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|Genre||Hardcore punk, punk rock, extreme metal, experimental|
|Dates||Thursday-Sunday in late July|
|Location(s)||Rokycany, Czech Republic|
|Founded by||Michal Ko?an, Tomá? Kadlec|
Fluff Fest is an independent hardcore punk festival held each July at the Czech town of Rokycany, near Pilsen. A significant event for the DIY punk subculture in Europe, the festival is fully vegan, shaped by an anti-capitalist and anti-nationalist stance, and associated with movements such as anarchism, animal rights, feminism, anti-fascism, and straight edge. Positioned within the wider independent music scene in the Czech Republic, it draws audiences from across Europe to an international lineup of bands oriented mostly on hardcore and post-hardcore, crust punk and grindcore, punk rock and post-punk, emo and screamo, sludge metal and metalcore, and post-metal, as well as workshops and zines. Vegan catering is provided by local animal rights organization Svoboda zví?at.
Fluff originated from Y2K HC Fest, an event organized in August 2000 in Pilsen by Michal Ko?an and Tomá? Kadlec. They renamed it for the 2001 edition and moved it to the Rokycany airfield in 2006. Attendance exceeded 3000 by 2012, when the Psych Tent, organized by Jakub ?ura?ko of Stoned to Death Records, became part of the festival. It showcases a separate lineup, oriented on mostly experimental music including electronic, psychedelic, avant-rock, ambient, and noise, for free outside the paid Fluff Fest entrance. Fluff currently runs for four days, starting on Thursday with a free warm-up and ending on Sunday night, and incorporates several side stages as well as dance after-parties each night. Additionally, "Pre-Fluff" and "After-Fluff" parties featuring some bands from the festival lineup are held on Wednesday and Monday at Café na p?l cesty, a small venue in Pankrác, Prague.
Rokycany is a town located 17 km east of the regional capital Plze?, with a population of just over 14,000. The Rokycany airfield is within walking distance of the town centre and train station. Two paths can be taken from the station: the more frequented one passes by the town's swimming pool (which is very popular with the festival audiences on hot days) while the slightly faster one leads through a forest and hillside which is a protected natural area. The airfield lies between this forest and a highway.
Fluff Fest has been described as a "strain" on Rokycany, which is otherwise unaccustomed to large numbers of foreign visitors and extreme music adherents. It brings a business boom to the town, especially in sales of vegetarian and vegan food. The police, including local municipal units, road units, and investigative units, monitor Fluff with the stated goal of preventing crime, tackling theft, and making sure transportation runs smoothly. Theft of cash, credit cards, mobile phones, and cameras has been an issue on the campsite and the organizers pay to remove graffiti from buildings and rented equipment each year. Nevertheless, Michal Ko?an stated in a 2013 interview that unlike in Plze? where the festival was originally held, few complaints from the residents have reached them and their relationship with the local authorities, who appreciate the international attention the festival brings, is generally positive.
In a 2011 interview, Ko?an reflected that the festival's location in the Czech Republic serves as a meeting point between "tired" Western Europe where there are always many hardcore punk shows and "raw" Eastern Europe where hardcore scenes are still forming. In 2013, he confirmed that he hopes to showcase more Eastern European bands at future editions.
Around 1996/1997, Michal Ko?an, Tomá? Kadlec, and Míra Kafka visited Ieperfest in Belgium for the first time and decided to organize their own hardcore punk festival. In 1999, the techno-oriented venue Exist formed in Plze?, entrusted with the premises of a former swimming pool. The building included a hall with a capacity of about 500 and the adjacent ground provided a large camping area, which allowed Ko?an and Kadlec to start planning Y2K HC Fest in the summer of 1999. They spent all their savings on the event and enlisted the help of close friends, forming the core festival crew which has stayed intact since. Y2K was held on 4-6 August 2000 with some 1000 attending and over 30 bands performing, including Good Clean Fun, Point of No Return, Cripple Bastards, Heaven Shall Burn, and numerous Czech ones. Perhaps a week prior, the police seized the premises due to Exist's connection to the drug trafficking present in the techno scene, the club's owner having been arrested. Finally, they allowed Ko?an and Kadlec to go through with the festival and even pressured the city to grant them a camping area. Although the amount of work involved led the duo to decide that it would be a one-off event, they reconsidered due to positive feedback and the number of contacts they had already made. Kadlec has been responsible for the festival lineup ever since.
