Archive for April, 2011

Roadburn 2011, Tilburg, the Netherlands – Day Two: 15 April 2011

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , , on April 29, 2011 by Noise Road

This is Part 2 of Noise Road’s review of Roadburn 2011.  Read Part 1 here.

An aviator hat and layers of clothes that would have prevented Scott of the Antarctic’s demise, allowed the successful negotiation of the cold, northern european night.  The morning quickly warmed the one-man tent, and I found myself in line for the showers.

The advantage of the size of the Roadburn Festival (a few thousand punters) over the bigger European mega-festivals is that you stay at a dedicated campsite rather than farming fields.  A dedicated campsite means permanent shower blocks (which are even cleaned everyday!).

Most festivals don’t have showers and the ones that do bring thoughts of showering in a concentration camp in occupied Europe…. Too bad I didn’t learn that the last two showers in the block didn’t have hot water until a brutally cold experience on the first morning.  Maybe this is a concentration camp.

The smaller size also builds a friendly communal vibe, rather than a more isolated experience in a sea of 80,000 strangers.  You see the same faces everyday.  You have more than one conversation with your new friends.

In line for the showers, I got talking to a dude from Belfast.  Despite having very similar outlooks on music, we had managed to not see any of the same bands on day one.  And day two looked like we would only have one band in common. After the buzz of their performance yesterday, both of us had resolved to catch Year of No Light.

Year of No Light performs Vampyr Soundtrack

Why don’t more bands do this?  It’s such a good idea.  I remember in high school, queuing up Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon whilst simultaneously playing a muted VHS of the Wizard of Oz.  Man I was adding meaning to any coincidental match-ups of the movie and the album….

But throw away your Wizard of Oz VHS *,  Year of No Light are performing a live original score to an old silent movie (*Wait, you still have a VHS?  You own the Wizard of Oz?  What are you a 12 year old girl?  Do you also own the High School Musical series?).

I wasn’t in a position to read the subtitles.  Maybe that would have helped.  What I gathered from the viewing is that Vampyr is a pretty trippy movie…  Why aren’t modern vampire movies trippy?  Not that I’ve seen the Twilight series but I’m guessing the only trippy thing about those movies is the mormon value system.

Year of No Light reworked passages of their latest, Ausserwelt, to the old german silent movie.  Washes of guitars and keys provided an eerie feel to an already creepy movie.  Glorious doom crescendos revealed the vampire, and witnessed the burial of the innocent.

I am now wondering whether all droney-doom albums are actually secretly soundtracks.  It would explain those long ambient sections and bursts of massive riff.

I had not heard a note of Year of No Light before Roadburn – but it was one of my favourite sets of the festival.  Not only is the doomy post-metal masterfully constructed, but the live soundtrack made the performance a unique event.

Trap Them

I caught half of Mammifer’s set of duelling pianos.  I suspect I would have enjoyed it more if I was familiar with their work.  Its always worth catching Isis’ Aaron Turner (on lead ponytails and beard) even if he is in a support role.

Trap Them were already sweating up the Green Room when I squeezed my way out of the Bat Cave venue.

Like Soilent Green last night, Trap Them stood out with a gear shift in energy and pace.  To a festival of biblical riffs, they brought a hardcore base with blasts of grind, the odd moment of groove and plenty of punky enthusiasm.

They were an excellent addition to the bill, as their tempo and aggression ensured no doom fatigue today.

Vocalist Ryan McKenney was especially ferocious.  A good frontman can make a huge difference.  He joked early in the set that their would be a lot of dramatic pauses between songs, as their allotted set at Roadburn was twice as long as their usual stage time on hardcore bills.

They held nothing back, which might have been an issue.  In a couple of hours they were due on an Antwerp stage as part of their tour with Rotten Sound and Gaza.

Winter

I’ll admit to zero underground cred.  I hadn’t heard of Winter before their reunion show was announced for Roadburn.  Obviously everyone else had – the main hall was full.

You can be sceptical about the quantity of reunion shows these days (what are the motivations?  How rusty will they be?  Will a band sound like a cover band of themselves?), but Winter were good.

Winter, and indeed the whole day, formed part of the Sunn 0))) curation.  You could hear Sunn 0))) in the warm droney sections, as images of post-apocalyptic London and Seattle projected onto the stage.  Much unlike Sunn 0))), Winter also dealt in thrashy, mid-tempo buzzes.

