Remembering RAMfest - Part 2
I stayed there. I even left late.
At around 3:00AM, I’m slightly ashamed to say, I wake up staring at sky bleeding with strobe-lights and realize that Jon and I have decided to take a practical nap a few meters away from the electro stage.
I sit up and punch Jon in the head, a bit harder than I mean to.
"Jon!" I hiss.
"Jon! Check for rapes!"
"Did you get any rapes?"
"What the fuck… no?"
"Good, let’s go to back to the tents."
"Are we still in front of… the electro thing?"
"Like I said, man, check for rapes."
Five hours later, we’ve managed to get some sleep in our tents, but we’re up again and looking for something to eat and drink.
The guys from Alkaline Trio are doing a sound check which nobody seems to notice. A massive, shirtless old guy spilling out of his jeans and sporting a wiry beard, aviators and a beat-up Stetson gracefully lumbers past like an African ungulate, carefree and sunburnt.
I’m not hung-over but there is a coin-sized ache in my temple, like some persistent subcutaneous woodpecker is trying to make a home there. We sort of bee-line for vodka slushies stand before we realize what we’re doing, and go sit on the couches under a gazebo meant for people who’ve bought cigarettes from their bar. We’re quite happy to limit our movements for the morning, and we’re almost content to completely give into our lethargy as Mr Cat and the Jackal start up. I’ve seen them perform before and I liked them, their Decemberist-sty balkan-pirate-boy game is a nice one, and I’ve sort of decided to not go see them up close and pretend like I did, but they’re doing something novel. Goddammit, they all have massive, heavy-looking rigs on their backs which support giant sculpted caricatures of their own heads.
We get up off our asses and drift towards the stage get a closer look, sacrificing the choice couch seats we’d been hogging all morning. At the stage, there are hippies out and about who are hoiking up their flowy skirts and are dancing barefoot in the dust. I’ve started off feeling sorry for Mr Cat being the first band, and they probably deserved a bigger audience, but the position of the sun in relation to the main stage offers a limited diameter of natural shade, and we’re in Paarl, which is closer to the contents of the centre of the Earth than any other place in the Western Cape. I mean, it’s not their fault, it’s just how it is.
We stick around for Straydog because we’ve misunderstood and think that Not My Dog is playing next, and we’re confused and annoyed for about two songs before we’re relieved to find that our memories aren’t as poor or deluded as circumstances had briefly suggested. They’re not bad, I guess, but we got nougat while we were expecting chocolate. We stick around for about half of the Pretty Blue Guns, watch as their lead singer changes scarves in between every song, and decide that listening to mellow music during the day is not the way to make us last through the day.
We wander about the campsite, make some friends, hang about our tents, we quote the same lines from the idiotic shows we watch. Strangers occasionally drift into me without warning, wrap their arms around my head, grope my hair, and move on in one fluid movement, like seaweed.
We’re aware of spending two hours or so of not being terribly supportive of the local generic rock scene. Sorry guys, well done for being bands, you’ve all worked hard.
We are eventually cajoled to go to the Alternative tent at around three and watch Haggis and Bong, whose band is made of a drummer, a bassist, and three guys with bagpipes and kilts. They have blue paint sloppily pasted over their faces and bare chests in a sort of lazy homage to Highlander, which has clearly not been done by their girlfriends; tell-tale signs would include symmetry, and flowers.
Playing bagpipes in a metal band is kind of an obvious gimmick and it works really well for about two songs, before we all sort of uncomfortably realize that we’re wincing at the sound of, come on, bagpipes. The dudes on stage look a little awkward trying to headbang and trash while blowing into their pipes and are eventually resigned to standing up straight and looking stoic, while their bassist weaves in and out between them, swinging his neck freely, presumably because he totally fucking can.
We stick around in the tent for a while, planning to watch the creepy, etherial orchestral Symphonic Schizophrenia (we all automatically start chanting BRU-CI-FER, BRU-CI-FER when somebody mentions the band name, so well done, Bruce Sonnekus, you’re well on your way to becoming a cult leader via your otherworldly guitar-wielding). I think we did. But I think we also accidentally got wrapped up playing Wii-Boxing for a while at the Electro Stage. We definitely saw Juggernaught and Sabretooth, who are hairy dudes with beards and beardless dudes with long hair and open shirts, respectively. (Also, as it turns out, Funeral for a Friend really, really like Sabretooth.)
