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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.

13   6
  1. Brian Green says:

    Besides considering the music, it was a shockingly poor festival. Abysmal location; no water other than that you had to pay for in the main site; nowhere to cool off (where were the promised sprinklers?), no being able to take the drinks you bought at the campsite into the main site (some kind of a no mans lands between the two entrances?!?); RIDICULOUSLY slow food stalls and over-charging by some; bars closing at 12 (and the bar in the campsite closing stupidly early). There’s no reason have to accept it as a good day out by comparison to overseas festivals. Lank unprofessional.

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  2. LOL says:

    I bet your a failed Muso, shame you cynical bastard, Next time get someone who actually enjoys more than one style of music to review the event.

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  3. sir Vundu says:

    For once I kinda agree with Max. I do however think that this is the “re-birth” of a festival and will become something massive – their incredible success in Joburg is an indication. The line-up will never satisfy anyone, but the facilities – pathetic. Too few food stalls, shit service at all of them, but the venue takes the cake. I would hate to be an organisor trying to find a venue that’s a) cost-effective and b) within an our of the CBD. The Joburg venue is strikingly similar though.

    I predict Ramfest going back to the weekend format, with a dedicated metal stage, and 10 -12 international acts across all stages. It will happen – it is a commercial festival right?

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  4. Tyrion Lannister says:

    @ Lol “Next time get someone who actually enjoys more than one style of music to review the event.” What on earth are you talking about? Read the article again and then consider your comments.

    As far as I can see Max enjoyed a variety of ‘styles’ of music. In order he gave props to P.H.fat (Psychodelic-Bass-Rap) Hog Hoggidy Hog (Punk/Ska) Fokoff (Post punk, rock n roll) Awolnation (which he describes as an elegant mix of electro, indie, screamo and dance beats) Hardly limiting himself to one style of music there….

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  5. la says:

    how was netsky?

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  6. dudie says:

    fuck. again 10% review and 90% masturbation. you went to review the festival and you flaked out on the headliner… i was kinda interested in reading what you had to say about one of the biggest and most influential metal acts of the 90’s and 2000’s, and yet all you could go on about how shit our crowds are. max, if i had to base my experience on the jo’burg crowds and the lack of culture here, i should have shot myself kurt cobain style a long time ago.

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  7. WordWallah says:

    @sir Vundu:

    Ramfest has already announced that they’ll go back to the 3-day format next year. Hopefully they’ll abandon the ostrich farm as well. Based on reviews of the last few events there it’s a pretty shit venue.

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  8. Christ Power! says:

    Not much of a review. Max’s reviews lost their novelty a while back. Insert festival name, followed by Max bitching about poor organising, how much our bands suck and arent worthy, how SA doesnt know shit etc… Music is suppose to evoke emotion and move the listener. You cant listen to music if you systematically break it down and judge and criticise it at every turn.

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  9. ShlongDong says:

    South Africans seem to be unable to stop sucking on the cock of mediocrity.

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  10. Luke says:

    “IN FLAMES MAN. IN FUCKIN FLAMES.” said 10 years by 15 year old me.

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  11. Luke says:

    “was kinda interested in reading what you had to say about one of the biggest and most influential metal acts of the 90′s and 2000′s”

    yup. someone posted that. yuuuuuup.

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  12. Bass_Player says:

    @ LOL

    Your opinion is invalid.

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  13. Gerhard says:

    Fucking hot pics Michael!!!

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  14. Newtown _Fan says:

    What a shit review! Newtown Knife Gang are great & their singer is in no way like Chino or even attempting to be like him… Idiot!

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  15. Fran says:

    I have liked the reviews in the past, but the only good thing about this one was the photos!
    How do you leave Ramfest before the main acts and then form an opinion?

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  16. Max says:

    @dudie – fair point on In Flames good sir. I watched about half of their set before leaving. What can I say? A class act, no doubt, polished, heavy and in your face. As you correctly pointed out, they’ve been doing this for decades, so it is near impossible to fault them on their performance. Do I like them? No. Do I think they are worth the time now? No. Did they rapture assholes on sunday? Yes they did. I hope that satisfies.

    @christ power! – I laboured, clearly falsely, under the assumption that the idea of music criticism was to do exactly that – to dissect music…but anyway. Please point me to some super exciting acts and ill get all emotional.

