Mayday(s) DIY Fest: Celebration of Music, Activism, and Friendship
A brief report from our first DIY festival in Sofia
We’d been expecting Mayday(s) DIY FEST like no other event this year. It’s been a week since the final punk chords were heard at Sofia’s social center Fabrika Avtonomia and we finally gathered our thoughts to put this report together.
Day 1: El Freegano, АБСТАКТ, Sawyer’s Clan, Cold Hate
It all started on May 1st, a symbolic day to remember the struggles of the late 19th century anarchists and the introduction of the eight-hour workday. In Bulgaria, May Day is still an official holiday to celebrate the International Workers’ Day. Used by both left and right-wing populists, it’s still extremely important to reclaim its original meaning and keep the flame of radical labour organizing and anti-authoritarian political resistance.
The DIY festival we organized for a first time this year, started around 4 pm on May Day with an informal discussion on modern day wage-labour, precarity, and the struggles the ordinary people and activists face in a climate of political crisis and neo-liberal economic policies. Around 30 participants from different activist collectives took part in the discussion after some of them have already organized various May Day related activities since the morning.
While the activist panel on May Day and labour struggles was being held inside the venue, a group of teenagers started to gather outside. It’s around 6 pm and it’s time for a movie screening. The whole venue was packed and we screened the 30-minute documentary And You Don’t Stop: Hip-Hop As Resistance by Submedia’s Trouble series.
This episode of Trouble traces back the radical history of hip-hop as a lifestyle firmly rooted in the daily struggles faced by oppressed people worldwide, and its subversive revolutionary potential today as part of a vibrant DIY and anarchist music scene. It was the first time the movie was screened with Bulgarian subtitles to the local crowd of metal, punk and hip-hop kids.
After listening to the inspiring interviews with revolutionary artists during the movie, it’s time for a passionate and punchy live set from our great friend and hip-hop artist El Freegano.
For many years he worked on the activist zine Katarzis, he was involved in skateboarding and now he’s living the freegan life at its finest in his hometown from where he’s promoting veganism, straight edge, anarchist ideals, and a more conscious way of living outside the constraints of the system. El Freegano is one of the most positive human beings we’ve had the chance to meet. His hip-hop music doesn’t take itself too serious but the messages are there for everybody who dares to hear and accept them.
The crowd absolutely loved El Freegano who passed the torch to АБСТАКТ, another hip-hop project from Bulgaria, whose music carries a plethora of ideas who are dear to our hearts. His music was harsher, his flow meaner and served as a great prelude to the hardcore bands that were on the bill next.
Sawyer’s Clan are coming all the way from Varna for this show. We’re pretty certain that’s also their first time at Fabrika Avtonomia in Sofia. A part of a new wave of hardcore kids who are playing death metal-influenced beatdown hardcore they are here with their whole crew and are ready for action.
We swear the venue hasn’t seen such a moshpit before. Spin kicks and people are flying all over the place. The band that’s on next, Sofia’s Cold Hate don’t spare their efforts and are boiling in the pit to support their friends. Nobody is hurt, nobody is frowning, on the contrary, the oldschool punks are smiling ear to ear on the sight of the young blood having fun and taking care of each other.
After a short break Cold Hate take the stage and finish what had already started. Their music is more hardcore leaning, two of their members are currently straight edge and maybe that’s something they’ll be able to pass on the people who care about their music.
Judging by the fact that all straight edge zines we printed for the shows disappeared in just a few minutes maybe that will be exactly the case. A great start to the festival and we’re sure the best is yet to come.
Day 2: Maze Hunters, Feedbacker, Hyenaz (DE), Pressor (RU), Hladna (RU)
The second day starts with a huge distro gathering of local labels Kontingent Records, Amek Collective and Ugly & Proud Records. Their output spans over anything from ambient, noise, punk, hardcore and metal, including local and foreign artists. They bring not only their current releases but also huge distro selections with music, books and zines from all over the world. A sign that this festival is not a typical show is that the crowd actually spends some time checking the stalls, supporting the labels, especially the bands who are on the line-up tonight.
While bands are setting up the stage, the crowd is already at the place and browsing not only through the hundreds of records and zines on the distro tables, but also the literature brought by the initiative “100 Years of Bulgarian Anarchist Federation” and the tables with free/pay-what-you-want political/feminist/animal liberation zines, records, and merch brought by DIY Conspiracy. Food Not Bombs is also here with some amazing vegan food to share.
Another thing that marks the second day of Mayday(s) DIY Fest is the news that our guests from Russia whom we’ve expected to arrive a day early had issues with their van and its repair cost them whopping €1000. We quickly spread the word online and to the people at the show so we ensure the donations we gather can contribute to this huge expense that can blacken any tour, especially a DIY one set up by bands from a country as Russia. We are more than proud to share that all bands refused to take money and all donations were indeed to help our friends in need. But before that let’s see how the night went.
First on are Maze Hunters. It’s the second time they play at Fabrika Avtonomia and they sound amazing. To be the first band on a bill of five is usually not an easy task but their pumped up punk-influenced indie rock with a lot of shoegaze and post-rock vibes makes a huge part of the crowd jump and dance right away.
An epic start to what’s going to be a long, long evening. Next on are the local DIY favorites Feedbacker who’d just come back from a record release tour with their mates Calf and Demikhov. They sound massive, people gather close, sing along and basically live and breathe the music of the power noise rock duo.
