My understanding is that if you’re in a heavy band and you’ve made your way through West Chester, Pennsylvania, on an East Coast tour, you’ve probably either stayed at Mike Cummings‘ house or played with his band, Backwoods Payback. As the frontman of the underappreciated and hard-driving foursome, Cummings presents an indomitable personality on stage and off, but is given to backing that up with a thoughtful approach in his lyrics as well as in writings apart from the band. A book of poetry, Confessions of a Lackluster Performer, was published in 2009, and aside from the self-deprecating title, it showed Cummings able to work in textures beyond those of his songcraft, though it seems to be that side of his creativity that most exerts itself. Backwoods Payback made their debut on Small Stone with 2011′s Momantha(review here) and subsequently issued a live EP in 2012 and a studio EP, In the Ditch(streamed here), earlier in 2014.
In addition, Cummings embarked on his first solo acoustic tour last fall (review here), and the release of his full-length solo debut, Get Low, is expected April 19.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Michael Rudolph Cummings
How did you come to do what you do?
I’ve always written in some form or another, since as early as I can remember. Music just seemed to be the next extension of that. It just happened.
Describe your first musical memory.
I had a little portable record player in a blue canvas-colored suitcase. I’m sure there was one in most households with a kid my age (or maybe not, the more I think about it). The movie E.T. had just come out and my mom gave me the Neil Diamond “Heartlight” single. I played that for hours at a time, over and over.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
It changes all the time. Whenever I finish a recording or write a new song, that’s the high I’m always chasing. I just finished my first solo record. Listening back to the tape in the room and forgetting how we even made this thing that was being played back to me…that’s my best memory at the moment.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
Every day something I believe in is tested.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
I can’t even begin to try and imagine where it leads. I just follow it wherever it wants to take me.
How do you define success?
Doing the best I can at whatever it is that I am doing and knowing that I gave it all I had.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
Everything I have seen makes me who I am today. Nothing… Some things are just harder to handle than others.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
I have so much to do still, books to write, songs to sing, pictures to draw. It’s such a strange trip when it happens. I can’t sit and force it. It’s like a wave, and I have to ride it out when it comes.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
Waking up tomorrow.
Michael Rudolph Cummings, “Ranch Song” from Get Low (2014)
I stood for a couple seconds last night in the air outside the 013, trying to inhale it, thinking if I kept my wristband on maybe Roadburn could just keep going.
Someone told me yesterday that you project your negative energy, that people feed off it and respond to you based on it. That’s true in a sense, if New Agey, and I might quibble with the phrasing and put it up to unconscious cues of tone and body language more than energy, but the one is as valid a means of expressing the idea as another in the end – the point’s the same. Smile, stand up straight, like your mom told you.
That’s easier for me at Roadburn than just about any other place I’ve ever been. Words like “special,” “magical,” “vibe” get tossed around, but they’re pale shadows of the thing itself once you’ve managed to soak some of it in. A popular refrain for Roadburn 2014 was, “This one is special,” and it was to me too. The kindness and generosity shown to me by the Roadburn crew not only made me feel validated for the time I’ve put in covering the fest these last six years, but like I, as a person, mattered even in some small way. When I knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to be able to go, they reached out and not only made it happen, but brought me behind the scenes in a way I’ve never been before. There I sat in the office with Walter, Jurgen and Lee Shaman, putting together the fanzine with my tired eyes, talking about bands and who we saw the night before and so on. It seems greedy to hope I could have the good fortune to do it again, but I do.
First and foremost, thanks to Walter, Jurgen and Yvonne for bringing me in to even in some small way be a part of the Roadburn festival, editing that fanzine. My heart goes out in appreciation to Rianne, Sanne, Miranda, Brent, Gijs and the entire 013 crew, who were so welcoming and helping my clueless ass find where it should be, which printer to use, and how to operate Windows 7 in Dutch, which is a beautiful language that, six years later, still makes me happy every time I hear it spoken by a native.
In Lee Edwards of The Sleeping Shaman I felt like I found a kindred spirit, and not only his efforts for the ‘zine, but just the company was something I looked forward to each morning, swapping stories about shows, talking about reviewing and editing and the joys and trials of working with a staff of writers. I realized somewhere in the making of the third issue of the ‘zine that this could very well be the last time I ever do that. I hope it’s not, but there’s nothing guaranteed in life and I’m thankful for every opportunity I have. To Costin Chioreanu, Paul Verhagen, Walter (yes again), Adrien Begrand (who I wish I could’ve met), Kim Kelly, Paul Robertson, Saúl Do Caixão, Sarah Kitteringham and José Carlos Santos as well for their communication and the work they all put in. The Weirdo Canyon Dispatch was easily the best staff of writers I’ve ever had.
To my family for their continued and generous support, thank you. There are so few people who understand or give a shit about how much this means to me personally, especially this year, and it was incredible to just have it known.
Especially to The Patient Mrs. as well, who even when I lost my job said to me, and I quote, “I think you should still go to Roadburn.” I’m forever astounded at her tolerance, her acceptance of the wretched creature I am and her seemingly endless depth of understanding. She knew I needed this more than I did.
So many others. Stephen Flam, Mike Scheidt, Tom and Will from Rozamov, the Gozu dudes, the Hull dudes (how great it was to see those two bands back to back days and have tastes of home new and old), Vania, Désirée, Aris Tombul, Daan Toner Low, everyone I met and re-met over the course of the weekend who had heard of the site, as well as Claudio, Vanna, Susanne, Falk-Hagen, Iñaki, Christian and all the other familiar faces in the photo pit. I’m no photographer, but to even be around such talent is inspiring.
Anyone who read, liked, commented, posted, retweeted, or shared any part of this whole thing, consider yourself responsible. I am so grateful for every response, whatever it might be, and I am humbled endlessly by the support this site and I personally continue to receive as the years roll on. Thank you so much for being a part of it with me, for making it happen for me.
Each of the headers in this series with a quote comes from either song titles or lyrics. The references are as follows:
“…This heart of mine” is from the first verse of Fatso Jetson’s “Jet Black Boogie.”
“Descend to the place…” is from Young Hunter’s “Welcome to Nothing.”
“So much still lingers…” comes from Crowbar’s “All I Had I Gave.”
“Spirit of the Staircase” is the title of a track from Dwellers’ new album, Pagan Fruit. It was chosen in honor of the stairs up to the office at the 013.
“Death means just life” is taken from Candlemass’ classic “Solitude.”
“Clearing the path…” derives from the title of YOB’s next album, Clearing the Path to Ascend.
“I know where to go…” is from Gozu’s ultra-catchy “Jan-Michael Vincent.”
“Altar Made of Red Earth” is a song title from Beast in the Field’s 2013 album, The Sacred Above, The Sacred Below. Picked in honor of the red coffee cups in the 013 office.
“Walk in the Blue Light” is a Pentagram classic available on their First Daze Here collection.
All of the posts in this series can be found cataloged together under the tag Roadburn 2014 trip.
I keep thinking at some point the novelty will wear off, but it doesn’t. Six Roadburns later, I feel luckier to have been here than I ever have, and more fortunate and privileged than I ever have. It was an honor to stand in that building once again. I feel like these words don’t do justice to how much, deep in the core of what makes me me, this festival meant.
