- Mainstage Highlight: Teenage Bottlerocket
- Beach Stage Highlight: BONO!
- Cover of the Day: BONO! – Fuck The Border
On Thursday I’m gutted to miss Actionmen opening the Beach Stage – unavoidable as I’m slammed by a rough bout of food poisoning that has me throwing up for 8 hours. I get a much needed wake-up call from Why Everyone Left, a heavy pop-punk band from Italy. Their set is peppered with A Day To Remember-style beat downs, that I (guiltily) really enjoy.
Slovenian locals Real Life Version do a reasonable impression of Hot Water Music with a tight-as-fuck rhythm section. Barrier Reef/The Great (a collective featuring members of Astpai and Antimaniax) are a fun listen, but I enjoy them even more for being able to collapse on the sand while they play. The delight of the Beach Stage is that you can hear the bands well, echoing around the valley, even if you’re too trashed to stand.
BONO! are by far the highlight of the Beach Stage on Thursday. Having ventured all the way from Norwich, they throw down super-fast aggressive punk to a great turn out, demonstrating that there’s still a demand for 90s Sick Of It All-type hardcore. They play a song specifically about Punk Rock Holiday and PRH legend Richie Parker gets hoisted on stage in his wheelchair to play some punk-as-fuck tambourine on their last few tracks. Singer, Dan Hinds, jumps down to rip a hole in the crowd while they tear through a fierce cover of Fuck The Border by Propagandhi, in one of most exciting moments of the day.
NOFNOG (No Fight No Glory) follow: a tight, competent 4-piece from Switzerland, who I suspect would have gone nuts for the Anti-Flag/Good Riddance line-up last night. They throw in a cover of Good Riddance’s Fertile Fields (I think? Correct me if I’m wrong) that’s bang on the original.
As Brazilian melodic hardcore act 69 Enfermos start sound-checking a light drizzle hits the beach. I glance at my friend, debating whether to seek shelter but we’re British: we can handle this. We should also know better. During the band’s opening bars a squall gusts through and the heavens open – a biblical downpour that has everyone in their shorts and bikinis sprinting for the bar. The band ask nicely for the rain to avoid the monitors but it’s hopeless; they have to pull their set for fear of electrocution. The undercover area at the bar is rammed with damp, shivering punks complaining about the cold. A chant of Pennywise’s Bro Hymn breaks out, making everything seem a little better.
As the storm drops slightly, I make a mad dash back to the tent to retrieve my friend’s jacket, only to discover that the front has caved in and the awning’s filled with rain. I bail it out with a plastic cup and build a dam around the remaining puddle using old clothes, then re-erect the tent and sit back, feeling pretty chuffed with my festival-camping ingenuity. I’m completely drenched, but whatever. I traipse back down to the beach to find that Get Dead’s set has been pulled: they’ll now be playing the main stage after The Toy Dolls. As Less Than Jake later point out, it should be quite entertaining given that they’ve been drinking since 3pm.
On the mainstage, Pears put on a riotous display of stage-speed, filling the between-song gaps with weird samples rather than banter. Having last seen them playing to 40 people at the Brixton Windmill, it’s a real contrast to watch them on a big stage, and I’m impressed with how well they fill it. It shows just how good their second album Greenstar is as a record, especially now they have the support of Fat Wreck Chords.
Standing in the damp tree-lined glade that constitutes the main stage, there’s a notable lack of the bullshit clothing stalls infest British festivals – none of the hats, costumes, bric-a-brac and useless shite that I’m used to seeing. Over the entire week I only see two onesies. It’s marvellous.
You also hardly notice the festival staff or stewards milling around. Everything runs like a well-oiled machine in the background and, conversely, the lack of visible security staff or police makes the festival feel safer and more relaxed. The whole staffing feels minimal: 80% of all the (numerous) drinks I buy over the week are served to me by the same guy, who appears omnipresent at the both the main and Beach Stage bars. Cheers, Mr Bartender, you are my favourite person at PRH. Thank you for tolerating my inability to remember the Slovenian word for ‘thank you’ when drunk.
I am overwhelmingly excited for Teenage Bottlerocket. I’m not the only one: their sugary-sweet bubble of fun pulls a big crowd. Everything about their set is dynamite and perfect for boisterous crowd participation. There are beach-balls flying, people crab-walking across the stage, plus a surprise appearance from a friend of mine clambering onstage to do press-ups. The band give a shout out to a 7 year old girl in pink ear defenders, inviting her up on stage to do cartwheels and the splits to much mid-song applause. Their German tune Ich Bin Auslaender Und Spreche Nicht Gut Deutsch gets an overwhelmingly strong reaction from the international crowd, with singer Ray Carlisle having to fend off requests, “Don’t worry, yes, we’ll play it I swear!”
Ray’s voice cracks as he reminisces about Brandon Carlisle, their old drummer and twin brother to Ray, who sadly passed away in 2015. He recalls the last time they played Punk Rock Holiday – standing over by the mainstage bar, Brandon uncharacteristically told him he loved him. As Ray puts it, “Punk Rock Holiday brings out the best in people.” I’ve got a tear in my eye when they kick into a cover of Tony Sly’s Via Munich in his honour.
You can marvel at their ability to fit three bangers into 4.5 minutes right here:
In a total change of pace, I thoroughly enjoy watching Madball tear up the mainstage. As one of the heaviest bands of the week, their old-school brand of New York hardcore is a great palate cleanser before Less Than Jake take the stage. In between I also catch Not On Tour playing an acoustic set over at the American Socks stall. You can hardly catch a glimpse of the band through the sea of people crowded around, but it sounds incredible: hearing it unplugged gives Sima’s voice the chance to really shine. It’s tuneful and poppy, but still punk to the core.
Less Than Jake are a guaranteed good-time, although their live show nowadays is a parody of themselves. They joke that any band who say their new songs are better than their old material is lying, and they’re right. They do play a reasonable amount of newer stuff including Bomb Drop which hit Number 1 in Croatia recently, much to the band’s amusement.
Singer, Chris DeMakes, invites a drunk guy on stage who can’t stop repeating, “And I swear it’s the last time,” in a slurring accent, even though they’ve already played Look What Happened. “Would The Offspring play Keep ‘Em Separated more than once?” Chris angrily retorts.
Their trademark onstage antics get a great reaction: self-deprecating banter, toilet roll cannons, confetti, inviting members of the crowd to dance on stage, etc. Having seen them a lot in the last few years it all feels a little unoriginal, but even my cynical self can’t deny that it’s a great show.
Much to my surprise, they play a three-song encore, even though they’re not the headliner. When The Toy Dolls arrive on stage, I realise that LTJ basically are the headliner. Formed in Sunderland in ’79, and currently featuring members of Snuff and Goober Patrol, they’re geared at an older audience. They put on a lively and entertaining show, but many of the younger crowd take the opportunity for an early night ahead of tomorrow’s chaos.
On the way back to the tent we see flashes of sheet lightning over the mountain tops, with no accompanying rain or thunder. The sky’s illuminated by the lightning, the moon and the distant mainstage beams – it feels like the perfect marriage of punk and nature out here in the sparsely-populated camping fields.
In the campsite we encounter a sloppy-drunk British woman squatting between two cars, boasting about having been to loads of festivals and, therefore, being capable of pissing anywhere. There’s a German guy standing between her and the path to block the view, who says, “Didn’t NOFX do a song about wanting to see a woman pissing between two parked cars?” As she yanks her shorts back up he turns, smiles sweetly and offers her a hand up, saying, “But I’m not NOFX. I’m a gentleman, so I turned and faced the other way.” Don’t ever say chivalry is dead.