Here we go again. As the tradition goes, the last week of July is reserved for traveling to Czechia where the annual Fluff Fest brings together a diverse crowd of passionate souls from all over the world. Kids like us, who deeply believe in the positive, socially-progressive and always norm questioning values of the international DIY punk community.
This year, as it’s the festival’s 20th anniversary, Fluff was arguably the most commented topic within our close-knit group of hardcore punk nerds. The rumors and gossip surrounding the festival were actually getting out of proportion the sooner we got to the start. The extension of the festival to include a bunch of official Fluff shows in Prague, the €60 entry, and especially 2019’s line-up that was so much different than what we used to expect for so many years… In a way, Fluff felt weird this time but it turned out to be great again anyway.
However, this is not supposed to be a rant or a feature about Fluff Fest. It’s about another growing tradition. It takes place in Prague right before the festival, and it’s supposed to be happening for a ninth year in a row! I still remember the first time when I went to the unofficial Pre-Fluff Hardcore Matinee—or so called Pavel’s Fest—at Café Na půl cesty, this tiny but really cute DIY venue in the middle of the park located in Prague’s Pankrac neighborhood.
This was in 2011, some top-notch hardcore bands were put on the bill and the small space inside was shortly filled with a real hardcore energy and passion. Especially, the Stay Hungry set, which we’ll all never forget when talking about these shows. Now, we still have the same vibes that make us want to go again and again. The Star Wars-inspired poster, pay-what-you-want donation for the bands, amazing vegan food and especially meeting so many friends who care about all the important things and are trying to change the world.
Once again, thanks to Pavel Nezval (Slave X One DIY shows) for putting up this event, especially when most of the bands this year were not playing at Fluff!
This Thursday was a really hot day in Prague, but it was a beautiful walk beside a river, chilling out in one of the city’s botanical gardens and doing some sightseeing. When we arrived at Na půl cesty, with my new friend from Chile, we were right on time for the opening band, which was Jodie Faster from Lille, France.
There were already a bunch of people inside the venue, as well as some others lying on the grass in the park outside. I’ve never heard of Jodie Faster before, so I was eager to catch their short songs. I used to know a lot of fast bands from France like Strong As Ten, Thrashington D.C., Ken Park, or Charogne Stone, so I’m trilled to check them out! Fastcore is still a thing and I regret not having a skateboard anymore. Great energy and a lot of fun!
Jodie’s short set is over, the straight edge kids are starting to show up and put Xs on their hands. This is one of the reasons I feel so great in a place like this! You know, I’m coming from a place where the number of straight edge kids could be counted on hands. I don’t care if all youth crew-inspired bands sound the same, and I don’t care if the lyrics and attitude may seem a bit hilarious to an outsider. Straight Edge is here to stay.
There are two straight edge bands from Chile and one from Brazil playing at the gig today! This is the place where I can see kids with X’d up hands like in no any other place where I’d usually go.
Desencadenar from Santiago are standing hard and make everybody move. Their style is similar to bands like Chain of Strength, Ten Yard Fight, In My Eyes, etc. Their set is super tight and we’re lucky to see that South American bands can still make it to Europe.
Wake of Humanity
Seattle’s Wake of Humanity are up next with their metallic hardcore assault tackling on a lot of political, environmentalist and interpersonal issues. Their music is like a thunderstorm and the singer, Chris LaPointe, makes bold statements against racism, rape culture and animal suffering.
The sound, however, is not that good and the mic is constantly breaking up. It’s not Wake of Humanity’s best set I’ve seen so far but they always have a lot of food for thought and crushing metallic riffs to offer. I’m sure that most of the people enjoyed their set that day anyway.
Ever since that first show with Anchor and Stay Hungry here in 2011, there are always the bands from Sweden to make the most memorable sets. However, this time we’ve had only Disavow from Gothenburg to represent the Scandinavian scene.
Featuring ex-members of bands like Anchor, Gust, Oak and Painted Wolves, this vegan straight edge force is spreading the hardcore reality across Europe. Honestly, I didn’t stay for their whole set as I was already in a hurry to grab some food and meet friends outside, but they definitely played a tight one.
The 1990s were a prosperous time in hardcore but we sure have a new legion of bands fueling the passion and uncompromising politics back into the game.
