Archive for May, 2010

Roadburn Festival @ Tilburg, the Netherlands, April 15-17 2010 – Hash after Ash

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , on May 26, 2010 by Noise Road

This is NOT the Way Home…

You’re in Tilburg, the Netherlands.  Every plane in Europe is grounded for the foreseeable future.  Your parents have come all the way from Australia on the tail end of a long planned tour of Ireland.  They’ve already moved mountains to journey from Ireland to London in the chaos following the volcanic ash storm, just to meet you for your 30th birthday.  They will only be in London for 3 days and you may not get another opportunity to see them for over a year…  You can’t sit around in the haze of Amsterdam coffee shops, with the rest of the stranded Roadburn Festival goers.  What the feck are you going to do?

These were my thoughts, as I sat on the grass outside the Roadburn campsite, waiting for the first shuttle bus to the train station.  None of the other festival goers seemed too concerned about their flights being cancelled.  Being stuck in the country with one of the most tolerant drug policies in the world, was most likely a dream come true for most of my fellow campers.  Most of them did have jobs to go back to the following day “…but boss, every flight is grounded for the next week.  You know there is nothing more important to me than having my soul @rsed-r@ped by your corporation.  It breaks my heart that I can’t be there [insert hacking, dope cough]”.  I think the only concern for most of the stranded roadburners was whether or not they had enough cash to cover a hostel bed and “expenses” back up in Amsterdam…

At Tilburg Central Station, I took a somewhat calculated risk.  Everyone else headed north to Amsterdam.  The intel from back in Oz, stated that there may still be seats available on the Eurostar to London.  I took a punt and boarded a couple of trains south to Brussels, Belgium…  Brussels was a mad house.

I queued for an hour, only to be told that there were no seats on trains to London for 3 days.  What the feck, Brussels?  You couldn’t have put that information on any one of the 20 monitors above the counter.  Feck you Eurostar Brussels!…  It looked like I wasn’t going to be able to meet my parents.  I had tried and I had failed.  Now, I need to find a bed in a city which has probably become a refugee camp for people desperately seeking a way out of Europe.  It’s probably like fecking Sudan out there.  As I stand here in my Roadburn souvenir t-shirt, there are probably kids being born in Belgian refugee shanty towns.

I had chosen to wear my Roadburn t-shirt, as it was the only thing in my backpack that hadn’t been worn 6 times without a wash, during the last month’s travels through Morocco and the Netherlands.  As I was texting the bad news to my parents, I was approached by another couple of roadburners.  They had bartered a price for a ride down to French port of Calais, and were now looking for an extra body to help split the costs.

Calais – refuge of the damned.  The edge of Europe.  You can almost see Britain across the water.  Isn’t this where Hitler stood in occupied France, menacingly looking at Britain, for Nazi propaganda films?  If he had grown up in the golden era of pro wrestling, Adolf would have cut a Goldberg-esque promo on that Calais beach “You’re next, Britain!”

It was a big expense if I chose to buy into the Calais ride.  And when we got there, what were the odds of actually getting a ferry to England?  Everyone in Europe seemed to have the same idea about heading to Brussels for a London bound train.  Wouldn’t they have the same idea about the ferry in Calais?  And what if there were no seats left on the ferry?  Calais isn’t a big city like Brussels.  Am I going to be stuck camping on a Calais beach for a week?  I already stink.  I’ve been camping in a field.  Now a beach?…  What would be next in my drift away from civilisation?  How far away would I be from feeding on my kind?…  Feck it…  Let’s do it anyway.  I’ve always wondered what human flesh tastes like.

I arrived at the ferry terminal in Calais… and there was plenty of space on the the next ferry to Dover, England!…  Once I locked visuals on the white cliffs of Dover from the deck of the Sea France ferry, I had to restrain myself from letting out a enormous, Johnny Drama “VICTORY!!!”.

A slow train up to London, the last tube to Waterloo and finally a taxicab to Clapham North, and I arrived at my new digs.  1 day, 4 countries , 3 trains, an international hitch-hike, a ferry, 2 tube lines and a London taxicab, all organised on the fly, and…  VICTORY!!!

If there is a portal to hell on this dying rock, Iceland is surely it.  It’s collapsing economy took much of Europe with it.  It’s ash-spewing volcano tried to land the final blow.  The old northern gods are awake and they’re venting their anger at a world that has long since forgotten them…  But feck your p!ssy little volcano, Iceland.  Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no volcano ash-y enough…  Another display of man’s triumph over nature.

