In a time when we’re fed up of all kind of musical festivals where countless of bands are playing for the sake of mere entertainment, the words of Crass that punk has become “another cheap product for the consumer’s head” sound more accurate than ever. Although there are still those who understand the values of DIY hardcore punk in a much broader and radical sense, putting into practice the values of horizontality and autonomy to form the basis of new social relationships. And the second edition of the DIY Fest Nijmegen took place from May 1st to 3rd 2015 as a joyous celebration of radical culture and activism.
To be honest, this was my first time in the Netherlands and after spending a couple of days in Amsterdam I arrived in Nijmegen to meet old friends and find a like-minded community of people who are just as passioned about hardcore punk and antiauthoritarian organizing as I am. And what a better way to explore the city than marching on the streets as participating in a Mayday demonstration for the International Workers’ Day. Around 300 people gathered on the square in front of the central train station to participate in the demo organized by the Anarchistische Groep Nijmegen and some other collectives. Unlike previous years, as the people told me, when the police beaten up the people and didn’t let them do the march at all, this time everything went smooth and the crowd walked all the way throughout the city shouting anticapitalsit slogans in a festive atmosphere. The march stopped at several key places so different groups and organizers could give speeches on topics of education, health, migration and labour. There were also Turkish and Kurdish activists who raised their voices in solidarity with the fighters in Rojava and the thousands of people demonstrating at the same time on Taksim square in Istanbul.
The demo ended up in De Grote Broek, the huge social center, which was squatted in 1984 to provide an autonomous space for various initiatives. Probably a hundred of people that took part in the demo came to De Klinker where they were all served delicious vegan dinner in an atmosphere of solidarity. After dinner there was an acapella performance of a local folk collective who were singing songs in Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, Armenian, Polish, Turkish and Romanian language.
Then me and many other people went downstairs to De Onderbroek, a DIY hardcore punk venue on the opposite side of the house that’s been part of Grote Broek since its early days. The first band to play was Rivers Run Dry from Budapest. They are really great folks who play the style of hardcore punk that you can hear being called neo-crust. Their set was really tight and the sound was great, actually the sound guy made a perfect job during the whole 3 days of the festival. If you like outright political hardcore in the veins of Catharsis and Tragedy, you should check Rivers Run Dry.
The second band to play at this year’s DIY Fest was Gattaca from Czech Republic. Just a few minutes after we were talking loudly and having a laugh with the Czech comrades my smile was completely erased and I felt so miserable, isolated and blown out by the massive sound of Gattaca. Their set was intense and I wasn’t aware of anything else but their music and the deep emotions it transmitted. Get their new LP as soon as possible and don’t miss the chance to see one of the best political DIY bands in Europe right now.
The next band to play was Strafplanet from Austria who received a great admiration from the crowd but because I was already emotionally drained and hungry after seeing Gattaca I was staying at the back of the room eating food leftovers, not giving the attention the band actually deserved. However, I’ve already seen them in Amsterdam before coming to the DIY Fest. Check them out if you like noisy and spastic crust/powerviolence.
And then it came this special moment when Remek had their 15 minutes (or I don’t have any idea how much they played) of sheer passion. It was definitely Remek’s set and their singer’s screams and uncontrolled convulsions on the floor that made me realize how much I love this music and why I actually flew those thousands of kilometers to see bands such as Remek. It’s amazing to listen to bands like Pg.99 or Orchid on vinyl at home but it’s like getting out of your comfort zone and being part of the current DIY scene with bands like Remek and that’s what really counts in the end of the day.
During the second day there were some interesting workshops and talks at De Klinker where there was a big info table of the Anarchist Black Cross Vienna while the radical Dutch hacker collective PUSCII were educating people on cryptography and internet security. However, I spent most of the day in the kitchen as a volunteer in the cooking collective. Cooking 3-course vegan dinner for 70 people, 6 bands and one acoustic singer/songwriter was a lot of fun! Actually the singer/songwriter’s stage name was Old Seed and he played at De Klinker in the afternoon. He was definitely my biggest discovery on the festival playing not just amazing songs but also having a serious laugh when he was talking in between the songs. Great voice and awesome songs, if you like the music of Rocky Votolato, Chuck Ragan, etc. and I’m sure you do, then you should check this guy out.
