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2014-04-22

ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2014 • DAY TWO / Friday, April 11th



Good morning, Oisterwijk!

I got up ridiculously early for a festival visitor, had a shower, breakfast and plenty of time until the music would start again in Tilburg.

The weather was fine, so I took a few of my cameras for an extensive walk, shooting pictures like this:

Oisterwijk forest
or this:

6x12 cm Panorama of a lake
To simulate the time passing before Roadburn continued in the afternoon, I'll bore you with some camera babble. All in all I had five of my toys with me on this trip:

The Belair X 6-12 Jetsetter, a folding medium format camera to take some panorama photographs on my tourist walks.
The La Sardina Belle Starr, a wide-angled plastic lens toy camera for 35 mm film. On Thursday I had it with me at the festival, but from Friday on I decided to use a smaller bag and reduce my luggage, so it also mainly served tourist purposes.
The Harinezumi 3.0 is a very handy,  deliberately trashy digital camera. I have this challenge going on to take at least one picture with it every day for a year, so I had to bring it with me. It's not as useless for live music photography as one may think...

A special camera for live pictures with which I have mostly good experiences is the Adox Golf. Fill this original german vintage camera from the 1950s with some light sensitive film and you might get some unique worthwhile results. The main reason why I applied for a press pass this year was to take it into the main stage's photo pit. It's not the most practical thing, because often there`s not enough light to check the manual settings or the frame number of the film, and during the three songs in the pit with all the other photographers it's not guaranteed that you get the right moment and angle for it. I still have to to see how it turned out, those films aren't developed yet. Maybe it's all garbage and should have kept my mouth shut here. ;)

And then there was of course my digital DSLR, just with my standard 15-85mm lens and always on fully manual shutter speed and aperture settings, because half automatic shooting is cheating and against my code, haha.


But now fast forward to 15:30 h, to the main stage of the 013, where a very special concert day, curated by Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt, was about to begin with a 90 minute set of one of those very few bands which can possibly turn your whole understanding about what music is capable of upside down: the one and only, the legendary Magma.

Magma

Magma
I've been hoping to see Magma live for years now, so them playing at Roadburn was one of the prime reasons for me to come this year. And what can I say other than that it was a true revelation of Zeuhl greatness?
Zeuhl is the term for the style which the French band single-handed invented in the early 1970s (alongside the artificial language Kobaïan in which the lyrics are sung) and it's based on the fusion of wild rhythmic jazz with progressive rock, dark classical elements in the vein of Orff and Wagner, hypnotic repetive structures and harmonic choir vocals with operatic to shrill solo performances.

The band around the only founding members Christian Vander on drums and his wife Stella, who were both especially celebrated by the audience, delivered a flawless powerful ride, be it through the all-time classic "Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh", the 2012 album centerpiece "Félicité Thösz" or a new epic composition which hasn't been released yet.

I love the mixture of insane fast complexity and almost clerical, but never too serious gravity of this music. Magma is just one of a kind.
I could go on about the vibraphone, the electric piano, the energetic madness that Vander is behind is drumkit, his two vocal parts which marked highlights of the set... nothing about this show was anything less than stellar and jaw-dropping.
And this festival can get away with having them as an afternoon opener!

Mikael Åkerfeldt later joked that everyone who had not seen Magma was a cunt. I'm not only willing to second that, I also predict that one far day it will be written on his tombstone: He brought Magma to Roadburn. Because - let's face it - no matter how much he has achieved (or still might) on his own musical path; this is his single greatest deed, his true legacy that just can't be beaten.

Comus
The next act was just as ancient (founded 1969) as Magma and certainly more obscure, yet on the other hand probably easier to digest for unprepared ears.

Basically the British Comus  played a mostly unplugged mixture of folk and 70s progressive rock, with some odd or dark psychedlic edges.

With both male and female vocals, several percussions and a violin embedded in complex but still mostly catchy songs the range of moods was wider than I had expected. Although I deemed the setlist a bit anti-climatic with the strongest songs in the beginning (ok, those were the ones I had heard beforehand) this was quite an interesting colourful trip.

