LIVE: Punk Rock Holiday (Tolmin, Slovenia) – Tuesday/Wednesday

By Tom Aylott

Punk Rock Holiday’s Beach Stage View by Luke ST/Piano Slug

This year, Punktastic made our first ever trip to Slovenia to cover Punk Rock Holiday festival. Starting back in 2011, the festival’s lineups in the past have seen NOFX, Bad Religion, Sick Of It All and many more amazing punk bands take to their stages, and this year Anti Flag, Millencolin, H2O and Propagandhi were heading up the event at Tolmin’s beautiful riverside location. Each day this week, we’ll be publishing parts of our full review, and up first is a combination of Tuesday and Wednesday’s bands

One thing to be noted immediately about the festival is that this isn’t the two or three day rock weekender that you might expect elsewhere – it’s a long slog akin to the length of something like Fest in Gainesville with the added fun of camping, and our Tuesday to Sunday stay was definitely a bit of an endurance test. We also had a few years on the Austrians and Slovenians camped near us, who were still going strong well into the final night – so be prepared. Getting to Tolmin isn’t the most difficult or expensive of missions, but you’d definitely do well to give yourself some space around the festival to see some of the beautiful Slovenian countryside like we did. You can fly in and get the train from Ljubljana or you could drive it if you like, bearing in mind that it’s a long fucking way to drive home to the UK.

On arriving at the campsite we found huddles of people from all over mainland Europe, camped by the river (on to this shortly) under the many trees and also in the modest fields. The occasional adventurous English crew would rear their heads now and again, but this year they were very much in the extreme minority of festival goers (our count was maybe 20 in total). Punk Rock Holiday is not a giant or mainstream festival by any means (it’s just the right size as it goes), so you can get around easily, and also get back into the town without too much fuss at all if you’d rather stay at a hostel or eat at a restaurant.

So, onto that river. We posted a few times about the festival surroundings looking amazing ahead of the festival, and it was every bit as awesome in real life. The festival’s Beach Stage sits on the confluence of the Tolminka and Soča rivers, and listening to punk bands play while having a swim in a river really was something else. You can have a swim down near the campsite to cool down as well, and an early morning shower to shake off the sweat beats having a filthy shower at Reading or Download festivals by a country mile (kilometer?). The rivers are damn cold though, so you probably wont be doing too many lengths before you get back out in the sunshine.

Tuesday was the arrival day at Punk Rock Holiday this year, and as a special bonus the festival got The Mor(R)ons and Useless ID to play down at the Beach Stage in the evening. We’ve never had the pleasure of watching The Mor(R)ons before, and after an enjoyable, fast paced set we’d definitely recommend checking them out if you’re into the various guises of 90s punk. The Punktastic team members in attendance had also never seen Useless ID, and though they played to an extremely enthusiastic (see:drunk) European crowd quite late in the evening, we suspected that their main stage set the next day might be the better one to catch of the weekend. Regardless, there was plenty of crowd surfing already and everyone was having a blast, so we enjoyed a few beers then a retires relatively early to prepare for the long week ahead.

The Mor(R)ons by Luke ST/Piano Slug

Wednesday was reserved for swimming during the daytime and the main stage in the evening after the night before’s shenanigans, and Croatia’s Kevlar Bikini had the tough job of drawing the throngs of sun scorched Europeans in to the main stage for their first band of the festival. They managed to do this somewhat, but many still needed a bit more time to sleep off the afternoon sunshine. The band’s dirty rock and roll (complete with matching black and neon green suit and tie get ups) was energetic, but as with many of the early bands on the main stage over the weekend, they might have done better on the smaller stage later on. It was fun nonetheless, and great to see the main stage underway.

Up next was Italy’s Foolish Wives, who were playing to a larger crowd, but their sound wasn’t quite impressing in equal measures. Though not a million miles away from Four Year Strong, the band didn’t match up to the large stage or captivate the audience all that well. We’ll go and check them out again if they’re playing somewhere else, but today wasn’t quite their day.

Completely juxtaposed to that were the loud as hell Slovenian locals Kreshesh Nepitash, who woke everyone in a five mile radius up with some hardcore that was as fun to watch as it was slightly out of place on the bill. Their cover of Descendents ‘Coffee Mug’ was surprisingly brilliant, and the whole set was great fun to watch. We’re pretty sure it’s unlikely they’ll be in the UK any time soon, but definitely a band to go and check out if they come over.

Paper Arms took the main stage next, and the ever growing crowd got to see an excellent set from the visiting Australians. Tracks from ‘The Smoke Will Clear’ sounded fantastic live (especially as we’d missed them in London recently), and they were impressive from start to finish. The next band we managed to watch on the Wednesday evening was Useless ID, and they managed to do the business on the bigger stage far more than their set the night before. The Isreali band have come a long way for these shows, and they looked stoked to be on the stage both nights. They’re a band that have done the rounds for enough years that you’d hope they’d topping bills like this by now, but it doesn’t stop them delivering the goods from the bigger stages.

Next up, though, was a band that managed to steal the show. Canadians Mute, powered by sticksman and lead vocalist Étienne Dionn, go about delivering one of the most exciting melodic hardcore sets we’ve seen in a very long time. The entire experience is unmissable, and the gathering crowd are loving every second. Their wall of Maiden meets Protest The Hero meets From Plan To Progress rock sounded massive, and it was around here we get the feeling that this is a festival like no other. We’d go and watch them again in a heartbeat.

Our sub headliners for the evening are Strike Anywhere, and it’s amazing to think that they’re the first band from the US we’ve actually seen so far. They have always been a consistently watchable and energetic live band, and with the stage diving frequency getting almost of hand thanks to the lack of the barriers on the main stage, the atmosphere is excellent. They plough through a wide range of material long into the evening, and set up tonight’s headliners perfectly.

We saw Anti Flag about a week before tonight in London, and as it’s a fairly similar set tonight we know what we’re in for. There’s plenty of mohawks and denim jackets at Punk Rock Holiday this year, so you’d hardly be surprised at the excellent reaction the band get. It’s a fantastic way to finish off the evening (it’s about 2am by the time the band finish), and we opt for carrying on with a few beers once they finish before calling it in. All in all, a very successful first day proper at Punk Rock Holiday.


Stay tuned all week for more coverage from the festival