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2019-04-24

ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2019 • DAY ONE: Thursday, April 11th

- Hymn To The Immortal Devil -


Molasses

The morning looked beautiful, so after a rich breakfast I packed my film cameras and went on a walk through a part of the Loonse and Drunense Dunes I hadn't covered last year. And of course I had some serious orientation issues, which I realized close to Giersbergen (so cool to name a village after Anneke). 

For all you toycam nerds, my gear was a classic Holga GN (regular Holga, but with a glass lens), Holga 120 WPC (panorama pinhole) and my long neclected darling, the Chupa Chups Photo Pop (yes, it's as grand as it sounds).
I didn't even fill one of my films completely, but it was a nice couple of hours anyway. Sadly the only bigger touristic detour this year. Got to save that precious energy for the festival.

Here's a couple of shots I took with my beloved Digital Harinezumi 3.0, which was as always also my one and only tool for concert pictures. And which would be facing some challenges today, because there  was a serious dim light on the Main Stage theme going on...






Fast forward to Tilburg.

Roadburn 2019 featured six stages, which were almost all in use for all four days.

In the 013 venue there's the Main Stage with a capacity of around 3000 people and the Green Room. Right over at the other side of the street, located inside a former church there's Het Patronaat, a beautiful venue which we unfortunately won't see again in coming years, because the building has been sold to an investor who's planning to use it as a business showroom.

The other three stages are grouped inside a complex of halls a couple of minutes away: Koepelhal is the second largest stage of the festival, it's also where you can find all merch.
On the other side of the complex lies the Hall of Fame, now without the Cul de Sac by far the smallest concert room. Between these two halls there was a new chill and service area called Pit Stop, which also contained an art exhibition, where especially the works of Emma Ruth Rundle and Marissa Nadler struck me as being very close in tone to their musical art.

The weirdest part of course is the Ladybird Skatepark, which occupies several halls and is in full regular operation. Only in one hall there was set up a tiny stage, which would quite often interrupt the skaters with freshly announced secret shows.

Except for the the Koepelhal and Hall of Fame stages everything was freely accessable without the Roadburn wristband, which would lead to a funny scene at the Koepelhal a couple of days in, when an old lady confidently walked her dog right past the security, who needed a couple of moments to realize what was even happening there. She probably had started at the west entry of the skatepark and thought she could just venture through the whole thing and get outside, ehm... backstage? I guess.  



Conceptually there were as always multiple threads and themes going on: Tomas Lindberg's curation, Thou as "artist in residence", various pieces of comissioned music, one label's showcase here, another's anniversary there, two Sleep shows, a gathering of the modern advantgarde Dutch black metal scene...

With a couple of exceptions I haven't really commited to any of these rabbit holes, so I probably won't mention these aspects again. Just wanted to highlight one more time, that my whole Roadburn schedule is exclusively mine, just as every visitor choses his own path among endless possibilities.



As usual Roadburn started with a super clash as the first five bands which were playing simultanously where all extremely tempting. And even though I had made a clear decision to see the "Folkesange" show of Myrkur, I just couldn't help myself and had to catch at least the first couple of songs by the first band in Het Patronaat.


Sherpa

Sherpa's "Tigris & Euphrates" is a damn fine album, but it's opener not quite fitting with the overall solemn atmosphere, which is almost reminescent of Toby Driver, is not my personal favorite track. I guess it was my lucky day then, because despite playing the album in full the Italians didn't stick to the original track order.

What a smooth way to glide into Roadburn! Besides the calm and peaceful qualities I was surprised by how heavy and powerful the psych band got at times and especially impressed by the signature style of the fretless bass player. Great band.


Myrkur : Folkesange

Over at the Main Stage the festival started on a less trippy, but also remarkably relaxed note, as Amalie Bruun took a seat at the grand piano, accompanied by four musicians on drums and historic string instruments, including cello artist Jo Quail, who would play another Main Stage show later tonight.
On the left side she was supported by two traditionally clad background singers, even though it's almost an insult to just call them that, given their utterly amazing performances.

