By P Blood
RAMfest in Durban is a strange affair. Unlike the traditional music festival format of a few thousand people camping outdoors for a long weekend, destroying brain cells and the grass, RAMfest is two nights separated by a week, held at two separate venues with entirely different genres of music.
Now I know my hometown pretty well, especially when it comes to attending live music events and international acts. It can be a little unpredictable in terms of support. You’re gambling bringing a band of any calibre that expects to be paid to Durban. The solution to this it seems, is to bring bands that are in the decline of their stardom, make sure they’ve had at least moderate commercial success (usually two radio hits is sufficient) and promote the hell out of the show to the entertainment starved middle class.
It’s disingenuous money grubbing. It’s an insult to my intelligence at least, although I doubt too many of the other people at either gigs (sorry, festival days) gave it much thought. The first night of RAMfest, the EDM portion, was held at the finest night club in Durban, Origin. Of course, a rock festival should include EDM on their line-up… in this day and age when all the cool kids are into Skrillex and such, it would be business folly to not take advantage of this. It makes me sick to my stomach, but RAMfest does need to make them ducats to pay the international acts…
The international act for the first evening was Pendulum. The band’s bio and research I did before going to the gig gave me a faint glimmer of hope. Turns out that faint glimmer was just the shine you can get from polishing a turd. Pendulum were dismal, dodgy wedding DJs compared to the South African DJ’s and producers that preceded them (the remaining two members of the former Drum and Bass act turned into Knife Party). Their set was completely ruined by their lack of sound level management and the constant “hyping” of the crowd.
It was like listening to an excited sports commentator warble inaudibly over shit 90’s dance music. Granted most dance music sounds dated and just like the shit you heard back when you unwisely went to those sort of parties. I couldn’t stand it for more than what I think was two tracks. The crowd stayed though. I’ve never seen The Engine Room, the dark basement dance floor of Origin, so packed with sweating bodies. Even the potential to get in the mix and quite happily fondle people too fucked on MDMA to care that my hands are all over their sexy bits, wasn’t enough to make me stay. I escaped that audio-nightmare and swore to tell everyone that Pendulum is the shittiest thing I’ve ever seen anywhere. Not only did I find Pendulum disappointing, I found it insulting. How the fuck, does anyone in the business of entertaining people, travel thousands of miles and put on a piss-poor show like that and still expect to charge at the door?
The organisers are not free of blame in this situation. As people who deal in entertainment, surely they must realise that the act or band that they’re bringing to our shores has moved on to other things or hasn’t enjoyed any kind of success in so long, they’ve forgotten what being famous is actually like? They’re hucksters! Scam artists – trading on former glory that has faded over a decade or so, to exploit the ignorant locals in some city on the East coast of the ass end of The Dark Continent.
Fuck Pendulum and fuck RAMfest for that evening. I didn’t pay to attend and I still feel cheated. I prayed that the crowd would snap out of their drug induced stupor and wake up to realise they’re being taken for a ride on a lame mule instead of a race horse. I wanted the crowd to riot in protest. Storm the DJ box, suspend those two has-beens by their cocaine numbed lips with giant hooks and beat them like piñatas till their bloody innards came gushing out. Now that would have been a show!
The second night of RAMfest I sat on the edge of my bed, pants-less and hopeless – silently pleading with Satan to make that Friday night a better experience than the week before. The devil came through! Well, Bring Me The Horizon and Rise Against came through. Also two acts, in my opinion, who were far more relevant 5 or 10 years ago when they were making music that was actually making waves in their respective genres, but for their performance and showmanship alone, I give them a pass. Okay, I must mention, given that these two bands and the local support act Low Profile are closer to my cup of tea, I was not a fan of either international band going to the show.
The venue for this portion of RAMfest was at a mall. I fucking hate Gateway, Theatre of Shopping so deeply, it’s irrational. The Wavehouse is an affront to music venues, skate parks and water parks the world over. If I were inclined to exert myself any more than I do writing these reviews, I might bomb the Wavehouse to oblivion just to rid the world of such a place. I’d be like those black metal guys burning down churches in Norway, same kind of thing. It would be a political and social act of justice to destroy that institution of capitalism and middle class ignorant appropriation of counter-culture.
My irrelevant views on the venue aside, Bring Me The Horizon were crazy good. I could make jokes about the lead singer being a pretty boy frontman drawing in all those hormonal teenage girls and creating that whole “Myspace scenester” thing many years ago, but honestly I’ll just stick to music for once – the music was that good. I never paid much mind to BMTH before. It was too new school or whatever excuse I made. Hearing a couple oldies and then some of the new material, namely Shadow Moses, I’m going to hunt down their new album, Sempiternal. With all the talk about this album containing more electronic influences than previous offerings, BTMH should have been booked for the Origin gig. From what I heard though, the most electronic it got was the keyboard player’s more involved role. Live, BTMH are still a wall of skull fucking metalcore. I praise them for it.
Headlining the event were vegan, ultra-left, posi-pop-punkers Rise Against. The grandiose, sycophantic exclamations like, “You’re the best crowd we ever played to!” and “We love you, Durban!” were almost genuine compared to the annoying brand/crowd exchange. When McIlrath prompted to the crowd to express how punk they are, I was disgusted! Shame on the people of Durban! I’ve been listening to, and going to punk shows since I was teenager. Over a decade spent in the trenches of music obscurity in a town so conservative and out of touch I was accused,by ignorant strangers, of being gothic more often than anything else. Safe to say the punks, even at the height of the popularity, numbered at less than 200 kids. Where these thousands of self-proclaimed punks came from, I have no idea. Nothing more contemptible than a crowd of malingerers, sucking a rock star’s ego-penis just because he’s on stage.
Rise Against is actually a pretty good band, although they are getting close to the same level of bland, irrelevant and void of any discernible balls or heart that they’re just another, “for the cause” radio-rock band, like U2 or Green Day. It was still cool to hear some of those songs from back in the day, the nostalgia factor ran deep for me. Again, why should we bring a band out before they sell out a bit and are the downturn of the bell curve of fame.
Over-all, Ramfest is a gyp in Durban. Although they did deliver what the packaging said on the second night, only the uninitiated live music goers and the semi-retards would be impressed by the events and call it a success. I guess it was a step up from the 2012 event, which is promising. Maybe in five years the Durban leg of the festival will be on some kind of par with other actual music festivals.