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2018-04-29

ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2018 • DAY ONE : Thursday, April 19th

- Put me down where I can see
the Bong of Doom and Christmas - 


Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas


If you've read my Roadburn reports from previous years you probably know that I seldom come directly to the point (being the freaking festival itself), but first have to bore you with what I did during the rest of day.

At least this time I changed things up a little bit and didn't stay in Oisterwijk as every Roadburn before for the first time, but north of Tilburg in Loon op Zand, an arm's length away from the national park Loonse and Drunense Dunes. Which is hell of a doom-ish name, by the way.


Good morning, Loon op Zand!

So as usual I brought some film cameras with mostly risky, long expired films with me (which are testing the nerves and patience of the laboratory right now) and took a little post-breakfast trip right into the heart of the desert.

Yes, you're reading right. Even though a good percentage of the park is covered with forest and heather landscapes, there is actually an areal of pure sand and minimal vegetation which actually counts as desert. Of course it's not a convincing Sahara stand-in, as there are way to many footprints, a green horizon on every side and that part where dogs are allowed to run without a leash. (And some dudes appearanty seem to bring their asshole dogs.)

It is impressive nonetheless and the almost ridiculously sunny weather of the whole week felt even hotter there. In case you're planning on sleeping outside of Tilburg next year and want to do a little "Dopesmoker" tribute photoshoot, I can highly recommend this place. The soft sand is a nice vacation for festival-weary feet also. And as we are in the Netherlands you logically also have the possibility to camp right outside the national park.

Here are some pictures I took with my Digital Harinezumi 3.0 (that funny little turquoise toy camera by which many fellow Roadburners probably recognize me the most by now, as it also produces all the weird trashy live photographs in my concert reviews):






But now back to Tilburg city where Roadburn 2018 officially started and my first steps after lunch carried me to one of the two new venues of the festival.



No, not that church! That's a little too far way from the action. A shame really, I could imagine some nice occult gatherings there.


The real new venues already seemed to be far away compared to the super short distances Roadburn has spoiled us with in the past. But in reality - and if you take the suggested shortest route -, the Koepelhal and right next to it the Hall of Fame are just five +/- two minutes away from the 013 and  Het Patronaat (depending on walking speed, traffic light situation and pedestrian concentration).

The Hall of Fame is a small club with very similar stage and room proportions to the Ekstase, which is no longer participating. There's also an indoor skate park inside the same building which would see several announced and surprise free shows (also for non-Roadburn visitors) during the weekend, where bands were playing while skaters would do their thing. Would have loved to see one of those, but my schedule didn't allow it.

Right now I was aiming for the Koepelhal, which is a huge fair hall, a venue so big that only half of it would be used as a concert location on Friday and Saturday. The other half was open on all days and hosted an exhibition of Roadburn-related artists (which are quite a lot by now) and the merch sale for the festival.

So is it a good or a bad novelty? Well, mostly it was an improvement, especially as last year's solution was very unsatisfying. But things could still be better.
The coordination of merch purchases can be hard on festivals anyway. Some bands come late, others leave early and so does their stuff. And at least my personal time windows for shopping were few and narrow. And I don't want to carry my vinyl or whatever around the whole day. Now there is the merch storage directly in the same hall, but it doesn't really help when it closes significantly earlier than the shows go on and you can't store anything overnight, but have to pick it up before.

So I bought my mandatory Bell Witch "Live At Roadburn 2015" LP (this year's special Roadburn release) and one of the festival shirts and took a look at my schedule and the merch store closing time... and stored those items in my car, which meant to ditch the chance for a good place at the Sannhet show which kicked off the festival in the Green Room.

Since I had only planned to see a couple of songs anyway I went right to the front of the main stage now and waited for not only my first show of this Roadburn edition, but also the first show to completely blow my mind.


Waste Of Space Orchestra

What is the Waste Of Space Orchestra?

It is what happens when you ask two outstanding and innovative extrem metal bands with an almost legendary status as live acts to compose and perform an exclusive commissioned set together just for your little greatest festival in the world.

Thus Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising united their forces, came on stage with at first nine people and played a gigantic, overwhelming piece in ten movements. It had all the shamanistic, hypnotic grooves both groups pull off so good and doubled on the layers of atmospheric blackness.
After half of the set the main vocalist joined, who seemed to take his inspiration from Black Metal and  King Diamond as well as Diamanda Galas. Later all singers did this spooky almost-throat singing thing which took the intensity of this performance to a whole new level.

