These photos were originally published on my buddy Pete’s blog RISE. Head on over there and show him some support.
It’s not too often that international bands visit South Africa, let alone my city of Durban. Sure, we’ve had a few visits in the past from the likes of Alkaline Trio, Funeral For A Friend, Underoath and Billy Talent, but these visits usually only happen once a year. If you’re of the slightly older generation, then the shows of Deep Purple, Roxette, and…um… The Village People were probably more suited to your tastes (for the record, I was at all three of the aforementioned shows). Durban is often forsaken by promoters, and any visiting artists would predominantly jump between the larger cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town. However, Ramfest 2013 upped the ante by planning to bring not one, not two, but three large international bands. Right to the city of Durban. Bring Me The Horizon, Rise Against, and As I Lay Dying. All at one show? In my hometown? There was no doubt in my mind that I had to get a press pass for this event, and after some paperwork was filled out, I was accredited. Time to go.
Not so quick though. A few weeks before the show was even due to take place, we were informed that one of the international bands had decided to drop the tour. As I Lay Dying had “other commitments” to take care of, and wouldn’t be visiting. Needless to say, the social media shitstorm that followed was quite entertaining. The fact that vocalist Tim Lambesis was nailed for ordering a hit on his estranged wife a short while later made the whole situation just that extra bit more bizzare. However, the show must go on, and a local band was roped in to replace the now defunct As I Lay Dying.
The rules for taking photos were simple. You could stay in the photo pit for the full duration of the local bands performance, and shoot to your hearts content. But for the international bands, you had the first three songs to get your photos, with no flash allowed – The age old “three song rule”. With this is mind, I made an effort to arrive earlier to try and claim a spot in the photo pit, which I imagined would be full of other jostling photographers. Imagine my surprise then, when it was empty.
I had planned to maximise my time for the local bands to get used to the lighting setup, and find a system that worked well for not using any flash. My life was made a bit more complicated by the fact that I was shooting with two cameras (one of which I had never used in my life). A camera for close up macro shots, and another for wider angles. This, combined with the fact that there was very little margin for error made the whole experience a steep learning curve.
The first band for the night were local Durban punk rockers Lowprofile. Having watched them play for years in various bars and venues around Durban, it was almost surreal to see them opening for a selection of international bands. They have put some serious time in to the local music scene, and have certainly paid their dues to earn a spot on the line up – hell, they even used to play a Rise Against cover at some shows. I felt like a proud dad watching a local Durban band shred the stage, except I don’t know what it actually feels like to be a dad. Regardless, Lowprofile gave it their all to the ever increasing crowd, and no doubt had a few new fans by the time they played their final song.
Next up were Johannesburg based nu-metal act Pestroy. From the get go, I did feel a bit bad for them. As mentioned above, for months the line up had consisted of three international bands, and Pestroy had been roped in at the last minute to cover the void left by As I Lay Dying. This obviously left a few disgruntled members of the audience, but at least they were still getting the same amount of bands as promised by the organizers. While they put on a solid performance with their own blend of nu-metal, there was a heavy air of anticipation hanging around, since everyone knew what was going to happen once Pestroy had finished playing…
The stage lights were dim for a while after Pestroy had finished. The only thing to suggest what was about to go down was a “Flower Of Life” sticker visible on a laptop placed on stage. The sticker took the shape of a design on front of the new Bring Me The Horizon album. Usually, before a large headliner starts playing, there is some activity on stage to suggest that the band is about to start. A few guitar techs making sure that equipment is in working order, the odd sound check, and then the stage will go quiet for a bit. Not so for Sheffields finest.
Without so much as a slight warning, the sound of a heavy synthesizer boomed through the air, and Bring Me The Horizon took to the stage. Possibly the only thing louder than their music was the sound of girls having their teenage dreams fulfilled by screaming for frontman Oli Sykes. It was also at this time that many other photographers materialized out of thin air. Seriously? Where were you guys for the previous two bands? Dashing in-between the new arrivals, I tried to make the most of the three song limit, swopping between cameras as fast as my hands would allow me. I had been an average fan of BMTH over the years, but their live performance was on a whole new level. They didn’t miss a beat, and commanded the crowd with every note that was played. While many audience members were probably a bit disappointed that none of the “classics” were played (I’m looking at you, Count Your Blessings album), it was hard to not feel the energy from their performance.
Once Bring Me The Horizon rolled from the stage, there was only one artist left to take the stage. Rise Against have always been one of my favourite bands, providing a fair amount to the soundtrack of my life. Songs like “Give It All”, and “Paper Wings” will forever be engraved in my memory. To see Tim Mccilrath walk on stage to the opening bars of “Chamber The Cartridge” was almost surreal. Once I snapped back to reality and realized that I only had three songs to capture my intended photos, it was back to the previous game of dodging as many people as possible, while still trying to get your desired shot. What seemed like only seconds later, security were ushering us all back into the frenzied crowd. I spent the rest of the show watching from various points around the stage, and trying to sneakily use my zoom lens to capture a few extra photos, none of which I ended up using anyway.
And just like that, it was over. The last chords from “Give It All” rang out in to the audience, and Rise Against were gone. A childhood dream for many, fulfilled within an hour long set. All of their teenage awe and angst being unleashed during the sets, the crowd slowly started to disperse and begin the commute back to their respective homes.
Personally, what was the best part about all of this? You might think the fact that I was able to take photos of two of my favourite bands would win this competition. And you would nearly be right. But there was one thing that I never mentioned throughout all of this. The very next morning, I was on a flight to Johannesburg to watch it all over again – this time as a member of the audience.