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  17. Raytheon says:

    this guys view is honest and the experience of reading it was visceral. i was not at this festival but have felt this feeling very@many times. haters wanna hate bro. stick to your guns man. this article gives me hope that there are people out there who are present. nice words. one

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  18. Kaffirkie says:

    Ace write up,nice pics,cant help but wonder if Max actually would have paid for that piss poor line up, I sure as fuck would not !

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  19. cnut says:

    You’re wanting youth and you send an obese, junk-food swilling introspective cutter to report?

    Go figure Mahala… let me guess that was Davis’ call?

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  20. creepy steve says:

    but max isn’t fat. the cutting thing i can’t comment on

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  21. yeah says:

    @cnut you’re thinking of Roger. This is Max.

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  22. simon says:

    haha I love how the Newtown fag i mean fan defends them!! Good review Im from JHB didnt even bother although I heard it was a pretty badass party!!

    I like your writing max, wish it was longer and more filled with hate!!

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  23. dan says:

    how can people agree with review of an event if they didn’t attend themselves? Then again people love hating on the net. I thought newtown had a pretty decent show, also if I didn’t like a bands genre I’d just say so instead of slagging. You just sound like a failed musician. You also didn’t even stick around for in flames… Thousands of ppl from jhb and ct will completely disagree with ur opinion, they killed in ct and I heard jhb was even better. This is a piss poor review, an excuse to hate and slag because you have nothing better to do. As if this writer could pull off a show half as succesful as ramfest.

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  24. Bass_Player says:

    @ Newtown_Fan

    Your opinion is invalid.

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  25. Max says:

    ah, if I had a rand for every time I’m branded a ‘failed muso’. haha

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  26. Roger says:

    Newtown Knife Gang is pretty cool.
    anyway, kudos to the photographer.

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  27. jallop says:

    this guy is obviously a synergy fan… shame, he knows nothing abut good music.
    RAMfest 2012 was probably the best RAMfest up to date!
    i believe big things are coming from this event

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  28. maxisadick says:

    Haha what a KAK review. All you cared about was smoking dope and hating on bands. I went to the joburg ramfest and all the bands owned! In Flames stopped being relevant 6 years ago? Laughable opinion! Mahala should send people with an intention of really reviewing an event with an unbiased perspective. As opposed I hated this + that… And then I went home early. Pathetic!

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  29. jallop says:

    mahala stopped being relevant 6 years ago! hahaha

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  30. George says:

    Wow dude. You’re so hardcore. I mean you just don’t give a shit do you? Not even about doing your fucking job right. If you’re sent to review a festival, I’d think that staying for the headlining international acts would be the least you could do. But no, it’s easier to just boast about how many joints you have, how much you rather drink than actually enjoy the music, and generally just be a cynical and bitter whiner. Did you even talk to anybody there? Interview some fans, some artists perhaps? This was supposed to be a review man, not a diatribe about how apathetic you are about youth culture. Go write a fucking blog if you want to vomit everywhere and call it journalism.

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  31. George says:

    That said, my tirade over, I loved your Open Letter to Untamed 😛 I don’t have to tell you that as soon as you put your opinion online it opens up a shitstorm. But whatever. Keep on keepin on, just stop being a dick about it 🙂

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  32. Renee says:

    Liked the aside about broadway, don’t we all want to a little dance? In terms of the article, “relevance” is so contextual, so relative, but then so much of it is. Personally enjoyed In Flames, they were even better in Jo’burg, in the rain and thunder, with people almost breaking the barricades to get closer to some of the awesome Sweden swung this way. Not too sure how important “relevance” is to an “alternative” crowd who possibly pride themselves on enjoying things despite it being irrelevant to many others. Nitpicking now? I suppose so..enjoy your writing, while not always in agreement with everything you say, which in itself is not entirely disagreeable. What a bore it would be if all felt the same.

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  33. Renee says:

    So inflamed by the notion of “relevance” that I forgot to mention the great pictures, great they are indeed.

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  34. dandi says:

    Ramfest JHB was amazing. maybe gaytown is the reason the above comments suck so bad.

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  35. dudie says:

    yeah dandi – it was so amazing the beer ran out, so amazing that in flames played for 35 seconds, and so amazing that it was full of fucken boneheads. amazing.

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