Mother Nature 0

Noise Road 1

Roadburn Festival @ Tilburg, the Netherlands, 15-17 April 2010 – Day Three

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2010 by Noise Road

As I woke for the third day of the Roadburn Festival, I still wasn’t too concerned about any of this volcano guff.  We’ve always had volcanos.  Surely one has erupted in the last century since we’ve been sending humans up inside mechanical birds.  It’s not like a volcano could shut down an entire continent for over a week.  Since I last heard about the volcano yesterday, everything has probably returned to normal.  I’ll be flying out tomorrow.  No worries.

I started day 3 with a solid base of a couple cups of caffeine, while I watched the doco, These Hawks, These Hounds, in the basement bar opposite the 013 venue.  These Hawks, These Hounds is an entertaining look at many aspects of psychedelic music from the seventies until today.  The film is worth a look if for no other reason, then for Wino’s demonstration of the doom riff on a guitar that wasn’t even plugged in…or for Al Cisneros from OM’s passionate insistence that certain riffs in Sabbath/Maiden songs should have repeated for at least 14 or 15 minutes longer…

Altar of Plagues

I missed the first 20 minutes of Altar of Plagues, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I caught.  Plagues mine a similar territory to Cobalt – Neurosis-y post-metal that builds to black metal climaxes.  I think that black metal sound is far more effective when it is used as one tool in a wider bag of tricks.  In previous blogs describing post-metal gigs like Isis and Cult of Luna, I’ve described how those bands build to a crescendo, that can surround you in a wall of sound.  At it’s best, I think that black metal is a wall of sound that doesn’t surround you, but rather a wall that blasts from the stage, forcing you backwards.  I’ve got bored at some of the black metal shows I’ve seen, as it’s been a constant wall.  You need contrast to know something is intense or dark.  After 5 minutes, something that was intense can become boring.  Plagues used the tool well and are worthy of your attention should your paths cross.

Leaving the Plagues set on a high, I was immediately bummed by the latest impacts of the volcano on the festival.  Shrinebuilder, Yakuza and Candlemass were among those unable to get a flight into Europe.  Their appearances at Roadburn had been cancelled.  Shrinebuilder was one of the festival’s biggest draw cards for me.  Shrinebuilder is the Sabbath-y supergroup, consisting of Al from OM/Sleep, Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Dale from the Melvins and Wino of St Vitus.  I’m a big fan of all those constituent bands, and I really enjoyed Shrinebuilder’s debut EP.  Their cancellation was a big loss.

I was also looking forward to Yakuza’s set, as I met Yakuza’s main man, Bruce Lamont, when I was in Chicago a few months back.  I thought that there was a chance that he would appear during Nachtmystium’s set too, as he blows some sax on their latest album.

It’s got to be said that the Roadburn organisers did extremely well under the volcanic pressures.  They re-jigged set times, organised bands to play additional sets and even sourced replacement acts.  Witchcraft were Shrinebuilder’s last minute replacement.  While they are not my bag, they should be applauded for even appearing.

Nachtmystium

I briefly headed over to the Midi Theatre for doomy veterans, Sons of Otis.  I particularly enjoyed the drummer’s uniquely hunched attack on his kit.  Even the site of weird drummers hadn’t completely cheered me up after news of the Shrinebuilder cancellation.  I needed something to brighten my day.  Nothing is brighter than black metal.  I needed a shot of black metal, stat!…  I needed Nachtmystium.

It’s arguable whether Nachtmystium are in fact black metal.  Their earlier releases certainly were – but there more recent releases have incorporated traditional rock structures, anthem choruses, and most interestingly tracks that wouldn’t sound out of place on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The set was billed by the promoters as Nachtmystium’s “psychedelic set”.  I interpreted that to mean the very Floyd-like second half of their album, Assasins Part 1: Black Meddle.  If Yakuza’s Bruce Lamont had been there, surely he would have appeared for his sax parts from that album.  However there was no Lamont.  And there was no psychedelic set.

Like Altar of Plagues, Nachtmystium use black metal as one tool in their kit.  However, their live show doesn’t display the psychedelic landscapes that have appeared on their albums.  Rather their live show features swaggering, riffy rock.  When they do play a black metal track or section, it is all the more effective for the contrast to rock.

Nachtmystium opened with a blast of black metal in Your True Enemy off Black Meddle, before the track loosened into psychedelic rock.  Hellish Overdose delivered balls out, riff-heavy rock.  Assassins had black metal verses and anthem choruses.  Sing along black metal?…  Similarly Ghosts of Grace’s chorus barks “And the storm left nothing! And the storm took all!”, as the guitars punch out a diddly-diddly riff.  A Seed for Suffering was soaked in black metal atmosphere, but even that track still had room for a jammy end.

