RAMfest | Where’s That Culture?by Max Barashenkov / Images by Michael Ellis / 13.03.2012
“Go and interrogate youth culture,” he says, “Expose it, attack it and decimate it”.
And here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, sweating worse than a breeder hog, desperately looking for that culture he loves to talk about in corporate meetings. I look into my fast emptying cup – it’s not there. I explore the cigarette box crammed with joints – not there either. I take in the rest of Ramfest and it’s no-where to be found.
Yet it must be here, I can see that I’m not the only one searching for it. Important people with photo cameras run back and forth, while even more important people with video cameras stake out tactical vantage points. Journalists scurry around like hungry weasels. Big names – not upstart trash of my ilk – lending the festivities credibility with their presence. Evan Milton is here and asks me what I think of Newtown Knife Gang. I couldn’t give a shit about their modern-post-hardcore-emo crap or their Chino Moreno wannabe vocalist, but Evan is a good and kind man so I just shrug. “They are good at what they do,” he says. And yawns. I drink more and decide not to tell him that I take mesmerizing shits and am considering a career on Broadway.
A lonely goth glides by. Tight black long-sleeve, those knee high boots with buckles, the lost and detached look, the works. This makes me sad. He was one of the few that didn’t get the memo on RAMfest being a commercial event through and through these days. The shock to his system must have been devastating. He will never recover and, upon returning home, will cut his hair, burn all that black clothing and download a Haezer record. I never thought that a lack of dudes with fishnet gloves could be a cause for depression. I stash that nugget of cultural observation and go muse over how quiet P.H.fat’s music is in comparison to the vocals. Disco and Mike scream over blurry beats, yet, just as the herd starts to lose interest, they pull it all back with a fantastic live rendition of The Dark, the least ‘P.H.fat’ track off their new EP. Magic tricks under the blazing sun. I salute them with strong rum.
The quest leads me back to the main stage, where the bastards from Hog Hoggidy Hog are doing their thing with their usual vigor and fire. Cheeky fiends they are, playing a ‘farewell’ show not two months ago and now appearing on a whole string of festival line-ups. Now we’re getting somewhere, I rejoice. A band that can, after more than 16 years, still play decent time slots and get people dirt-skanking in unbearable heat, certainly has cultural capital. The same goes for Fokofpoliesiekar, who kick the shit out of their set later on. Two bands, two real icons, flag-bearers for defined movements – each with its own place in our music history. Worn-out and tired. However much I enjoy both the performances (yes, yes, Fokof are spectacular to watch), I get more hard about the jib they have at the main stage, something that’s not often seen at festivals. The camera rig pays off – on the back-screen it all looks so professional, so international, so big. Closer to the ground though, things are a little nastier. Everyone is bitching about the ‘one day’ thing. No one seems particularly ecstatic at the general set-up, but all are adamant on making the most of it. The South African syndrome. Happy in our sandbox we are. And none the happier are the media, us culture vultures, circling and praying for scraps of something beautiful and meaningful.
I drop my ass on some grass, smoke some, brood over my role here, watch Awolnation and get the first pleasant surprise of Ramfest 2012. The American outfit kick out the jams as only scenesters like them can. I toast the organizers for finding a really appealing crossover band. Blame it on us, ignorant fools, that only one percent of the crowd knows the lyrics. The vocalist urges us to show him a ‘South African moshpit’. I’m sorry, friend, but you don’t know what kind of cesspool you stumbled into. Our herd will never appreciate your elegant mix of electro, indie, screamo and dance beats. You, Awolnation, commercial cocksucker to the bone, play harder than most of the supposed ‘underground’ and ‘alternative’ acts that litter our stages, but we won’t dance to you, god forbid, because we don’t understand you yet, come back in a year or two, then we’ll party.
Welcome, as they say, to our local psychosis – where none of us know what is art, what is culture, what is music and what is simply masturbation. We’ve forgotten all of that while desperately trying to birth it. Especially in Cape Town. Modern design capital of world? Please, even San Francisco and Paris are more modest and sincere than us.
I couldn’t find that thing he sent me here to find. I looked and failed. Maybe others will, maybe it was never here. Maybe it was stupid to even attempt to locate it. But, as the crowds cheer to In Flames, a band that stopped being relevant about six years ago, I drive the fuck away, feeling culturally cheated.
*All images © Michael Ellis.