The plane that will take me first to Reykjavik and then home from there – named Hekla, which I can only assume is another volcano – just pulled up to the gate. It’s about two hours to Iceland and then another six and a half or seven to Boston from there, but I’m ready to go home, kiss my wife and sit down to dinner with her, crash out on the couch with the dog. Shower in my shower, sleep in my bed. It’s time.
I think I might have a job interview sometime either this week or early next. I’ll let you know how it goes.
04.13.14 — 22:38 — Sunday night — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg
I own one really nice pair of socks. They’re black, a name brand, and I don’t know when I picked them up, but they breathe, they’re comfortable, and most of all, they fit my silly clown feet. As someone who doesn’t usually wear shoes that require socks let alone the socks themselves if he can help it, these socks are where it’s at. I took them out of my luggage on Friday and went to put them on and I was like, “What the hell am I doing? I’ve still got three more days here! I can’t waste the good socks!”
Well, today I wore the good socks. The occasion was as fitting as any: the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner, a stripped down, laid back incarnation of Roadburn proper that closes out each year. Three stages. For me the big difference was in how I decided to approach the schedule. Apart from needing to be at the Main Stage in time to take pictures, I didn’t worry about getting up front, or getting somewhere 25 minutes beforehand. I let myself be a little freer to roam around. I don’t have up-close shots of everything I saw, but it was good to experience the fest like I think a lot of people do, just wandering back and forth between the rooms, enjoying the music in one, going back to the last, going back to the next and so on. In any case, I’ve no regrets.
After finishing the final issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, the day began with a moving tribute to former The Devil’s Blood guitarist, the late Selim Lemouchi from players who knew him, including his sister and ex-The Devil’s Blood frontwoman Farida Lemouchi, billed as Selim Lemouchi’s Enemies and playing the 2014 Earth Air Spirit Water Firealbum from Lemouchi‘s post-The Devil’s Blood project, Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies. There were 10 people on stage — two drummers, four guitars, bass, two keyboards, and Farida Lemouchi on vocals, honoring her brother by playing his songs. It was a powerful experience to be sure, in part because of the otherworldly feel of the music, but even more just on the emotional level of those involved, still clearly grieving the loss.
It felt somewhat voyeuristic to be taking photos in front of the stage. I’d never flatter myself into thinking that being in the photo pit, particularly on a stage so high, effects the performance one way or another, I just mean that these were people in mourning. His sister especially. I cannot and would not imagine that loss, and to have it so soon after, when all people still just have nothing more than dogma and hollow epithets to offer for the sense of injustice you feel. In a way it was the heaviest set of the weekend, but it was also beautiful, the band playing to images of Selim projected behind the songs with which he was moving on from The Devil’s Blood and into unknown sonic territory. I’ve heard from several natives how much he’s missed, And you could tell watching the players on stage that Lemouchi was well loved, even by his Enemies.
There was what felt like a moment of exhale when they were done, a picture of Lemouchi left on the projector screen on the empty stage, and in the Green Room, extreme Swiss duo Bölzer went on seemingly with the intent to blast their way through the reverent spirit with a filth-caked maelstrom. To be fair, they would’ve blasted through any kind of atmosphere; hardly seemed like a personal thing. It was kind of a jump from one end of the spectrum to the other, and they were a standout on and otherwise psych-heavy Green Room lineup of Aqua Nebula Oscillator, who opened, The Papermoon Sessions, New Keepers of the Water Towers, Harsh Toke and Lumerians. Coming out of the Main Stage room still wowed by the raw human spirit of what I’d just seen, my head wasn’t in it for Bölzer, but I was in a clear minority. Not only was the Green Room full, but the hallway outside was full too. Couldn’t get near them.
That would be a kind of running theme soon enough, but Avatarium were next on the Main Stage. The Stockholm natives released their self-titled debut last fall on Nuclear Blast, and are notable also for boasting Candlemass bassist and principle songwriter Leif Edling in their lineup, but Edling was absent owing to illness so Avatarium played with a fill-in and treated the crowd to their progressive melodic metal, vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith borrowing cadences from Ronnie James Dio (a better source than most) and leading the five-piece into a set that sounded ready for any number of summer festivals over here. A little clean for my personal tastes, but well performed by the band, who were not long in distinguishing themselves from Candlemass. Pretty much immediate, actually.
Papermoon, the collaboration between Electric Moon and Papir, was happening in the Green Room, and I caught some of that while simultaneously wishing I had been in two places at once to see more of the Sula Bassana set the other night as well as Papir on their own, but every Roadburn requires hard choices. The Papermoon Sessions(review here) debut full-length from the combined unit was a jammer’s joy, and if what I caught of them tonight was anything to go by, it’s worth hoping they do another. YOB were getting ready to go on the Main Stage playing three out of the four cuts on their new album, Clearing the Path toAscend as well as others from the back catalog, and particularly after watching them nail The Great Cessationyesterday, it wasn’t something I could stand the thought of missing.
I debated even typing this, because it sounds like hyperbole, but it’s honest in terms of how I feel about them so I’m going with it. YOB are a once-in-a-generation band. Every generation you get a few landmark acts who not only distinguish themselves from their peers and become influential, but who take the creative lessons of their forebears to a genuinely new place. Sleep did it. Neurosis did it. YOB are doing it. I can’t think of another act from the US who’ve left such a mark in the last decade of heavy. Tonight, guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster greeted a crowd as much theirs as any they’re likely to encounter and treated them to essentially the next step in their ongoing progression, taking the lessons of 2011′s Atma(review here) and breaking their own rules with a languid, psychedelic opener and a classic rock finish the sprawl of which is worthy of the entire vinyl side it will no doubt receive upon its release.
Every Roadburn I allow myself to watch one band from the side of the stage. This year it was YOB, and not for the first time. Each of the new songs stood out for a different reason, whether it was the hook of the one that opened their set (track three on the album if I’ve got the order right), the maddening churn of Foster‘s drums leading the way through what I was later told is called “Nothing to Win,” or the patient unfolding of the album opener, played third, which brims with tension and meets a payoff no less rich. They backed the new material with “Adrift in the Ocean” and the title-track from Atmabefore closing out with “Quantum Mystic” from 2005′s classic-to-be, The Unreal Never Lived, which they also performed in full at Roadburn 2012 — that set, like the Candlemass Epicus Doomicus Metallicus set, is out on vinyl now — and giving everyone a moment to let their brains reconstitute. Two nights of YOB in a row. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish there was a third to be had.
Now. Triptykon would be starting their headlining set soon on the Main Stage, but Carlton Melton and Øresund Space Collective keyboardist/all-around aces human being Scott “Dr. Space” Heller were doing a collaborative jam at Cul de Sac that had been on for a couple minutes. I shot over to catch some of that hoping maybe for a place where I could see the band. No dice on that, but I stood in the back for a couple minutes and closed my eyes and grooved out to the ultracosmic vibes. I don’t know if it was all recorded, but Roadburn could do a series of releases just of the jams this year, between this one, Lenny Kaye and Harsh Toke, Niklas Barker and Reine Fiske, Oeds Beydals, Papermoon and so on. Maybe not the best marketing move. I’ve never had much of a nose for business.
