Fluff Fest/ Ruiner feature

My first article for The Prague Post

Summer in the Czech Republic brings heat, ticks and music festivals of all sorts. Typically, festival organizers scramble to put the best names in their lineup, jack up ticket prices and spread the word – though not always. Fluff Fest has the crucial lineup at a very reasonable price, but is intentionally slacking on the promotional front.

“We don’t do any press for the festival,” says organizer “Big Tomáš” via e-mail. “I know it’s weird, but that’s the way it is. We just do what we like, and we don’t seek a major audience.”

While refusing media attention is 100 percent punk, an event this good can’t stay under wraps. It features an international lineup headlined by 26 major names in hardcore, including Municipal Waste, Vitamin X, No Turning Back, Cruel Hand and Ruiner. Bands are coming from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, France and Austria. Along with the music, there’s a weekend’s supply of vegan food and nonmusical events such as film viewings and a zine reading room.

This will be the last opportunity to see Ruiner. After six years of touring and three full-length albums, the American band is calling it quits with one last romp through Europe and a farewell show or two in the States. Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Ruiner plays fast-paced, melodic hardcore in the vein of Have Heart, Sinking Ships and Another Breath (also appearing at this year’s Fluff Fest). The band has played several times in Prague.

Fluff Fest
July 23-25
Where: Rokycany
Tickets: 600 Kč for all three days, available at the site
For a complete schedule and more information, check Fluffmusic.com

“We are very excited to come back,” vocalist Rob Sullivan says via e-mail. “We have always enjoyed ourselves there. Big Tomáš is an amazing man.”

While noting that festival appearances “are rather annoying for the bands and usually a hassle,” Sullivan says the invitation to play at Fluff Fest was special. “We appreciate the gesture and the show of respect it means for us to headline.”

Since their first East Coast tour in the United States six years ago, Ruiner has crisscrossed four continents, establishing themselves as important players in the international hardcore scene. “I’d say the amount of touring we’ve done is a great accomplishment for us,” Sullivan says. “We’ve been able to see the world, and for that we will always look back at Ruiner as a great part of all of our lives.” He names Australia as one of his favorite places to play, adding, “It’s tragic we won’t be heading back.”

In general, audiences overseas have shown Ruiner a lot of love. “It really comes down to appreciation,” Sullivan says. “Obviously, it’s easier for U.S. kids to see us. When we play abroad, we’re treated a bit better.”

The current tour will take them not only to the Czech Republic but Romania, Hungary and Slovakia, as well. “I am excited we will get to head further east in Europe, to some countries we’ve never been,” Sullivan says. “It should be rather interesting and different, I’m sure.”

His advice to audiences as Ruiner makes its way across Europe: “Have a good time and don’t take everything I say seriously.”

Other bands worth catching at Fluff Fest include Municipal Waste from the United States, whose skate-punk thrash is heaven for any headbanger; Holland’s No Turning Back, who have been providing heavy mosh soundtracks for 13 years; and Vitamin X, who play experienced Dutch thrash reminiscent of the ’80s style.

The newcomers deserve a listen, too, especially Comadre, from California, who offer catchy and aggressive punk that will keep you moving.

Since Fluff Fest’s debut in 2000, it has recruited more significant names for its lineup every year. The organizers are equally thoughtful about how they stage the festival, encouraging concertgoers to leave their dogs at home and clean up after themselves.

There’s a free campground, a public pool with showers close by and, if you’re not into roughing it, nearby hotels. So bring some fresh underwear, a toothbrush and, most importantly, earplugs.

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