The 2001 edition was held on 3-5 August at the Plze? exhibition ground and drew perhaps 2000 visitors. It was organized by Ko?an and Kadlec along with their English translator Jenny and some 15 friends who worked at the festival from about 2 days prior. They named it after Bellybutton Fluff, a name under which they had promoted shows at the 007 club in Strahov, Prague from 1997 until 2000. They decided to advertise Fluff Fest only within hardcore punk scenes: online, in zines, and through posters and flyers. Performing bands included Vitamin X, Heaven Shall Burn, Caliban, Endstand, and Cataract. At the Vitamin X show, a conflict between stage-diving audience members and organizers who sought to prevent damage to on-stage gear resulted in an early finish. The festival kept moving around Plze? for 5 years until it settled in Rokycany.
The 2004 edition was held on 23-25 July. Performing bands included Heaven Shall Burn, Analena, the Idoru, and Endstand. The zine library as well as a large number of distro stalls had become features of the festival, as had movie screenings and dance after-parties. Disputes with area owners and the police over camping took place.
The 2006 edition was held on 21-23 July, having moved from Plze? to the Rokycany airfield. It drew about 2500 visitors to a lineup which included Good Clean Fun, 31Knots, the Suicide File, Rise and Fall, and Endstand. The Cinema Tent was established, screening documentaries on topics pertaining also to human rights and music.
A few people who worked on the event questioned the DIY ethic of Ko?an and Kadlec due to estimating that the duo's final income was about 755,000 K?, after subtracting expenses of over 550,000 K? (including EUR300 for New Winds, EUR300 for Good Clean Fun, and EUR500 for the Suicide File) from their estimated gross income of 1,310,000 K?. They argued that Ko?an and Kadlec sought to profit from the festival and should have given more to workers, benefit campaigns, and bands. They also noted that Svoboda zví?at made perhaps 130,000 K? selling food. In a 2011 interview, Ko?an suggested that this criticism was unfounded and stemmed from a personal grudge, and that if it had led to a major backlash they may have abolished the festival.
The 2007 edition was held on 20-22 July. Performing bands included Maroon and 108 on Friday, Victims, Set Your Goals, and Vitamin X on Saturday, and La Quiete, Oi Polloi, Rise and Fall, These Arms Are Snakes, and Converge on Sunday. Various workshops were held throughout the festival.
The 2008 edition was held on 25-27 July, preceded by a welcome movie screening on Thursday 24 July. Performing bands included War from a Harlots Mouth, Meneguar, and Raein on Friday, Daïtro and Maroon on Saturday, and Cataract, Amenra, Death by Stereo, and Bane on Sunday. Side stages had been introduced, including the Arty Tent.
The 2009 edition was held on 24-26 July and drew about 3000 visitors. Performing bands included Trial, An Albatross, Have Heart, Victims, Ratos de Porão, Fall of Efrafa, Analena, Antillectual, and Rise and Fall. An After-Fluff was held at 007 on Monday 27 July.
The 2010 edition was held on 23-25 July, preceded by a welcome movie screening on Thursday 22 July. Various movies were screened throughout the festival. Performing bands included Carpathian, Comadre, and Ruiner on Friday, Ampere and Amenra on Saturday, and Cruel Hand and Municipal Waste on Sunday.
The 2011 edition was held on 22-24 July and drew about 3000 visitors. Announced acts included Ceremony, La Dispute, Black Breath, the Carrier, Blue Note, Victims, Touché Amoré, Ensign, Raein, Rosetta, Polar Bear Club, Dangers, and Joe Lally. Additionally, a diverse group of Czech bands performed.Amnesty International appeared among organizations presenting themselves at the festival. The Cinema Tent held screenings and talks pertaining largely to human and animal rights topics. It also held some electronic and hip hop shows. For the first time, a large share of the main lineup appeared on a second tent stage aside from the classic main stage. The organizers got into a disagreement with their portable toilet provider, leading to a low standard of toilet service which lasted into the next year.
The 2012 edition was held on 20-22 July. The core crew consisted of about 20 people, joined by 50 to 100 volunteers who helped clean the area in exchange for free entry. An extra food stall was set up, working in benefit of Svoboda zví?at and providing "slightly more expensive but higher quality food". Performing bands included Verse, Pianos Become the Teeth, Trapped Under Ice, Defeater, Self Defense Family, Loma Prieta, Code Orange Kids, Landscapes, No Omega, and Light Bearer. Movies were screened at the Cinema Tent, organized by realitaTV, a group monitoring the treatment of animals in commercial use. The Psych Tent was a part of the festival for the first time, organized by Stoned to Death Records, a label which had just been founded by Jakub ?ura?ko in Prague.
