There’s something surreal in watching a crowd of punks, dressed in cut-off denim Rancid vests, combat boots and studded belts, wistfully skipping stones across a creek.
This is Punk Rock Holiday in Tolmin, Slovenia – now in its sixth year. It is set on the banks of the glisteningly blue Soca River, which has to be one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe. In the distance is a wall of snow-capped Alps with a halo of hovering sky-divers and para-gliders. It’s hard to imagine that for the next 5 days this stunning site will be overrun with punks, on holiday.
Imagine Meredith meets the late Arthouse (RIP), and you’re halfway there. Keen campers have been arriving since Friday morning, 3 full days early. They set up elaborate campsites amongst shaded parkland. Tents start appearing in every nook and cranny, spilling out gradually across the nearby meadows.
It’s been sold out since March.
Monday 8 August: The “Warm-Up”
When a guy in an Iron Chic tee hands you a beer while you are setting up your campsite to welcome you to the neighbourhood, you know you are in for a special week.
Once the tent is pitched, we walk just 10 minutes to the supermarket – a luxury after attending many festivals in Australia. We buy non-perishables, some healthy snacks, 440ml cans of beer (1 Euro each), liter bottles of red wine (3.50 Euros each) and 2 inflatables tubes (I’ll explain later…).
With a Main Stage line-up of old-schoolers like Useless ID, Lagwagon and Sick Of It All, it’s easy to forget that this isn’t even the official Day 1 of the festival. Today is just a “warm-up” which was a late addition. (Sorry to those who couldn’t arrive early to catch it.)
Tuesday 9 August: The “Official” Day 1
Nothing wakes you up in the morning like an espresso served in a Descendents cup. Punk Rock Holiday is all about the details, barber shop, skate park, free drinking water, safe deposit box, phone charging, access to hot showers and “executive” toilets, an ATM, BYO drinks to the campsite, vegan food and a craft beer bar. All your hipster-punk needs are catered for.
The afternoon was spent by the river, where the music floats down from the Beach Stage. It’s here where the inflatables shine. The more unusual or the more people it can fit, the better. We are talking unicorns, crocodiles, cactus’, boats (so many boats!), donuts, pizza slices, the classic car tire, just to name a few. Every now and then a sightseeing boat of tourists would cruise past, demanding that we wave them by.
When the headliners arrived, so had the rains. But no one cared. Not one bit. It was a wet and wild set for both oh-my-god The Bouncing Souls, and holy-shit-its-the-fucking Descendents. Between both bands not a beat was missed, nor a hit, and the crowds sung along to every word. It was the perfect “official” first night.
Wednesday 10 August: The Rains
A festival organiser’s worst nightmare, heavy rain set in for most of the day pushing back some set times. Punters were taking cover in tents, under gazebos, at nearby pubs and cafés or jammed into the craft beer bar. There were no inflatables on the river today.
Probably in the top 3 acts of the week, A Wilhelm Scream were nothing short of a balls-out party. Frontman Nuno Pereira asks us, “Do you remember your first ever punk rock show?”, before sending two barely 10 year old children crowd surfing. This might be a good time to mention that Punk Rock Holiday remains a family friendly festival.
After that, it was hit after hardcore hit on the main stage as Agnostic Front, NoFx and Strung Out held nothing back. Fat Mike once again proved that he is indeed, keeping punk rock elite.
Thursday 11 August: The Aussie Invasion
Sun’s out, Nuno’s guns out. Back at the beach today.
This was the Aussies invasion, beginning mid-afternoon on the Beach Stage. Perth skate-punks The Decline have been supporting The Flatliners across Europe, returning to PRH for the second year running.
Then on the Main Stage, Sydney Celtics The Rumjacks, were followed by ex-I Killed The Prom Queen, JJ Peters in Deez Nuts. Deez Nuts definitely ripped everyone out of their mid-afternoon slump.
Other standouts from Day 4 were Such Gold from the States, The Flatliners (Canada’s most adorable punk band), German rockers Donots, ending with the original Dead Kennedy, Jello Biafra and his Guantanamo School of Medicine.
Friday 12 August: Saved By The Swedes
The punters are looking rather slow and haggard. For a moment, the thought creeps in that maybe 5 days of punk and camping is too much?… Nah! Last day, let’s dig deep. Beers and inflatables at the beach again.
It wasn’t hard to find the strength to go out with a bang once the Swedish onslaught hit. No Fun At All and Millencolin were 100%, hands down, the ideal way to close the Main Stage for Punk Rock Holiday 1.6.
Then at 2.30am the Beach Stage re-opens until sunrise for the festival’s cherished tradition, live Punk Rock Karaoke. Memories here are vague. The holiday is not over till the last Fat Punk sings.
See you next year at Punk Rock Holiday 1.7. (Rancid please?)
All photos supplied by Punk Rock Holiday.