12:05AM: City Hotel, Tilburg, The Netherlands: You know, before the day started (and by day, I mean the show, which started at 4PM), I didn’t think it was too ambitious a plan to review all of the Afterburner special post-Roadburn event in one sitting. “Nah, I can handle it,” I said with confidence that only my first shots of caffeine since last Wednesday could have given me. “No problem.”
Well, the thing is that Afterburner, while not quite as intense to witness as Roadburn itself because it only runs on two, not four, stages at the 013, is still a great deal of show. Even in this allegedly more laid-back setting of just the Green Room and the Bat Cave, I found myself unable to see absolutely everything, leaving me once again to pick my battles. This is not a complaint. I want to make that perfectly clear. It’s like trying to choose what to see at the Met in New York. Pretty much whatever direction you head in, you’re gonna see some cool shit, but to do it all in one day can’t be done.
In other words, bear with me. This could be a while.
Jex Thoth opened in the Green Room at 4PM. For a nifty comparison, I’ll put their opening slot today in contrast with Death Row‘s yesterday in the main hall. You know those Windows 7 commercials where they take the already exceptionally good-looking people and they all start talking about how they thought of Windows 7, and then it cuts to a dream sequence of even more cartoonish exceptionally good-looking people? That’s like the jump from Death Row, who already ruled, to Jex Thoth, who were good at what they were doing, but a little silly at the same time.
It’s no real puzzle why the San Francisco five-piece got such a huge response from the crowd (which Death Row could have used some more of yesterday afternoon). Be-caped lead singer Jessica Thoth being some kind of ritualistic cult doom sex symbol certainly doesn’t hurt. Yeah guys, she’s the cute redhead who’s into Pentagram and plays with candles and incense on stage while wearing a cape and singing about serpents and flame vigils. Have fun living in the woods together after your pagan wedding, raising naked children of the forest.
Because that’s supposed to be the fantasy, right? I don’t know. I didn’t get into the set. The music was cool, I guess, but nothing really mind-boggling, and I just have a hard time taking that kind of band seriously. You know, if you were a fat bald dude hitting those same notes, playing with incense and wearing a cape, you wouldn’t be playing Roadburn. You’d be playing Dungeons & Dragons. No, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. In your mother’s basement. Where you live. Oh, and you’re 47.
I think I’ve made my point. Looks matter. Even in doom, being the proverbial hot girl is helpful.
When they were done, Orange Sunshine‘s late-’60s obsessed garage psychedelic rock was a refreshing change of pace and a nod to the stoner rock purist set, who surely appreciated the lack of posturing. I know I did. I had to chuckle though at how much one of their riffs reminded me of Blue Cheer‘s version of “The Hunter,” but I’d soon learn just how honestly they come by it, since after an extended heavy jam on The Rolling Stones‘ “Gimme Shelter,” drummer/vocalist/Euro-Chong lookalike Guy Tavares shouted out their set to the memory of Dickie Peterson, then they closed with “Summertime Blues” and “Rock Me Baby,” in that order. There’s a word for that, and that word is “charm.”
And I’ll pause here for a quick side note. Nachtmystium played this fest. Where else in the world are you going to have the opportunity to see Nachtmystium and Orange Sunshine in the same building? These kinds of things only exist at Roadburn.
Church of Misery continued their assault on common decency with their set, playing mostly the same stuff as Friday when they were on the main stage, but killing nonetheless for the smaller capacity venue that is the Green Room. Hell, I’m relatively certain Walter could have had Church of Misery play the same songs every four days in a different room and people would have migrated from one stage to the other to see them again. It’s not a chance that comes up every day, and watching guitarist Tom Sutton do his stoner rock softshoe while vocalist Yoshiakki Negishi pretends to shoot people in the crowd — well shucks, my eyes get all misty just thinking about it.
Having seen them three times now over the last two years (all Roadburn performances), I can say they haven’t yet put out a studio record that captures just how heavy they actually are in a live setting. Houses of the Unholy came close, but the sheer volume they wield might be too powerful for modern recording technology. In this way, they are truly ahead of their time. As for their riffs, I think we all know they fall under the heading, “born too late,” which is just fine.