So glad to see after all the hard work Feedbacker are bringing more and more people to their show and expanding their well-deserved mini cult status. By the time Feedbacker are finishing off we see a pair of van headlights and our Russian guests are finally here. Despite all their struggles and troubles, they’re finally here and the crowd is cheering them up outside the venue.
The people come back inside where the stage is cleared, visualisations are on and Berlin-based queer experimental performance duo Hyenaz are on. They are dancing, singing, smashing gender/sexuality norms while interacting with the audience, and are basically boiling on stage for over 40 intense minutes. Their music moves from ambient, to techno to twisted wave with tribal and performative elements and stunning visuals. An absolutely killer set!
Despite all the misfortunes with the band on the road, it’s time for the first notes of Pressor to fill in the space. These Russians are heavy, psychedelic and soul-pumping. They present a pretty unique take on stoner rock that pours fresh energy into the already exhausted audience who stayed way after midnight on a working day to support the band who’s basically went through hell to make this show happen. Brilliant set from Pressor that leaves everyone speechless.
While people pile on their merch stand after the set, it’s almost 2 am but we have more surprises for the night.
The ritual ambient noise act Hladna quietly sets up. Their are the last performance for the night and the most appropriate one to mark the end of Day 2. The last time we saw Hladna in Sofia was 10 years ago and we briefly chat about that with them before they drown us in their wall of shamanic ambient noise.
Ritual vocals, drones of bowed guitar and noisescapes from DIY instruments are only a tiny part of the beautiful, harsh and mesmerising sonic amalgam that their music is. Drained but happy we call it a day.
Day 3: Debazzer, Artificial Comet, Razgruha, The Truth (SRB/CRO), Addenda (CAT)
Extremely tired from the long and heavy show last night, we came for the third day of the festival. Our friends Debazzer and Artificial Comet from Ruse are already waiting us in front of the venue and ready for tonight’s action. They’ve come all the way from their hometown bringing their backline and excited to play at the festival.
Debazzer are first with their unique style incorporating punk spirit with electro-synth and dub-influenced music. Their set is fun, inspiring, and they manage to make all their live collaborations with local artists such as El Freegano, Snoxa (ex-Scroletics) and Ico Dark, who all came to the festival. During their set we’ve got a message from our friends from The Truth and Addenda that they have problems on the road. Flat tires and hours of waiting on the Turkish border means that they will arrive around 10 pm the earliest. Bad luck for touring bands again!
The weather outside the venue is nice and we have a nice chat with all the friends around, some of whom we haven’t seen for ages. This time there’s also a non-alcoholic beer provided by our friends from Fabrika Avtonomia and we have a straight edge circle infiltrating the beer-drinkers around the venue.
It’s around 9 pm already and Artificial Comet bring a large crowd inside, ranging from young skateboarding and pop-punk kids to the older hardcore punk generations. Featuring members of old bands like Counterfit and Spot, these guys are still our local favorites and amazing people. Their set is just a blast, fast and melodic racket of punk-rock with political message in the veins of early Propagandhi, Strike Anywhere, and Good Riddance. Everyone is dancing, jumping and cheering up the band on each and every song. Amazing!
Everyone’s happy and the night is going great. The local underground hip-hop hero АБСТАКТ, who played during the first day of the festival, comes on stage and makes a surprising set while the next band is setting up their backline. Four hard-hitting political raps and it’s time for the first chords of Razgruha.
Razgruha are brutal, heavy and devastating. Political grindcore at its best from these local legends. Circle-pits, moshing, and impro stage-diving all around the place. The venue is once again like a boiling pot and the old school grindcore and hardcore punk tonight are blasting through all directions.
It’s the middle of Razgruha’s set and our friends on tour finally dropped anchor in front of the venue. They see the action going on inside where Razgruha are making a song with АБСТАКТ. More hip-hop and hardcore/grindcore collaboration for tonight.
The Truth‘s guitarist, Vojkan, grabbed the mic for a spoken word performance. He used to make an hour long lecture on how punks in all ex-Yugoslavia areas organised to oppose the wars in the region during the 90s. Because of the late arrival, his spoken word was reduced to just a 15-minutes introduction but many people were interested to continue the conversation after the show.
Without any sound or even line-checks, The Truth started right away. Fast, angry and straight-forward hardcore punk with tons of energy. Their short and energetic set was applauded by the audience and felt just at the right place for a DIY punk festival. The band sharing members from both Serbia and Croatia share the same passion for booking DIY shows, publishing fanzines and being involved in the activist side of things.
People want more songs. It’s time for a Minor Threat cover. Everyone’s sweaty and it feels great to be part of all this. Addenda are ready to start almost immediately. They are a fastcore/powerviolence trio based in Barcelona.
Their set is short, loud and full of silly jokes in between the songs. Bad Religion cover in the end. A great atmoshphere to wrap up this exhausting three-day celebration of DIY culture that we organized for a first time this year.
Thank you to everyone who showed up and became part of this. The community and the DIY spirit are still alive. We’ve made a lot of new friends and we’re ready to come up with new ideas on how to strenghten our bonds even more in a time when people desperately need something to hold on to.
Thanks to Darina Kokonova, Kamen Vasilev, and Viktor Emilov for the nice pictures! All the bands were great and we couldn’t make anything without the help of all the collectives involved to make this happen.