In the beginning, there was joy, beer and sun. Riversands was filling up as eager festival goers trickled in. The beer tent was glorious; the bartenders jostled to serve Black Label and Hunters that flowed in abundance. But then, at some indiscernible point in the afternoon, the crowds split between the electro and main stage and the heavens followed suit with heavy rain and lightning. This really was the day of thunder.

The first battle was with the heat. The sizzling of metal-head and elecro-junkie skin was clearly audible amidst the first few bands of the day. Unfortunately, Shadowclub’s performance, although good, failed to connect to the crowd and fell flat. You could have blamed the insane heat but that didn’t stop Chromium’s fans from starting a mosh pit. As with most mosh pits, one poor, dazed individual was helped out after having someone’s limb connect with his face.

Those that weren’t frantically trying to defend their positions in front for In Flames periodically huddled under the beer tent for protection from the solar vengeance outside. Despite this, when Fokofpolisiekar came out there was a huge crowd awaiting these old favourites. It’s always safe to assume that Fokofpolisiekar will deliver a great performance, but this performance was on another level. The crowd was hooked from the moment Wynand threw some water over the dehydrated masses. Francios did an epic stage dive and the crowd was revived absorbing everything the boys from Fokofpolisiekar had to offer. A man, rather too elated, tried to follow the stage dive with his own, which ended quite suddenly with the parting of the crowd.

Next up was AWOLNATION, the first international act of the day. The first two songs did not bode well for the boys from California. The audience, still reeling from Fokofpolisiekar, needed more, so much more. But moments later the vibe changed and AWOLNATION delivered. The energy of these guys was off the charts. Frontman Aaron Bruno rolled around on the floor playing guitar, switching to drums and pretty much jumping around for the whole damn set.

By this time the sky was darkening and the heat dissipating. The rain came down against a backdrop of sporadic lightening and a foreground of Pestroy. The metal fans were undeterred and powered on by Pestroy and The Narrow, but it has to be said that The Narrow’s performance was spectacular. The crowd was eating up every riff and syllable that emanated from the stage. That was until you ran to the beer tent to discover that the only things left were Castle milk stout and Monster energy drinks. Not even a bottle of water to be seen and it was barely 20:00.

Regardless, no one was prepared for the immense crowd that would gather for In Flames. You know it’s going to be big, really big when you look back and see an ocean of people. No grass or beer tent, just people. There was pushing, shoving, people losing their minds trying to get in front and the people in front losing their minds protecting it. Even the MC got booed off stage with a collective “shut the f**k up” before he gave up on the rowdy crowd and retired for the night. After quite a long wait, while sound checks were done the moment arrived: everyone was about to witness the greatness of In Flames. Alas, they were great – but not brilliant. The sound was weak, even after the crowd pleaded for the mic to be turned up but their stage presence was phenomenal and die-hard fans were falling over themselves in elation.

The greatest part of RAMfest had to be Infected Mushroom. The crowd was a melting pot of leather arm bracers, baseball caps, thick soled boots and sneakers. It, in other words, was beautiful. The duo from Israel had the most eclectic set of the night, incorporating heavy riffs from guitarist Thomas Cunningham – who looked like a quirky young Slash minus the top-hat – which balanced out the heavy beat radiating through Riversands and all to the instruction of Amit Duvdevani using a drumstick to control the crowd.

Brutal heat, wet weather, some amazing acts, some disappointments and all worth it, until next year.

Photos: Brad Donald & JP Nathrass

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