It was almost cruel to have to witness them do it, but Sweden‘s Graveyard followed in a sonic twist that came on like a big break between Church of Misery and Eyehategod. No complaints, it’s just not really my thing at this point. But hey, if you like skinny Swedish dudes with expensive equipment, vintage t-shirts and tight flannels, ’70s mustaches and hair looking like something off an Allman Brothers album cover, playing the rock and roll their dads probably listened to, then have I got a band for you.
To be fair, they were incredibly tight across the board, and the Green Room was so crowded that for most of the set, the only vantage point I had was through the doorway. It’s like there was a sign outside saying, “Must Be this Cool to Enter” with a line drawn under some guy with bellbottoms’ ‘stache as a measure. I’m nowhere near that cool, so I got some falafel and waited for Eyehategod. Things could have been worse.
I never fail to be surprised that I’m not the world’s biggest Eyehategod fan. According to my records, I own all of theirs (which isn’t saying much since they haven’t put out a full-length in a decade), but if you were to ask me to name six Eyehategod songs, I don’t think I could do it. Well, maybe six, but probably not 10. And I’ve dug it every time I’ve seen them, tonight included. They were fucking great, but in terms of what I listen to on a given afternoon, I’ll rarely reach for Eyehategod while sitting on the porch and sipping a beer.
A fun note; when bassist Gary Mader broke a string, vocalist Mike Williams, guitarist Brian Patton and drummer Joe LaCaze did a quick couple songs under the moniker of their “side-project,” Fuckmouth, and I managed to catch it on video, which you can see below.
Williams was good and fucked up tonight. When he came out on stage, I said to myself, “This looks like a guy who’s going to fall over at some point during his set,” and sure enough — toward the end, to his credit — he went backwards into LaCaze‘s drums. Where was Jimmy Bower in all this? Over up front on stage right, mostly in the dark, playing to the crowd. Kicking ass like he will.
Eyehategod was a good note to end Roadburn on. A slow, rung out, feedbacked note that seemed to last even after the amps were shut off. But being the greedy son of a bitch I am, I wanted to see what Dutch locals The Machine were doing in the Bat Cave, so I meandered in the middle of Eyehategod‘s set into the other room, only to find the young trio jamming out heavy Colour Haze style with vocalist/guitarist David Eering throwing in some “Stone Free” and not sounding like a complete jackass while doing it, which is nothing short of an astonishing feat for so junior and so caucasian a player.
Jamming is apparently their thing, but they do it well, and have two records out already with a third written and are looking for a label. I can’t imagine one of the sundry European heavy rock labels wouldn’t be interested given the opportunity. I know I would.
But alas, I only caught their last two songs — both jams — and they were done, so I went back to the Green Room to close out the night and the fest with Eyehategod. They slammed their way through an astonishing amount of material, and I’m pretty sure I heard Williams at one point start singing Pantera‘s “I’m Broken,” though it could have just been a coincidence of cadence. In any case, good times, and when it was done, I split out on the quick (no afterparties for my unfriendly ass) and came back here to write about it, stopping only for some pommes frites along the way.
This review is long enough, so I’ll save any grand reflections on Roadburn for another time under the consideration that even the most interested of Obelisk attendees has failed to make it this far (I don’t take it personally). My plan for tomorrow is to get up, be out of here by 11AM checkout and head — where else? — to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam to see when and if I can reschedule my flight. The Patient Mrs. says it might not be until next weekend, but I need to go in-person anyway since British Airways‘ sundry hotlines and website have proven useless in this volcanic clusterfuck. I expect to spend a good deal of time waiting on line only to find out nothing, but these are the things we have to do, aren’t they? That’s a small price to pay for the weekend I just had.
And I’ll tell you something else: If I am stuck in Europe for another week, you bet your ass I’m getting my francophile self to Paris tout de suite. I’m pretty sure I’d be the first displaced American ever to do that. Ever. In the history of the world. Ever.
Tags: California, Church of Misery, Den Haag, Eyehategod, Graveyard, Japan, Jex Thoth, New Orleans, Orange Sunshine, Roadburn, San Francisco, Sweden, The Machine, The Netherlands, Tilburg