Back in the reaches of the 013, the Tom G.Warrior-fronted Triptykon made ready to once again darken the skies of Planet Roadburn, now celebrating their new release, Melana Chasmata, as they celebrated their debut, Eparistera Daimones, by playing their first live performance at the Warrior-curated Roadburn 2010 event, “Only Death is Real.” Three cuts from Warrior‘s prior band, Celtic Frost, were aired — “Messiah” and “Circle of the Tyrants” — but with a brand new record and as the new band moves further away from the old, it only makes sense the focus would be on Triptykon. Joined on stage by guitarist/vocalist V. Santura, bassist Vanja Šlajh and drummer Norman Lonhard, Warrior (né Fischer) was statesmanlike and seething in kind, and while I’m sure they’d already gotten rid of plenty of copies of Melana Chasmata, set-opener “Black Snow,” “Tree of Suffocating Souls,” and “Altar of Deceit” made a compelling argument toward purchase. As release parties go, it was formidable.
About halfway into their set, San Diego’s Harsh Toke – whose jam with Lenny Kaye on Friday has already become a Roadburn 2014 landmark in my mind — hit it in the Green Room, and I decided a little more of the ol’ back and forth was warranted to see them play their own material. I think they made a lot of friends this weekend, and not just by passing out beer cans from the stage (though that never hurts). Their heavy push was right on with or without the psych legend accompanying, and when it came time for me to do so, I decided they were how I wanted to end the night. I stood for a few minutes inside, then a few minutes in the doorway, then I went back to the Main Stage, then back to the Green Room, then upstairs, then back down, then around the foyer of the 013, then back to the doorway of the Green Room, and that was when I got that sinking, nagging feeling that I couldn’t avoid it anymore and my Roadburn was over. Time to leave.
I have many, many people to thank and it’s hit the point where I’m starting to nod off, so I’ll save that for the travel tomorrow, but as an initial blanket statement that I hope provides some warmth: Thank you. So much.
Posted in Features on April 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.13.14 — 13:25 — Sunday afternoon — The 013, Tilburg
Got to watch a minute or two of Triptykon’s soundcheck. No surprise they were a churning barrage of devastating buzz, but strange to see them on stage with lights on. Can’t imagine it’ll be that way later on when they headline the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner.
Today’s a more laid back atmosphere. Fewer stages going, but it’s still a sold-out crowd and plenty to see. Shaman Lee and I came in this morning to finish out the last issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. The PDF is here if you’d like to give it a look. I wrote an essay to finish it basically nerding out on how killer the vibe of the fest has been all weekend, and Adrien Begrand did the review of yesterday with Paul Verhagen’s photos. Simple fact is I’m sorry to see it end.
How do you make a ‘zine at the Roadburn festival? With a garbage-can full of coffee cups.
The work is done now, issues are folded, and all that really remains is to wait for the Afterburner to start. Walter and Jurgen were in the office before with Lee and I, the four of us sitting and talking about music and the festival, just kind of laid back before the craziness of the day takes hold. It’s things like that that I most enjoy remembering. Bands are great, and I’ve seen a few here I’d consider friends, but it’s the moments that stay with you more than this or that set. This weekend has had a few for the ages.
I’m proud of the work done on the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, and I’ve taken a few copies to go home with and I’ll look forward to having them on my shelf somewhere I can walk by and see them and be reminded of this place, the space we got to work in, the coffee, voices up from the loading dock below, the hum of soundchecks, the heat from the sunlight coming through the windows — Jurgen: “It’s always warm in here, isn’t it?,” Lee: “That’s why it’s the CEO’s office” — the ridiculous printer and all of it. I’ll have the ‘zines to keep me connected. A souvenir of the silly thing we were able and fortunate enough to do this weekend.
Things are pretty quiet in the office. I should probably get out of here.
04.13.14 — 07:28 — Sunday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg
Morning in Tilburg. Got back to the hotel last night and tried to get writing immediately but kept falling asleep at the keyboard. I’d wake up a couple seconds later and find a string of semi-colons a line long. It’s been a while since that happened. It finally came to the point where I semi-consciously reasoned that I’d be better off sleeping than having it take seven times as long to write because I couldn’t stay awake. I guess we’ll see how the reasoning works out.
Roadburn 2014 Day Three started for me more or less immediately after I closed the lid of my laptop in the afternoon. It was a day of kickass bands, noble intentions, and in my case, dragging ass. Some tough decisions. Will it be Indian or Old Man Gloom, Loop or -(16)-? Mansion or Horisont? A lot depended on my energy level at any given second, and a telling moment was when during YOB I was upstairs on the balcony of the Main Stage room and I opened the package of a protein bar only to have it be broken and two-thirds of it fall out of the wrapper onto the floor. Oh, I was a sad little monkey. I went and got myself dinner and said it was going to be okay. And it was, but for a second there the god damn world was about to end.
Better news is that all the bands I saw yesterday completely destroyed. In very different ways, to be sure. I watched more full sets than in the prior two days, bands like Noothgrush, Gozu, YOB, and Old Man Gloom offering thrills to the dedicated many who stuck around for the duration. When Noothgrush came out to open the Main Stage, vocalist Dino Sommese — in addition to referring to his band as “DIY punk; kinda angry, kinda slow” and backing up his punker perspective by talking some shit on corporate sponsorship — set about unleashing some of the nastiest screams I’ve heard the whole festival. Real, crusty, sludge. It wasn’t “post-” anything. It was visceral.
They’re a West Coast band, were gone for a while and came back a couple years ago. 11Paranoias were on at Het Patronaat, but Noothgrush set the tone for the day in both their unbridled riff-led filth and the fact that it compelled me to stay where I was for just about the whole time. Admittedly, I did poke my head into the Green Room to check out the beginning of Monster Truck – stoner rock; good for the soul — but from there I basically sat tight until Gozu were going on in the Green Room. For them, Roadburn 2014 is the start of a European tour that’ll go until they hit Desertfest in a couple weeks, and for me, it was a pleasure to watch them kill it so hard in that space.
Because that’s the thing about Roadburn. Well, one of the things. You can see a band 100 times, then see them at Roadburn and know it’s different. I’ve had that happen in years past and itwas the same with Gozu. Every band is on top of their game and from the lights to the sound to the projections behind, the 013 crew is so professional that it all looks and sounds great. I could not tell you how many times I’ve seen those dudes — Marc Gaffney, Douglas Allen Sherman, Joe Grotto and Mike Hubbard – play a song like “Meat Charger” from 2010′s Locust Season(review here). I suppose it’s less with this lineup, but still, no matter how many more times I catch Gozu at places in Boston, I will have seen them at Roadburn and know that means something.
I had a moment with Gozu similar to watching Hull the other day, and I realized that it was being happy for hometown guys making good at Roadburn, and that’s the first time I’ve really thought of Boston as being my hometown as well as New York (or New Jersey, but in the Netherlands, you just say New York). One more reason the 2014 fest is special to me. Getting to see YOB twice — and getting to hear their forthcoming album, Clearing the Path to Ascend, didn’t hurt either. It’s their third time here, and each time, the Eugene, Oregon, trio have played two sets, which is efficient if nothing else. Yesterday was The Great Cessationin full. Seems redundant to say it was fantastic, or at least needless, but YOB on the Main Stage at Roadburn. If there’s ever a band who ever fit in a place, it’s them and there. What a pleasure to watch.
The Great CessationI would count as the angriest of YOB‘s record, and especially in the context of hearing the new record a couple hours before, it’s material and a method of writing they’ve progressed beyond. Anger is still a factor, but The Great Cessationis so rife with disappointment, with frustration and rage. Of course that only made the songs more vicious. I was genuinely surprised when I walked out from the balcony to go back downstairs and closer to the front that it was still day outside. If anything was ever going to darken the sky, it would have to be “Silence of Heaven.” I look forward to seeing them again today and to becoming acquainted with their new songs. The second track on Clearing the Path to Ascend has some of the most furious drums I’ve ever heard from Travis Foster. We’re talking Through Silver in Blood-level. Can’t wait to see that live.
