You must have heard the rumours: “Punk Rock Holiday is the best punk festival there is.”
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that statement this week: from hungover punks recovering with a cocktail on the beach, to drunk friends revelling in how good the headline band is. It’s an onstage mantra that every band has repeated.
Everything you’ve heard is true. Breath-taking scenery, sunshine and beaches. Unrelenting punk rock, high-octane hardcore and stagediving chaos. Punk Rock Holiday offers everything you could possibly want from a festival, and does it with a relaxed nonchalance that makes it feel safer and better organised than any outdoor festival I’ve previously attended. Punk Rock Holiday is the best punk festival there is*.
There’s too much to discuss in one article, so here’s five straight days of punk rock and relaxation divided between four posts. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
- Band of the Day: The Offspring
- Surprise Winner of the Day: Me for somehow making it back to my tent
- Cover of the Day: The Offspring doing a parody of themselves
As first-time visitors to Punk Rock Holiday, we were unsure which day to arrive. The Tuesday’s the first official night, but there’s a pre-show on the Monday and the campsite opens at the weekend. We opt for the Monday, thinking we’ll spend the day travelling then catch a couple of bands.
As it turns out, we’re late – most people are here by the time we arrive. Our tardiness isn’t helped by a frustrating two-hour wait for our rental car at Treviso airport, meaning we don’t get to the festival until 9pm. Fortunately we don’t need to queue for our wristbands, and we easily find somewhere to pitch up.
We frantically efficiently erect our tent in the dark, while notes of Jaya The Cat drift through the balmy summer night. Once it’s up we victoriously crack our first cans of warm lager and set out to explore, immediately running into friends from Manchester and Brighton. It’s time to play drinking catch-up to make up for lost time.
PRH-favourites and Solvenian locals Pigs Parlament go on just as we get to the bar, charging through a rollickingly fun show, featuring some banjo breaks that have us square-dancing by the sound-desk. The Punk Rock Holiday theme tune is a firm winner with the crowd, and for us it’s the perfect introduction to the festival.
The Offspring are the band everyone’s waiting for tonight. Having seen them many times before, I’m bracing myself for a disappointing set, but instead they turn out a rollercoaster of nostalgia. I’m reminded of their awesome Groezrock set in 2014 when they played Smash in full: evidently, they perform better to a proper punk festival crowd. It feels like the whole world is shouting along for the full set, especially for the older songs off Ixnay and Smash. I’m enjoying myself enormously, although double-fisting pints of tepid no-brand lager may be influencing that.
Later in the week, I hear a few people complaining that they’d played newer songs like Hit That when really everyone just wanted to hear the classics. In response, I’d say that they played a lot less new material than normal, and they really milked their earlier albums for the crowd. Easily one of the top two best Offspring performances I’ve ever seen, made possible by an enthusiastic audience.
For a balanced opinion, check out this entertaining interview by Bird Attack Records:
By the time The Offspring finish at 1.15am, I’ve run into friends from all corners of the UK, and most of us drift down to the after party at the Beach Stage. While this is an excellent idea in theory, I do proceed to get absolutely smashed on cheap lager while listening to pop punk, rambling bullshit, making embarrassing introductions and wondering where on earth my tent-buddy has disappeared to. We wind up drinking at the campsite, before getting moved on for being too loud, after which I successfully pass out on a table in the Slovenian Village. In short: I nailed the first night of the festival.
- Mainstage Highlight: Pennywise
- Beach Stage Highlight: Petrol Girls
- Cover of the Day: Pennywise – Minor Threat
Tuesday begins well. I wake up outside my tent, still fully clothed, wondering how the hell I managed to get there. Apparently I did at least make it into the awning the night before, but when the sun appeared and transformed the canvas into a furnace, still-drunk me had the sense to go stretch out in the narrow sliver of shade created by our car.
As midday arrives and the sliver of shade vanishes, we retreat down to the Beach Stage, which is located down a slope, on a corner where two rivers intersect. On either side there are tempting white beaches, encircled by stunning mountains, densely lined with trees. The beach itself is punctuated by willows that provide some much-needed shelter from the continuous sunshine.
My head’s still fuzzy with booze: my eyes aren’t working and I feel like I’ve borrowed someone else’s limbs. The water is sparkling glacial run-off from the surrounding mountains, which looks enticing but turns out to be hair-raisingly icy and bedded with sharp rocks. A quick swim and a splash in the freezing river is the saviour I need: it does an excellent job of waking me up, but nothing to sober me up.
