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RAMfest, now in its sixth year, is well on its way to becoming an institution on the SA festival circuit. In its most ambitious outing yet, this year’s edition of the festival traveled to five cities (two more than last year) – Bloemfontein, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg – and featured four international acts.
Dubbed “A Day of Thunder”, this year’s RAMfest lived up to the title, with a strong local lineup of some of SA’s most well-loved hardcore and alternative rock bands, as well as a host of DJs pumping everything from drum and bass to hard-edged electro, ragga and the inevitable dubstep. The lineup this year seemed to show some streamlining in terms of focusing on fewer genres, as last year’s mix of acts included some pop and hip hop acts alongside the metal and alternative, but this did not deter the crowds; 20 000 people attended RAMfest across all five cities this month, with the Johannesburg leg alone attracting three times the numbers they had last year.
The one small unforeseen hiccup of the day at the Johannesburg leg of the event came in the form of a monster traffic jam, caused by one malfunctioning robot on William Nicol Drive; but the fans persevered despite the sweltering heat, and trickled steadily into the venue at Riversands Farm just outside of Fourways.
The infrastructure was slick, with parking, gate access, stalls and bars all well managed. Most importantly of all, the stage, sound and lighting rig this year more than made up for what was lacking in that department last year. It may just have been a change in crew or engineers, but this year the sound was uniformly good wherever you stood, and the bands took advantage, blasting their willing fans to smithereens.
Due to the delays on the road, Newtown Knife Gang played to a smaller crowd than they might have liked, but were well received in their first ever festival appearance. Shadowclub then took the stage and rocked the crowd authoritatively, showcasing some new material as well as giving the fans their favourites from the back catalogue.
Metal band Chromium had a hard act to follow after that, and were disappointingly out of tune in their vocal harmonies, and lacking in tightness generally. However, this did not deter the large contingent of metal fans in the crowd, who moshed along gamely.
Fokofpolisiekar then stepped up and took ownership of the afternoon session with a tight, blisteringly energetic set, that also saw them testing out a couple of newer tracks in among the crowd pleasers. The euphoric response of the fans and the band’s obvious enjoyment and slick stagecraft showed yet again why Fokof have risen to the heights that they have, and sustained their popularity over the last decade.
American alternative synth-rockers Awolnation were next, and they found a willing audience as they delivered a polished set. Unfamiliar as they may be to many people in SA, this was certainly a good PR exercise for the band, as the majority of the crowd got into it.
From then onwards, the metal and hardcore fans came into their own with Pestroy, The Narrow and Swedish metal act In Flames following hard and fast. Not even the inevitable evening Highveld thunder storm could dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm, and psy-trance greats Infected Mushroom closed off the proceedings.
The success of RAMfest 2012 has shown yet again that there is a larger support base for rock and metal than popular radio stations and major labels are currently willing to credit; and in providing a platform for local acts who don’t tend to get much love from the mainstream media, RAMfest continues to encourage the diversity of the local music scene, with the added bonus of being able to give dedicated fans of more niche groups the chance to see some of their favourite overseas acts in the flesh.
According to Liny Kruger of Palila Publicity, “Ramfest is SA’s biggest Alternative music festival. 2012 was a phenomenal year and the growth since last year is incredible. …It is amazing to think that RAMfest started out 6 years ago as a small metal festival in Cape Town. [Bands such as] In Flames that took the crowd by storm – this is what RAMfest has been building on: to give thousands of fans a memorable experience of the best there is in global alternative music.
“If you attended and looked carefully, you would notice that no expense was spared in every aspect: the stages, sound, bars, fencing etc were of exceptional quality. It is not as easy as it looks to put something of this magnitude together; RAmfest in its presentation is very important on the SA festival circuit. It takes months of preparation, and with a solid team and great partnership with Hilltop Live, this year`s festival has been a highlight and there will be many more to come. “
Unfortunately Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein missed out on the overseas acts this year, but Kruger assures us that as RAMfest grows, they will continue to work to expand their offerings in all the cities they visit.