There was a bit of a break before Old Man Gloom went on. I thought I’d check out Carlton Melton instead, but they’re doing a jam with Dr. Space today and I started remembering the good times I had with Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regressionismand stuck it out in the Main Stage room. I haven’t listened to much Old Man Gloom since, and probably should’ve picked up their 2012 return outing, No, but for funds. They were fairly incredible and, as I thought just about no one would be able to do, managed to follow YOB. That shouldn’t be such a surprise with the all-star lineup of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (Isis), guitarist/vocalist Nate Newton (Converge), bassist/vocalist Caleb Schofield (Cave In) and Santos Montano (Zozobra), but at one point I had to stop and say to myself, “So this is probably what it was like to see Neurosis 15 years ago.” Not a bad response for a band to evoke. “To Carry the Flame” from Nowas a particular highlight, and had me wondering if Roadburn might see an Isis reunion maybe in 2015 or sometime in the future beyond.
Part of the appeal of seeing Old Man Gloom was that I’ve never seen them before and may or may not ever get to see them again. That’s what kept me there the whole time. With Finland’s Mansion, the situation was similar. Their 2013 We Shall LiveEP (review here) intrigued with its cultish leanings and semi-psychedelic churn and the new single Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 has only furthered interest. Dressed all in black, in turtlenecks save for their bassist, who had a button-down (heathen!), Mansion projected religious righteousness well, and that’s cool since it’s part of their aesthetic, but it was really the songs I was there for. Vocalist Alma Mansion had a calm intensity that came to bursts of energy in the title-track from the EP, the band behind her following suit in both atmosphere and presence. I think a lot of people were getting ready for Loop to hit the Main Stage, but the Green Room was still pretty full as Mansion got going, and they delivered something I’ve seen no one else here have on offer. Chalk their new single on my list of records I wish I’d bought.
To be fair, Loop are touring the US this coming week — especially after seeing them play here, I can’t help but think that’s the wrong choice, and not because of the band– but to see them headline at Roadburn, particularly after their reunion came about following Loop guitarist/vocalist Robert Hampson sitting in with Godflesh last year, seemed fitting. I won’t profess to be an expert on Loop‘s records, Heaven’s Endand A Gilded Eternityare certainly top quality psych-gaze and were decades ahead of their time, but they’re not something I put on every day or every week, so for me it was more about just watching the band and seeing Loop for what they brought to the show. They seemed aware of the gravity of the situation, but handled themselves expertly and where Old Man Gloom had been about bombast and urgency, Loop were a more patient, gradual vibe. It worked well, but I was about ready to close out the night and so headed over to Het Patronaat for the first time of the day to catch Los Angeles noise rockers -(16)-.
I caught wind of Zoloft Smilearound the time it was released, and the sludgy outfit’s return over the last several years has only furthered appreciation. They were West Coast hardcore intense, but with thicker tones right on the edge where noise rolls into sludge. Fast. Mean. Loud. Perfect for Het Patronaat‘s relatively compact stage, incredible volume and otherworldly vibe, the stained glass church windows, woodwork, all of it covered in -(16)-‘s spilled guts. They were a steamroller from word one, vocalist Cris Jerue bounding from one side of the stage to the next while founding guitarist Bobby Ferry and the relatively recently-added rhythm section of bassist Barney Firks and drummer Dion Thurman did likewise. Their energy was infectious, and brought fitting symmetry to the crust with which Noothgrush had started my day.
That bookend in mind, I decided it was time to call it a night and headed back to the hotel, exhausted by grinning. Today is the Afterburner, which cuts the number of stage from five to three, and while it’s supposed to be the laid back finish to Roadburn similar to how the Hard Rock Hideout on Wednesday eased attendees into the festival mindset, I’ve got no real letup in terms of bands I want to see, from Selim Lemouchi’s Enemies honoring the fallen The Devil’s Blood guitarist to YOB again and Triptykon. Plus a fanzine to put together. Much to do this last day here. I better get to it.
Posted in Features on April 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.12.14 — 14:02 — Saturday afternoon — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg
Seems like a groggy start this afternoon in Weirdo Canyon, things mostly quiet. I expect a lot of people hit it pretty hard yesterday, and as the final day of Roadburn 2014 that has all five stages going, looking at the schedule of what’s coming up, I can’t even argue with wanting to sleep late. Me, I’ve been up since 07:30. Rolled over and the tiny engine that runs my likewise tiny brain started put-putting and before I knew it, I was conscious. That’s about three hours of sleep. Whoops.
I won’t lie and say it was a pretty process, but we got the third issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch done well in time. Shaman Lee hadn’t slept much more than I had, but Paul Robertson’s review and Paul Verhagen’s once again stunning photos came in early and that helped. The PDF is here, which obviously I recommend checking out whether you’re in Tilburg or not. It’s been absurdly satisfying putting this together as both a passion project and a print publication. Since it’s not something I’ll be able to do for work anymore, as I did until a couple weeks ago, and as I’ve been kind of leaning on the preparations for this ‘zine in the wake of that, I will miss it when it wraps up tomorrow even more than I thought I would. These have been good mornings and have made the festival all the more special for me. Again, I’m lucky.
The rush was on double this morning as well because there was a listening session for YOB’s new album, which according to Neurot postcard flyers strewn about the festival is called Clearing the Path to Ascend. It was played through a P.A. — not quite the same as popping in the headphones and closing your eyes — so I won’t say much about it other than I damn near wept. Even hearing the last song playing back in my head now has me choked up. Fucking beautiful.
YOB plays later before Old Man Gloom and Loop on the Main Stage, doing The Great Cessation in full. That’s something I doubt very much I’ll regret watching.
I’m sore, I’m tired, and I miss my wife, but being here I wouldn’t trade for the world. I had resigned myself to missing Roadburn this year and was even sadder than I want to say at the thought. It’s been a rough couple months and I feel like this is the only way to get my head back to where it needs to be, back to what it is that matters to me and to what makes me feel human and alive. I don’t know if that makes any sense and I’m not sure I care if it does or not. Just so, so glad to be where I am right now.
I must be doing a piss-poor job of not looking beat to hell, because several people asked me throughout the course of the afternoon and night how much I’d slept. Just enough, in combination with coffee, to stay standing. I wasn’t so clever with my answer at the time.
Today’s pacing was completely different from yesterday. When you’re here, you tend to be your own curator — I’m going to see this at the expense of that, I want to catch this band, so I will be here at this time. People pull their schedules out constantly, myself included. It’s important to stay on top of this stuff. Minutes matter at Roadburn.
For me, it was slower. At one point in the evening, I had to sort of stop and remind myself that I didn’t have to rush off somewhere, I could stay put and watch a little longer. That was the case right from the start with French classic prog tale-tellers Magma, who opened Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth‘s curated day on the Main Stage. The early portion of the Main Stage bill — three out of the total five bands, all playing at least 70 minutes, and in the case of Magma, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin and Opeth themselves, a full 90 — was heavy on prog. That had me at something of a disadvantage when it came to giving acts like Magma, Comus and Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin their due reverence, but I made the most of exposing my brain to things it hasn’t encountered 30 times already and saw some acts on other stages as well. There’s always someplace to be if you want to be there. Or you can go to the bar.
