Fluff Fest 2014 Highlights
Another year, another Fluff Fest...
Fluff Fest is an annual DIY hardcore punk festival taking place at the airfield in the small Czech town of Rokycany, near Plzeň. Here you won’t find any corporate sponsorship, big metal bands, barriers in front of the stage or security guards. I’m going every year since 2007 and I used to write a similar report last year that didn’t happen because I was hitchhiking from Sofia to Rokycany and missed the whole first day + half of the second day of the festival. This time I went on time not only for Fluff but also for the matinée in Prague on Thursday. So here’s my report, highlights, rants and whatever about Fluff 2014…
Pre-Fluff Hardcore Matinée
After a long ride from Budapest (because we got lost while trying to get out of the Hungarian capital) where we slept the night before, we arrived in Prague just in the middle of the Kids Insane‘s set, the first band for day playing at the Pre-Fluff Hardcore Matinée. Most of the people were still chilling out in the park around the venue, Café Na Půl Cesty is a small house just inside the central park at Prague’s neighborhood Pankrac. The weather was pretty hot and, as usual, there was a nice vegan BBQ or (vegan, of course) ice-cream in front of the café. But then I found out that the better food was to be served inside the venue and it’s called Vegebap! For €2 you get this really huge bap full of fake meat, vegetables and veggie mayo. Great pleasure to be finally in Prague after 2 days of traveling with a car, eating Vegebap and watching Kids Insane from Israel playing their fast but yet melodic hardcore punk in front of kids from all over the world!
The next band for the day was Under Bad Eyes from Curitiba, Brazil, who also turned out to be really amazing people when I talked with them after their set. You should definitely check them out if you’re into melodic hardcore ala Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, etc. They play short, catchy and memorable songs. Their bass player was an awesome dude, who couldn’t speak English at all but was staying front stage for every single band during the Fluff Fest and was really enjoying it. The next in line was Rooftops from Moscow but I’ve decided to socialize outside and enjoy the sunny day in the park. FOCUSEDxMINDS, a SXE youth crew sounding band from the States were originally not in the bill but their show in Budapest was canceled. They were a great surprise for many people but I wasn’t that much impressed. The name that I was excited for was I AM A CURSE from France and they are promoting their new record. The French guys were intense as usual but their set was not that great due to some technical difficulties.
The long awaited oversea band for the day was Test of Time, a straight edge band from Boston (!) featuring the famous hardcore punk photographer Todd Pollock (vocals), James from The Effort on guitar and other notable people from the Boston hardcore scene. The guys from the USA announced a stage-diving contest with free vegan ice-cream for the winner, played some of their explosive hardcore songs about drug-free living and vegetarian lifestyle, and then… played a set of Minor Threat cover songs! There’s no need to tell you what followed in the packed and sweaty room.
Although the band that was really the highlight of the day was called Minority of One and they come from Spain! The tiny space of Café Na Půl Cesty was packed and the kids went crazy during their set, there was moshing, dancing, stage-diving, and big smiles on all the young faces sharing the passion for hardcore and punk music, DIY ethics and progressive politics. Minority of One were nailing one after another their melodic youth anthems and then killed it with covers of Uniform Choice and NOFX.
Appraise was the other Spanish (or actually Catalunyan) band playing that show and they were also great, at least if you think it’s great to see a passionate youth crew band that put meaning in their lyrics and not just sing the same old clichés typical for that style of hardcore music. Yeah, Appraise is one of the few youth crew bands that I enjoy seeing live.
The closing act for that show was Gab De La Vega from Brescia, Italy. Gab is a well-known name in the European DIY hardcore punk scene being the man behind Epidemic Records and frontman of The Smashrooms, though his solo acoustic project is also great. He is singing his songs about social justice, political resistance and animal liberation with such a passion that everyone was steadfast in the room enjoying his performance.
After the show it was time for more talks, jokes and excitement for the next days to come. We were looking forward for Gab to pack his merch and drive after him to Rokycany where we arrived around 1 after midnight.