What the Waste Of Space Orchestra celebrated here was a glorious, majestic, evil monster. Fuck, most promoters would shit their pants to raise the bar so high with the first main stage act. Insane!


Khemmis

There was a slight overlapping and a line outside Het Patronaat, but I still got to see about two thirds of Khemmis' first european show ever. I love the two albums of the doom metal quartet from Denver, so there was no question for me to be there.

Even though they have a very sludgy guitar tone and incorporate growls into their songs, they were without a doubt the closest to traditional epic doom I saw this weekend. In parts they are very similar to Pallbearer, especially due to the amazing clear vocals of Phil Pendergast. All in all I prefer the slightly rougher, but with the strong Iron Maiden twin lead guitar influence still very melodic sound of Khemmis. They pulled off their material perfectly and you could already tell from afar how happy the guys were to play in this church of doom.

So there's absolutely nothing bad to say about their show. Yet admittedly it didn't have the full impact I had hoped for. But that was totally not their fault. Only after that massive Waste Of Space experience, a straight forward rocking doom metal band seemed almost a little too normal and not advantgarde enough.


Sum Of R


My next stop was in the Cul de Sac. While the duo Sum Of R set up their gear, which was one bass guitar running through multiple amplifiers, a transparent drumkit and some electronics, I was talking to another Roadburner about my Zaum experience on this stage last year.

And then the meditative instrumental doom of Sum Of R indeed wasn't droning that far from my reference. It had stronger post rock and soundtrack vibes than groups as Zaum or Bong, but if you are into those bands it's highly likely, that these two guys are also something for you. Flawless performance.


Afterwards I needed to get out of the extremely warm venue for a moment. The weather really was ridiculously good, as if there was an open air festival going on.
Two vital hydration tips from me: Always have a small plastic bottle of water with you! The venues don't mind, they make enough money with beer sales anyway. And if you have the time a short walk to the next super market to buy something to drink for the quarter of the price you pay in plastic tokens doesn't hurt your wallet either.


Insect Ark


I returned to the small club stage again for one of my most anticipated shows of the day. "Marrow Hymns" is easily one of my absolute favorite albums of this year so far, so as there luckily were no major clashes for me at this time in the early evening, attending the Insect Ark show was as mandatory as it gets at Roadburn.

With a similar constellation of two players at the front of the stage - but adding a lap steel guitar to the bass -  they were purposely placed after Sum Of R so they should share some equipment. Still there seemed to be some obstacles during soundcheck, so the duet managed to start just in time.

The dependency on multitasking and tricks like looping the lap steel guitar and the small quirks arising from it was what kept their compositions from reaching their full album quality close to the likes of Earth and Swans. But that being said the bar is set very high here, so this was still was a totally great show. And how drummer Ashley Spungin's smiled her way through that gloomy set was one of the most charming things of the whole weekend.

Roadburn newbies also could learn a lesson about the audience here as after one applause the anticipating crowd got so quiet that Dana Schechter asked if we were still having fun and someone just answered "We're being respectful."


After Insect Ark I admittedly wasted some time by being too indecisive.

The dark synth goth rock (?) of Kælan Mikla was circled on my running order and would have been my first show in the Hall Of Fame. I even went there to take a look, but before the band started I already left in favor of getting a good spot at the following Main Stage show. Grabbing some fries to eat on the way over took way longer than the term "fast food" suggests, so in retrospect I think that the time walking from A to B and waiting for the deep-frying fat to boil would have been better spent in the Green Room watching the saxophone jazz metal of Ex Eye.


Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas

Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas


But what does all this matter against the privilige of witnessing the last of those very rare "Mariner" shows?

Cult Of Luna and the unparalleled Julie Christmas, who I already had on my Roadburn wish lists before I even knew the swedish post metal super power, playing their joint album; what can I even say about this? Just like the Waste Of Space Orchestra performance it was one of those occasions the Main Stage works best for: a larger than life event.

Do I need to talk you through the album, which I love even more recently than when it came out or when I wrote my "best of 2016" list? Seeing these monumental songs come to life was just bliss - and in case of the somber Christmas-less "Approaching Transition" made me appreciate the piece even more than before.

And of course I have to single out that "Put me down where I can see you run!" part in "The Wreck Of S.S.Needle"! One of the two biggest goosebumps moments of the whole festival for me.



After a performance like this it's time to contemplate and collect your senses.

Or you just walk straight into the Green Room, into the first part of...

 *drum roll*

...



FUTURE OCCULTISM:


Annoying things first, but I have to start with some criticism here.

