I had the pleasure of travelling with the fine folks of The Overjoyed to a little festival in the east of Germany. You can read what I thought of it below.
Look in the right place, at the right time of year, and with the right set of eyes, you’ll find KNRD. Just as adapted to thrive in a sweaty city-centre club as it is leafy alpine forest, the best habitat to experience the legend remains that in which it grew up – Homersdorf, Germany. The rolling hills and shady groves of the Saxony region are KNRD’s stomping ground, and each year, on a weekend in July, the beast hosts a party like no other.
Known simply as KNRD Fest, the two-day celebration of punk rock and DIY values is now in its fifth year. In that short time, it’s established itself as an absolute must in the ever-crowded European summer festival calendar. A small gathering by the standards of many, the spirit of community felt throughout the campsite provides stark reminder of the reasons why we’re willing to jump on a plane, pile in the back of a van, or drive some seventeen hours for just two nights of chaos and passion.
This year’s festival would play host to fifteen bands from a total of nine different countries. With just a single stage running at any time, the choice of entertainment might be limited but with a line up as strong as KNRD’s it hardly matters. For the 2017 edition, KNRD would share its backyard with PEARS, F.O.D, Not On Tour, Darko, Faintest Idea, Straightline, Fights And Fires, MARCH, Edward in Venice, The Wonder Beers, actionmen, OAT, Acid Snot, and The Overjoyed. Clearly, KNRD is a skate punker.
Being just an evening and full day, the festival sees dribs and drabs of attendees arriving throughout the Friday. Tents are hastily erected in a spacious, impossible-to-imagine-crowded camping area before their occupants make their way up the Naturfreunde Lauf – the main festival area. See, for the other fifty-one weekends of the year, the venue is a shrine to the beauty of the Franconian woodland, and the friends of nature who protect the forest are kind enough to loan KNRD their facilities. Being a rural appreciation centre of sorts, the place has a very “scout camp” vibe to it. The various buildings provide all the crucial festival amenities, such as band accommodation, and give the site a quaint, village-like feel. A dynamic that juxtaposes well with the carnage that ensues come sundown.
There’s a great deal of ceremony that accompanies just about everything KNRD does. “Conquest of Paradise” (Google it, it’s epic) plays between every band, and an extensive welcome precedes the entertainment programme. Now, my German is a little rusty, so an accurate translation of the salutations isn’t forthcoming (read: I have no fucking clue what was being said to us over the PA) but it sounded positive and caused much excitement. Tradition is important to KNRD and whether it’s the homage paid to the tree that once stood proudly at the centre of its main stage area, the powerful introduction each band receives, or the official competitive beer swigging contest, there’s cerement running throughout the service.
To match the line up’s high calibre, the bar remains suitably stocked in a way alien to us pasty, festival-going Brits — there’s no re-mortgaging of anything required to indulge. It’s a strange feeling to be trusted with a great glass stein of cool, tasty, and most importantly strong liquid, before being turned loose in a crowd of people. It’s almost as if they knew I wasn’t searching for someone to glass in the mouth.
Other refreshment options included a second bar loaded with spirits, complete with cascading fountain of toxic green fluid which I’d made a mental note to avoid until a later which unfortunately never arrived. Cocktails, and some Mexican-inspired, Tabasco based shot are also on offer. Food is a little pricier at the festival, and probably the only aspect which doesn’t represent immense value for money. That said, the quality was high in comparison with the grub offered at most events, and cost about the same. No complaints, however. Most festival food is a ripoff. KNRD provides a good selection of dining options for its guests, with vegetarian, and vegan options aplenty. At an event as small in the UK, you’d be lucky to get two trailers churning out greasy overpriced shit but here in Germany, they do things differently.
Bands raged through the glorious mid-summer sunset until late on the opening night with melodic powerhouse Not on Tour transitioning entertainment from the main stage over to the smaller acoustic stage. Whilst neither could ever be described as cold or sterile, the stage for the unplugged acts is particularly intimate. Surrounded by picnic benches, when the crowd gets going they’re soon up on the tables, giving the space an amphitheatre-like quality.
Following the carnage of the night before was something more tranquil. A yoga session delivered by Jo Smith of Bad Juju Punk Rock Yoga. As the night suggests, it’s yoga with punk rock — an unorthodox combination perhaps but attendance at the sessions at various festivals in the calendar suggests its an effective one. Unfortunately, the early time slot of the classes is at odds with my general behaviour at festivals, and as such I’ve yet to attend — a trend I intend to reverse as soon as I feel capable of being contorted in the baking sun after about three hours sleep.
Hangovers cleansed — either spiritually, chemically, or through good old-fashioned grit — it was time for more live music. Saturday’s bands were amongst the best underground European acts around. For fans of technical, fast skate punk, it was bliss. Stand out performances came from The Overjoyed, Acid Snot, actionmen (wow), and Straightline.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, that night didn’t go quite so smoothly. Shortly after British ska-core act Faintest Idea took to the stage, there was some commotion at the back of the festival area. A few police cars showed up, and demanded the music be cut. There was plenty of “what the fuck”-ing going on for a while before it became apparent that there would be no more amplified music that night.
Fortunately, one of the guys we’d been travelling with, Orfeas Primikyrios of Greek band Wish Upon a Star, was on hand with a truly unplugged set of classic cover songs on a borrowed acoustic. Of course, five-hundred drunk punks started singing along, and the night took a slightly different, albeit immensely enjoyable turn. We relived the songs that had inspired us to meet in a forest in Germany in the first place for a few hours before things winded down. We later learned from a “sleeping” friend that you could hear the jam right in the far corner of the campsite.
It’s pretty bloody cliche to use the phrase “punk rock family” but owing to the fact that I’m now desperately late for yet another reunion in Slovenia it’ll have to do. Here in Europe, the scene is strong and comprises of many talented, enthusiastic, and committed groups from across the continent. The recently formed PNK RCKR collective is testament to this and together, along with many other teams and individuals, they’re providing the infrastructure needed to bring underground punk rock music to all those who care to listen without the help of major labels. Being founder members of PNK RCKR, KNRD fully embraces the spirit of DIY and the relaxed atmosphere between venue, bands, and crowd this cultivates is thick in the air at Homersdorf when the punks are in town.
*All good photographs by the immensely talented Andi Eckert (of KNRD), and poorer ones taken by myself.