I dig what Nachtmystium do.  They are a rock band with black metal atmosphere and black metal passages.  I still think that including some of the Floyd-y psychedelia in their set would add a further dimension… And I would have liked them to play a longer set.  They played for only 45 minutes both here, at Roadburn, and back in London a few weeks previous.  But I guess it’s better to keep the punters wanting more…

Garcia Plays Kyuss

The main hall was packed for Garcia’s set.  I finished my coffee outside the venue just before the set was due to begin.  I thought I was following a movement of people through to the other side of the hall.  All of a sudden the movement stopped and was stuck half on one step, and half on another.  And that’s how I stayed for the full 90 minutes of Garcia’s set.

I’ve never really sought out the Kyuss records, but I enjoy their pioneering, desert-rock sound when I hear it.  Live, the bass lines seem to flow like lava, while psychedelic guitars colour over the top.  The crowd dug it.  With the 3 days of accumulated substances in the blood systems of the room, it was the most movement I saw in the crowd for the whole festival.

There was an element of cover band to the set.  After all this was not Kyuss.  This was Kyuss’ singer playing Kyuss songs.  But I still enjoyed it.  It didn’t feel like it was being played just for money.  It felt like we were there because Garcia wanted to sing these songs again.  I’m sure he didn’t do it for free – but he was enjoying himself and the crowd were enjoying themselves.  So who gives a feck?

Garcia played all the favourites – mine being One Inch Man.  It was fun – even in my horribly uncomfortable viewing position.  Although I may or may not now walk with a permanent limp.

Shortly after Garcia’s set I began texting my parents, who were on a long planned trip from Australia to Ireland.  My 30th birthday was a couple of days after Roadburn, and they had based the timescale of their trip around being in London to meet me for my birthday.  They’re good people.

My parents confirmed that all flights into the UK had been cancelled.  They were hopping on a ferry from Ireland to the England.  Then they were boarding an overpacked train to London…  They had gone to all this effort to meet me, and here I was unable to get back to London.  Potentially when the airports opened to let me into the UK, they would have to fly back out to Oz…  Nothing I can do about it now though.  Enslaved and Shining are boarding the stage.

Enslaved/Shining

The final main stage performance for the festival turned out to be the highlight of the festival.  Norwegian black/prog metallers, Enslaved and compatriots, jazz metalllers, Shining, combined powers to perform the Armageddon Concerto.

I understand that this set may not have been everyone’s cup of tea.  Some may have seen this 90 minute set as self-indulgent w@nk.  Each to their own….  I found it exciting.  It was different and pushing boundaries…  Moods, what the feck was it?  Describe it already?

While I was not fortunate enough to catch any of the Fantomas/Melvins Big Band gigs a few years back, I loved the recordings that I heard of those gigs.  The Armageddon Concerto had a similar vibe.

Have you ever wondered what Shining songs would sound like sung by the dude from Enslaved?  Or what the main theme to Return to Yrrgsdall would sound like with an extra guitar line, bass and keys?…

Visually it was a spectacular site.  Two full bands on stage – Shining on stage left, Enslaved on stage right.  Team keyboard alongside each other.  That’s a lot of talented dudes on one stage.

The Armageddon Concerto was a mix of existing and new.  Shining and Enslaved songs, or at least themes within songs, were built on to form sections of the “concerto”.  A lot of the material was composed especially for the piece.

Unlike the Fantomas/Melvins show, the Enslaved/Shining drummers rarely played their full kits simultaneously.  One drummer usually provided additional percussive touches while the other drum was making full use of his kit.  There were a few exceptions to this though…  At one stage the three guitarists in Enslaved were turned, facing their drummer, playing one track, whilst the Shining members played an entirely different track to their drummer’s beat.  It was almost as if Shining were an additional, noise instrument in the Enslaved track.  It doesn’t sound like it would work, but it did.

The set pushed boundaries and it was a unique event.  I came out here on the road to see and hear things that we don’t get the opportunity to experience in Australia.  This was definitely an experience worth travelling for.   It finished a festival that had been relaxed and friendly in culture, but varied and boundary pushing musically.  Not even a volcano could stop the success of this festival.

Roadburn Festival @ Tilburg, the Netherlands, 15-17 April 2010 – Day Two

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2010 by Noise Road

Roadburn Festival @ Tilburg, the Netherlands, 15 – 17 April 2010 – Day 2

When camping in the middle of a field, you should pack more than jocks, socks, shorts, t-shirts and your trusty Dillinger hoodie.  I found this out the hard way.

I woke up repeatedly every night of the Roadburn Festival, due to the freezing temperatures.  To remain oblivious to the cold, I really should have drunk to unconsciousness…  Or I suppose I could have packed clothing appropriate for camping.

