The best of the fests
LLOYD BURNARD took a well-deserved break from the office at this year’s Ramfest
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.