11 March 2011

RAM Fest[ation] 2011

I’m going to be honest; it is unlikely that this article is going to be anything more than a blurry summation of my recent experiences at that festival of festivals, that alternative jamboree, that Voltron of teenage angst and masked ball of sub-genres, the ever-popular RAM Fest.

For those of you who don’t know, Ram Fest is what happens when you take a fourteen year old boy from Durbanville, place him in a dusty Converse shoebox with a Klingon, shake it up in a dustpan just arse-wise of Worcester and then sit back and watch them write poetry together. It’s a unique experience. It’s the sort of festival where you wake up each morning feeling like you’ve been roofied by the sun and tea-bagged by a character from peanuts.

This dick.

Where to start is tricky. My memory is rickety at the best of times (breakfast today will forever and always be a mystery to me). Rather than with the bands though, I think I’ll start with…

The Swimming Pool.

Imagine, if you will, a 25x25 metre pot, filled with pork, on a slow boil for 72 hours. Now imagine that the pork had been on a three-day binge with Charlie Sheen through the cellars of the SAB brewery and you might manage a glimpse of what that heady broth resembled as it stewed under the 40-degree sun.
People packed the pool wall to wall. Anyone stupid enough to try opening their eyes underwater went blind quicker than an adolescent boy at a lesbian convention. Grown men humped inflatable dolphins across the murky waters while young girls experimented with solar-accelerated aging, all amidst a quickly growing pile of aluminium cans that could have kept a cart-pushing bergie in Obies Sherry for a month.

“I’m gonna put my kids through college!”

The Grounds

Now expand your view. A thick pall of dust hung low across the festival grounds, barely stirred by the bodies that moved through it, effortlessly trapping the quickly growing smoke cloud that wafted up from campsites where inebriated gaggles of hippies, goths, jocks, nerds, hipsters and Rastas giggled, rolled, toked, smoked, bonged, sparked, fired and gassed their ways across social borders into that fantastical realm of Fest-Faced, the ninth level of high (just before your brain Quantum Leaps through a temporal fissure and you begin to remember next Wednesday, but just after Mickey Rourke has shuffled out of the room, accusing you of setting a bad example for his kids).

Low, kid. Very low.

It was high-soup. It was purple-sticky haze. Hippies were eating it by the spoonful, straight from the air. Music producers wandered around backstage with their heads tilted backwards, inhaling deeply, a fifty in each nostril. A cloud of flies flew in, slowed, then began to slowly summersault in reverse. A salamander crawled out from under its rock, took a deep breath, and immediately devolved into a traffic officer. Across the festival site, exactly fourteen women were impregnated by the ghost of Bob Marley, then five men by Freddie Mercury.

By the end of Friday, the world was a fascinating kaleidoscope of colours, sounds, lights and people. By 9AM Sunday it resembled the blasted remains of the Jawa encampment in Star Wars Episode IV. 

“Just quit whining and help me search them for wallets.” 

The River

The river was only a little better. Although it was spared the majority of the dust and smoke, I am at least 87% sure that I watched a corpse drift by within touching distance, its juice-bottle still clasped tightly in its stiffening fist. Three emaciated men danced in unison upon the opposite bank, their shadowy shapes having emerged from the bush across from the festival. They wove through the water between the swimmers like grinning snakes. They may or may not have been hallucinations, but no-one else seemed to mind.

At one point, during a regrettable lapse in concentration, I accidentally submerged my open beer bottle beneath the dark waters of the heavily populated river. Several gulps later, I came to the decision that there is minimal taste difference between warm beer and river water, and that consuming it had no negative effects. I agreed. I turned to myself and asked whether that was really Jim Morrison I'd just noticed rafting down the river on an inflatable mirror sipping a heavily salted mojito, to which I replied that Global Warming is a farce, created by the government to ensure children kept taking their fluoride, and that the average global temperature had been dropping steadily since the eighteenth birthday of Queen Elizabeth the First, on the 17th September, 1551. At that point, I high-fived myself, then turned and ran off with Hunter S. Thompson to watch The Beetles set fire to the main stage, while I stayed and drank beer in the water with my friends.

There’s a book in there, somewhere.
The People

If sub-cultural indecision was a competition, these people would be winning. RAM Fest goers collect fashion trends like Rick James strings a sentence together: fast, furious and without a hint of comprehension. Watching a group of them walk by was like staring at a fishnet stocking filled with colorful, writhing snakes fighting over the last ketamine dose. Yeah. 

"Staring at a fishnet stocking filled with colorful, writhing snakes
fighting over the last ketamine dose."
Thank you, Google Image Search, You have done it again.

There was the Emo-Farian, the Hipster-Goth, the Metal-Jock. I began to mock them heartily, until I looked down and discovered that I had magically acquired a pair of cut-off jeans, and moccasins with plaid socks. Touching my hand to my head, I discovered a bowler hat. Resistance was futile. All had been lost.

Hipster-Metal, however, is still not acceptable.

Presiding over this festival was The Caterpillar, The Bearded Monk, The Techincolour Yoda. Perched atop his pure-hemptm sleepingbag, he sat, surveying his domain, his followers prostrating themselves before him. We stood at the rear of the field and watched his flock grow. From every corner they came, sweating profusely and grinding their teeth, and he graciously accepted their offerings, granting them his blessings and commandments in turns.

“Woulds’t thou swiftly trippy be, snortest thy the powder from this left cap. Woulds’t thou be happy and in love, dabbeth or swolloweth the crystals on right,” he proclaimed from his tiny grove, amidst flowing walls of tie-dyed chiffon, “Woe be to those who snorteth the crystals, for it shall burn like thy parent’s shame! Woe be to thee who snorteth the cap, for thy art truly a fool.
“For thine are the capsules, one powdered, for two-forty. For ever and ever, aweh.”

“So Adam said to Ev… Whoa! Ok, can anyone else see what my hands are doing?”

The Morning After

Waking up on the Sunday morning at RAM Fest is a little like coming-to after a drunken one night stand... multiplied by anything from seven to eight-thousand. It’s awkward. No-one looks each other in the eye. Everyone’s neck hurts. People are wiping their mouths, coughing and spitting and everyone is walking funny. Somebody makes breakfast, because it’s expected. Thanks are mumbled. Hugs are passed around in lieu of apologies.

“I, uh… gotta return some videotapes.”

The magic was over. There were still bands playing - those unfortunate few - but we could tell that the festival had already passed. Something in the air had changed. The sun, once a source of infinite energy, was now overbearing. The river felt a little too cold. All mention of the pool was avoided.

The people were too quiet; the bands, too loud. It was only when we cast our gaze over to the Trance stage that realization eventually dawned on us. There, in front of the glowing pyramid of screens, the last of the die-hards danced out their trip in the morning heat, their sweaty foreheads and droopy eyes contrasting considerably with the rest of the remaining festival-goers. We stood back and scanned the dwindling crowd.

Everyone was sober.

Oh right, there were The Bands

Sleepers were very cool, but they’re breaking up. Juggernaut was rad. Funeral for a Friend was surprisingly not terrible. Alkali Trio was average. I completely missed Walk with the Wicked and Sabertooth.

Die Antwoord was ok – not as good as I’d been expecting. Jack Parow made a guest appearance along with François van Coke, who doesn’t so much ‘arrive’ as spontaneously spawn the moment the quantity of beer on any premises outweighs the combined mass of its patrons. Yolandi Visser looks the same as in her music videos, like a to-scale Barbie who got drunk and head-butted a set of eclectic clippers. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just… a thing.

“Where’s your samurai now, Visser?!”

And I’m done.

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