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ROADBURN Festival 2016 • DAY ONE : Thursday, April 14th

Cult Of Luna on the now even bigger 013 main stage

In the early morning the rumbling pipe ghosts that had kept me awake the night before where joined by numerous birds greeting a beautiful day. I gave in, had my breakfast early and went on a walk to the Kampina, a beautiful heath area that's partly in the advanced progress of turning into marshlands, causing me frustation several times as I worked my way past vast, seemingly impassable puddles only to see the path vanish into diffuse wet dead ends later anyway.

But the adventure was real and hopefully I leastwise took some good pictures with the film cameras I brought. (Nothing processed yet.) The landscape there is undoubtly worth a visit, even though it's still not the wisest thing to strain your foot soles with long walks right before four Roadburn festival days.

Good morning, Oisterwijk!

Apart from the core of the event in the 013 building the festival has been through several changes over the years. For me as a first-time visitor in 2012 it's hardly imaginable that there has ever been a Roadburn without the church-turned-concert hall of Het Patronaat.
The collaboration with the small Cul de Sac as a fifth stage isn't that old either.

But this year had some major changes in store. The 013 had been through a renovation last year resulting in far higher capacities for the Main Stage (3000 instead of 2000 visitors) and the Green Room (700 instead of 325). The small Stage01, which I had just started to love last year with shows like those of Agusa or Lucifer, had to be sacrificed however.
So as a replacement for the festival a new club right behind Het Patronaat, the Extase, joined in.

The 013 now also has a new basement, were afterparties and parts of the side programme took place, but I never even once went down there, so I cannot comment on that.

The effects of the changes for the venue and the festival alike were both good and bad.

The biggest winner probably is the Green Room, which doubled in capacity and also has a much bigger stage now, but still maintained its club feeling. Only the narrow photo pit struck my as an unnecessary novelty. But maybe blockades are even required in new venues of a certain size... I'm no expert, so I don't want to be too judgemental about this.
It's a stretch to say that the Main Stage has lost its intimacy, since it has always been a huge setting for concerts, but if you're watching from the balcony or even the stairs ascending to the back of the room now, man, the action is really far away. I heard other visitors commenting that they liked the old venue better. I'm honestly still irresolute.

Sound and production are top-notch on both stages. I doubt that there is any comparable indoor venue in Europe that could deliver such an amount of spectacle with over a dozen bands a day on that level.

As a consequence of the bigger halls more tickets have been sold for Roadburn than ever before. Growth is always a sensitive issue at music festivals, but the specific problem here is that the new structure of the 013 doesn't make the other venues larger.
Especially on Thursday and Friday there have been some major very crowded rooms and long waiting queues in and in front of Het Patronaat and Extase.
I don't have the insight to tell which overcrowding was caused by the ticket sale and which just by the underestamination of some band's popularity. I missed the first issue of the "Weirdo Canyon Dispatch", the daily festival fanzine, but when I read it online afterwards I realized that the show of Chrch in the Extase was endorsed quite heavily by multiple writers, which also might have influenced 500 people trying to fit into a room built for only half as many.

Granted the former Stage01 often had similar problems. But as it was in the 013 building you at least wasted less time when the room was too overcrowded to watch a concert.
It's an old Roadburn rule that you have to get to the small stages early if you really want to see something. But this time my feeling was that you had to chop off even more time of other shows, so that I definitely watched less complete performances than last year. But maybe this was just caused by my personal preferences. It's complicated...

Ok, that was a long and partly whiny introduction. Necessary nonetheless.

But the biggest cause for whining at Roadburn is of course - and will always be - the first world problem of a way too great line-up. For almost every band I enjoyed I could cry about one or more other shows I would have also loved to see.
In many cases I was prepared for the pain, because I already knew beforehand that certain bands like Hell, Behold! The Monolith or Zone Six (just to name those I'd miss due to Paradise Lost) would very likely not fit into my schedule.

So in the following texts I'll try to keep the mourning of missed shows to a minimum and try to focus on what I have actually seen instead.

The first must-see for me was Cult Of Luna, but since the festival was kicked off twenty minutes earlier in Het Patronaat I began my journey there with the first tunes of The Poisoned Glass.

The Poisoned Glass

The Poisoned Glass is a duo only consisting of a bass player and a singer, both working with a wide array of effects and also switching to some other instruments like synths or a floor tom at the front of the stage. Not too surprising at this festival the music was based on drone, yet with a very unique theatrical and vocally haunting approach, which made this a demanding but probably worthwhile experience. Having witnessed only a short section of their set I can't tell how good the concept carried over the whole show, but what I saw was very promising.

