Damage (Is Done) Report

In March 2024, the hardcore convention returned. AS caught up with two of the Damage is Done collective as they were getting ready to host the largest weekend yet, with two days at the Colour Factory featuring the UK debut of Japanese noise punk pioneers FRAMTID, QUARANTINE, FUGITIVE, FAIRYTALE and a roll call of UK Hardcore over four days.

AS: First of all, let’s introduce yourselves…

Ola: My name is Ola, I’ve played in numerous bands (GAME, FARCE, ARMS RACE, STAB), I’ve been going to shows since 2002 and putting them on since 2008. I run a record label called Quality Control HQ that’s been around since 2011 too. I keep trying to leave hardcore but I love it so much and there’s always something to do!
Meline: I’m Meline, I’m not from the UK – I’ve lived in Florida most of my life and I’ve been going to shows since 2006. I’m not really known for booking shows or running festivals but I met Ola in 2014 and ever since then we’ve become close friends. In the past year she’s asked me to help her out so I’ve become her… assistant, I guess?
Ola: No! Equals! She’s one of the main coordinators!

AS: How did the collective start up?

Ola: It’s quite fluid, I guess. Damage is Done was a smaller festival initially and was started by Callum Baird (GAME, VIOLENT REACTION, SHRAPNEL, et al) and myself, that was in 2019. And then it’s grown, we’ve had Lula Hoffman (HELLISH TORMENT, SUBLUX), Nicky Rat (ARMS RACE, GAME, SUBDUED, THE ANNIHILATED); Jyoti Wariyar (FARCE, RUNT, MALIGNANT ORDER, SUBDUED) has been involved for numerous years, and now we have Marco Abbatiello (T. S. WARSPITE) and Meline too. It’s basically whoever’s around! London is quite a transplant city as well so it changes around but I’m one who’s always lived here and is always around and available. We do our part and then make it work, somehow.

AS: I can see the appeal of having a collective book a festival; I know that when talking to Tom Ellis about Static Shock I was surprised at how long he did it on his own and how grateful he was to have other people involved as it grew. And it must mean that ideas will pop up that you wouldn’t have thought of if you did it solo?

Ola: Yeah, definitely. A good example of that is the pre-show; for one of the years it was band who were coming to the fest anyway and we booked it last minute. It was Nicky’s idea to pre-book it this time, and Meline, you made the art show a lot more official last year, that was really nice.
Meline: I think in situations like this you realise you’re just one person and that you can’t do everything, so it’s just nice that everyone else can do whatever they’re good at. Ola’s really good at organising everything, getting them in the same place… I particularly wouldn’t be good with that side but I can do certain other things and that is what makes everything work. When you have a good team, that’s then things happen.
Ola: It also comes from the idea to make DID as diverse in terms of the types of hardcore and punk as possible, like we’ve got NINEBAR and FRAMTID on the same bill and no other festival in the history of the world has managed that! And that’s reflected in who is involved in getting bands involved. There’s bands that I love, ones that Nicky or Melene or Marco loves, and we put them together and make it work. Traditionally, Friday is more hardcore, while Saturday tends to be more punk. For Sunday, we’ve never had a secret, fake name headliner before but Meline got us HIGH/VIS this year, so that’s really fun.
Meline: Uh, it’s VISIBLY HIGH’s first show? I don’t know who HIGH/VIS is… (laughs)

AS: Who are you most looking forward to seeing this year? Apart from FRAMTID… which has been the dream band for many a hardcore fest in the UK, so it’s very exciting that you’ve managed this!

Ola: Again, we’re not alone here – a lot of that is down to Paco (La Vida es Un Mus). He releases their records so I asked and said, I know it’s a long shot but could it potentially happen, could we do it? And he got it, asked them and they said yes! I think London is very fortunate in that we have a lot of people who put on shows, release records and support each over – Static Shock, LVEUM and QCHQ have always worked really well and supported each other and those two labels have been my mentors and templates – I learn a lot from them.
Meline: I’m excited to see the bigger bands play on a bigger stage. Bands like SILVER, DYNAMITE and MAZANDARAN, who haven’t really played that much. It’ll be really nice to see them play to a very large audience. I’m always excited for the newer bands as much as the older ones.

AS: That’s a very good shout. It’s been noticeable especially in 2023 that new people are coming through… have you had people come to punk recently want to get involved, or even better seen some new people put on shows after coming to a fest like this one?