Based in Germany, CLEARxCUT features members of Heaven Shall Burn, Implore, and King Apathy, and the band’s chug-chugging metallic hardcore translates into an impassioned call to burn all prisons, slaughterhouses and systems of oppression. The band has been on tour in Europe for the past two weeks together with the other fellow XVX bands like Wake of Humanity, Disavow, Galeforce (just for selected dates), and the spoken word of Greg Bennick, which brings back memories of the Total Liberation Tour that Gather, 7 Generations, and other bands and speakers have done in the Summer of 2004 to make vegan straight edge a threat again!
Time And Distance
As I said earlier, bands from South America are usually not to be missed. Time And Distance is a political, vegan straight edge hardcore punk from Brazil that reminds me of bands like X-Acto, Mainstrike and especially Nations On Fire.
They talk about the political subjects that we find depressing, but still keep the positive spirit of hardcore that let us get through all the crap with a clear mind and a dedication to change the things from the ground up.
It’s evident that the straight edge scene in Poland continues to reach further in size and scope as well as in breadth of interest. The nice people at Youth2Youth Records seem to be behind some of the best material to come out of the country, with crew members playing in bands like Vicious Reality, Regres, and Protein.
Having some excellent material out on Youth2Youth and Refuse Records, Protein are probably the best youth crew-inspired band in Europe at the moment. Their live shows are just the bomb and you can’t get enough of stage-dives, sing-alongs and all encompassing hardcore energy. Just like their set at the tiny venue in Prague that day.
Denver’s Faim are one of the tightest and most important in the new breed of feminist/political hardcore punk bands to come from the US. Their 7″ was released in October of 2018 to make a bold statement that hardcore punk is a force of resistance to any atrocities and injustice in the world.
Definitely my top highlight from the show in Prague. Blistering hardcore punk attack with a solid songwriting, best speeches between the songs I’ve heard in a long time, and a sense of urgency to take the things in our hands right now.
Galeforce, formerly known as Tempest, is an international hardcore band consisting of long time dedicated environmental, marine and wildlife protection activists from different parts of the world. While other bands use their lyrics to inspire direct action and activism, Galeforce is a band born out of the need of a musical outlet for people already walking the walk. The first riffs of the band were actually written aboard a Sea Shepherd ship amidst the waves, while campaigning to protect the oceans.
The band has changed their name to Galeforce after the former drummer Brian passed away. Surviving the loss of a best friend, the band continues to make 90’s-inspired metallic hardcore that carries out the message of not giving up the fight till the very end.
Sharing members with Desencadenar, Remission is a melodic hardcore band from Santiago de Chile. They’ve been already present to the European scene with their previous touring and known across the Atlantic for being part of the React! Records family.
It’s the kind of band that mostly anyone loves, with early Dischord-vibes and tons of energy during their live shows.
After having xTrue Naturex and Gab De La Vega playing the hardcore matinee previous years, there’s another acoustic/folk-punk project to calm down the hardcore dancing and stage-dives today.
Sharp Knives come from Portugal and are all active participants in the Portuguese DIY punk movement. These same folks opened the Disgraça social center, and are now spreading ideas of solidarity and resistance in many other autonomous spaces across the continent. They have songs both in English and Portuguese, as well as playing covers of Evan Greer, NOFX and Mischief Brew, always available for a good conversation about DIY and politics, because this is what our scene needs so much.
Greg Bennick (Spoken Word)
When you have a room packed with people waiting to hear a spoken word performance after a day full of music, dancing and emotions, you know there’s something special that makes our scene stand out amongst the rest. Greg Bennick’s words always feel deeply personal, connecting and welcoming. We’re no longer hardcore as hard in our core, but let ourselves soften our core for the human conditions of suffering, anxiety and vulnerability.
This time Greg starts with a personal story of how he has been almost killed by a truck blasting into a library when looking for an easy, and thus insincere, way to make himself recognized as a writer. Then he goes into a series of personal stories and political events to remind us that we have a limited time on this planet and we shouldn’t waste it being insincere with ourselves but always try to live by our virtues and use the most of our potential to change the world.
As Greg Bennick said, we all have this empty space within our hearts that we’re desperately trying to fill with something real. The hardcore scene and especially the live shows where we meet and connect with other people from all over the place are a great start to experience something genuine, passionate and creative in its own way.
It’s up to us to use that passion and creativity outside the spaces with mics, drums and guitar cabinets, and commit acts of bravery, generosity and creative passion when the world needs us the most.