Fluff Fest: Day 1
The Friday morning started with shopping/shoplifting, great breakfast, some time at the swimming pool, checking out the millions of distros, activist tents and then watching the first act for the day – Italian screamo band Volta who were quite good. It was getting really hot outside and inside the tent stage, Deadverse (I thought they were Bastions) played their upbeat hardcore, sung in a great manner by their singer touching us with amazing stage presence and priceless British accent. I missed Gulfer because was standing impatiently in front of the main stage where the first band was going to be Mort! Mort! Mort! (ex-Aussitôt Mort), a band I’m pretty familiar with but they also turned out to be my biggest disappointment at Fluff Fest. With a significant line-up changes and a new name the band wasn’t that good as it used to be when I’ve seen them before, especially comparing to Fluff Fest 2012 where they were one of the best bands on the whole festival. They played some of their old songs, some new ones but as I said, I wasn’t impressed at all. The next band on the mainstage was a complete surprise for me, Thränenkind from Germany who play post-metal band with eco-anarchist, anti-civ, vegan straightedge lyrics and message. It was quite good…
Then I missed Sugartown Cabaret to see another French band instead, and it was totally worth it! It was time to have some fun with SPORT from Lyon who play the best indie-rockish melodic punk-rock I’ve ever heard. I have to admit I was listening to their “Bon Voyage” and “Colors” records every single day since the beginning of this season and they’re definitely the soundtrack of Summer 2014 for me! It was fucking amazing and not just for me but also for all the people singing, dancing and stage-diving with them. It was also probably the most memorable show they’ve ever played (they also played at Fluff Fest last year but on the open stage rather than the mainstage).
On the tentstage Appraise and Rooftops that I’ve already heard in Prague, but on the mainstage Hierophant that sound like hell!!! I was left speechless after their set. Bow down to the Devil who possessed this band! Beyond Pink was the next band on the mainstage and they were flawless. Girls and boys dancing together to the rhythms of the awesome all-girl and all-fun hardcore punk band. Then immediately running to the tentstage to catch Old Soul from the USA, definitely a highlight for me at this year’s edition of Fluff Fest. The beast was unleashed and Old Soul took my poor young soul and left me breathless.
Again on the mainstage where Heaven In Her Arms were about to play. Waiting… and then the Japanese guys started to play… charming, beautiful, passionate music touching the audience on many different levels…
Headliners for the day were Mean Season, the legendary 90’s hardcore band coming from Orange County, Californa. The influential band was active during 1992 and 1996, now almost two decades later I’m seeing them live at Fluff Fest. I tried to not think about it and just dive into their music whatever they may sound like now. And it was one of the greatest reunions I’ve ever seen. The band was great on stage, the songs were tight and powerful… Slayer cover… feeling great for hearing, feeling and moshing to one of the living legends of political hardcore that was a main influence for some of my favorite bands like Gather or 7 Generations. I don’t care what other people will say about Mean Season at Fluff, I really enjoyed their set and seeing this band will stay in my mind for a long time after.
Two more bands at the tentstage, Lentic Waters are totally great band and it’s a pleasure seeing them every time possible, powerful and moving music and the songs from their new split with Old Soul are just amazing! Then Test of Time hitting the final nail for Friday’s hardcore punk schedule with their explosive set and then again the Minor Threat jamboree!!! Amazing end of the day… or no, because there’s still D.I.S.C.O. parties, Queer tent with electro-punk and all kind weird art, noises, and total fun!
Fluff Fest: Day 2
Saturday morning at the swimming pool. Brothers And Sisters In Crime (B.A.S.I.C.) playing vegan straightedge anthems on the island? Yeah, people island diving and singing together “vegan straight edge, or no straight edge at all!” If you haven’t been there, and you’re not a vegan straight edge warrior you can’t get that part of my report…
Then running back to the camp site to not miss Deer In The Headlights, awesome crusty screamo band from Banja Luka, Bosnia! They are wholeheartedly real skramz and they’re awesome, check them out! Check them out!