There were calls to cancel Defeater's appearance due to their raising funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. Kadlec and guitarist Jake Woodruff exchanged emails in which Woodruff stated that the band members are anti-war and that the description of soldiers as "heroes fighting for our nation's freedom" in their press release was not written by them and was worded poorly. Upon performing, Defeater said nothing on the issue to the audience and were whistled off stage by anarchist protesters before the end of their set.
Reflecting on the festival in a 2013 interview, Ko?an said that although attendances have grown organically with each edition, he would like to "keep as close as possible to the atmosphere of a small punk club show", suggesting "70-100 bands on 3 or 4 stages" plus an open stage as an adequate size limit. He stated that he would rather focus on increasing lineup diversity, quality of services, and the presence of politics and non-musical activities than on getting bigger names on the bill, doubting that Madball or Agnostic Front would ever appear. He envisioned the festival as a space for discussion within hardcore punk, open to anyone who wishes to set up a stall or otherwise present their ideas, which is why Defeater's appearance was not banned. Ko?an also noted that while most of the crew work with the touring company Fluffwheels, which has been connected to the festival since the start, he quit this day job to work towards opening a venue in Prague, which has become Eternia Smíchov.
The 2013 edition was held on 25-28 July and drew audiences of between 6000 and 8000. For the first time, bands also performed on Thursday, with We Came Out Like Tigers closing this warm-up. Other bands included Code Orange Kids, Harm's Way, Circle Takes the Square, and Full of Hell on Friday, Downfall of Gaia, Brutality Will Prevail, Dangers, and Vitamin X on Saturday, and Mouth of the Architect, the Black Heart Rebellion, Birds in Row, Coliseum, and Strike Anywhere on Sunday. Side stages included Psych Tent II and the first Queer Noises Tent, oriented on electronic music. A speech on the contemporary anarchist movement was given by Brian D. of CrimethInc. while Greg Bennick held a workshop on becoming a hardcore punk vocalist/lyricist. Refundable cups had been introduced to reduce the environmental impact of the event.
The 2014 edition was held on 24-27 July and closed by We Came Out Like Tigers, No Omega, Backtrack, D.O.A., and Bane on Sunday. Side stages included Psych Tent III, which was performed by Andrea Belfi on Friday, and Queer Noises Tent 2. Large numbers of activist stalls had become a feature of the festival area. A Pre-Fluff matinée was held at Café na p?l cesty on Thursday 24 July.
The 2015 edition was held on 23-26 July. Performing bands included Raein, Endpoint, 7 Seconds, Loma Prieta, Trial, MDC, Birds in Row, Dangers, and Svalbard. Movies were screened already on Thursday. Side stages included Psych Tent IV, Queer Noises Tent 3, a grindcore-oriented stage, and an open stage.
The 2016 edition was held on 21-24 July. Performing bands included Oathbreaker, Earth Crisis, Graf Orlock, Blacklisted, RVIVR, Rosetta, Totem Skin, Archivist, the Black Heart Rebellion, Dawn Ray'd, Swain, No Omega, and Jungbluth, while La Quiete were announced but had to cancel. A petition to ban Earth Crisis' appearance due to some members' alleged anti-abortion views was dismissed by Kadlec as nonsensical. Side stages included Psych Tent V, Queer Noises Tent 4, a grindcore-oriented stage, and an open stage.
The 2017 edition was held on 20-23 July and headlined by Heaven in Her Arms, Doom, and City of Caterpillar on Friday, Vitamin X, Burn, and Chokehold on Saturday, and Racetraitor, Birds in Row, and Sect on Sunday. Side stages included: Psych Tent VI; the grindcore-oriented All Go No Slow stage; an open stage; the Underdogs' Tent, which was curated by a different promoter each night; and the Infoshop Tent, which held acoustic performances on Friday (including Jonah Matranga) and Sunday (including Throw Me off the Bridge, the project of Birds in Row bassist Quentin Sauvé). On Saturday, the Infoshop first held talks including a speech by Greg Bennick and a discussion on the SHAC campaign, before staging several hip hop shows by Czech and Slovak acts.
The 2018 edition was held on 26-29 July and headlined by Listener, Swain, and Morrow on Friday, Hexis, Ruiner, and Majority Rule on Saturday, and Suffocate for Fuck Sake, Monarch, and Loma Prieta on Sunday. All side stages continued from 2017 except the Underdogs' Tent. The Infoshop Tent held talks on topics such as direct action and gender during the day and acoustic performances at night; Greg Bennick co-led a mental health workshop oriented on depression and suicide support there on Sunday following a main stage speech on Saturday.