The story began in 2015 in Ferrare, between Venice and Bologna. A group of friends organized a party, which evolved into a festival the year after, that itself became a big festival the following year ! And when talking about a “big” festival, it is not to mention an overpriced event, riddled with sponsors, security and for which the only goal is to make money.
We traveled to meet Francesco, one of the founders. It’s warm outside so we drink pints, and we quickly forget about the existence of Covid. | Interview by Polka B. and Reda / Trad: ZRW
Francesco : The festival is born out of a joke. It was supposed to be my 2015 birthday party. A friend told me : “why don’t you call it Distruggi la Bassa ?” “Distruggi” means “to destroy” and “bassa” is the countryside. We wanted it to put it on fire, and make it shake, so to say, with the intent to move the lines. For the first party, we called some friends of us, bands from the Emilia Romagna and from northern Italy. To get people to come, we thought we had to have a legendary band. So we invited Nabat, a historical Oi band from Bologna. As for the venue, we chose a lake. There wasn’t even a stage ! And it rained a lot ! We stopped everything for two hours before getting to it again at 2 p.m with Nabat. The whole thing was very “roots”, but we were all super happy with the concert. We really wanted to make it grow and to create a festival. It was a good timing, 2 months later, the singer of Tear Me Down (a historical hardcore band from Viterbe, north from Rome) asked us if we could organize a concert with them and the band Millions of Dead Cops (MDC). We were really into it. So in the wake of that, we then organized a 2-day festival, with Yes We Kill and a lot of other italian bands.
Was it raining this time ?
Yes, of course, and it was even worse this time around ! Luckily we installed a marquee to provide shelter for the bands and the audience. There were a lot of people from France and England.
Who did you invite for the second edition in 2016 ?
The bands Adolescents and TSOL headlined, also with Raw Power and other formations from all over Italy. At that point, the festival had begun to work pretty well. People were coming from everywhere.
We formed a real crew-like bond with a lot of friends from the region. Together, we went further to assert the direction the festival should take until the fifth edition.
How did you keep that DIY spirit by inviting bands from the US like DRI ? The costs must have been quite important…
The Do it Yourself philosophy is essential to us. Before the creation of the festival it had already worked well for us. At the same time, it was imortant to us to make the event grow so we could get a nice stage, equipped with a good sound system. And of course, to invite foreign bands like Adolescents, TSOL, MDC, Total Chaos, H2O, and those who should have come in 2020, Youth of Today and DRI. We wanted to achieve those goals while preserving our DIY principles and roots. To do that, we have always kept the ticket at the lowest price possible, without any big sponsoring to support us. Friends helped us. One has a tatoo shop, the other a local bar… Passionated people like us who share our ideas. We don’t ask the State or institutions for money. We prefer to take risks by investing the money we made from the last editions (if there’s any !). No matter what happens, tickets will remain at a very low price for everybody. This year it’s 30 € for 3 days of festival, including the camping prices.
In Italy, the DIY scene looks pretty structured. With a lot of media and relay points (like Radio Punk). Why is your scene so tight at local level ?
In Italy, you often have to create starting with nothing.
You have to conquer spaces to carry out projects. More and more people gather together and create networks to achieve their objectives. This phenomenon has been emphasized in the last few years. We sense a will to collaborate to make the DIY scene grow, from the northern country, in the center and down to the south. I have to insist : there’s a lot of new experiences, festivals, collectives, everywhere in Italy. It’s beautiful to see. All those initiatives are articulated around values that brought us to the DIY : antifascism, antispescism, the will to build beautiful things from scratch.
Historically, the punk scene in Bologna seems to be especially important in northern Italy…
Bologna is key. It’s a focal point for punk in Italy, because its history dates back to the end of the 70s. It has been an important city for the movement since its birth. There always has been activism and squats. This scene has raised the bar to a national level for years. Nowadays, Bologna Punx are friends, there’s really a lot of bands and activists. They always have been stimulating us.
Can you explain to us why the band Nabat is so important ?
Nabat are the history of Oi ! Not only on the italian stage, but for also in Europe. It’s also the first band that played at Distruggi la Bassa. They are true friends. They are like good wine : the older they get, the better they become ! Everybody was on stage singing with Steno, their lead singer. We see them as an example to follow. Because of all they built and what they keep on doing now, 30 years later. If we’re here today on that path, it is thanks to the old guard.
What do yo think of bands from the new generation ?
It’s been 2 or 3 years we’ve seen young bands give very good concerts with an audience and without a headliner. They begin to really take interest in this counterculture. We hope these young folks will be able to take matters in their own hands and to manage the scene in turn, because we’re getting old ! Sooner or later, we will stop runnning around and organizing. We will make way for the young ones and hope they will continue on that path. We’re optimistic !
Do you have any young bands’ names to give us ?
Here in Ferrara there is Rough Touch. I also think about Game Over, Turn Against, Bislers… They are super bands and super people.
What band would you dream to invite to Distruggi la Bassa ?
It’s hard to say, there are a lot ! But my two main dreams would be to organize for Gorilla Biscuits and Cock Sparrer. It’s just a dream for now… but hey, never say never !
What are your favorite festivals in Europe ?
I like the Punk Rock Holiday in Slovenia a lot. Also the Punk and Disorderly in Berlin. The organization and the state of mind are lit. In that vein, there’s also the Monteparadiso in Croatia. Overall, the one I like the most is the Punk Rock Holiday. The location is magnificient. A real paradise..
I didn’t think you would cite that big of a festival !
It’s not that big ! The Punk Rock Holiday can host 6000 people at best, in a forest.
The main stage is placed among the trees and the small stage is on the shore of a lake. A real paradise, I’m telling you ! There’s a little beach and a river 3 minutes away on foot. And no fences ! Really, it’s a must.
Isn’t it too expensive ?
It has a “normal” price. I think it’s 90 € for 5 days. Then, they program well-known bands like NOFX, Bad Religion, Propaghandi… Of course they also support little european DIY bands who sometimes play on the main stage.
Can you leave us with some of you favorite songs ? “Because are young” by Cock Spatter. “Last one to die” by Rancid. Those are the first to come to my mind !
What is your favorite album ? Solo odio by Impact !
Any last word ?
We hope to gather soon on and all around stages, everywhere in the world !