Next bands on the tentstage not so important because I’m hanging out at the Landverraad merch tent, me and their singer Marina writing a birthday wishes on a Landverraad patch because that day my friend in Sofia has a birthday! The other folks from the band are selling lottery tickets on a donation price, all money goes to their arrested friends in Amsterdam. 11 people in prison for squatting a house and setting 11 police cars on fire! I’m leafleting about the arrested Dutch people, Fluff goers come in and buy tickets for the Landverraad lottery! Group of punx who seem like Pussy Riot are hanging a banner on one of the festival site’s walls that say “Antifascism is not a crime”, it’s about solidarity with arressted antifascists around Europe #soli2401 and taking a stance against state repressions and the rising of neo-Nazis ugly face everywhere. Josef was released after six months in Wien’s prison, but the injustices all around Europe still continue.
Reka from Russia playing on the mainstage, then I AM A CURSE from France, both bands are fucking great! Eaglehaslanded from Serbia on the openstage. I don’t stay for ACxDC on the mainstage, because Carnist play at the same time in the tent. Alex is one of the most amazing persons in the hardcore punk scene, known for his bands Fall of Efrafa, Light Bearer, Momentum… With Carnist they’re all about veganism, animal liberation and exposing the invisible belief system called carnism that justifies exploiting, killing and eating certain animal species.
Remek from Czech Republic is a band that I hold dear to my heart and they play and sing their hearts, souls and minds on the stage. Guitar player Honza has a birthday and if you’re curious how the band is wishing a happy birthday to him you should watch the following video…
Minority of One are once again proving they’re such an awesome band, great set, so much fun, mad props to them! I really love this band now. I don’t stay for the next bands on the tentstage – Throwers, FOCUSEDxMINDS and Øjne, though they’re good bands, especially the Italian skramzters.
Trainwreck, Goodtime Boys and Vestiges are what I’m interested in on the mainstage. The first one produced one of the best records of 2014 and have always been a crushingly good band, so I’d love to see them again and again. The second one I remember from their tour with Dangers in 2011, and the third one is definitely The band I’m eagerly waiting to see at this year’s Fluff Fest. They don’t disappoint me, Vestiges are monsters not only on recordings but also on stage. Massive sound and slaying performance.
My mind was blown from WTF I’ve just seen from Vestiges but it’s time to go back again on the tentstage for Landverraad. Putting the fun back in anarchism… short songs, long speeches. Disco party, punx lottery with happy people winning toilet seats, toy helicopters, bluetooth speakers or a blender for their raw vegan juices. Kids are going crazy with stage-diving and the culmination being a Beastie Boys cover. One of the best moments of this year’s Fluff was definitely the Landverraad set.
Celeste is the total opposite of Landverraad. Darkness, smoke and blitzkrieg drums making the projectors dazzle the audience. The sound of the the world and all humanity being destroyed. I couldn’t stand that music for more than 5 minutes and left to take a breath of fresh air outside, take something to eat and wait for Avvika to play on the so called psych stage. Taking influences from Fall of Efrafa and Light Bearer and giving them even more radical twist, the Czech band Avvika was one of the best surprises I’ve seen on the festival.
Star Wars themed cupcakes, more vegan fast food, Queer Fluffy Noises Tent and the greatest DISCO party at Fluff were the other highlights of this day and night…
Fluff Fest: Day 3
Going to the pool at 9 am with 30 bananas in my totebag was a great idea in the last sunny hours before the rain tried to drown us at the festival space. Staying at the swimming pool for 3 and a half hours was great, then going to see Ruined Families from Greece who played first on Sunday. They are amazing people and one of the best bands in the world right now! I’ve never seen Orchid live but I’ve seen Ruined Families several times, and they’re better! I LOVE RUINED FAMILIES!
Lawine played second, melodic and political punk-rock from the Netherlands featuring members of Landverraad. Really nice band. Nice talks between the songs, totally DIY punk attitude. Just For Being from Czech Republic played on the tentstage, some nice bands on the psych stage. And then the rain came down in torrents, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the poor fluff campers tents. The rain in biblical proportions made the festival only more interesting. This Routine Is Hell, really great band if you don’t know already, was the first band to play on the open stage, then Empty Handed that I missed… unfortunately I missed also Amalthea from Sweden, a band I wanted to see…
Barren from Germany were great, 90’s sounding vegan straightedge hardcore band, very energetic and totally worth it message-wise.