Cult Of Luna
Cult Of Luna just released a joint album with ex-Made Out Of Babies singer Julie Christmas, who ranks very high on my Roadburn wish list, so it was a little strange that the band "only" played an anniversary set of their classic "Somewhere Along The Highway".
For me the album was relatively fresh, having listened to it a few times in advance of this concert. I was hoping to find a repressing in the merch area (this time in the V19 building on the opposite side of the street for the whole festival), but unfortunately they only sold the new "Mariner" album which I had already ordered before.

The venue was totally packed, no chance for me to get near the stage, so I went upstairs to watch the show from the balcony. Cult Of Luna are a well-oiled sludge metal / post rock machine including two drummers and their run through "Highway" was just epic and thrilling through and through.
A fitting initiation for the festival stage that would see Neurosis perform two times during this festival.

Luckily there was only a slight overlapping with the band that was up next in Het Patronaat, the austrian psychedelic rockers Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church Of The Leading Hand.

Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church Of The Leading Hand

Since DBATICOTLH have been the rare case of an artist sending the owner of this little blog physical review material (of their albums "Joyride" and "The Wolvennest Sessions") I felt obliged to see them. And I'm glad I did, because their slightly odd but always engaging kraut rock exceeded my expectations and was a true highlight of the festival.

Trippy multi-layered hypnotic tunes provided a perfect backdrop for singer Marthynna's ritualistic voice, which often made me wonder if it was more enchanting or demanding. Traces of the original "kinky march music" which commander on keyboards Albin Julius originally played as Der Blutharsch were probably only audible if you knew what you were searching for. Thankfully the live performance doesn't incorporate the deliberately muffled sound of the studio albums, which interestingly and magically now sound clearer to me after I've seen with my own eyes what the band really is about. The whole performance also was driven by a good amount of fun and humour on stage, which is never wrong when you you enter these psychedelic territories.

After this austro-hippie fest it seemed especially absurd and over-activistic, that the members of a certain german band cancelled their own Roadburn appearance due to the controversial past of Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church Of The Leading Hand. I guess someone needs tutoring on the subject of the use of symbolism and attire in the industrial genre, inspired by bands like Throbbing Gristle or Laibach. Especially since the aesthetic and musical ties to that phase have been cut here a long while ago anyway.

New Keepers Of The Water Towers

Nothing beats the feeling of just having seen a great band on a festival and being sure that the next show will be even better. With New Keepers Of The Water Towers, who I know since their Green Room gig at the Roadburn Afterburner 2014 I was pretty sure about that, since I had just seen them three weeks ago on tour in support of Hexvessel in Hamburg.
My original plan why I went there was to strike two names off my Roadburn schedule to see some other great stuff, but in case of the Keepers it just urged me to witness the sonic spectacle from the first row again.

Apart from the fact that their heavily dark-side-of-Pink Floyd infused album "Infernal Machine" is one of this year's greatest releases so far and the compositions work even better live, I was also interested in how the hell the five-piece-Band (plus a live percussionist) would cram all their instruments and gear on the tiny stage of the Cul de Sac. Somehow all their effect pedals, keyboards, the lap-steel guitar and huge gong found a place.
With so much stuff some technical problems surely occur from time to time, but it was of all things the lead vocal microphone which wouldn't work and caused a delay, until the band decided to just start the set without backing vocals, which was a pity, but couldn't hinder the show from being equally as good than what I had seen in Hamburg. And of course the audience was even more receptive and enthusiastic for their irresistible epic jams here.
Ok, there was in fact one guy a little too enthusiastic (and drunk), who got seriously annoying from time to time and at one point even grabbed a microphone to bawl into. Good thing that it was the unplugged mic, so everyone just let him have his fun.

This was the only show of their tour where the New Keepers Of The Water Towers also played an older song from "The Cosmic Child", so all in all this certainly was a worthy finale for their trip.

I needed a break to explore the merch area now, so I didn't take the opportunity to enjoy the great folk rock songs of Hexvessel on the main stage, as I didn't think the big backdrop of the 013 could significantly add something to them which I hadn't already experienced. Plus they were playing a special set together with Arktau Eos on the following day anyway.

So now I went back into Het Patronaat to get a good spot for another dose of spaced out noise and one of the principal lessons of this year's Roadburn: Everything can be blackened. 

Oranssi Pazuzu

The music of Finland's Oranssi Pazuzu is an amalgam of black metal with very harsh shrieking vocals, embedded into hypnotic space rock, which due to its often uneven time signatures evolve a strong ritualistic, conjuring feeling.

I can't really say that much beyond that formula to describe the band's sound, only that it works incredibly well. I absolutely need to dig deeper into this stuff. Another amazing show!