Ola:  Before we answer this question, I just to touch on what Meline said, she nailed it with it having both big headliners and a local focus.What we’ve seen is a lot of growth in festivals and they have their place but that’s where we wanted to stake out our niche and say what we’re about. When Callum and I were originally putting the festival together we’d book a few – we have to say it – American bands, as there’s still people who wil only come to the big American bands in this country. And sometimes that’s for economic reasons, they just go to the big ones, you can’t afford them all.
But there are times where you see a disconnect from the younger people going to these and not knowing there’s a local scene too. I know that Oscar Rainey in Brighton has worked really hard to make that connection when booking touring bands to get people to come to local shows, and similarly that’s the Damage is Done idea. Instead of having a packed lineup of international bands we would use that opportunity for people coming for those bands to make them sit through at least 10 local ones. Because we have such a wonderful local scene, and across Europe there’s loads of new scenes popping up left, right and centre – like Paris has really exploded recently too. I just want to shed light on that because we don’t have the resources or press that American hardcore has, it’s really on a larger scale.
Meline: To add to that too, you see the same five or 10 large bands at every festival. It’s nice then to see people who are doing the work in their local scene get to have a moment. We’re not getting the biggest bands from America – we’re getting popular ones, but not the biggest and those who are willing to work within DIY ethics too. On a smaller scale, there was a band Nicky put on last year called MOTIVE, who are really young like 16 and they started another band after the fest as well. My point is that this does push people to do more, get involved more.
Ola: I believe, from what I’ve been told, is that we’ve definitely had more than a few people go to Damage is Done as their first hardcore show, and then a year later they’re in bands and playing other festivals. So that’s really cool.

AS: Is there going to be an art show this year?

Meline: So there’s two artists instead of multiple this year. Just like with bands it’s hard to get everyone in the same room, so instead of 15 or 20 we’ve picked two where we want to give them the spotlight, and then there’ll be another two next year.

AS: Sounds good, who have you got?

Meline: This year it’s Max Mattoon and Emer Keery.

AS: How have you managed to scale up the festival in a city where there are so many venues closing, the cost of living crisis and all manner of terrible things? I know the Colour Factory in Hackney Wick is a new space for the festival this year, how did you come across it?

Ola: Up until this point we usually had DID at the New Cross Inn, and for hardcore/punk there really are so few venues in a city this size to use for larger shows. I think London is one of the hardest cities to run a scene in. Everyone is very strapped, everyone is just super busy with work, the rent’s going up, it’s hard to practice and it takes two hours to get anywhere! So yeah, it’s difficult but within all that we’ve still got amazing bands.
It was a sort of happy misfortune in that this year the New Cross Inn was not available which was mad because I was booking in a year in advance, and obviously it’s just gotten more and more popular! But I go clubbing at the Colour Factory and that’s where Ben Fuzzbrain put on Hoodstock there last year. I didn’t know they even did day shows but he gave me the contacts and they were available. They’be been really accommodating, allowing us to have under 18s using a special form, that’s something they have not done before, we got special permission for that. We’ve shown them videos of previous shows too so the security knows what to expect! Security in itself is another issue in London venues now; London councils are really starting to clamp down on security in venues and love nothing more than to shut them down and redevelop them into apartments. I mean, the Grosvenor was a mainstay for decades and now it’s a gastropub with flats above!
Meline: Unfortunately this is everywhere though. It’s not just London and it’s not just England, it’s true in America as well. Like we just had a show get shut down in New York and all the venues I went to in Florida have been shut down over the years; it’s a general issue worldwide for DIY. At the same time though, I feel like once you step out of major cities it’s a different conversation because the rent prices aren’t as expensive.
Ola: Yeah, shout out to Saint Vitus [in Brooklyn, NY and recently closed down by authorities in late February], I hope they can figure it out and reopen.

AS: What’s been the biggest inspiration when putting the fest together?

Ola: I don’t know about recently but anyone who ever went to Chaos in Tejas… that’s always been the dream.
Meline: For me it was Damaged City and United Blood, which funnily enough happened on the same weekend every year. One was more on the punkier side in DC and the other was a bit more on the Hardcore side of things [in Richmond, Virginia] but there was always a group of bands who could play either, and they always had trouble. There’d be bands who would play both, one for one day and one for the others. There’s lots of examples but there’s less and less unfortunately, they all kind of stopped.
Ola: You just went to FYA [in Tampa, Florida]
Meline: FYA’s a good example of that too. It’s definitely grown! It started with 300 people for the first year and now it’s five, six, 7,000 thousand, which is insane. Bob as well, he has a small team of people that help him and that’s it, which is sick.

AS: For everyone reading this who’s at their first Damage is Done, what’s your advice?

Meline: Talk to people. Don’t be shy. We’ve all said embarrassing stuff, everyone’s more like minded thank you would think… yeah!
Ola: I think it was Chris Corey from MIND ERASER who called them punk conventions. Like a hardcore punk festival is just like a convention, you gotta go to the stalls, chat to everyone, make some connections. For the first time ever with the extra space too, we’re going to have an actual activist space this year with groups that you’re able to talk to face to face. And yeah, talk to people, there’s going to be so many bands, so many screenprinters, promoters, labels all in one room from across Europe and beyond so yeah, make some friends!

As printed in Another Subculture’s March 2024 issue; get the latest paper by subscribing.

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