Ramfest-Visual Feastival in Durban
Durban audiences must make performers nervous with their unpredictable…well now predictably low turnouts, being picky and clinging to the beer gardens and side rails like first time dance students. On this leg of the Ramfest (held at the Wavehouse at the Gateway mall), Durban had the opportunity to experience a more intimate concert running from 17:30 to 22:30 with headline acts Alkaline Trio (USA) and welshies Funeral For a Friend, featuring acts Van Coke Kartel, Zebra and Giraffe and Die Antwoord.
So I arrived 20 minutes before the start of the event, observing and soaking in the pre-event rituals. I was a little down with the flu and didn’t take my meds (side effects including sedation and drowsiness) because it would mean me passing out before I could get to see Die Antwoord. So I soldiered on sniffly nose and all. Sitting on a patch of Umhlanga prime grass, I saw the beer garden folk and thought don’t knock too many back, we’re not in some field, we’re in the Ridge and if you fall on concrete, you gonna wipe out hard bru. I also noticed the “I’m just gonna go and freshen up quickly” and the I keep patting my flick and checking that it that its setting nicely across my face. Not that I didn’t pat my hair down when some of the guys performed (don’t judge me) but when youre surrounded by a raging mosh pit like the one we had in Durbs on Wednesday night, your flick or side sweep aint gonna be the right way around. There were also the Videotechnology students of the Durban University of Technology who were responsible for filming the event. Hats off to their department for alsways keeping them busy and for their proffessionalism.
It was just before half five and the scattered hostiles were called on by comedian and MC John Vlismis to come as one and to stop being so hesitant and apathetic. And oh yes we got it from John for being so min a crowd. Reminder to Durban fans…this is not your private lounge or backyard and enough of clinging to the sides already! Well done John, all we need is a bit of a push and we start marching to the rythmn of the war drums. Tearing through the somewhat chilled atmosphere (as the opening act) was Afrikaans rock act Van Coke Kartel. Even with the small number, Francois Van Coke and the rest did not disapoint with their reputation as the best live performers in South Africa. It was skop, skiet and donner as the band kicked and screamed their way into what was going to be a progressive night of music. Pity the crowd was so small. I’d like to have seen Durban giving back the same energy. The pants got tighter and next in line were electric indie rock band Zebra and Giraffe. Without being intimidated by the previous act, Zebra and Giraffe kept the flow of energy by entrancing the crowd with their hypnotic rock sound. The band members were looking deep and flowing with the energy of their own music.
It was great to see the performances becoming more visual and a growing sense that everyone was really experiencing the atmosphere of a rock festival through the movement of the music, lights and the feavoured performances of the artists playing. Forget how many hits you make or how many you sell, you prove your title as an artist on how you do it live and I have to say we were seeing a lot of real performers stepping up their game. The crowd got friendlier, more at ease, more excited and bigger in size as the night progressed. In between set changes Vlismis kept the crowd going with small conversation and giveaways. Let me say that with freebies Durbanites are not shy. Give us glowsticks and playing cards…its all the incentive we need. Onward with the night and the crowd were anticipating the enigma that is Die Antwoord. I was especially curious to see the group as I’d previously not see Ninja perform in his Max Normal TV days in Durban. The crowd surged forward as the announcement was made for the band and visuals of their videos popped up on screen holding the crowd’s anticipation and amazement. Dj High Tek then created the beats that would build up to Yolandi “Rich Bitch” Visser’s roaring appearance onstage. The tiny singer opened up a can of trash and stood triumphantly in her middle finger pose. Ninja joined her sontage and together they created one of the most energetic performances of the night turning Ramfest into a visual Feastival. Yolandi burst out in her various outfits while Ninja gave his death stare, hip thrusting (talk about a passionate performance) and brave jump into the unpredictable (or predictable…whatever) Durban crowd. Brave! And he had to scold us to make sure we’d catch him. Die Antwoord definitely set a high standard for the international acts to follow.
Following Die Antwoord was American melodious punk group Alkaline Trio. Is was great to see the very pleasant and excited Matt Skiba and the guys that make up the band feeling welcomed in South Africa. The band must have been chuffed with the crowd singing along (enthusiastically) and screaming out requests for the songs they loved. I don’t know much of their music but there were definitely some loyal fans. At this point Durban was doing exceptionally well as a crowd forgetting the glare of the Ridge people simulating walking on their virgin active exercise machines across from us. Durbans’ enthusiasm was in turn rewarded with humble thank yous from the band. Unfortunately the band suffered technical problems with Siba’s guitar refusing to play with him. The guys did their best to improvise with the Drummer even playing a bit of a solo. Alkaline Trio put together a sincere performance and really engaged with the audience in giving them what they wanted. It was intimate and it was sort of special the way the crowd came together in celebrating.
Next up was Funeral For a Friend and in the twenty minutes it took to set up and do sound checks, Durban had a buzz going. You could smell the anticipation (and the beer) and by now Durban was not so min and not so tense. The Welsh act stepped out on stage and the atmosphere became something much bigger. Vocalist Matt Davies and the others immediately unleashed bolts of energised fierceness into the audience, setting the tone for how Ramfest would rap up in Durban. The crowd lapped up Davies’ call for some mosh pit activity and spun the earth in giant circles. Davies himself complimented the hospitability of the South African people and in turn was enjoying the Durban crowd (notice hospitable and not hostile). Davies also asked the crowd to split themselves and to form two opposing walls that would mosh against each other. Being more friendly of course the crowd obliged and spent the final hour of the night experiencing um…bonding with each other. Matt Davies took a triumphant stand with the crowd signalling the end of a triumphant show. I can overall say that Durban with its smaller festival setting held its own. We don’t have many proper venues for music envents but I think the Wavhouse does nicely in creating a space that generate the right type of atmosphere. Hats off to the bands supporting each other and to Durban for embracing the culture of celebrating music both local and interantional. Durban…you can still do better though. To the organizers, please keep it coming and please don’t abandon us here in Durban!