The food was ready just on time for dinner and when the people finished their meals the bands were ready to play. The second day of the festival started right on time again and it’s astonishing to see such a thing when you’re used to go to shows that start with hours and hours of delay. It was 20:30 and Zerum played first. Dark hardcore crust reminding us that the end is near but who’s gonna survive and who’s gonna pay the toll of destroying our own planet?
Lentic Waters played right after them and you should already know how great this German band is. I was feeling similar to how I felt during Gattaca the previous day and would recommend you to check out Lentic Water’s split with Old Soul right away.
Another German band called Finisterre played next and they’re pretty well known name in the European hardcore punk scene. Their set was tight as expected and their singer Manuela was not just talking the usual stuff about feminism, anarchism, etc. but sharing long personal stories one of which was pretty intense and made quite some people burst into tears.
It was time to take some fresh air because after that it was time for another German band. Jungbluth destroyed the place with their intense sound and passionate message. The place was absolutely packed but there were stage-divings and people went crazy from the first to the last second of their set. The band was honoured to play the festival again after the first DIY Fest back in 2014. Jungbluth was definitely a highlight of the festival and definitely is one of the best live bands at the moment.
As you can guess the next band was also from Germany. If you don’t know Svffer already, be prepared for some venomous grinding powerviolence hardcore that will make you lose yourself in complete insanity. One of the most ferocious bands I’ve ever seen.
Sweaty and brain damaged after the ferocious set of Svffer it was time for amaaazing vegan cakes and sweets from Boiling Point that were served in solidarity with some great political projects. And the last band for the night was Ruined Families from Athens, Greece. One of my favorite bands that will make you jump and cry and burst out in emotion. Fucking amazing!
During the night there were also (as the previous night) different dance parties throughout De Onderbroek raising money for political prisoners. The atmosphere was great and it was so easy to socialize with awesome people.
The food on the third day was also delicious and the bands started right on time again. There were a lot of great records, merch, literature and whatnot in the distro tables but I already spent all my money in Fort Van Sjakoo in Amsterdam, so I left just with a few patches from the festival.
The first band to play was Dawn Ray’d from the UK. They still don’t have any recorded material so the only way to hear them is to catch them live. It’s a band formed by ex-members of We Came Out Like Tigers and it was great to talk with their singer Simon about this new project. Their music is still black-metal influenced screamo with a violin, if you liked WCOLT then you’ll definitely love Dawn Ray’d. I’m so excited to hear their recorded material when it comes out…
The next band was Lawine who are all inhabitants of the Grote Broek / Onderbroek community and it was time for playing some music after organizing, cooking, cleaning, dealing with bands and making this whole festival happen for these past 3 days. Their singer shared her feedback on the festival and how Remek was the greatest band, which have played so far and the way they made her feel during their set. She also talked a lot about politics and bringing the passion and ideas outside of the squats and concert rooms into the real life, building alternatives and fighting the structures of power and authority. Of course, the drummer of Lawine, who is the main figure behind organizing the DIY Fest was also very passionately playing this gig. You could see and feel the energy.
The two-piece Ast was next with their blend of post-hardcore with black-metal elements. Great sound and if you’d like to hear some comparisons to influential and popular bands I would say Deafheaven. Although I’m so happy that only European and totally underground bands played that festival.
The last band to hear at this year’s DIY Festival in the Dutch town of Nijmegen was Thränenkind who presented themselves as Vegan Straight Edge Post-Metal. From post-rock to melodic death and black metal they played haunting music with a serious message…
Taking part in such a festival (because DIY is not about just being a spectator, but also a part of everything that’s happening) makes you think how valuable your time is. Sharing awesome vegan meals, having conversations and making connections with a like-minded community of people is great. Thanks to Erik, Hans and all the people involved in De Grote Broek and this great festival. Hopefully this piece of writing is worth something for the bands and the people who participated in all this. See ya soon.
P.S. May 1st rules – Anarchy is Great!