Decolonise Fest is a DIY punk festival by and for punx of colour. The 2-day festival was organised by a collective of DIY Diaspora Punx and was jam packed with music and workshops celebrating punx of colour.
With the punk scene notoriously dominated by mediocre white men, we were very excited to see the lineup of POC talent.
The festival is in its third year and was held at DIY Space for London in Deptford between 29th-30th June 2019 from 1pm til late.
We opted for weekend tickets so we could catch as many acts as possible on both nights, but sadly couldn’t make it to the workshops during the day.
The atmosphere was very welcoming and laid back - not loud and crowded as we were expecting from a punk festival. Although the venue is in serious need of refurbishment, the overall positive energy in the venue meant that that didn’t matter.
It was a space created specifically for people of colour to enjoy and express themselves, although white allies were also welcome and many were in attendance. The overall turnout was great, and many people seemed to know each other.
Of course, one of the first things we did after the 1.5 hour journey it took us to get there was to eat some tasty homemade vegan food which we wolfed down before seeing the first band.
For the rest of this post, we wanted to do a short review of some of the bands we caught at Decolonise Fest.
HANDLE, a 3-piece from Manchester, was the first band — let alone a punk band — we’ve ever seen to include a triangle in their set! Their sound is unique, jarring and often uncomfortable. The music is driven by drum and bass, with the electric guitar, often associated with punk, entirely absent.
The drummer was brilliant, truly experimenting with his kit, and the accompanying heavy bassline, reminiscent of Joy Division, gave them a new-wave feel. The discordant synth added to the overall discomfort and anxiety of their sound.
Forget warm bass grooves and melodies you can hum along to. If cathartic, fast, energetic punk is what you are after then HANDLE is your band.
Th’Sheridans, an “incongru-pop” duo from London, were an unexpected step away from punk. Their sound was melodic and at times, folky, incorporating a violin into their set along with electric guitar and electronic drums.
The lead singer, Adam Sherif’s twangy voice reminded me a lot of Gordon Gano’s of Violent Femmes. The percussionist, Julia Oertli, occasionally sang backing harmonies which was lovely to hear — it would have been nice to have heard them harmonising more!
Their lyrics are for the most-part, light hearted and amusing, such as in ‘Home Comforts’, where they sing about home cooked food, and ‘Welcome to Town, Pussycats’, a song about Riverdale.
Overall, they gave a fun and energetic performance and are well worth seeing live.
The unapologetically outspoken and energetic 4-piece, Screaming Toenail headlined the first day and were our favourite act of the festival . With songs like ‘White Saviour’ and ‘Bigots’ they had the crowd cheering in solidarity.
Screaming Toenail were tight and polished, and each instrument could be heard and appreciated on its own, but also blended seamlessly. The two guitars worked well together — we particularly liked the dreamy sound of the lead guitar.
We were so glad that we could hear every word in their set (which unfortunately was not the case for many of the other artists due to the sound engineering and/or vocal style). Jacob Joyce’s (lead vocalist) brazen spoken word-style delivery left us in awe.
We hope to catch them live again soon!
Having only been together for 3 months, Immigranti have wasted no time before hitting the stage. The three-piece band comprising vocals, drums, and guitar, delivered an energetic set and had a surprising amount of material for a new band.
Being a new band, they — understandably — started off nervously, but by the end of their set they owned the stage.
The lead vocalist performed off stage, moving from each side of the floor to deliver their words directly to the audience, which gave Immigranti’s set an intimate feel.
The drummer was the driving force in each song, playing stood up and energetically throughout, while also supporting the lead vocalist with strong backing vocals and vocal sounds.
Despite their punky ethos, they have some lighthearted songs too. Their song ‘Boobies’ went down very well, it was a fun song and it was good to see them loosen up as they performed it.
Immigranti have a lot of potential. With a bit of tightening up (that is sure to come with time) and more dynamic variety from the vocalist and band as a whole, we’re sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of them on the punk scene. They’re certainly one to watch!
Three-piece Big Joanie were the headlining band on Sunday. After hearing a lot of hype about them and their album Sistahs, released in December of last year, we were excited to hear their performance. Despite a few issues with the sound and levels, the trio delivered a confident performance.
There is nothing remotely pretentious or clever about Big Joanie. Their lyrics are simple and the instrumentation is sparse, but they pack a punch. ‘Used to be Friends’ although droney in nature, has a catchy melody that stays with you.
They are repetitive, and somewhat monotonous in sound, yet also capitating to watch. They make their set interesting through the different guitar pedal effects, harmonies and audience participation.
We look forward to seeing next year’s Decolonise Fest lineup and hope to catch some of the workshops and talks, too. If you’re looking to discover new punk bands and interested in listening to punk from a perspective other than cis white men, then we highly recommend this festival.
(p.s. sorry for the terrible photos. If you're the artist or a photographer who has a better photo of the band we could use, please email us)