Magma‘s tales of future space in made up language set the bar pretty high for texture. Later on, Goblin would inject a little funk and some heavier rock into what they were doing, but with Magma, it was more about expansive and psychedelic jazz, though thinking of their set in the context of Mikael Åkerfeldt picking the lineup, it was easy to see why they were there — Opeth had clearly taken some of their influence. Likewise that for Comus and Goblin. In the Green Room, where I hadn’t been yet, Lenny Kaye and Harsh Toke were getting ready to jam, and I don’t know what it was, but something told me I wanted to be there.
A fellow Jersey boy, Rutgers grad and former publisher of a ‘zine called Obelisk — if only I could play guitar — Lenny Kaye is probably best known for playing in the Patti Smith Group, but he’s here as well celebrating the Nuggetscompilation he put together in 1972 that featured the likes of Nazz, 13th Floor Elevators, The Electric Prunes, etc. Paired with San Diego’s Harsh Toke, who are newcomers to the Tee Pee Records roster, Kaye fronted one of the best live heavy psych jams I’ve ever seen. No bullshit. With a steady refrain of “Harsh Toke makes good smoke” from Kaye on mic and improvised-seeming lyrics amid a terrifyingly immersive swirl from his guitar and the two in Harsh Toke – all the while, bass and drums holding down a battery of killer grooves — it had every dynamic you could possibly ask of a close-your-eyes-and-nod jam. I spent the rest of the day telling people how incredible it was and getting blank stares, no doubt because Lenny Kaye & Harsh Toke were on in the Green Room at the same time The Body were on at Het Patronaat, but wow. I had planned to be there for a few minutes and didn’t leave until they were done, an extended cover of Them‘s 1964 hit, “Gloria,” which Kaye referred to as the “national anthem of garage rock.” They jammed on that too.
I had to laugh when, as he introduced the band, Kaye stopped to ask the bassist and drummer of Harsh Toke their names, but however familiar they may or may not have been, I felt like I was seeing something special. They ended a little early, so I got back to the Main Stage in time for the start of Comus, who also played Roadburn back in 2010 at the since-closed Midi Theatre around the block from the 013. They were today largely as I remembered them from then: Mostly seated and playing their cult forest prog, cuts like “Song to Comus” from 1971′s First Utteranceonce again showcasing an inspiration point for Åkerfeldt. I bought that Comus record four years ago and have listened to it since, but still would hardly call myself an expert, and they had a good crowd going until it was time to head over to Het Patronaat for a second set from Corrections Houseafter yesterday’s. I’d hear about it later, but they brought out YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, who’s been spotted here and there around the fest ahead of YOB‘s two sets tomorrow and Sunday. If you want to make a supergroup more super, that’s a good way to do it.
The day I almost consider split in half, and the 90-minute set from Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin was the dividing point. People were so tight in the Main Stage room you couldn’t get in the door. Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin isn’t to be mistaken for the Goblin that toured in the US — the keyboardist has taken on members of his more metallized outfit Daemonia and made his own version of Goblin from them, while the classic Italian cine-proggers continue on in his absence. It’s confusing until you think of how often it happens. Then it’s just silly. Either way, Simonetti led his band through renditions of the themes to Zombi and Dawn of the Dead in addition to their eponymous song, all the while the audience nodded along. It was maybe a bit much at an hour and a half, but I may have been the only one who thought so. The dancing dude next to me was definitely on board, as most in attendance seemed to be, the Daemonia players injecting a bit of funk and hard rock into Goblin‘s classic scores.
Here’s where I had my moment when I decided to both have and eat my cake. Germany’s Sula Bassana were slated to go on at 21:40 at Het Patronaat. Simple enough. Candlemass were going on at 21:45. It was a very small window between the start of the two sets but I managed to squeeze my ass through it and caught the start of both. Obviously I saw more of Candlemass than Sula Bassana — which actually seemed to be Electric Moon plus another guitarist alongside Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, bassistKomet Lulu and drummer Marcus Schnitzler, but I considered it an achievement all the same. Schmidt got on mic to say it was their first time playing as a full band and then was off to his synths and guitar to lead his outfit through expansive psych jams. I wasn’t there long, but I was glad to have been there at all.
And while I don’t know if anything will ever top seeing Candlemass perform 1986′s Epicus Doomicus Metallicusat Roadburn 2011 with original vocalist Johan Längqvist singing — a set that’s since been released on oh-if-I-had-the-money vinyl — the band sounded awfully vibrant for a group who’s been threatening retirement for the last half-decade. In addition to having Per Wiberg on keys – Wiberg also played the Afterburner last year with Spiritual Beggars and is a former member of Opeth – as they ran through the whole of 1988′s Ancient Dreams, the Swedish doom legends also brought out Primordial/Dread Sovereign frontman Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill to add his flair and stage presence to “Incarnation of Evil.” It seemed an odd fit for his triumph-prone vocal style, but completely worked, and for the rest of their set, Candlemass had Mats Levén of Therion on vocals, who’s also worked with Candlemass founder/bassist Leif Edling in Krux and Abstrakt Algebra. Levén also did well with the parts that once belonged to Messiah Marcolin, though it was Edling himself, wine glass in hand, who took center stage to deliver the album-closing “Epistle No. 81,” a spoken poem in Swedish that came through the 013 Main Stage P.A. to the rhythm of claps from the audience. Very cool moment.
For an encore, they broke out “Bewitched” — some clever band is going to come along and cover both the track and its accompanying video, which if you’ve never seen it is one of the finest ever produced by humanity — and Epicus Doomicus Metallicus opener “Solitude,” which was enough to send a chill up my spine. I fucking love that song, and Levén nailed it, though he like every vocalist I’ve seen with Candlemass, including Längqvist who originally recorded it, stepped back from the high notes in the chorus on the album version. When they were done, it was just a matter of waiting the 45-minute break for Opeth, which I tried to do by watching some of Papir in Stage01 through the doorway. My thinking was the room would be full so at least I’d be able to hear it and see some of the stage, but the fact was that when I got there, the doorway was full too. No place to stand even outside the room. Some you win, some you lose.
It would’ve been nice to stay and see Opeth round out their set with “Deliverance” and “Blackwater Park,” but even before they went on, I was getting that get-back-to-the-hotel-and-get-typing itch, so I stuck around for “The Devil’s Orchard” from 2011′s Heritage, “Ghost of Perdition” from 2005′s Ghost Reveries– which Åkerfeldt, with his expected stage-banter charm, referred to as “an old nugget”; something Lenny Kaye had said about “Gloria” earlier in the day — and the start of “White Cluster,” the closer of 1999′s Still Life, before making my way out. It’s been more than a few years since the last time I saw Opeth, but it was already after midnight and I knew what I had ahead of me.
Tomorrow closes out the fest proper with the first of YOB‘s two sets and Loop‘s headlining slot on the Main Stage, so with morning work on the next issue of the fanzine ahead, I’ll just say thanks for reading and there are more pics after the jump if you’re interested.
A bit of a later start this morning for fanzine work. I didn’t mind sleeping the extra hour after all of yesterday’s running around and I’m sure I’ll mind it even less tomorrow. I had zero eyes for copy editing but did the best I could with it. “It’s a fanzine” has become a sort of go-to line for not being too nitpicky. If something’s screwed up, well, that’s only more authentic.
