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ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2014 • DAY ONE / Thursday, April 10th

The initial plan was to start this year's Roadburn Festival right at 15:00h with the very first band in Het Patronaat (the second of all in all five stages), Locrian. Or at least to be there before 40 Watt Sun startet.

Screw all that! Of course it didn't work out that way.

After my first Roadburn visit in 2012, which I attended mainly for Voivod, Justin K. Broadrick and Coroner, without much knowledge of what was going on beyond those personal favorites, I had two strong feelings: 1. This festival is unbelievably amazing and I must, no I will definitely go there again, though it`s not really what I can afford to do every year.
2. (after reading reviews and watching several YouTube clips) Damn, how many great bands did I miss?

As the very existence of this review proves I did go to Roadburn again. I struggled for a while, because it's not the most ideal time for me to take a long Thursday-to-Monday weekend, and of course also not for free... But when not only Triptykon, but also the legendary Magma (who I had been wanting to see for years) were announced, there was no way I could miss this!

And to be be fair to myself regarding point 2: You can obviously never leave Roadburn with the feeling of having seen everything. The cluster of interesting acts and musical styles - there's so much more going on than the core component of mighty doom riffs - is just way too dense.
But I came prepared, researched many artists and filled my running order with many marks, not leaving any hour free. Obviously my schedule ignored the fact that you meet people, get into conversations, that you need to eat at some point and that - especially if you bear the right to wear cameras and want to use them properly - you have to be really early to get a good spot at the concerts which are not in the main stage of the 013 .

Which brings me back to Thursday and my initial plan.

My drive - I come from Northern Germany, a few villages away from Wacken - took a little longer than expected and of course I had to check in at my hotel first, a very nice holiday bungalow thing in the local recreation area around Oisterwijk, roughly fifteen to twenty minutes from the center of Tilburg.
Maybe I still could have seen Locrian - I don't remember the exact time of my arrival -, if I didn't have to get my festival wristband first. And then change it for a press band and pass. And then behold the wonders of Veemarktstraat.

The street between the main venue 013 and both Het Patronaat (with a concert hall under the roof of a church) and the V19 (with a small cinema / clinics room and a press room) looked a lot more crowded than two years before.
The organizers now not only had the city's permission to set up a stand for food and one for drinks there, but also a whole merchandise mile.

So when I was finally ready to watch 40 Watt Sun they had already started a while ago and the place was much to crowded for a fat guy with a camera bag to get a decent spot. I tried to listen to their slow, gloomy and beautiful sound from afar, but with all the excited chattering of freshly arrived Roadburn visitors around me the mood didn't get to me yet.


I decided to visit the local chicken wholesaler (Which part of Tilburg is Kentucky exactly?), before I entered the main venue, while Beastmilk were playing some kind of Volbeat-for-Joy Division-fans consent music. Not my cup of tea, but I patiently waited for the fine english flavour, which would be the grindcore godfathers Napalm Death.

Napalm Death
The grindcore blasts however were left aside for this occasion, as Napalm Death honored the doom tradition of Roadburn and played a special set with some mid-tempo (in other words: still fast) and also the slowest tracks of the band's history. The whole show foregrounded the Swans influence in Napalm Death's sound and had a strong Godflesh vibe, which as a fan of both I fully approve.
Yet although I liked it a lot, compared to many other artists here who are used to crush it slow, the performance clearly lacked routine. Not that they made any noteworthy mistakes, but you could tell that Barney and co. were challenging themselves here. All in all I think it was a bold and brave move for a band of their legendary status to do this thing.
Of course there were some people shouting "faster!", and I must admit that I sympathize with them at least so far, that I would have loved a traditional second set of Napalm Death on one of the other festival days.

Time for my first visit to the Green Room, the first of two smaller stages inside the 013 venue, where Whitehorse added layers of thick deep noise and crunshy distortion to the most evil form of doom I witnessed this weekend. Forgive me the use of the obvious Roadburn beard cliché (just this one time, ok?), when I compare the singer to a very angry Gimli with a vacuum cleaner stuck in his throat, deliberately delivering just more low and high variations of the noise floor that builds the whole sound of the band. Yes, this surely is borderline stuff on the verge of too much, but for my taste the Australians dosed it just right.
The bass player had his very own little Spinal Tap moment, which some people may not even have noticed, when his amp gave up during the first song and the crew exchange the whole thing. All this took a while and surely felt like an eternity on stage. But finally everything was ready again and he could join in with the band - just in time for the very last four chords of the song. The front row on the right side was amused.

The first show I really experienced in Het Patronaat was performed by three hooded guys under the plain moniker Conan. Just having seen Whitehorse the pace didn't change much, yet apart from that this was a totally different mount.
The beauty - or better: the brutal grandeur - of Conan lies in its simplicity. Straight powerful  doom and midtempo riffs in the vein of Autopsy or Winter, played in a fashion to enjoy every crispy note. On top of that a straight and effective vocal duet consisting of a higher shouting rock voice and contrasting death metal-ish barking.
Kneel down before the barbarian! I'll definitely keep this band on my radar.

Not really interested in Crowbar and missing True Widow due to a chat in the press room, I closed my first Roadburn night with Bong.

Oh, how to explain Bong? If you just step into the concert hall for a minute to get a beer at the bar, you might have the impression that literally nothing is happening there. The stage is obscured in smoke, the band seems introverted with the musicians facing each other and not interacting with the audience. Maybe the drummer is doing nothing. Maybe the strings don't seem to play a riff at all, but only a neverending wave of deep drone, while some Indian sound (no, it`s not a sitar but a shaahi baaja) is lamenting to the slow pulse. If you really catch the right minute you might catch the singer calling out to some ancient transcendent powers. But this happens very rarely.

I purchased two albums of Bong. One side (on the vinyl version) equals one track. This music is almost beyond any kind of rock music. It's meditation, in which time doesn't matter.

Just think of one of those ultra super slow motion videos of a bottom being spanked (don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about - it's the internet) and all those shapes and waves you behold that you had no idea they even existed before. And now transfer this idea to the recording of a Bong being inhaled and played so slow that it streches to a full hour. You got the picture!

This band is truly inspired - and I say that not even being stoned.

I had to two next-door neighbours in my hotel, who were also attending the festival and had diverging opinions about Bong. One said that he had felt a little bit like being dragged to the opera, always thinking okay, now they're coming to an end... just a few minutes... no, the drummer starts to play again...

It's like they say: The show is only over when the fat woman stops to sing.

And on that thought I close my review of Roadburn, DAY ONE.

read on here: ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2014 • DAY TWO / Friday, April 11th

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