As the excitement for the "Gothic" performance of Paradise Lost grew, I still had time to visit the Green Room for the first time and catch a glimpse of The Body.

The Body

Whenever it gets to describing the meanest heaviest stuff on this festival I find myself in the trap of only having so many words, making it sound as if all the bands sounded the same, even though they actually had a totally different impact.
The Body is a duo combining drums with a multi-amplified and crushingly distorted guitar - so far the same as yesterday's Jucifer. The music's foremost aim is also the same - to crush your whole body with sonic brutality.

The Body - even though they also added creaking and rustling noises reminiscent of JK Flesh to the mix - in comparison seemed a little more controlled with an underlying industrial bleakness.
So if we're turning this into a competion in mercilessness, Jucifer with their sheer ferocity are still up front for me, but that could possibly only be a matter of the more advanced (and thus ear-friendlier) sound system in the 013.

Anyway, I would have loved to enjoy the whole set of The Body, but a higher call summoned me to the Main Stage...

I'm biased. Paradise Lost performing "Gothic" in its entirety - it couldn't get more classic for me.

I knew that the band would deliver, as they were already very convincing on their last tour, where I had seen them in Hamburg, so with their most iconic album on the setlist things were about to get near perfect. And so it was.

Missing to reach perfection was only the addition of a female opera singer in flesh and blood, but given the few lines she would actually have to sing, her absence is of course forgivable. And on the other hand the whole show was accompanied by visuals created by Costin Chioreanu, which would serve as a perfect alternative (not to say better) artwork for a re-release of the groundbreaking doom/death/gothic album.

Apart from the classical outro everything was played, even the instrumental "Angel Tears" which the band had never once performed in all the twentyfive years since "Gothic" was released. I loved every minute of it.

Since the album isn't that long, there was still room for some other songs, and that was the part of the show that I found to be underwhelming. When this show had been announced I remember it as Paradise Lost playing "Gothic" + songs from their latest album "The Plague Within". And I was looking forward for both parts of the show. Sadly they actually mostly played songs from the later albums from the 90s, where I had kind of lost interest in the band. And now I was reminded why I did so. From the phenomenal new album they only played "No Hope In Sight".
Or so I thought until right now, because I left during "As I Die", thinking it was the last song. But checking on I just realised that they followed it up with their most Roadburn-fitting funeral doom masterpiece "Beneath Broken Earth". Fuck me! Just the one I wanted to hear. Fuck me!

And fuck me once again, because for what did I miss it? For a big waste of time, let's call it the Chrch overcrowding debacle.

Chrch - somewhere in this picture...

Chrch were my first appointment in the new venue Extase. I walked there, entered the bar, was astonished about the long narrow hallway that followed until it entered into an already totally overcrowed concert room. I stood at the back wall of the venue and felt the room getting denser and the air getting thinner. At the bar and on the ceiling there were several screens for everyone who couldn't see anything of the actual stage. Ok, I could grumpily accept that. But when the band began it just sounded so shitty from where I was standing that I immediately left, all the way to the street passing people who still wanted to get in there. Nope, that sucked.

Dead Neanderthals

One of the best weapons against frustration is humour. And the last show I saw on this Thursday - back inside the intimate Cul de Sac - delivered that in a very challenging way with a band operating at the junction of advantgarde and pure sports.

A part of me is tempted not even to tell you about the performance of the Dead Neanderthals, because the band is probably best enjoyed without knowing their central pun.
So if you have the opportunity to see them live in the near future, take this as a big SPOILER ALERT, go there and just stop reading right now!

Ok, Dead Neanderthals are two guys on drums and saxophone, who spent a big part of the preparation on stage not for soundcheck, but setting up a wall of halogen spotlights pointed directly at the audience.

When they began their performance they turned down the regular stage light and full-on dazzled us with this brutal continuous light.
The music started out equaly as in your face, as they immediately exploded into a joint free jazz solo. And this was not your easy listening backdrop for the bar, but fast, loud and energetic with the sax letting go of all subtlety and just blowing with raw power, again and again, hardly taking a breath.
Even so the drums, always hitting, rushing, never losing speed nor pressure.

And so it went on for over a minute. For over three minutes. For over five minutes, still without any break. Ten minutes! Steam, sweat, insanity! How do they do this? Fifteen minutes! Ok, this will go on and on and on.... Crazy shit!
Then after approximately twentyfive minutes the jazz massacre suddenly stopped, the lights went out, and from the speakers very loudly came Guns'n'Roses`"Paradise City".


I loved that shit.

more reviews:

The Poisoned Glass:

Cult Of Luna:

Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church Of The Leading Hand:

New Keepers Of The Water Towers:

Oranssi Pazuzu:

The Body:

Paradise Lost:

Dead Neanderthals:

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