The issues are coming out of the printer now, and downstairs in the venue, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin have been soundchecking, the place sort of generally buzzing with activity, voices from the street below of bands loading in merch and gear, a hum of cyclical bass coming up through the concrete floor.
If you want to check out the PDF of the second issue, it’s available here. I’m honored to be outclassed by Kim Kelly’s review and Paul Verhagen’s photography.
Speaking of Paul, whose face was well familiar from the last couple years when I was introduced yesterday, he’s got photos displayed outside as well as in the venue itself. There are shots billboard-size on the outer wall of the parking deck next door to the 013, and that and the Roadburn banners around town only underscore the support this fest gets from the city of Tilburg. Particularly coming from the States, where something like this would struggle every step of the way and have to fight to even get a permit to exist, it’s amazing to see that. Was talking to a fellow East Coaster yesterday (look at me, not dropping names) who concurred: the culture just doesn’t exist for it there. You might be able to get away with it in San Francisco or something like that, but then everyone’s car will get busted into — say hello to my new stereotype about San Francisco; everybody gets robbed — and that’s no good either.
There’s a networking meeting over at the Cul de Sac going on now that I should probably be at, should’ve probably been at last year, but things ran behind compared to yesterday, so we’ll see if I get there before it’s done. Yesterday before the show proper started I ran back to the hotel. Didn’t quite get to sleep but at least laid down for a while and I think that made a difference. Not sure how the timing will work today, but you have to take your rest when you can when you’re here because there’s so much to see. No shortage today, certainly. A lot I’ve never encountered before, so all the better.
Exhausted but feeling good. It’s warm in Tilburg and the trees are green. You always forget the difference something like that can make.
This afternoon and this morning both seem like a really, really long time ago. I got asked a few times today when I got into town and I couldn’t seem to remember. 2009 maybe? Breakfast was two double-double espressos. Dinner was a protein bar and two bottles of water, some ibuprofen. No time for anything else. It’s Roadburn. There are places to be.
After much vigorous folding of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch issues — I was handed one when I walked into the venue this afternoon, which was a cool feeling — I went downstairs from the 013 office to check out Sourvein‘s soundcheck and found their “Dirty South” had gotten a little northern flair thanks to the addition of Halfway to Gone‘s Lou Gorra on bass. When they were done, I went up to Stage01 to watch Hull get their sounds and was treated to a preview of “Fire Vein,” about which I had no complaints. They’d be my first two bands of the day, in that order, so it was like I was getting ahead of myself. Which is fitting for how completely out of time the entire day seemed.
If I’m not mistaken, and I’m pretty sure I’m not, Sourvein is a completely different lineup, Gorra included, than played here in 2011. The one constant, of course, is vocalist T-Roy Medlin. To his credit, no matter who he seems to bring aboard in the band — people come, people go — it always sounds like Sourvein. You’d think after a while a polka player would slip in unnoticed or something, but their Southern sludge has seen no diminishing of its aggressive potency over the years. One imagines if that happened, whoever was responsible wouldn’t be in the band long. They grooved angry and gave the fest a wake up call from which it didn’t look back.
Knowing that Hull were playing Stage01, I made sure to get there early, as in by like half an hour. Say what you want for the practicality, the same thing did me no good later on trying to get up front for Conan at Het Patronaat. Sometimes you need to show up and wait if you want a place up front. Pretty much every time, actually. I was hoping for some new stuff from Hull – who are on tour in Europe with Boston’s Elder, also Roadburn veterans — but cuts from 2011′s Beyond the Lightless Sky(review here) like “False Priest” and “Earth from Water” were hardly time wasted, and both the old-made-new-again “Legend of the Swamp Goat” and “Architect” from 2009′s Sole Lordwere right on, as was the extended closer, “Viking Funeral,” which shook the floor with volume that seemed ready for it to be later in the day than it was.
I didn’t hear the Beastmilk album, but I certainly heard a lot about the Beastmilk album, so I thought I’d check out their set, what with Hexvessel‘s Mat McNerney fronting the band. McNerney brought a good deal of Joy Division-style drama to songs like “Void Mother” and “You are Now Under Your Control,” and the music behind him was probably what someone will step up and call neo-goth in a few years if they haven’t yet, mining the moodiness of late ’80s dark rock and presenting it in a we-could-be-playing-black-metal-if-we-wanted-to context. Fair enough, but with Samothrace going on at Het Patronaat across the street, I wasn’t sticking around all that long.
Merch is outside this year, which is different from at least the previous five Roadburns. I stopped myself at a copy of the second Rotor CD and Monster Magnet‘s Love Monster. I didn’t buy the gatefold version of Colour Haze‘s All, or any of this year’s Roadburn exclusives. It was the first money I’ve spent since I got to Europe, and it was 22 of the 70 euro I had in my wallet left over from the 2013 fest. My unemployed ass was as sparing as it could be en route to Het Patronaat.
For Samothrace, I wound up standing in front of one of the house P.A. stacks near the side of the stage, and needless to say, I didn’t stay there long, as the throb of Joe Axler‘s kick drum felt like the pedal was hooked up to my rib cage. I had been looking forward to seeing them, since 2012′s Reverence to Stone was so killer and I missed them on their East Coast tour supporting it, and they justified my anticipation, both in tonal weight and atmosphere, the latter which it’s easy to overlook in their sound because the rest of the time they’re so damn heavy, but which ultimately made both the record and their set stand out from the rest of the day, guitarists Renata Castagna and Brian Spinks taking time to space out in a way that presaged some of what I’d catch later with Mühr at the Cul de Sac, Spinks furthering the dynamic with assorted screams and growls. Was glad to finally see them play and witness their shifts between tumbling lurch and excruciating crawls for myself. It seemed overdue. And oh yeah, then Napalm Death played.
More than several years have passed since the last time I caught a Napalm Death show, and while Roadburn 2014 seems an odd fit for the British grindcore progenitors — vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway, guitarist Mitch Harris, bassist Shane Embury and drummer Danny Herrera – they tailored their set to the occasion, culling some of their more experimental, less blastbeaten, Swans-y material into something unique for the Main Stage crowd. It must be nice to be in a band for more than 30 years and still have the drive to change things up, and seeing them do so only furthered my opinion that they should tour in art galleries exclusively. Five or six bands formed and started writing songs while Napalm Death were still on stage — that’s how influential they are. They’ll never have the same kind of reputation for experimental rock as for grind, but their lead-in for Corrections House wound up as one of the smoothest transitions of the day, both bands having industrial elements at work.
In the case of Corrections House, those come courtesy of beats delivered via laptop from Sanford Parker, who took the stage first as he did when I saw them in Brooklyn early in 2013 (review here). Whether it’s Parker, who was in Buried at Sea, Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont, Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Eyehategod vocalist Mike IX Williams, it’s hard separating the members of Corrections House from what they’ve brought to and done in their other bands, though Lamont‘s sax, played to lower end to cover where a bass might otherwise be, definitely had an appeal distinct from that in his main outfit. Their debut album, Last City Zero, came out last year and I didn’t give it enough time. Watching them play was my punishment for not knowing the songs better than I did, and I’d have stayed longer, but Philly’s Nothing were just finished at Het Patronaat and I wasn’t about to miss the start of Conan.