During the show, we watch a short little guy take advantage of the excitement on the floor to steal somebody’s cat-eared umbrella and use it as a disguise so he can stand behind hot chicks and grind up behind them. It doesn’t work out as well as he probably thought it would.
The next act is Durban band, Theatre Runs Red, who I’ve seen before - they sport corpse paint and their lead singer screeches impressively. I don’t feel like I need to confirm that their lead singer is really good a squealing exactly like a pig, which is what he did last time, so I decide to move on.
We spend the evening being deliberately excitable. We know we’re supposed to be jazzed for Alkaline Trio and Funeral for a Friend, but we’re more excited to see Not My Dog than anything else. Everyone else IS really excited for Alkaline Trio, and the main stage is more crowded than Die Antwoord from the previous night - everybody roars and howls when the band walks on stage, and Matt Skibo opens up with "Hello South Africa! This is the best day of my life!" I’m not a massive fan of the Alkaline guys but pretty much everyone is - all around me, people have their eyes screwed tight and their mouths open wide as they screech the lyrics to songs while jerking their upper bodies up and down, fists clenched. People are savagely punching each other with joy. The crowd’s energy is contagious, but we’re more amused watching everyone else than we are the band.
We’re really excited when Alkaline Trio wraps, because Not My Dog is up next and we’re suddenly wishing we came in plaid shirts and snap-on neon wristbands. Just before they come on stage we suddenly start arguing - what did they sound like again, exactly? Afrikaans rap-metal booms out at us by way of an answer, and we sustain our enthusiasm through pure nostalgia; nor do we blame the confused-looking kids who slowly bud off and drift away to do something else while we sort of awkwardly do our Peanuts Holiday Special Dance to a band we probably wouldn’t listen to today had we not been manic fans of them years ago. A few songs in, Francois Van Coke pops his fuzzy head out and toddles over in his tight jeans to join the band on the stage and helps them screech something brutal in chorus, staggering backwards every time he does. I don’t know.
By the time Funeral for a Friend come on, the crowd’s regained some of it’s swell, and we decide it’s big enough to be okay on it’s own; we stay for their first song and decide that we’re not in the mood for more screeching. We buzz in and out between the Alternative Tent and the Electro Pyramid, I go argue with the girl selling vodka slushies once or twice.
FUCKING SUNDAY OR WHATEVER
I wake up grateful that I made a conscious decision to go to sleep inside my own tent the previous night. However, I’m really angry I didn’t bring a pillow. I brought a whole bunch of other extremely useful crap, like a brush and pan, a hammer for my tent pegs, plastic bags for garbage, a yoga mat - but not a fucking pillow. My neck is killing me and I realize l that I have so much flora and possible fauna in my hair that all I can do is pull a woolen beanie over it and pretend like it isn’t as hot as it’s been all weekend.
We’re not terribly excited for any musical acts scheduled for the day, and us staying on at the festival has more to do with us being too lazy to collapse our tents and get in our cars and drive all the way back to Cape Town than being in love with the festival. That’s not to say we’re not having a good time - we’re very content where we are. We stretch, hear ourselves click in different parts, and drift away from the campsite to find something breakfast-shaped.
Seemingly a Sunday staple at these things, Lonesome Dave Ferguson does his knuckle-bitingly cool harmonica-looping at around eleven, which we lazily enjoy in a shady spot we’ve found. For some reason we’re all sitting with vodka slushies in our hands again.
Wrestlerish comes on and we spend two of their songs dumbly disagreeing with each other about what their name is before we decide that the band is tearing us apart, and we go back to the campsite, where our neighbors have collapsed their tents and left without so much as a goodbye. We sit in the shade eating potato chips and contemplating what time we should get going for about two hours; we’re out of energy to do much else.
Stoically, we eventually collapse and pack up our tents, recycle our garbage, and take everything back to our cars.
On our way out, a girl lifts her shirt up at us for no apparent reason.
RAMfest isn’t over yet - you can still catch Alkaline Trio and Funeral for a Friend in Johannesburg this Saturday.
But, really, if you were serious about RAMfest, you’ve come to Cape Town for it.