Giant Inflatablesby Roger Young, images by Kevin Goss-Ross / 12.03.2011
Did the electro ever stop? I wake sweating to it. And to a lump against my tent, my friends have arrived in the night and camped on a slope. One of them has rolled out of her tent onto mine. I push her back in and join Kevin for snacks on the communal blanket of last night’s trash. It’s near 40 degrees and it’s early. There is no wind. The only solution is to ingest liquid. The only liquid is left over Tipo and Sparberry but only a small amount; so I add cane. This is the beginning of the mix-a-drinks game that will result in me thinking whiskey is a good mixer for Tass later. I’m too tired to write elegant, descriptive notes. Point form from here on out.
People are joining us on the trash blanket. Other warm drinks are coming out. It’s a love fest of warm brandy and gossip. Jannie in his Kaftan is lolling about, exposing his man parts by “accident”. We can buy ice but it’s just too far. People are swapping stories of last night’s hook ups and not hook ups. I realize that I am once again juggling too many balls; fuck you RAMfest and your variety and plentitude. Kevin goes off to do some work. I have decided that the idea of daily dispatches is lame, mostly because of the heat. One of the tent friends emerges who wants to see Mr Cat and The Jackal. We get tied up in finding stuff in cars. Getting ice, wondering where the sunblock is. Eating. All that crap. We arrive just to see the Cat’s getting off stage, drenched in sweat from wearing those giant heads. It’s fuck hot. We find shade and try figure out what to do. It’s too hot to think and I’m already drunk. It’s noon.
Stepdog come on and their plinky plonky acoustic sound and weird ass high voices just cut through my vibe like a hot discordant knife. Stepdog are a band that I’m having a hard time deciding whether I like or hate; the RAMfest performance is just too sharp and I’m too blunted to even consider trying to assess it. I need to wake up, to shake off the early drunk and the heat. We make for the river.
We have a 2 litre bottle of Sparberry with cane and a 2 litre bottle of Sparberry with whiskey. We are mudfish. Faces just above water, we drink while I bitch about last night’s failures. I am focused inward on my own petty shit. And then my tent camp friend looks around, her eyes go all full of wonder, “we’re in a river, at a festival, it’s so amazing”. She’s right. The river is full of smiling faces. There are fucking mountains in the distance. It’s hot and we’re wet and cool. We drift; internally we list all the things we’re grateful for, we talk drunkenly about all kinds of idealistic shit, I’m seventeen again. We pick up a bit of a suntan. We pass Dan Apter and Anna who have a really gay umbrella and some non-gay drinks, for some reason they think I’m a mermaid and start warning sailors. As we’re climbing out the river, I spot a compatriot on acid. Acid in the heat is a bad idea. Bad. She has not learnt that yet. But at that point I get the horrible feeling that she will. And soon.
The sand is fucking hot and we’re late for The Great Apes. Tent friend is barefoot and gives me a whole “Kaalvoet oor die Drakensburg” speech, being a fucking soutie I put my shoes on and we run.
The Great Apes are the tail end of rock and roll, when it retreated back into dirty night clubs and started to become punk. Yusif flaps around the stage like a hybrid electric eel baby bird falling from a nest thing. They’re high energy and fucking invigorating, more wet than the river. They don’t have songs, they have howls. It’s two in the afternoon and they should be on at two in the morning; after a twilight shift in the coal trenches. As the Apes finish one of the people I’m with realizes how very, very drunk she is. So we all head up to the pool. Swimming around I find Disco from PH fat, who threatens me with an imaginary knife. He’s going to bleed me out, dump me over a wall. Holy fuck, we’re missing Tumi! It’s back to the main stage.
It must be noted that at this point I’m on day four, it’s fucking hot and I’m drunk. Also sexually frustrated. Tumi makes me forget all that. We’re all cramped close to the stage, reveling in the scant shadow. His collaboration with the boys from Isochronous and producer/drummer Peach Van Pletzen just keeps getting better. It’s forceful rock meets hip hop. Tumi in this mode is less rapper than Motown scat king. Van Pletzen pushes the Isoc boys into much harder rock territory. Tumi brings the crowd in with chanting of: “I don’t know what you’ve been told but this here sounds like rock ‘n roll!” Although the tracks are filled with conscious hip hop messages Tumi still manages to keep the set’s mood light and flowing. It builds to an epic high of harmonics, slick rhymes and hard rock, much harder and tighter rock than most of the headliners. Tumi’s lyric “walked so far and still not free” resonates hard; when will the alternative audience be free of the clichés and tropes that define alternative?
Ree-Burth have arrived without their bassist, who is also the vocalist/screamer of the band and most of its energy. The fact that they’re allowed on stage is just bullshit. A white rock band arriving without their singer would just be cancelled. The Sleepers bassist fills in. Two songs in and its not working, but you know, nice try.
Back at the tent camp, a previously missing friend has exploded a packet of tuna in her tent by trying to chew through the bag and is using some kind of mini camping dust pan to clean up. Reports up from the river are that the Beach Party is not rad. Hard dubstep on a chilled day. We roll into the pool. Underwater drinking. Inflatables. My tall friend joins us and informs me that the reason I’m getting no action is because I constantly overplay my hand. Suddenly I get the festival checklist blues. There are too many things that I haven’t done, panic sets in; this is where the festival ends for me; where the overthinking begins.
Somehow The Sleepers last ever festival gig passes me by. Not somehow, I actually avoid it, not because I don’t like The Sleepers but because last gigs make me a bit sad and I don’t feel like being sad today.