Seemed to me that 25 minutes before their set started would be plenty of time to get front and center. It was not. Not only were there people already up front when I got there, but they were already shouting requests at the UK trio, whose 2014 outing, Blood Eagle(review here), I consider one of the year’s best records, and who had a new bassist in the form of Chris Fielding, known perhaps best as the recording engineer who’s done their studio stuff and worked with Electric Wizard, Undersmile, and many others in the UK’s fertile scene. That was something of a surprise, as I hadn’t known he joined the band with Jon Paul Davis (guitar/vocals) and Paul O’Neil (drums), but he fit in well with the destructive path beaten out by “Crown of Talons,” which made for an ultra-doomed opening statement.
Conan were one of my gotta-see bands for the day, and their set at Het Patronaat with the line of people waiting to get in running most of the way back to the door from the 013 only emphasized how far they’ve come in the two years since they played Stage01 at Roadburn 2012. One expects utter dominance from them and they did not disappoint. Still, they were one of my gotta-see bands, and the other happened to be Amsterdam space-doomers Mühr, whose slot overlapped at Cul de Sac. They were not the highest-profile act on the bill, but I only watched one complete set today, and it was Mühr doing “Messiah” from their 2013 single-song full-length of the same name (review here). With ambience heavier than many bands at their most crushing, seeing Mühr, which seemed unlikely from the start, was a highlight of what was by then a long stretch.
You could almost call what they do post-metal, but for the fact that where a lot post-metal comes across as claustrophobic, Mühr make efforts to sound as expansive as possible. Their psychedelic, cosmic droning was rich in tone and righteously loud, vocals sparse, but a presence, the whole five-piece lit mostly by candles set up in front and to the sides of the stage. It was something I’d probably only ever see at Roadburn, and when they were done and left the stage one at a time after an extended wash of feedback and effects noise, they came back out to take a well-earned bow before still-cheering crowd. I was so into it it was silly, and I know already that the ability to say I saw Mühr live is among the things I’ll be most grateful to carry with me in a few days when I leave Tilburg.
There were so many bands I missed today. There always are. You can’t see everything. I got back to the Main Stage in time to catch Crowbar doing “All I Had I Gave,” “Planets Collide” and “The Cemetery Angels” and had every intent of sticking around to see Freedom Hawk close out in the Green Room, but the weight of needing to write and the thought of getting up for more Weirdo Canyon Dispatch work in the morning got the better of me. Not the first time that’s ever happened, at least as regards the former.
Tomorrow is Mikael Åkerfeldt‘s curated day. Only Day Two which feels odd for how immediately immersed in the vibe of Roadburn I and seemingly everybody else was by when afternoon became evening. If you told me we’d been here two or three days already, I’d believe it, but maybe lack of sleep is a factor there as well. All the more reason to nod.
Downstairs someone is soundchecking. Can hear the noise coming up through the floor of the office here, where since this morning Lee Edwards of The Sleeping Shaman and I have been working to finalize the first issue of Roadburn 2014′s daily fanzine, which we’re calling the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. It’s the first time the fest has done something like this, and for me, it’s a completely different side of the Roadburn experience, seeing the team at work behind the scenes and, in a small way, becoming a part of it.
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been working with a team of writers, including Lee and others for whose work I carry a tremendous respect, on putting together issues for each day of the festival. There’s a print run of 1,000 for each day, and up until about five minutes ago, Lee and I sat across from each other at a table here in this swanky office and folded them. We’re not the only ones working on doing so either, but it looks like they’re finished well in time to be distributed when doors open. I’m incredibly lucky to be here and to be involved. It’s been a hard secret to keep in the run-up to Roadburn.
If you’d like to check out the first issue, the PDF is here.
I’m hugely appreciative of the opportunity this has been, of getting to collaborate directly with Lee and Walter and everyone else involved, and of getting to come here and do this thing. I’ll be posting the issues over the next couple days as well, so please if you’re interested, keep an eye out for them. We’ve all tried to put together something unique and in the spirit of Roadburn. Print media will always have a special place in my heart, and this is a special project. Well worth getting up early to finish.
Roadburn kicks off in about three hours’ time, and there’s still plenty to do between now and then. There’s an anxiousness in the air and I know I’m not the only one who can’t wait for the festivities to start. More to come.
04.09.14 — 23:25 — Wednesday night — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg
The Cul de Sac filled up nicely for the annual Roadburn pre-party, the Hard Rock Hideout — a sort of easing of the consciousness into the ooze it will become over the next few days. It was held at the same spot in Weirdo Canyon last year, the alley of bars and restaurants adjacent to the 013 has long held “Roadburn specials” and 2014 is no exception, though if I’m not mistaken, the Cul de Sac is the first joint there actually to host bands as part of the fest. Doubt it will be the last. In any case, it was two acts tonight: Amsterdam proto-metallers Death Alley and Belgian ’80s thrashers Evil Invaders. They made for a quick evening both in overall time spent at the venue and in their own pacing.
It was my first Hard Rock Hideout. In years past I’ve either gotten to Tilburg too late, stayed in Eindhoven or collapsed in a heap at the hotel on the pre-Roadburn Wednesday. Did that today too. I set the alarm so I could sleep for about two hours and then got up, showered the layer of travel stink off — this room, somewhat tragically, already smells like “dude” — and headed back out. I was early for the start of the show, but it could’ve been worse. I really didn’t want to miss Death Alley, and once they got going, they made it worth my while.
Here’s how it went:
Able to leap from thrash to boogie in a single bound, I know Death Alley are a relatively new outfit — their debut Over Under b/w Dead Man’s Bones 7″ (review here) is a recent advent — but they were among the bands I was most looking forward to at Roadburn. Even putting aside the stylistic potential they showed in that single, both songs from which were aired, “Dead Man’s Bones” providing an anchor later into the set following the long build of “Supernatural Predator” and unmitigated shuffle of “Hypermotion,” I thought they’d be fun to watch on stage. They were, and the varied of their sound, including the elements of psychedelia that only just began to show up in the single, came through live, making for a subtly diverse but fluid, energetic run marked by exemplary guitar leads, inventive basslines, snotty punker vocals that had more to offer than just that and chaotic drumming that held it all together. I’m not sure what Death Alley are doing to follow-up the 7″, but whatever it is, I’ll be keeping an eye out.
Oh, rethrash. Your silly hair, your hightops (also chained boots), your bulletbelts, headbanging Hammett/Hetfield hair speeding along at who knows how many kilometers an hour. Were they evil? Yes they were. How rotten were they? They were rotten to the core. I’d ask what bonded them — hint: it was blood, in which they also reigned — but I think you get the idea. The Belgian four-piece Evil Invaders were built for speed and their execution left nothing wanting. I’ll make no bones about the fact that it wasn’t really my thing, but they had the right balance of technical prowess and raw drive that makes the best thrash so vital. To call it unoriginal would be missing the point. Evil Invaders came out in full attack mode, ripping through cuts like “Alcoholic Maniac” and the instrumental “Speed Invasion” from last year’s self-titled debut EP, and the crowd — packed in by then — got way into it. Nobody threw beer by the time I left the front of the stage, which was fortunate, but it was easy to imagine that maybe in a different context Evil Invaders would have the circle pit going.
A riotous start for Roadburn 2014. Tomorrow picks up bright and early and it’s only going to get crazier from there. More to come, of course, and more pics after the jump.