So the idea was to make the shows of three conceptually somehow strangely intermingled bands (Bong-Ra, Servants Of The Apocalyptic Goat Rave and Phurpa) seem like one big mystic thingy. So during the breaks there was still ominous music playing, the show wouldn't really fully stop.

Well, this didn't work. Especially the second break before Phurpa was painfully long. I had rather prefered it if the three sets would have been announced seperately with clear times on the running order - and if it only was to plan something different with my time for the middle part I wasn't that excited about.
Or - and that would have been the ideal solution - just take a longer break before this whole triptykon, put the equipment for everything on stage and then pull it off with really quick breaks!
Since Bong-Ra had their drums in the front, Servants were only playing two guitars and Phurpa exclusively occupied the back half of the stage, this could have been pulled off so easily with the professionals working at the 013.

Bong-Ra

And now finally to... yet another little detour.

I've seen Bong-Ra before last year, but until very recently I wasn't even aware of that.

Back then the "band" was indeed a breakbeat/noise/rave solo project and opened for the mighty Dillinger Escape Plan on their last ever stop in Hamburg. There was no announcement of the support act. And I also didn't recognize the man, Jason Köhnen, even though I'm a fan of some of his other work with The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Ensemble, the Köhnen Pandi Duo or now especially The Thing With Five Eyes.


But on this night we saw a re-invented Bong-Ra. As a heavy-as-shit bass and drums (plus lots of samples) doom duo they were the third band in this constellation after Sum Of R and Insect Ark, which I both admittedly liked a little bit more, probably because I had watched their shows from the beginning and in a more intimate venue.

Especially through all the arabic / egyptian style samples you could hear the influence of Köhnen's other projects on this new Bong-Ra sound, which made me wonder why he didn't present a live version of The absolutely fabulous Thing With Five Eyes, which would have been an absolute highlight for me.
On the other hand this already was very good impressive stuff and I shouldn't get so spoiled and nitpicky after this colossus of a festival Thursday, haha.


Servants Of The Apocalyptic Goat Rave

After Bong-Ra Jason Köhnen stayed on stage, switching from bass to six string guitar.

I wouldn't even be surprised if the second guitar player was the same guy that played the drums moments before, but he was hooded and on the far away side of the stage, so I don't know about that.

What I know is that the in-your-face electro black metal of the Servants Of The Apocalyptic Goat Rave, even though it's meant to be provocative, was just a tad too dull for my taste. Yeah, they were trying to make some kind of point there, but nope. Not my favorite Köhnen band by far.


Phurpa

Phuture Doom, another Svart Lava label artist (I assume also with some Köhnen participation) had to cancel this show shortly before the festival, but the surrogate was really something else.

Phurpa were three mysteriously clad figures sitting in the back of the stage, celebrating some strange Tibetan or whatever ritual, using mainly their voices and sometimes primitive wind instruments including a seashell horn. And I kid you not - besides one big brave moment on Sunday their throat singing might have been the droniest experience I had the whole weekend.

Totally weird, astonishing, exceptional. I couldn't make it through the whole extensive meditative experience, because I was a little exhausted from this long festival (and desert exploration) day.


And all this was just the fucking Thursday! At this point the imagination alone that there were still three full days of Roadburn extravaganza to come was almost too much to comprehend for my little earthling mind.





HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY:

Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas
and the Waste Of Space Orchestra both delivered once-in-a-lifetime shows that will go down in Roadburn lore.
Phurpa for being one of the boldest and most outlandish Roadburn groups ever.
The Insect Ark and Sum Of R shows follow in a close tie.

MOST PAINFULLY MISSED:

I would have loved to see the solo show of Toby Driver, who I've met before with his travelling case at the traffic lights. But there was no chance against the Orchestra. At least I got his latest album, which had been on my wishlist for a while, from the merch later.
Hooded Menace out-clashed by Julie Christmas also was a pity.




reviews of the other festival days:

- Attakk of the Evil Belgians -


ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2018 • DAY TWO :
Friday, April 20th

- Go Spread Your Psych -

 

ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2018 • DAY THREE :
Saturday, April 21st

- If it doesn't make us wiser
Doesn't make us stronger
Doesn't make us live a little bit
What are we doing? -

 

ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2018 • DAY FOUR :
Sunday, April 22nd

- Leave the lights on
I'm going blind -

 




Waste Of Space Orchestra:


















Khemmis:







Sum Of R:












Insect Ark:











Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas:























Bong Ra:
 





Servants Of The Apocalyptic Goat Rave:






 

Phurpa:









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