We Came Out Like Tigers was one of my favorite bands this year, I missed them when they played Fluff last year but this time they were on the mainstage and it was a great experience. Blackened screamo with meaningful lyrics and the unusual use of fiddle in their songs. They seems amazing people and great band, and they’re touring together with Ruined Families…
Drom from CZ were cool but then there was TØRSÖ who were fucking incredible! I can’t describe the intensity and madness in Torso, they’re great on recordings and absolutely fantastic live.
Then there was time for No Omega on the mainstage. They parted ways with the former singer and now after some line-up changes now Oscar is singing. It’s also good and they have some new songs, but I was kinda disappointed. Not so good as before with their original singer.
Backtrack were super boring to me. It seems I wasn’t at Fluff Fest to listen to Backtrack or any other band like that.
It was weird to watch D.O.A., the living legends and the “founders” of hardcore music. You know, the Canadian guys who “invented” the term hardcore back in the late 70’s, early 80’s. It was really weird, I don’t know what to say about their set, songs about political subjects, marijuana, old school punk-rock attitude. Their singer thought they were the headliners of the festival and that there was no other band playing after them… and probably have never heard of Bane. Hope they’ve learned something from Fluff (they probably have been playing lots of shitty festivals all over the world throughout the years but now they ate vegan food and met many cool DIY kids at Fluff, or at least what I want to believe). Anyway, D.O.A. played Fluff and that’s enough.
And then… ta-da-da-dam! Bane coming back to Fluff Fest. Timeless classics including “Count Me Out” and new songs from their last record “Don’t Wait Up”. Everything’s in its place, people moshing and stage-diving from first to last second of their intensive set, Aaron Bedard talking inspirational talks about hardcore scene being a place for rejects and passionate kids from all over the world. Bane’s music and lyrics as a vehicle to make a change in this fucked up world. Probably you’ll read or hear about Bane’s performance at Fluff Fest from many other people, so I’ll just stop here.
Bane played their last song at Fluff Fest and probably they’re not coming back to this festival again.
HOLY, the political powerviolence band from Italy play on the tenstage and they were brutal. Thanks Fluff Fest for inviting such bands as TORSO and HOLY!!! Great finish for this year’s festival.
In these 3 days of Fluff Fest there were also some rad experimental/indie/noise bands and artists on the psych stage: Batalj, Guantanamo Party Program, Hissing Fauna, Kiss Me Kojak, Obelisk of Light, Les Rhinocéros and many more. It’s always great to see so many underground artists that I’ve never heard before, especially the ones from Czech Republic and Slovakia.
There were amazing bands, many old friends, some new friendships, nice memories. This year there was absolutely no camping on stage and almost no photographers at all.
Unfortunately there weren’t any interesting events in the Infoshop tent, or at least not in English. While last year Brian D. (CrimethInc./Catharsis) was speaking about the contemporary anarchist movement, Greg Bennick of Trial/Between Earth And Sky was giving directions to anyone interested in starting a hardcore band how to be a better singer or write meaningful lyrics, this time all the lectures, workshops and political discussions seemed to be in Czech language only. On the other hand there was a zine library that was very well organized.
The food was still tasty but it was mainly junk food in my opinion. For a person like me who is into high-carb low-fat vegan diet all these tofuburgers, seitan, french fries and white bread were a nightmare. I hope there will be more high carb and healthy food next time.
And there were of course the usual assholes hurting other people in the pit and stage-diving like complete morons. The assholes who make the festival and camping area look like a landfill, who smoke at the tentstage, or who ruin other people’s fun in any other way. There were also “punx” making fire and grilling meat (dead animals) near my tent, big FUCK YOU to you, guys!
Props to all the kids hitchhiking, coming to Fluff for a very first time, having fun, reading zines in the zine library, dancing at the Queer tent, buying zines from Max and Staffan, giving free hugs, learning new words in Czech language or many interesting things about different people, cultures and places around the world… And thanks to Georgi Tanmazov for the videos.