Without much fuss, the Fckn Bstrds played at the 20th anniversary festival of ADM Amsterdam in October 2017: The last band to play, unannounced in a hidden corner on the terrain of the biggest cultural freespace of the Netherlands.
It felt as though the organisation and technical support had abandoned the performers as the sound engineer swiftly disappeared as soon as the Fckn Bstrds took the stage; as if in expectation of an act of terror. As it turned out, trying to equalize the sound would have been superfluous.
At their other shows, visitors would watch and observe with fascination and disblief from a safe-feeling distance as the performers use synthesizers to make Harsh Noise and produce an elaborate mess with props of plastic often deemed ‘trash’: ripping up pillows and scattering the filling, throwing packaging material around and generally distributing a thick layer of ‘stuff’ in the space.
Here in Amsterdam the atmosphere felt differently. Less spectacle, less articifiality. The audience, which had been attentive and observant though rather passive during previous performances of other bands, had suddenly discovered its wild side. Soon, dancing turned into moshing and throwing the performer’s props around in the crowd. Far from a conventional show, the performers moved further and further away from the focus of the audience. Within minutes, the band had managed to almost completely share the space with its (former) audience as equals and rather accompanied the madness going on around them with harsh, uncomfortable, disturbing noise that matched the ongoing scene perfectly.
Imagine this: A group of (about) seven individuals dressed up in colourful fluffy trashy, yet thoughtful, costumes playing their nightmarish sounding instruments in a tight space they share with about 100 raging individuals. Now and then, one of the performers would leave their instrument, enter the crowd and throw some random object around: pieces of bubble wrap, expanded foam or plastic sheets which the crowd would pick up and enthusiastically continue throwing around. There was a constant cloud of material circulating above everyone’s heads. A rather joyful chaos unfolded. Seemingly mindlessly, people pushed each other, ran into oneanother giving their physical energy way while moving expressively and violently.
As you might imagine, it’s easy to feel disadvantaged in such a situation, being a rather petite human. It requires courage to engage. The experience of moshing at punk concerts in my early twenties had taught me though that within this kind of chaos and violent madness people look out for each other, more so than otherwise, I would dare to say. It feels like instantaneous solidarity where, without question, anybody is being picked up by the person next to them if they fall.
Here, applied solidarity means going beyond the pure physical interaction to establishing subtle, more intimate connections between individuals. Rather directly, boundaries are tested and an awareness for each other’s agency is established, through small gestures like leaning against another or standing strongly infront of somebody who is clearly not eager to ‘fight’. Thus, moshing is not necessarily about anger but rather about direct contact and physical communication.
This scene maybe continued for an hour, maybe longer. While the scene continously became more entangled and this initial group of people started to feel like a crowd, thoughts on authoritative crowd control and the common response of ‘letting off steam’ crept into my mind. If all the energy which was being released during this performance would be channelled into something, the crowd could act collectively. Or, were we actually in the midst of channelling our energies into ‘something’, which is, the undetermined and loose flux of existence?
Looking to make sense of my thoughts and emotions in the midst of chaos around me, I reflected on the fact that I was raised to believe in norms of personal fulfilment through productivity within a society subjugated by Capitalist ideals. It felt weirdly good to put all my energy into something which actually was ‘nothing’. It felt like breaking with a routine of ordered thought patterns. Instead of doing things with a reason in mind as I usually do this was the ultimate experience of submitting to chaos. This was applied nihilism and I loved it.
JEANNETTE PETRIK is a self-directed writer, maker and community organiser with a background in design. Her practice focusses on socio-cultural phenomena at society’s fringes and their position in contrast to popular culture. Projects she engages in she understands as radical, honest and critical.