After a somewhat broken sleep in the cold, I headed into town early on day two, to take a quick look around Tilburg.  Apart from a few featured churches, it is a modern looking place.

Tilburg has trendy cafe strips in the shadows of the churches.  On the weekend the locals were enjoying alfresco dining at the cafes – that is if they could find a seat amongst the bearded festival goers.  I also found the natives to be keen cyclists, as I tried to negotiate the bicycle traffic on the way to their very respectable record store.

Day two of the festival was intended to be a bit of tasting plate for me.  I wanted to catch Triptykon and Bohren und der Club of Gore, but otherwise I was happy to walk around, sampling new music.  Unfortunately it wasn’t so easy to get in and out of the usually packed venues once a band had started playing.  Consequently, I couldn’t bounce between venues as much as I would have liked.

As I entered the 013 complex, I heard about this Icelandic volcano situation for the first time.  Jesu and Evoken had cancelled their performances for the day, assumedly because they couldn’t get flights into Holland.  I was wondering what Enslaved were banging on about  the previous day when they said that their track “Ground” was an appropriate track to play.  They didn’t actually explain that every plane in Europe was now grounded…  Who cares anyway?  My flight back to London was days away.  Surely this volcano guff would clear by then.  Surely.

Master Musicians of Bukakke

I squeezed into the Midi Theater as Master Musicians of Bukkake were weirding up the second half of their set.  Initially I thought that they were a little gimmicky, with their beekeeper hats and vocalist who was some sort of cross between a ninja and a burka-clad, muslim lady.  But as the set went on, I really got into their performance.

Bukakke are noise-y, experimental types.  Some tracks were psychedelic and trance-y, in keeping with the theme of the festival.  Their other tracks separated them as one of the more different bands on the bill.  There was dirge, noise and even almost electronic pop.  They built off riffs, whilst the muslim-ninja frontman screeched and rasped, not unlike Attila out front of Sunn 0))).  Bukkake also made use of interesting instrumentation – they had an array of electronics and eastern-sounding, table guitars.

I saw lots of parallels to Secret Chiefs 3 in Bukkake.  I’m hoping to catch them again at Friction Fest, in Berlin, so hopefully I’ll be able to provide a better description.  It was definitely interesting stuff.

Thorr’s Hammer

I had a quick look at Death’s Row in the Midi Theatre, before I headed over to the 013 main hall for Thorr’s Hammer.  Hammer’s frontwoman is a little easier on the eye than the old timers in Death Row.  Runhild Gammelsaeter is the statuesque blonde out front of Thorr’s Hammer.  Not only is she the lead vocalist in a metal band, but the Norwegian lass also has a Phd in biology.  What the feck have I done with my life?

As with Goatsnake the previous night, the Sunn 0))) lads are the driving force behind this band.  Consequently the band once again has a wall of amps and that famous bowel-shaking Sunn 0))) tone.  They only played about 4 songs in the hour set, but the opening and closing songs stood out from the less memorable bookended tracks.

Their opening song was sparser and the room wasn’t constantly filled with the hum of Sunn 0))) amps.  As a consequence when the guitars did kick in, they made more of an impact.  Runhild sang some melodic vocals over the sparser moments, before kicking into her rhythmic, vocal-chugg mode.  The middle songs of the set were Sunn 0)))-ish with death-metal, rhythmic-chugging vocals over the top.

I enjoyed Thorr’s Hammer’s  final song of the set.  There was lots of eye contact between band members and at points the track was being conducted.  I like to see a band working hard.  It was a bit like how Patton works Fantomas.  The track finished sans guitars, with Runhild chugging to the drums.

After Thorr’s set I started hitting the coffees pretty hard.  I had traded in beer for coffee, as I almost passed out due to fatigue on the first day.  While I was outside the venue “enjoying” my 50 cent coffee, a punter offered me a drag of his joint.  I still laugh when I picture the confusion on the dude’s face when I declined his offer.  It just didn’t compute in his head…  But I really did appreciate the friendly atmosphere of the festival that the offer was indicative of.  I guess a psychedelic rock festival in a country known for it’s tolerant drug policy was always going to have a chilled vibe, but I did appreciate the friendliness and sense of community that I experienced at Roadburn.

I popped my head in for old time folkers, Comus, in the Midi Theatre. I was extremely surprised at the size of the crowd that Comus drew.  It was a good example of the support for diversity at the festival.  I mean there is only so much doom you can listen to in one day.