I sit and listen to Wasai Hey! Go! from the comfort of the sand, marvelling at the beautiful surroundings. Following them, Belgian 5-piece Altitude are full of youthful energy, treating us all to some skate-pop fun. They cover an early Blink 182 track to get the party started. As a result of my drunken state, I fall asleep on the beach during Adversity’s set – I’m not feeling overly proud of myself. Dutch act Bitter Grounds are one of the best acts of the day, combining punk, ska and reggae in an appropriately sunny show.
As I start to sober up (around 4pm, for the record) I notice one very key thing about Punk Rock Holiday: the festival is blessed with a wealth of extremely attractive people. It’s sea of beards, tattoos and interesting band t-shirts wherever the eye roams. If Descendents got royalties on Milo tattoos, they’d have bought a small private island just from the PRH patrons.
The downside to having so many attractive people to ogle is that there’s an undertone of accepted sexism at the festival**. One of the food stalls is offering free chips in exchange for a flash of breasts, and the skate park is advertising an event that promises boobs as its top attraction. Later, walking back to my tent alone, a man randomly shows me his penis and asks me if I would like ‘some’. “Oh yes! Thank you! I’ve been searching for a flaccid, pathetic cock all evening; you’re my saviour!” Does that work with anyone?
Consequently, it’s heartening to see a band like Petrol Girls headlining the Beach Stage. They blast post-hardcore with a quirky, furious edge that’s rooted in a strong political agenda, fighting loudly for gender equality. The audience absolutely loves them.
Before Touch Me Again they play three recordings from female fans relaying tales of sexual assault they’ve experienced at Deconstruction, Groezrock and Punk Rock Holiday. It feels extremely poignant. It’s essential that bands speak up about this sort of behaviour, otherwise it will never change. A guy tries to leap up on stage, taking out a girl in the process and he’s firmly knocked back by singer Ren Aldridge: “There’s no room for that bro shit here.”
On top of their apt political leanings, they’re a group that have a strong understanding of music, with interesting instrumental layering and great backing vocals. Ren has such a lively, captivating stage presence that you can’t take your eyes off her. Petrol Girls are definitely my highlight of the day.
Opening the mainstage are Jesus Piece: crushing Hatebreed-esque hardcore from Philadelphia. They’re part of the Southern Lord roster of brutally heavy bands, and they demonstrate next-level speed overlaid with a guttural, demonic vocal. They’re exactly what my hangover needs, and a surprise favourite for the day.
My hangover is less happy with the grating bagpipes during The Real McKenzies’ sound-check, but they put on a ripping Celtic punk show, with a big dose of humour. Ignite follow with strong political melodic hardcore. Their lead singer, Zoli Téglás, floors us with his powerful vocals, perfectly cutting through the festival atmosphere. Coming from Hungarian roots, you can tell he feels right at home playing to the big European audience, and Place Called Home from their 2000 breakthrough album gets a great reaction.
Epitaph legends Pennywise close the mainstage on Tuesday, commanding a huge amount of respect from the audience. They run through an hour and fifteen minutes of solid Pennywise classics, plus a whole heap of covers. The highlights are definitely a punk version of Stand By Me, Blitzkrieg Bop (definitely the first time I’ve ever heard that covered) and Minor Threat by Minor Threat.
Through the whole festival, Pennywise’s anthem Bro Hymn is the mating call of the lonely punk rocker. Walking through the campsite late at night, you hear people breaking into the unmistakable wooaah-oh-oh-oh of the chorus, and it’s the main singalong feature of every Beach Stage after party. Naturally the band save it for the encore, and as they break into the opening bars people start climbing on stage. Just when you think it’s full, more and more people clamber on. The band are lost, the guitar riffs spill out of the PA but the vocal’s drowned by the howling of the audience through the chorus. It’s the biggest stage invasion I’ve ever witnessed: there are people actually crowd surfing on top of the brawl of people spilling off the stage. It descends into chaos – their set is over but the chant of woah-oh-oh-oh is carried by the audience, long into the night.
Check out the other instalments:
*Manchester Punk Festival would give it a bloody good run for its money, mind you.
**I’d like to clarify that in my opinion the sexist undertones do not relate to the organisers. The festival primarily feels safe and welcoming, but there are a handful of individuals who have a different cultural approach to what we’re used to in our little UK DIY punk bubble.