Boxx Magazine‘s first overseas adventure and definitely not our last, Holland’s Roadburn Festival began in 1995 and originally took place at the Effenaar in Eindhoven before it found its home at the 013 in Tilburg. Roadburn Festival has become Europe’s leading underground festival for psychedelic, avant-garde, doom or any other variation of musical expression outside the norm. The entire event is run flawlessly by veterans like Walter Hoeijmakers (Promoter, Artistic director), Yvonne MacLean (Marketing & Promotion), and Jurgen van den Brand (Managing director financing and strategy, Audio-recordings, Merchandise). With the year being 2013, the venue named 013, and the festival incorporating various forms of metal, it seemed only fitting to list thirteen of our favorite moments from Roadburn 2013.
BLIKSEM played the Hardrock Hideout at the Cul de Sac on Wednesday night to kickoff the Roadburn festivities. A five-piece thrash metal band from Belgium that acquired singer Peggy Meeussen in 2008 and has been rocking dozens of local rock festivals and venues since. BLIKSEM recorded their debut album, Face the Evil, in June 2012 and it was mastered by Herbrand Larsen of Enslaved in Bergen, Norway. Fast-paced guitars, pounding drums, and a raspy passionate vocal. What’s not to love? [JY]
This was literally a last minute discovery, which is part of the beauty of Roadburn. Walking towards the 013 and unsure of who to see during the time slot we ran into Louise Brown, editor of Iron Fist, and her crew who recommended Blues Pills and even played us a track off their EP, Bliss. Sold. Elin Larsson has some direct line to Janis Joplin, but also uses that foundation to create her own unique stage presence full of that same fiery passion. Musically, Blues Pills modernizes that soul, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll combination that has my heart buried away in the ages of classic rock. In speaking with them afterwards I learned they are an international mix: Larsson is from Sweden, drummer Cory Berry and bassist Zack Anderson are from Iowa, and guitarist Dorian Sorriaux is from France. Currently, Sweden is their home base, but they said they would love to come back to America and play some shows and see family. [JY]
CASTLE, HEXVESSEL, AND JESS & THE ANCIENT ONES:
Castle took over Stage01 on Thursday afternoon. This trio brought some great riffs—they’ve been compared to Danzig and Thin Lizzy. Elizabeth Blackwell’s vocals and bass were spot on considering she doesn’t stand still for a moment; she gets so lost in feeling what she is playing her entire body becomes a manifestation of her music. It’s no surprise they were named Roadburn’s “Newcomers of the Year” in 2011. Friday brought Finland’s Hexvessel to Het Patronaat, who later in their set featured a special guest appearance, Rosalie Cunningham, vocals and lead guitar for Purson whose debut album The Circle And The Blue Door is to be released April 30. On Saturday, Jess & the Ancient Ones—another band from Finland—took the Green Room back a few decades to the classic rock sounds of the psychedelia, but with a modern twist. Jess is an excellent frontwoman that loses herself to the music and isn’t afraid to flail her arms and dance along which is contagious as an audience member. Jess & the Ancient Ones released a new EP, Astral Sabbat, in February to follow up last year’s self-titled release. [JY]
As we found out at SXSW, Royal Thunder does not disappoint. Unlike Austin’s tiny bar Dirty Dog, the larger Het Patronaat was packed full of people eager to check out one of Atlanta’s finest. All were hit with the “Parsonz Curse” as Mlny’s soulful vocals and resonating bass lines devoured the venue for the next hour. Combined with the unforgettable guitar hooks of Josh Weaver, one can just release it all and enjoy the ride. We’re not shocked that during Iron Fist‘s panel debate: “Where have all the Great Albums Gone?” music journalist Jonathan Selzer (Metal Hammer) stated that Royal Thunder’s CVI has the makings of a classic album. Agreed. [JY]
IRON FIST “WHERE HAVE ALL THE GREAT ALBUMS GONE?” PANEL:
Iron Fist editor Louise Brown moderated a lively panel of music industry experts including UK publicist Becky Laverty, Seasons of Mist label owner Michael Berberian, journalist Jonathan Selzer, audio producer Jaime Gomez Arellano, and Baroness frontman John Baizley, It’s a good question; while mainstream classics are easily definable (using sales, downloads, or awards as measuring tools), what ingredients make for a classic underground rock album in today’s world? Opinions varied and friendly banter ensued, but some of the take-home topics included how an overlooked album can become a “sleeper” classic over time (for example, Tragedy’s 2000 self-titled record), the importance of support from within local music communities and touring networks, and the power of underground music lovers in defining our own classic bands and albums. Food for thought at a festival where certain albums reign so supreme that some fans travel hundreds or thousands of miles to hear them played in their entirety. This year those stars were Godflesh’s Pure, High on Fire’s The Art of Self-Defense, and Hawkwind’s Space Ritual (played by Alan Davey with the Psychedelic Warlords). [JL]
“The Virgin Spring: the Process and Work of John Dyer Baizley”
Along with this year’s music selection, Roadburn presented, “The Virgin Spring: the Process and Work of John Dyer Baizley” at Tilburg gallery Gust van Dijk, located just around the corner from 013. Baizley, the frontman of Savannah, Georgia’s Baroness, is one of underground metal’s most sought-after visual artists, known for his trademark style of vivid, highly-detailed depictions of sensual, powerful women with elements of the natural world. Straddling the lines between classical fine art, surrealism, and graphic novel, Baizley’s work has graced an untold number of band T-shirts and a plethora of album covers including Kylesa’s Static Tensions (Season of Mist), Pig Destroyer’s Phantom Limb (Relapse), both Kvelertak LPs, and of course his own band’s catalog. “The Virgin Spring…,” Baizley’s first European art exhibition, gave insight into his craft, showcasing everything from early notebook sketches, painstakingly-penciled outlines, and the final, vibrant results of his labor. The experience was a bit like viewing your record collection in reverse, and a distressing reminder that a thumbnail image on a digital screen is a grave injustice to album art everywhere. Baizley also presented a brief artists’ talk on Sunday afternoon, and performed a full set with Nate Hall and Katie Jones (featuring a number of Townes Van Zant covers) on Thursday. [JL]