Earth

I caught Earth in Glasgow a week previous.  I didn’t know you could find beauty in a Glasgow basement.  In fact the only other gig I had caught in Glasgow was one of the worst of my life.  I expected the December 2009, Public Image Limited Glasgow reunion show to be a train wreck, but it was nauseatingly bad – from the awful electro-pop opener, to John Lydon barely remembering a word, to being threatened when telling a punter to take it easy on a glassy he was manhandling.

But back on track.  Both the Glasgow and Roadburn Earth performances were beautiful.  Earth’s main man and guitarist, Carlson, has a fragility that comes through his notes.  His sound is free of any rock ego or machismo.

Before the Earth gig in Glasgow, I was wondering what the experience would be like.  In my head, Earth are linked to bands like Sunn 0))) and OM.  At home these are quiet bands, but live these are earth-shuddering bands. You can feel Al’s overdriven bass on your chest at an OM gig.  And as for a Sunn 0))) gig, well, just wait a few paragraphs…

So I was expecting a loud gig, but Earth live is a very delicate, fragile experience.  It is quiet music.  Carlson and his slow motion riffs celebrate the note.  He is in no hurry to get to the next note – lets just experience this one to the fullest.

There wasn’t the distorted hum of the seminal drone album, Earth 2.  While Carlson did dig back to the first album, the focus was on ultra-slow, spaghetti-western riffs of Earth’s modern era.  The Cellist’s counter-melodies interwove with Carlson’s riffs on songs old and new.  The drummer felt every one of her gentle strikes.  And the bassist counted eternities until the next note.

The set included a track, Multiplicity of Doors, from the upcoming album.  Apparently the song is a waltz.  Dude, I don’t think sloths move slow enough to waltz to that number.

Sunn 0)))

I listen to Earth quite a bit.  I listen to their slow-motion, spaghetti-western music, as I ease into the morning and I listen to their earlier drone stuff when I’m drifting to sleep.  I love that warm hum.  I am a fan.

I am also a fan of Sunn 0))).  They are the kings of drone.  Yet I rarely listen to a Sunn 0))) album….  But I would never miss an opportunity to catch Sunn 0))) live.  It is a unique experience that could never be successfully captured by any recording medium.

Where Earth celebrate the note, Sunn 0))) celebrate the hum of their amps.  They celebrate the sinusoidal wave of the note.

Tonight, there are no riffs.  No guitar washes.   I guess if you speed it up 10 fold you could say that there were chord progressions.

Sunn 0))) is not just an aural experience, its a physical experience.  You might feel a kick drum on your chest at a metal gig, or even the buzz of guitars shaking you at a Dinosaur Jr gig, but the vast array of amps at Sunn 0))) don’t just shake your hair and your  skin, I believe internal organs are in some kind of pre-jellification status.

I believe even Dick Cheney stopped short of using Sunn 0))) as a method of torture at Guantanamo Bay.  Even the devil has his limits.

Vocals were a feature tonight. Keiji Haino performed a long session of Patton-style, vocal theatrics over the slightly subdued hum.  There was even a vocal duel between Keiji and Sunn 0))) regular, Attila.  A demonic duet.

Roadburn’s website posted an interesting series of videos from last year’s festival.  They asked about Master Musician’s of Bukkake’s use of over-the-top costumes and stage theatrics.  They commented that you couldn’t do this stuff in a band shirt and jeans – it just wouldn’t work. The same applies to Sunn 0))).  So while the theatrics are ridiculous, there is no other way….

Sunn 0))) are druids.  Their guest vocalist wielded a cane. Its all smoke and Attila’s croaking vocals and shrieks…  If you took the music away, it would border on Spinal Tap.  But the music is there and it’s awesome.

Sunn 0))) completely emptied my brain.  Reborn, but exhausted, I returned to the campsite, to start a life in a post Sunn 0))) world.

Tomorrow brings Master Musicians of Bukkake, Rwake, Ludicra, Swans and Shrinebuilder!

Read Part 3 of Noise Road’s Review of Roadburn 2011 here.


Roadburn Festival 2011, Tilburg, the Netherlands – Day One: 14 April 2011

Posted in Gigs, Travel on April 20, 2011 by Noise Road

Where were you?

Where were you when, in clear breach of the Geneva convention on sub-audible sonic warfare,  Sunn O))) caused the mass bowel evacuation of Tilburg?

