtown Knife Gang, Loveglove Pyrotechnic to give the Saturday at RAMFest 2014 Johannesburg a steady pace of rock ‘n roll. After 7 PM Pestroy tore the crowd a new one with a truly epic “last” live set on the main stage, Shortstraw satisfied every Indie rock fan’s craving and Black Cat Bones reminded us how lekker local has become over the last few years.
After 9 PM Trivium fans were blown away by what was considered to be an epic metal performance by most and cravings for local Ska Punk were satisfied by local legends Fuzigish before it was time for the final act of the evening, Killswitch Engage. I have to admit that I’m not the biggest metal fan, but these American boys blew me away. After seeing them I can safely say that they’re probably one of the loudest acts that I’ve seen and that the lead singer has some serious pent-up anger issues. I finally clutched out around 2 AM after being reminded that one doesn’t have the same amount of energy at 37 than one has at age 18 and that boerewors rolls taste good after 1 AM.
On Sunday morning I got a grim reminder how disgusting festival toilets can be and found out why my mattress seemed a little damp over the weekend (yes, there was rainwater gathered under it) before we headed back to Pretoria.
In retrospect: RAMFest 2014 Johannesburg was a well-organized festival. Kudos to Dawid Fourie, Hilltop Live and everyone else who was involved in organizing it. The new venue is much closer to Pretoria and there was ample camping space and minimal thorns that could mess up your feet or shoes. It was muddy at times, but it could have been worse. There were enough bar facilities and food stalls, the crowd was generally well-behaved and there were almost no sound or lighting issues. The organizers should definitely look at putting up more strategically placed porta pottis (especially in the stage area) and working shower facilities though. I’m hoping that this festival stays where it is and I’ll definitely be making my way to RAMFest 2015 Johannesburg next year.
Did you attend this year’s festival? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Feedback is appreciated welcome here. If you’ve enjoyed reading my review, feel free to share this article with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Remember: Sharing is caring after all.
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