While we were primed and ready for the onslaught of stellar music throughout the festival, no one prepared us—or at least, I didn’t read that page in my “Guide to Roadburn”—for the madness, debauchery, and general hilarity of Roadburn’s metal disco after-parties. It turns out you haven’t really lived until you’ve spent hours on end at a dance party with hordes of grown men and ladies, some who exclusively drink beer out of horns (watch the floors, they’re slippery when wet), going ballistic over slab after slab of metal bliss, playing air guitar and singing along to every note. If you’re not careful with your drink, it may end up full of some dude’s waist-length hair as a result of unbridled headbanging and windmills.
Patrick Cornelissen, longtime Roadburn DJ and co-originator of the metal disco says, “A few years ago the metal disco was something completely spontaneous… After the last set of live music Maarten Verbaarschot and myself started playing classic rock and metal. People responded and liked what we did. So Walter Hoeijmakers (Roadburn Promoter and Artistic Director) asked us to do it again. The first real metal disco was in the foyer of the 013. Even the really cool people who say they don’t like classic metal talked about what we did and thought it was a nice thing to do. After that, we had two years of metal-insanity at the Midi Theatre which was so awesome ’cause the sound was so incredible. Last year we did one at Het Patronaat—also very nice. This year we were back at the foyer because of the vibe and the energy with all the people packed on the killing floor. Well, you were there…”
The inaugural 2013 metal disco, spun by DJ Team Tres Hombres was a straight-up 80s metal rager. The second night, Cornelissen filled in for a certain MIA guest DJ, serving up what he describes as “very traditional [metal], full of 10+ classic, dynamic, high-energy songs, with enough surprises to get everyone’s attention and at the close of the set, a beautiful heartbreaker.” The final night, Primordial / Dread Sovereign’s Nemtheanga Skum (Alan Averill) brought the aggression and darkness of the weekend to new heights with a mix of pulverizing classics, rarities, and b-sides, and a few surprise party-anthems including ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” “This year’s party on Saturday was the best metal party ever,” says Cornelissen. “Alan did a tremendous job. His choices, dynamics, energy was brilliant!” [JL]
After a largely overcast couple of days, the sky finally turned sunny on Saturday afternoon in time for us to head into the darkness of the Cul de Sac (thank God—our bloodshot eyes couldn’t handle it without a serious adjustment period) for an early afternoon, “Roadburn Introduces…” showcase featuring Dutch rock quintet Gold. The brainchild of singer Milena Eva and Thomas Sciarone (formerly of The Devil’s Blood), Gold released its debut album, Interbellum via Ván Records in November, pitting haunting melodies and ominous tales of lust and battle to a backdrop of grinding 70s-inspired hard rock. In a live setting the tension and builds are even more pronounced, and in conjunction Eva’s rapturous voice it was exactly the kick we needed to bring us back to life after some very long but well spent nights (see section on “Metal Disco”). We reconvened with the band on the patio to chat about songwriting, the questionable state of the world, and the ever-increasing number of female performers (and fans) at Roadburn. Click HERE for the interview. [JL]
Although the Dutch black metallers in Nihill did their best to beat all of the joy and happy feelings out of the weekend with a venomous, miserable set during Roadburn’s traditional Afterburner (another colossal debut performance), they weren’t able to overcome the warmth and positivity brought by San Francisco Bay Area hard psych quartet, Golden Void. The band, which features Roadburn alumni Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell and Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound keyboardist Camilla Saufley-Mitchell along with bassist Aaron Morgan and drummer Justin Pinkerton, treated a packed house to tunes off its recently-released self-titled record (Thrill Jockey), an blend of classic psychedelia and crunchy rock ‘n’ roll led by Mitchell’s soulful, wailing lead guitar. While its sound may be steeped in a bygone era, Golden Void has an undeniable freshness, and flawlessly delivers without some of the pretentions and clichés that often mark “retro” rock bands. The show marked the end of the band’s two-week European tour and, as we learned in our interview with an effervescent Saufley-Mitchell, a special anniversary. It was at Roadburn’s 2008 edition that she and Mitchell—now married—first met. Let it be written on next year’s commemorative T-shirt; “Roadburn Is For Lovers.” Click HERE for our interview with Camilla Saufley-Mitchell. [JL]
The groundbreaking (and literally, ground-shaking) UK doom quartet Electric Wizard was selected as one of Roadburn 2013’s headlining acts, and founder and frontman Jus Osbourn was given the extra honor of curating an entire day of music and art—an annual tradition that has previously included curators such as Tom G. Warrior, Neurosis, Voivod, and Sunn 0))) among others. Electric Wizard’s Electric Acid Orgy featured a wide variety of dirty, sex, drug, and biker-fueled rock with performances from the likes of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Richmond, Virgina’s Cough, quintessential ‘60s party band The Pretty Things, and occult rockers Sabbath Assembly and Seremonia. Additionally, Stage01 was transformed into The Electric Grindhouse Cinema—12 hours of hand-selected underground drug-fueled horror, and exploitation movies with accompanying music provided by equally-divergent and experimental artists including Void ov Voices (Attila Csihar of Mayhem / Gravetemple, etc.) Shazzula, Aderlating, and Swedish improviser Nicklas Barker.