Where were you when Circle and then the Master Musicians of Bukkake tripped our collective b@lls?

  • Godflesh performed the industrial masterpiece, Streetcleaner, for the first time in 17 years.
  • Ludicra played Europe for the first time.
  • Year of No Light delivered a booming live soundtrack to the silent movie Vampyr.
  • Doom super group Shrinebuilder stood burning before us, a volcano in their wake.

Where were you?…  Noise Road was at the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg.

Also, where were you when I lost my camera?  Seriously, you better have a pretty decent alibi between the Godflesh and Soilent Green sets…

Ah, it was a sh!t camera anyway, and I’m an even sh!tter photographer.  You did the eyes of the world a favour by preventing another visual assault from the likes of Noise Road.

There and Back Again…

Noise Road woke at 5am in a B&B near the airport of Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh.  Plane, trains, bus and we were at the festival site in the fields outside Tilburg.

The Netherlands has transport down.  A smaller centre, like Tilburg, has such magnificent venues, as the 013 and the Midi Theatre, because the excellent rail system allows people to travel from all over the region.  Festival goers didn’t have to stay in Tilburg or the campsite. They could base in any of the surrounding centres.

The train journey itself between Amsterdam and Tilburg is the Netherlands of postcards – Canals, fields and windmills.

Roadburn

Roadburn does not just have incomparable lineups and curators.  It also has the punter in mind.

A shuttle bus picks you up at the train station and delivers you to a campsite, with goats fighting for the higher ground (that’s not a metaphor – its a campsite with actual goats, ponies and roosters).  After a few curses at your tent during construction, that shuttle bus then hauls you 7km back to the door of the venue.  Later in the night, though you don’t remember the way home, that bus does.

At the campsite, there is plenty of space for your new friends from around the world.  The organisers have resisted the temptation to increase the capacity of the festival, in order to keep the communal vibe.  The festival sold out in 15 minutes, so obviously the demand is there.  Lots of money could be made.  But that’s not the spirit of the festival.

The bands are underground and about the music.  So are the people…  and, undoubtedly, so are the organisers.

I met a couple from Melbourne.  They told me that, due to an internet issue, no one was able to book Roadburn tix from Australia.  So the organisers held back tickets to ensure that Australians, who were willing to travel the world, were able to find a home in a Tilburgian field.  Good people.

Day One

The cafe strip that leads on to the venue was a parade of beards, cigarettes and band t-shirts – each band t-shirt more obsucure than the previous one you locked eyes on…

These are the people that keep the underground alive.  They spent their hard eaned traveling from the UK, Ireland, America, Germany, Norway, Spain…  As soon as the building holding the merch opened, they were throwing euros at the merch tables.  I was in the merch room within an hour of the opening of a 3 day festival and already some items had sold out.

Alcest

Alcest lulled us into the dreaming world of Roadburn.  Their lullabies fogged out any nightmares of the supposed real world outside of Tilburg.

Standing in a strange one dimensional format, the guitars and drums all in a line across the stage, the Frenchmen brought their warm tones and sweet take on metal.

As I exited the main hall, I was halted by booming doom from the Green Room venue.  Punters were backed up all the way out the door.  Year of No Light were playing their latest album, Ausserwelt.  It sounded huge.  I had never heard any of their stuff before that handful of notes, caught from 10 metres outside the door.  But that was enough to convince me that I HAD to see their set tomorrow morning.

The crowd outside the close of Year of No Light’s set should have schooled me to the fact that bouncing between stages was a dangerous game.  I caught half of Zoroaster’s set of gruff stoner, before trying the midi theatre for buzz band of the moment, GhostGhost mix 70’s rock with Satan worshiping – but there was no Satan on the menu for me today.  The Midi was full and no one could go in unless people came out…

So I traded Satan for coffee next to a pair of French dudes.  I couldn’t understand much of what they were saying, but the name Wovenhand I understood.

Wovenhand


After half a set in the doorway of the tiny Bat Cave venue, I left Naam’s up tempo, and at times hooky, stoner rock, to check out Wovenhand

Wovenhand’s rock and folk drenched of traditional music, in particular Native American music.  This is not unmined territory in rock, but Wovenhand brought the frontman’s unique charisma to the mix.