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin
Judging from the markings on my running order this was clearly my least creative Roadburn day, as I only had curls around artists playing on the main stage, precisely: around all artists on the main stage. But what can you do with the program there being such a cult fest?

I'm no expert, but I've heard of and listened to some tracks of Claudio Simonetti's Goblin already a while ago, so I had a rough idea of what they were doing and that I shouldn't miss their set. Or at least the bigger part of it, because ninety minutes are a long time and at some point a man has to eat.
I can say I saw enough of the show to make me happy.

Simonetti is an Italian keyboard player who composed lots of soundtrack songs for several Romero movies, zombie and other thriller / horror flicks, which were performed here in a classic rock instrumentation. Scenes from those movies were being displayed effectivly in the background.

Although the music of Goblin is mostly instrumental (apart from some vocoder vocal stuff) and 70s originated, this trippy stuff had a very modern - or better not retro - feel to it. The rhythm section plus guitar provided a robust backbone of hard grooves with funky vibe or a touch of metal, on which Simonetti could dance with his keys.

Music for good times - or for being eaten by zombies. You choose.

Candlemass
I've only seen them in the flesh twice before, but those were two of the finest sets the Wacken Open Air ever witnessed, so Candlemass has really grown to be one of my all-time favorite live acts in the whole realm of Heavy Metal.

The Swedish doom masters played a special show which celebrated the full "Ancient Dreams" album, maybe a strange choice given that it is more of a second row output in their discography and wasn`t always that well loved by the band itself, mainly because of some of its embarrassingly blatant dungeons and dragons lyrics, I guess. But the great curator Åkerfeldt wanted it this way, so Candlemass did it willingly - yet not without some humour.
And they left out that somehow strange Black Sabbath medley from the end of the record, just as Voivod had done with "Batman" on their "Dimension Hätross" show in 2012. I don`t think it was missed.

I would have loved to hear anything from the band, but "Ancient Dreams" is a damn fine album, so this naturally was an excellent show. Once again I must especially praise the vocal performance of Mats Levén who doesn't have to hide from his predecessors in any way. The philanselmonic guest vocalist Alan Averill (I confess I had to google him) on "Incarnation Of Evil" wasn't bad as a contrast either.

Great band. Great show. Earth to earth, aaaaaashes to ashes and dust to dust!

Opeth

Opeth
I've always struggled with Opeth in a weird way, because I wanted to like them more than I actually did. From their formula alone I feel that I should love them, but in reality I rarely listen to their albums and still am not really familiar with them. With some bands you just have these strange unfinished relationships...

Given that Opeth was the least important band on my Friday schedule and I actually left it open for me to maybe go to one of the other stages for a while. But than I weighed that I hadn't seen them post the "Heritage" album yet and that it also would be a matter of respect to watch them, as their mastermind had put together this memorable concert day.

In retrospect I fully stand behind my decision, because this Opeth set was clearly the best I`ve seen so far. It was for several reasons, one being that the setlist was just very well balanced, with the growling Death Metal attacks, the quiter folkier tunes and even some almost psychedelic stuff being there in just the right amounts. And also important: all incarnations of the Opeth sound were equally appreciated  by the audience. I mean, when I think of that concert in Hamburg I once visited because Cynic were supporting them, I just hated how the mellow parts were totally absorbed by just too much penetrant shouting. Whereas the fans at Roadburn actually were willing to listen to the music.

And then there was the context of the whole festival day on this stage. All the bands I had seen before had their part in shaping the sound or at least spirit of Opeth. This was not just a gig of the daily headliner, but a logical conclusion where elements of everything that had happened before came together and were then joined by the Death Metal component.

So Opeth not only played a great Opeth show, but also delivered the perfectly fitting finale for this longest of the four Roadburn days.


Bong's "Stoner Rock" album accompanied me on the nightdrive back to my hotel. And who would have thought? To my surprise the first snare drum was even hit before I got there.


Two down,  two to go - see you again for my review of DAY THREE / Saturday soon!

Good night, Roadburn!

more Roadburn 2014: DAY ONE / Thursday

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