Electric Wizard’s own Friday night set was so loud, so thick, and so heavy it caused hair to vibrate and teeth to chatter. Beginning with “Return Trip” off of Come My Fanatics… the band mixed classic material with songs off of their most recent two albums, Black Masses and Witchcult Today against a visual backdrop of druggy psychedelic imagery and clips from obscure, ‘70s occult and porn films (not meant to be everyone’s cup of tea, of course—it’s just their thing that they do). Anchoring the crew was rhythm guitarist Liz Buckingham—one of the few females so far to have ever taken the stage in a headlining act at Roadburn—whose colossal, warm-toned riffs each had the weight of a wrecking ball. The band closed down their set with a rendition of “Dopethrone” (off the album of the same name which was hailed by Roadburn fans as “Album of the Decade” in 2010) before culminating with a face-splitting rendition of “Funeralopolis.” No encore, no chaser needed. We were spent. [JL]
THE MUSIC CONNECTION:
It is quite possible that we just look friendly or, as one new British friend suggested, being from Chicago we may be mistaken for Oprah Winfrey (if you had a photo of Jordan and I you would see the likeness is uncanny), but the intimate atmosphere of the niche festival, and being surrounded by like-minded music fans led to a number of in-depth conversations with people from all over the world, not only about favorite records and bands, but about personal relationships with music and art, and by extension, life itself. An overwhelming number of Roadburn attendees travel far from home to attend the festival, but regardless of national boundaries and language barriers, the feeling of community was immediate. [JL]
The MIX-TAPE EFFECT:
Within the realms of heavy and psychedelic music, the sounds of Roadburn are staggeringly diverse, and the arsenal of bands at the 2013 edition could be argued to be its most varied lineup to date. The tones of the performances ran a gamut from feel-good blues jams to ritualistic, unholy evil, and with everything from the anachro-crust of Antisect (complete with “Still Hate Thatcher” T-shirt, to the proggy peaks and valleys of Maserati, to the smooth atmospherics of Alcest and Les Discrets, to the wall of rage brought by death/doom metal crew Asphyx, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to get bored with any one type of music or mood. The trademark of many Roadburn artists is their fondness for pushing the boundaries of their art, whether pulling from black metal, post-rock, noise, folk, or myriad other sounds, but there was a near-equal number of “purists” as well, providing high-quality takes on traditional doom, heavy metal, and classic rock. Likewise, it was interesting to see how some attendees took a narrow, genre-specific approach to selecting which artists to see each day, while others sampled them all. [JL]
LEGENDS, FUTURE LEGENDS, AND OTHER EXCITEMENTS:
It sounds like a no-brainer, but one of the major benefits of traveling to a music festival means that you go to the music rather than wait for it to come to you. In the context of Roadburn, that means the chance to see emerging acts who haven’t yet played your country (and with the high costs of international touring, possibly never will), studio and bedroom-based projects that rarely make it to the stage (note, the mind-blowing live debut of the Ruins of Beverast—truly a Roadburn highlight), and other unique live musical happenings. Along with the aforementioned full-album performances, the festival presented pioneering artists such as Michael Rother (playing cuts from Neu! and Harmonia), Adelaide, Australia’s funeral doom outfit Mournful Congregation, plus the reunited Pennsylvania doomsters Dream Death and Milwaukee metallic hardcore quartet Die Kreuzen. Roadburn 2013 also marked the first-ever mainland European jaunts from a number of bands including North Carolina’s Ash Borer, Chicago’s The Atlas Moth, the UK’s Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. [JL]
[By: Jamie Ludwig – JL & Jordan Young – JY]