Bruun would later switch to acoustic guitar, drum and nyckelharpa, all to perform various traditional folk songs from all over Scandinavia, as well as some of her own folkish compositions. So of course this was totally different from a regular Myrkur show and thankfully there was zero attempt to keep any black metal feeling in there. With all the banter between Amalie, her musicians and singers, while always some instrument had to be tuned, that would have looked especially awkward.

One of the reasons insecure black metal trolls "hate" Myrkur other than her gender is that she once was a pop singer. Because because. Bad news children: In a way she still works like a pop star, switching styles as she pleases. Here's my swing album. Now it's disco. And here's a couple of country songs. It's more consistent with her, but you get what I'm saying. For most artists within the realms of metal moves like that would be way too risky. The Ulvers are still in the tiny minority.

But let's get back to the show: Myrkur: Folkesange was a pleasant, fun and above all mesmerizing experience. What stunning beautiful vocals!



Molasses


And here starts the writer's dilemma: This day - and also the festival as a whole - had just too many female singers, each one in her own way outstanding and unique, but I have only a limited stash of english vocabulary at my disposal. Prepare to meet clishé phrasings from my I'm smitten-folder again and again.

Well, in the case of Molasses the singer's name should suffice for most readers: Alongside members of space rock band Astrosoniq and the legendary The Devil's Blood it was none other than Farida Lemouchi herself, who lend this commissioned band - brought together especially for Roadburn - her charismatically wailing voice. A radiant presence in the center of a relentless psychedelic rock storm, which very confidently claimed its place right in the middle between The Devil's Blood and Selim Lemouchi's Enemies.
As a drummer I was very fond of the stand with the gong and various other bonus percussions which were used quite creatively.

It was an absolutely convincing debut, which hopefully only marked the starting point for further activities of this band.

In fact Molasses were so good, that I disobeyed my own rules. I'm always the one to preach that you have to leave even good shows before the end to catch a good spot at the next one. For Lingua Ignota in the Green Room that ship had sailed by now, as the room was already absurdly packed, so I took a longer break, before I headed to my first Koepelhal show.


Emma Ruth Rundle


Except maybe for the one I had just missed, no other singer on this year's line-up performs as directly through emotions as Emma Ruth Rundle. Even if you already like her studio work, you can easily underestimate the extent in which she is baring her soul on stage. This is not just beautiful heartfelt singing, but a process of empowerment through the display of vulnerability - and all that within the context of superb songs.

Emma Ruth Rundle's show was a highlight, no doubt about that. However I allowed myself the luxury of leaving her set after half an hour anyway, an option which I would have deemed impossible just a couple of days earlier, but I had already seen her with her full band on tour just half a year ago - and there was something mythic happening in the skatepark now...




Mythic Sunship


Tomorrow's clash of Triptykon with the Danish heavy psychedelic group Mythic Sunship, whose "Another Shape Of Psychedelic Music" album is one of my 2018 favorites, not only for me was probaly the hardest clash in preparation of Roadburn.
Luckily two extra shows in the Ladybird skatepark were announced and I decided that - even though those shows would be without a saxophone player - I would try to catch at least parts of those jams.

It turned out to be a good decision, because these guys have developed a great improvisational chemistry with each other, which was further fueled by the unique, almost DIY improvised quality of the tiny stage within this environment. The impromptu feel of this location, the touch of professional non-professionalism, while other parts of the festival are happening on one of the biggest indoor rock music stages of Europe, is just a perfect juxtaposition and addition to the whole Roadburn experience.

My bad decision was to leave the fun at Mythic Sunship after twenty minutes to see my first show in the Hall of Fame. Because little did I know that Crowhurst would start with the heftiest delay I've ever seen at Roadburn...



