The best of the fests

LLOYD BURNARD took a well-de­served break from the of­fice at this year’s Ram­fest

Weekend Witness - - Opinion -

EV­ERY­BODY needs a break from what­ever it is that they do. And if do­ing noth­ing is your thing, then chances are you need a break from that too.

For me, that break came in the form of a trip to the West­ern Cape. And while I did spend most of my well-de­served hol­i­day in Cape Town, I refuse to say that this is where I went.

When one thinks of va­ca­tion­ing in the Cape, there are gen­er­ally two types of hol­i­days that come to mind. There is the hol­i­day that caters for those cut from life’s silkier cloth, the hol­i­day that will more than likely fea­ture some sort of me­an­der­ing along a garden or wine route, while en­joy­ing the finer things in life. Throw in the odd olive and seafood plat­ter, and this can be the hol­i­day of a life­time, if that’s what you’re af­ter, of course.

Then there is the Cape Town hol­i­day that turns South Africans into tourists in their own coun­try. The hol­i­day that features a trip on the ca­ble car, a boat ride to Robben Is­land, watch­ing seals on the V&A Water- front and count­less sto­ries and pho­to­graphs il­lus­trat­ing the sheer mag­nif­i­cence of Ta­ble Moun­tain.

My West­ern Cape ad­ven­ture, how­ever, had noth­ing to do with any of th­ese things. I don’t eat olives, don’t drink wine and am scared of heights. Seals are okay, but they hardly war­rant a cross-coun­try trip. No, my trav­els were for some­thing else, some­thing far less civilised and even less glam­orous. I had heard of a mu­sic fes­ti­val tak­ing place in the tran­quil farm­ing vil­lage of Rivier­son­derend, sit­u­ated on the N2 some 170 km out­side Cape Town head­ing to­wards Mos­sel Bay. Upon do­ing some re­search, I learnt that the dor­pie was es­tab­lished in 1923 when Miss Edith S.V. McIn­tyre sold a farm to the Dutch Re­formed Church for £6 000.

In truth, there isn’t much to Rivier­son­derend. But that didn’t mat­ter to me, for when I ar­rived at RAM­fest 2013, a small plan­ta­tion had turned into home for thou­sands of camp­ing mu­sic lovers, and open fields had trans­formed into four stages, where bands — lo­cal and in- ter­na­tional — would en­ter­tain un­til the early hours of the Satur­day and Sun­day morn­ings.

Mu­sic is spe­cial to ev­ery­body. Re­gard­less of the genre, it has the power to take you back to a mem­o­rable time in your life. It res­onates. It evokes feel­ing, emo­tion and the abil­ity to put things into per­spec­tive. And if noth­ing else, mu­sic is fun.

For me, mu­sic has been cen­tral. For many years, it was United States rock­ers Pearl Jam who spoke to me most. Singer Ed­die Ved­der’s lyrics about love, life and ev­ery­day strug­gles, at times gave me a way of mak­ing sense of the chaos that fills the head of any teenager.

As I grew older, the mu­sic I lis­tened to be­came less about find­ing mean­ing and more about hav­ing fun. I could make my own sense of the world, and didn’t need to rely on a singer I have never met to do it for me. As my taste evolved, I be­gan ap­pre­ci­at­ing en­er­getic bands more and more. I’m scared of us­ing gen­res. It pi­geon­holes the artist and cre­ates ex­pec­ta­tion. Call it metal, hard­core, screamo, met­al­core — it doesn’t really mat­ter to me. If it’s loud, heavy and ag­gres­sive then there is a good chance I’m go­ing to give it a lis­ten.

About three years ago, I came across a band from Sh­effield called Bring Me The Hori­zon (BMTH), kids younger than me. But there was a care­less en­ergy about lead singer Oli Sykes and his band of mis­fits that got me hooked. So when I heard that the boys and girls at RAM­fest had man­aged to se­cure them for three shows in Rivier­son­derend, Dur­ban and Jo­han­nes­burg, there was no way I was go­ing to be stuck be­hind a desk while they bashed out their dis­torted riffs and un­re­strained bel­liger­ence on stage. Amer­i­can hard-core act Rise Against were the fes­ti­val head­lin­ers and the band that most of the fes­ti­val­go­ers will re­mem­ber most. But I have never felt as much adren­a­line run through my veins as I did for the 45 min­utes that BMTH were on stage in Rivier­son­derend and Dur­ban (the two shows I at­tended). If Pearl Jam is my soul­mate — the girl I de­vote my life to and love for all eternity — then BMTH is a one-night stand of the most passionate, erotic and elec­tric kind.

But I came back from Rivier­son­derend with more than just mem­o­ries of a per­for­mance. The fes­ti­val it­self — from the friend­li­ness of like­minded mu­sic lovers and the beau­ti­ful scenery to the amaz­ing Roselina, who be­came the most pop­u­lar caterer with her will­ing­ness to cook up (from scratch) what­ever campers wanted, was a piece of heaven on Earth. The or­gan­is­ers could not have se­cured a more pic­turesque venue, and that they were able to en­tice the cal­i­bre of in­ter­na­tional acts that they did was out­stand­ing.

Out­side the mu­sic, it was a time of re­flec­tion. A chance to sit on a camp­ing chair in the mid­dle of nowhere, catch­ing up with old friends over a beer or sev­eral. It was ther­a­peu­tic and, quite frankly, I could have stayed there for­ever.

So next time you plan a Cape Town hol­i­day, try to do more than come back with sto­ries about a moun­tain.

Here’s hop­ing that RAM­fest con­tin­ues to se­cure the venues and artists that make it, un­doubt­edly, South Africa’s pre­mier mu­sic fes­ti­val.


Lead singer of Sh­effield metal band Bring Me The Hori­zon Oliver Sykes’s en­er­getic stage pres­ence was felt by mu­sic lovers at three RAM­fest 2013 shows around South Africa this month.

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