Comus are a folk band in the violins, flute and bongos sense of the word.  In my opinion, folk music lives and dies on it’s lyrics.  As I don’t really know any of Comus’ material, I was finding it hard to get into the band…  The very long bongo solo was my tipping point.  The hot dog stand was calling.

I lived off hot dogs during the festival.  After getting me addicted to the tasty Roadburn hot dogs on the first day of the festival, they jacked up the price on the second day by 50%.  That’s just like a dealer – they get you hooked and then they jack up the price, so that your mugging old Tilburgian ladies just to get enough junk money for your next hot dog fix.  Still they were tasty hot dogs.  And the old ladies didn’t put up too much of a fight.

Sarke

I don’t know any Sarke recordings.  Nocturno Culto of black metal pioneers, Darkthrone, provides the vocals for the band.  But I haven’t invested any time into Darkthrone either.

Sarke should be commended for their efforts to make the show.  If it wasn’t for the efforts of bands like Sarke, and the event organisers, Roadburn would have been decimated by an ash-spewing volcano.

Sarke spent 20 hours in a bus to honour their Roadburn obligations, after all flights were grounded.  Understandably their performance was a little lethargic, but then again I don’t know their work so maybe I  just failed to grasp the intricacies.  The set was tight, but they looked like they’d been on a bus for 20 hours.  Its not their fault and I am 100% willing to give them a second chance.

Nocturno Culto, like Enslaved, was far more rock n roll then I thought he would be.  He strutted and stomped from side to side on the stage, toasting the crowd.  He made self deprecating jokes as he was forced to read lyrics off his notes for two new songs.  Aren’t all these black metal dudes supposed to be grim and kvlt?  A lot of the material sounded like good, old classic rock – but I also heard punk, black and symphonic metal in the set.

Triptykon

Any other band trying to do chunky, mid-paced riffs should just give up now.  Tom Gabriel Fischer’s Triptykon does it better.

The ex Celtic Frost main man opened up with the first track, Goetia, off his new project’s debut, Eparistera Daimones.  The dude has stage presence.  You can see where Sepultura’s Max Cavalera derived his aggressive stage stance and bark….  Also I’m not sure if the electric fan on the floor of the stage was to keep Fischer’s make-up from running, or to keep his beautiful blonde locks windswept under his beanie.

Triptykon only do epic.  There are no punchy 30 second blasts here.  The tracks are often based in mid-paced riffing with faster breaks for thrashy guitar solos.  The songs then give away to slow chugg chugg passages, only to return to the mid paced riffing.  But the song isn’t over yet….  Fischer is the king of the coda.  You thought that previous chugg chugg passage was slow and heavy?  Well here comes an even slower and chunkier passage…

Fischer wasn’t one of these performers that refuse to play what the fans want.  I’m hardly a Celtic Frost student, but I know Procreation of the Wicked when I hear it.  The crowd loved it.  They joined Fischer with every one of his trademark “Ugh!”s that he seems to belt out a least a couple of times per song.  And even between songs you hear “Ugh!” being bellowed out by the crowd.

The closer, the Prolonging, brought new meanings to epic.  Triptykon built a sonic wall that hammered you with thick riffs and Fischer’s repeated angry bark “As you perish, I shall live.  You shall drown in my contempt”.  The track wanders off into atmospheric guitar squalls, only to build again even slower and chunkier.

I’m by no means a Celtic Frost/Triptykon fan boy but this would have to have been close to the performance of the festival.

Bohren und der Club of Gore

Bohren’s set was my debut in the Green Room venue, a small club venue within the 013 complex.  I was very surprised to find the venue packed for the Bohren set.  Who would have thought that minimalist jazz would ever pack out a club?  Bohren play music so sparse and so slow that it seems like an eternity between snare strikes.  If your heartbeat synced to Bohren’s tempo, you would probably be pronounced dead.  In a bill of slow-as-feck doom bands, it takes a minimalist jazz act to out slow the lot.

Again I was reminded of the variety at the festival.  Initially on day one, I thought there was a chance that I might get doomed out over the course of the 3 days.  But even just on this day we had the experimental Bukkake, the folk of Comus, and the doom jazz of Bohren.  That’s the kind of festival I want to go to.  I don’t want to hear three days of the same thing.

If it was hard to find Bohren’s beat, it was harder still to physically find Bohren on stage.  They don’t use any of the stage lights.  They bring their own small overhead lamps.  Don’t even try to get a photo, dude.  Just be glad you can faintly make out a skull over that keyboard or a saxophone as it occasionally waves through the low light.

It was great late night music.  I felt relaxed and ready to demolish a doner kebab.  But like yesterday, that may be because of all the passive smoke, rather than the music…  Bring on Day 3.