Crowhurst


With only four pedals between amp and instrument I would say that the set-up of Crowhurst's guitar player already is rather modest. But now imagine the horror: You've flown to the gig of your dreams from the States, you're on stage - and then you can't even use one of your handful of pedals, because the power supply for your effects just fucking died!
That was the drama I witnessed there. The sound engineer presented a box of 9V batteries, but only one pedal worked with those. A thousand eternities later there were finally adaptors for all pedals at hand. The guitar only chose the most important one to safe time and the show could finally start.

The funny thing about it is, that I vividly remember this shit, as well as the lead-ins, stallings and pant-stories of the singer, but I kind of buried the memory of the music itself. I know I liked it and that it was very hard to stylistically pin down. Even beforehand my Youtube research didn't give me a clear answer of what the hell Crowhurst were doing, which in part made them more intriguing. But now as my medium-term memory has failed me, I feel I'm just as dumb as before. Well, except for the part that I know that the singer fits into his old leather pants again, of course.


Twin Temple


Roadburn Bingo: 
Someone's really having fun with the fact that one location once was a church.


The backdrop shows the devil, with a bloody, bare-breasted, female body.
Someone shouts: SLAYER!

Thankfully in Het Patronaat everything was running smooth like clockwork as the most definitely campiest, but also one of the most hilariously entertaining shows I've ever seen at Roadburn unfolded:

Twin Temple were like a direct crossover of Coven with Amy Winehouse. In fact high priestess Alexandra James is the closest approximation to Amy I've ever seen live - and that's even when you close your eyes and try not to think of the big hair. The 1950s style music in an evolutionary movement between jazz and rock'n'roll is also something Amy has done and felt very comfortable in.

On the other hand there is of course that totally overblown image of Twin Temple, who call their direction "Satanic Doo-Wop" and are really into hailing Lucifer, presenting skulls and stuff like that.

Uhm, wait. I can totally imagine Amy having fun with this, too. Fuck, there's no way around it: "Alexandra" is Amy Winehouse. It's true, everything fits! I've never been so sure about anything in my life! If anyone can prove me wrong, I'll jump off the edge of the flat Earth, I swear!


I wish I could have stayed for the rest of this weirdo spectacle, which included the satanic baptism of an audience member, but alas Thursday's main event was to start on the Main Stage soon.



Mono and the Jo Quail Quartet


The Japanese post rock giants Mono, with a grand piano and accompanied by a string quartet lead by Jo Quail, performing their ten years young masterpiece "Hymn To The Immortal Wind" in full.

Anyone who knows these ingredients can already feel the immense monumental scope of this; and there's nothing I can write to do it justice. It was just pure unbridled post rock bliss with all the dramatic swells in emotions and decibels, which make Mono one of the mightiest entities in live music worldwide.

I will however mention that I really like the presence and energy the new drummer brings onto stage. He really won me over right from the start. The right man at the right time.


After Mono it was almost one and I was content to call it a day. 








HIGHLIGHTS:

Mono and Molasses. But everything I've seen was very strong, what a great start into Roadburn!


CLASHES AND MISSES:

Even though I loved Myrkur's "Folkesange", in hindsight I would have stayed for a couple of songs longer with Sherpa. Same with Mythic Sunship of course.

But I have no serious regrets. Great Grief were to far away to just hop in there and Heilung? I was on the fence about them. I had seen clips I loved, I had seen clips I... didn't love. Talked with attendees the next day and heard that they were horrible.
Also heard that they were genius. So there's that. Guess I'll remain indifferent about Heilung for now.





reviews of the other festival days:

ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2019 • THE DAY BEFORE:
Ignition / Wednesday, April 10th

- Head first into the bloody rabbit hole -

 

ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2019 • DAY TWO:
Friday, April 12th

- The Mysterious Vanishing Of Jolene -

 

ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2019 • DAY THREE:
Saturday, April 13th

- Montaña Is Beautiful Now -

 

ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2019 • DAY FOUR:
Sunday, April 14th

- Church of the Burn,
May Thy End be a Triumph! -




Sherpa:

 
 
 



Myrkur:




Molasses:







Emma Ruth Rundle:




Mythic Sunship:






Crowhurst:














Twin Temple: 















Mono and the Jo Quail Quartet:

















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