Mosh pits and mayhem, walls of death and screamed-out breaths. The zenith of hard rock and metal festivals happened in Pretoria on 2 September. It saw local artists and two international acts gather to showcase their talents and give headbangers a reason to emerge. With electrifying performances and a rabid crowd dressed for every hardcore genre under the sun, it was the place to be. The drinks and food were flowing to replenish the crowd, and the dual-stage system meant there was never a break in the action. And, for those that needed a breather, there were seat areas at the back (though they got such little use).
Yet, the real excitement happened up close to the stage, as just behind those going ballistic on the front railings, the others could mosh to their delight. As far as the acts were concerned, everyone was spoiled for choice. Every single band deserved to have their name highlighted here, but these were a few of PDBY’s favourite performances from the event.
Man As Machine
The alternative rock band from Johannesburg came out in the blistering heat and brought everyone to their feet. Usually, being the first act deters many artists, but Man As Machine made sure to give it their all. In the end, they got a chant from the early fans for one more song, to which they responded with their latest hit and gave the event the start it needed.
Right after Man As Machine, the Doom and Shroom metal band took to the stage. Within the first few girthy distorted riffs, the entire crowd found themselves captivated. Soon, heads were being banged-up and down, left and right, in every direction- imaginable and the event exploded to life. They rocked the crowd as their heavy sound enveloped everything, the perfect way to get everyone into the spirit of the festival.
To kick the festival into high gear, the metalcore talent brought their famed ferocity to the stage as they sent the crowd into a frenzy. Limbs were thrown as their brutal vocals forced action to be taken. Yet, they also called for a women-only mosh to give every female metal lover a chance to partake in the ritual without fear of being trampled. With their blood-pumping performance, the precedent was set for the rest of the night.
Self-described as a “Rock & Roll band served with a teaspoon of psychedelia”, this band brought a setlist infused with hints of several genres and incredible vocal harmonies to a crowd that was charged up for a great performance. Shoes were coming off, hair was taken down, scrunchies were tossed to the wind!
Facing the Gallows
Then, the Johannesburg hardcore metal band came and blew the roof off the stage with a performance that can only be summed up as apocalyptically feral. The immediate intensity they came out with meant the crowd bought in with every scream. The walls of death and multiple mosh pits were borderline a pagan experience for those who took part. Facing the Gallows even introduced their newest member on drums at the festival. In the end, they were the final local metal act to perform and set a high bar for the international act to follow them.
With the German atmospheric post-metal juggernaut The Ocean as the next act it could only get better. They had the entire crowd eating out of their palms as they soon consumed everything around them with their performance. The lighting, effects and heavy mood perfectly complemented their music. Having their lead singer crowd surf and wrap himself in the South African flag also helped capture the heart of every attendant. The Ocean made it clear why they were the last act on their stage, as no one could follow their performance.
What an electrifying finale! Imagine a perfect blend of psych rock, metal and techno, coupled with incredible musical skill and punchy lyrics (when you could make out what they were past the cheering of the crowd). The final performance of the night, Enter: Shikari managed to deliver a performance so captivating that it revitalised the crowd and had them begging for an encore, “we want more, we want more, we want more!”
For those wanting a quiet sit-down experience, this was very much not the festival for you. There were three options for every attendee to choose from. Head bang from a safe distance, enter the mosh, or ride the railings. Every other option is nothing more than a breather. Though the food and drinks at the back for these breathers was a pleasant spot to be. Here, all walks of life gathered to converse, and if you had a sharp eye, you might have spotted some of the acts mingling with the fans. It had a wonderful accepting energy for anyone on the rock spectrum, and even during those hectic mosh pits, if someone fell, they would be lifted to their feet in an instant. Because everyone was there to go ballistic in the wildest but most considerate way possible.
The bathrooms were all the way in the back, so if you had to excuse yourself, it meant missing a good portion of an act’s performance. Then, there was also the classic festival trap that so many stepped in and ignored the famed words of wisdom. That is, to keep an eye on your spending as you can rack up quite the tally in a very short time. Also, if you lost your friends in the crowd, it meant either entering the fray or resigning yourself to randomly stumbling upon them some other time.
In the end, there was something for everyone, and one thing was made apparent: the return of Ramfest after the pandemic was a blazing success, and everyone should look forward to a bigger and better one to come. Put on your fishnet tights and band tees, and practice your rhythmic headbang now!