We run towards Isochronous at sunset. Clutching half full bottles of neat cane that we’ve forgotten to get mix for. We’re running down the hill in the softening light screaming along to: “Is this a dream or is this reality, am I really here?” It may be sunset and it’s still hot, but it’s markedly fuller than last nights BLK JKS slot. And Isochronous just kill. Their sound seems to be shifting a little from harmonic prog to power pop but its still lush sing along beatitude. Halfway through the set, as the sky has gone pink, confetti is launched into the air. I feel like I’m on a sugar high. And then just to prove their chops, Isoc go into a monster extended jazz solo break during Beauty Queen. The set ends in an explosion of pink and blue.
I’m on the grass. In my head I’m reviewing the bands I’ve watched and enjoyed so far. It strikes me that I’ve also become friends with many of them. Am I starting to become one of those people who only review their friend’s bands? Or do I just not like hanging out with people who make shit music? Either way, I must find new bands and make more friends.
Van Coke hit the stage in wolf masks with glowing red eyes and burn through their set like a bit of tissue paper in a crematorium. They’re probably the only MK award winner that actually deserved their award. Wynand has his crazy rock eyes on, Jedd Kossew grinds out lick after dirty lick and Francois rips though “Voor Ons Stof Word” like he’s battling giant robots. It’s so full of power that it saps the last of mine.
I stumble up to the bar area to sit. The person on acid from the river makes me lines of coke on her moleskin. Except that happened on Friday. I can’t even keep the days straight. Someone is shouting at me. Alkaline Trio come on and I circle the crowd, after Van Coke they seem lacklustre, they’re basically phoning their set in. I don’t care either way. This time last year I was being blown away by Lark and waiting for Boo! and Pendulum; now all I have to look forward to is Not My Dog and some shouty mall goths.
Over at the Electro Pyramid PH fat are smoophing out the thick goopy beats, it’s a far more joyous affair than anything that’s going on at the main stage. Disco and Mike are jumping up and down like five year olds and dishing out Suessian rhymes. One of them drops his laptop and then, deciding that it’s fucked throws it into the crowd. It’s a sea of bounce and love. Fat syrypy beats fill me up like bad coffee and donuts. I realise the only way through is more drugs. I find the tall person and soon we’re ingesting mushrooms. Not My Dog start at some point but I’m standing outside the Merc tent watching ex cops and hippies dance to Led Zepplin. Lynch walks past. “Typical Cape Town. All this,” he says indicating the whole festival, “and they’re stuck in the 80s’ tent.” The mushrooms are not coming on; my body must be spent. I concede. RAMfest has broken me. Like last year I have not made it to the headliner. I decide to go at least try watch Funeral For A Friend. I’m down front when the mushrooms kick in. Why is this nasty man shouting at me? I flee to the tent camp.
Later, as Niskerone ends his fucking hard jungleist set, I find myself watching the girl with the implausible eyebrows smooshhhhh her hair while I’m kicking Adriaan Louw in the balls. Those tiny hipster pants are like a bullseye. I can’t resist. He must go down. Someone has set the lighting to psychedelic, Counter Strike comes on and plays the most impossible to keep up with set ever. Kids are holding onto the railings and levitating from the sheer force of the light. There is a pile of people next to the dancefloor, shirtless boys all passed out on top of each other. The dance floor is an exorcism. Yusif from The Great Apes breaks out of the sea of celebrity bloggers, as he passes he says. “I just don’t get it, I’d rather be fucking. Or playing chess”. I watch him lope up the hill and realize he’s right. I’d rather be causing a different kind of mayhem, I stalk off, lost on the ‘shrooms and gin. My shoulder is grabbed by a venue owner, he berates me for breaking so many bands’ spirits. I’m ruining the music scene. I’m fucking high. I escape and watch the people either fucking or cleaning the pool.
I wake up to the one of the camp crew exclaiming, “My tent smells like used condoms and Jolly Jammers!” It’s hot but I don’t care. I’ll sweat through these dreams. We’re going to stick around for Bittereinder. Swimming we hear reports of theft, river ninjas and paint ball guns. It’s all in the distant past. Gen Pop is disembarking. There is so much not done. So much undone. I have ‘shroom stomach, I race for the toilets… If there is one thing you can depend on at RAMfest, it’s constantly clean toilets; it actually freaked me out a few times, how do they do it? While I am sitting there, I overhear a conversation about the consistency of a jock’s poo.
“Man, I’ve got trials tmrw and my shit is green.”
“Dude, you need salt. The best way is by enema.”
“Dude, where am I going to get a salt enema at a festival?”
“The fucking water bottle bru. Wait here, I’ll go fill it up with salt water.”
Waiting for Bittereinder, Disco threatens me with another imaginary knife. The heat, did I mention the heat? I never want to leave RAMfest. I want to get the fuck out of RAMfest. I don’t want to go back to the ordinary world. I need my bed. Bittereinder are rad, much better than I thought they’d be; that’s the most I can think. I wish the line up had been different but the festival itself was mind-blowingly good. And exhausting. I love the river. I love the stuff that happened in the water. I wish we could have heard the main stage in the campground. The constant electro in the tent camp gave RAMfest a distinct un-live music feel. I’m contemplating all of this when Mix and Blend come on, with EJ Von Lyrik, who’s shouty shoutyness completely shatters my vibe. It’s time to go home. Everything will be here when we return. Packing up my tent, I find the reason I never hooked up. A packet of condoms. Everyone knows the festival condom curse; if you bring condoms, you won’t get to use them. Where did they come from, I didn’t bring them. Then I remember, Henk was handing them out on the train; fucker. He sabotaged me. I’ll get him next year. But the festival is not over. I can still hear music; maybe I can still hook up. Maybe I can break the curse. There is still time. Maybe I never have to leave.
*All images © Kevin Goss-Ross.