The frontman sat down to play his guitars and sing – but that still didn’t stop him from destroying a mic stand…  and when he did stand up, it was with a native american hop mixed with a strut.  His chants and calls of “Heya!” peppered the set.

It was tribal.  However, rock’s usual tribal crutch of drums was replaced with a chanting feel, rhythmic strumming and shakers.

I was disappointed to only catch the second half of the set, but glad that I had the opportunity to catch even that.  At the end of the set, I dodged Tilburg’s busy cycle lanes and headed straight to the merch desk to buy my copy of Wovenhand’s latest.

Circle

I caught Circle on a bill with Isis and Keelhaul in Antwerp in December 2009.  Just writing that sentence brings a grin to the face.  I struggled to describe Circle back then, and sadly I’ve failed to progress as a writer since.  Words still fail to capture Circle.

There are lots of different types of gigs – sweaty energetic blasts, intricate music played to perfection, earnest soul coughs.  Roadburn is a festival where you catch a few different types of shows.  Its a festival where you can see a performance.

A performance isn’t Britney Spears – all fireworks, costume changes and makeup to distract from miming.  That’s not a performance.  A performance is Sunn 0))).  A record of band, Sunn 0))), is never going to shake your body around like seeing them live.  Sunn 0))) is an experience that can’t be captured on record.  Sunn 0))) isn’t just a gig, its a performance.

Circle is a performance.  It ain’t a collection of best hits.  It’s a mind f_ck of a show that makes you laugh and trip b@lls simultaneously.

The frontman is a strange Finnish cat, whose rigor-mortis-stiff body was carried in on the shoulders of his bandmates.  They lowered him to his keyboard and he surlily accepted a mic.

The set was gelled by a trance rock vibe, but the trance passes through every genre – a punk riff builds to a trance. Then it shuffles into swaggering c0ck rock.   The next tracks jolts us into thrashy metal.

A highlight was a minimalist noise piece.   To match the music, the band transformed slowly into a human/guitar pyramid.  The guitarist even took a water break in slow motion.

My words can’t do them justice.  If they ever come to your town, just go see Circle!

Godflesh

Two dudes and a laptop emerged from the smoke and the blue lights to a rabid room of Godflesh fanboys.  On the menu for tonight was the Streetcleaner album and Tiny Tears EP in their entirety.

Like Saul on the road to Damascus, my conversion from Godflesh persecutor to fan came in the rotated vineyards of Clisson, France.  Before that show, I just didn’t get Godflesh.

Strangely the Hellfest performance wasn’t particularly good.  The set was plagued by technical issues and Broadrick was rattled.  But I saw enough to make me visit the albums, Streetcleaner in particular.

It was an odd site to see a crowd at a psychedelic festival getting their groove on to a laptop beat.  Best Team Man, Benny Green on bass, locked into the machine stomps and crunches, while Broadrick wrenched his soul out via both guitar and voice.

Streetcleaner is definitely worthy of a front-to-back performance.  Godflesh is an immersive experience.  Broadrick invites you to a cold world where he leaves his pain in a pile of blood and puss on a Tilburg stage.  Seriously, it was all sticky near the barrier afterwards.

The Tiny Tears EP, featuring the surprisingly bouncy Dead Head, was a great close to the set.

Soilent Green

You can have a very doomy day at Roadburn.  A day of slow, massive riffs whose weight may actually slow the spin of the Earth.  But Roadburn also allows you to have a day of varied, challenging music.  Today we heard the shoegaze and dark lullabies of Alcest, the avant-garde rock of Circle, the gruff stoner rock of Zoroaster, the industrial Godflesh and now the the sludgy, grind of Soilent Green.

Soilent Green was an inspired choice.  The slower, sludgy-southern breaks in their songs fitted in with the vibe of the day, but the fast, heavy passages were such a contrast!  They sounded so powerful because they were different to everything else.

Promoters should take note.  Contrast makes fast seem faster, and heavy seem heavier.  Bands on bills should compliment each other, not fade into each other.  Difference and even opposites can compliment.

I really enjoyed Soilent Green, but I was fading fast.  I’d been up since 5am, travelled by every mode of transport and seen every type of band.  Not even the cold Northern European night in a tent could keep this boy awake.  We need to be rested for another couple of massive days.

Tomorrow brings Year of No Light, Mammifer, Earth, Trap Them, Winter and Sunn 0)))!

Read Part 2 of Noise Road’s review of Roadburn 2011 here.