Posted in Features on April 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.08.14 — 16:11 — Wednesday — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg, the Netherlands
If and when human beings ever decide it’s time to colonize the moon, we should probably send the Icelanders first, since judging by what I saw of the landscape flying into Reykjavik this morning, they can hang with the inhospitable. All of Icelandair’s planes are named after volcanoes. I wasn’t on Eyjafjallajökull — that villainous volcano that erupted in 2010 causing such chaos at Roadburn and elsewhere — but I saw it at the terminal when I switched flights. I was on Eldborg, which I immediately decided was the name of my new black metal band that doesn’t actually exist. Switched flights but not planes between Boston-to-Reykjavik and Reykjavik-to-Amsterdam. When I got back to seat 17C, it still had my rather considerable ass impression on it.
The flight delays were because of a workers’ strike. Whatever they want, I’m for it. Give it to them. Quickly. Please by Monday.
It felt so, so, so good to get off the plane in Amsterdam. The flight from Iceland was only about two and a half hours, but it was a painful lot of half-dozing, being bumped into by flight attendants — hazards of the aisle — and dealing with the dude next to me who went fascist on the armrests. The first flight, once I got on the plane, was much easier. Still, no real sleep on either and thus no real sleep at all. At the airport, I followed the handy map I was given to get to where a car was coming to pick me up — I carpooled with Arik Roper, whom it was cool to finally meet after admiring his work for so long — we were both very tired — and when we got dropped off, it was at the 013 backstage entrance. A couple quick hellos, my face soon to be edited out of a documentary being filmed about Walter, and then I got to the point where I felt like I was going to fall asleep standing up, so I said I was going to check in at the hotel.
That whole no sleep thing puts me in a bit of a pickle heading into the official pre-Roadburn show tonight, the Hard Rock Hideout at the Cul de Sac. I’ll try to crash out now — shouldn’t be a problem — and set my alarm in time to get up and shower and head over to the venue, which is right in Weirdo Canyon. Don’t want to miss Death Alley after digging their single. No real time to eat, but screw it. Roadburn comes but once a year. I’m so glad to be back.
I knew when the guy behind the Icelandair check-in counter called me “dude” that everything was going to be okay. Actually, the first words out of his mouth when he saw my passport were, “You know about the delay, right?” Yup. Just an hour, though that in combination with the lack of traffic compared to what I thought I’d hit made me absurdly early. Security was a breeze, even carrying a bevvy of electronics. Still no idea how long it takes to get anywhere in Boston.
First to Reykjavik and then to Amsterdam, then to Tilburg. Have been sitting here two hours now and have two more to go until the new takeoff time. I don’t mind. The batteries on everything are charged, including the book I brought, and but for being warm and smelling the mass-produced whathaveyou being served at the restaurant to my left – some name I don’t know – it’s fine. A breeze from somewhere. Is Logan Terminal E big enough for wind?
Remembering travel stuff. Don’t look at anyone too long or they’ll look back. Put the computer in the back with the bottom facing out so that it and the camera can be upright in when the bag is laid down. Lessons already learnt, remembered situationally to no doubt be filed away again soon.
I enjoy people-watching as much as the next pseudo-creative, but it gets disheartening after a while, feeling very apart. In my head I hear cop voices in stern teenager-bound derision: “You think you’re special, son?” It’s the opposite. These people have made it. Front to back, they’re here, they’re in it, they’re human. They’re special. I’d be fooling myself if I thought I could ever do or be that thing. It just wouldn’t work. Some will tell you everybody feels that way, like they’re the muck. Maybe that’s true, but they don’t live it. Existence as an awkward-fitting pantsuit.
But the place I’m going is where it works at least well enough to pretend. To put me back into position of righteousness from which to designate the squares. Not the only congregation anymore, but maybe the most revered. It’ll be a quick few days at Temple Roadburn, but fucking hell I’m ready. Please, please get me there. Get me to no sleep and vicious tone. To the wind pushing on through Weirdo Canyon, the mad stench of the 013 on Saturday night. Get me there. In red block letters at my 12: “REYKJAVIK: Delayed.”
Posted in Features on April 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
To those who knew him, he was of course much more, but to the heavy underground, Jason McCash will be best remembered as the foundational low end resonating from The Gates of Slumber’s groundbreaking traditional doom. McCash, who left the trio late last year, reportedly died yesterday, April 5, from causes as yet unknown or unannounced.
McCash joined The Gates of Slumber in 2003, and his partnership with guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon proved pivotal to the band’s ultimate success. Hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, The Gates of Slumber became a vanguard of Midwestern trad doom. From the band’s 2004 debut, …The Awakening, to their 2011 final full-length, The Wretch, the partnership between McCash and Simon — as well as drummers Chuck Brown, J. Clyde Paradis and Bob Fouts — would develop into one of the most potent in the American underground, pulling in elements from epic classic metal on 2008′s Conqueror and 2009′s Hymns of Blood and Thunder.
The Wretch found The Gates of Slumber returning to a more doomed approach, effectively doing to Saint Vitus what Saint Vitus did to Black Sabbath, creating something original out of homage. Their final release, a Scion A/V-sponsored EP called Stormcrow, was issued last year and continued along similar lines. Already influential both in their native Midwest and beyond, The Gates of Slumber ended when McCash quit, and the members had begun to move forward on other projects. The door to a future reunion seemed open.
Karl Simon had this comment on McCash’s passing:
My best friend died last night. There will be no reunion – no more of TGoS. It’s dead beyond dead, and I’ve lost a brother.
Please be respectful or silent. It’s a small world and I’m still alive. Remember that shit.
On behalf of myself and this site, I offer condolences to Jason McCash’s friends and family. Even those who knew him casually, in bands, or who just appreciated his work know that his loss leaves a void in doom and in the lives of those close to him. His death, far too soon, is a reminder of the importance of community and support in dark times.
You’d probably need a week to sit down and list all the bands and projects to which Tony Dallas Reed has contributed in one form or another over the better part of the last two decades. From playing drums in death metallers Woodrot to self-recording all-instrument Pentagram covers in his “spare time,” Reed‘s substantial body of work is the result of a genuinely restless creative spirit. Over the course of the last 10 years, he’s bounced between the heavy rocking Mos Generator and more specifically ’70s-minded Stone Axe while also embarking on the side-project HeavyPink and building his own HeavyHead Studio, where he’s done not only his own recording, but tracked Saint Vitus‘ comeback album, Lillie: F-65, among others, as well as mixed and mastered outings from Wight, Trippy Wicked, Alunah and many more from the US and Europe, often between or while on tours.
Reactivated following a run focused on Stone Axe, Mos Generator released the full-length Nomads(review here) on Ripple Music in 2012, two live albums in 2013, and will shortly issue a follow-up, Electric Mountain Majesty(review here), as their first outing on Listenable Records. Reed is also recently returned to his Port Orchard, Washington, home after a trip to Australia to record Seedy Jeezus and remixed/remastered Mos Generator‘s 2007 Songs for Future Gods album for reissue through Ripple, available now. Mos Generator also has splits with Copenhagen’s Doublestone and Washington’s Teepee Creeper coming soon.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tony Reed
How did you come to do what you do?
As a musician I started when I was 12. After years of mimicking KISS and Rush in my bedroom I figured that I should actually learn how to play. I borrowed a guitar from a guy up the street and the first song I learned was “Iron Man.” I started playing drums around the same time. I just wanted to take it all in.
As a recording engineer I guess you could say it was around the same time. I started recording everything with a boom box from the get-go. I have a recording of the first time I played drums. Over time I collected a few mics and got a three-channel Radio Shack mixer and two cassette decks and I was into overdubbing. When I was 20 I got my hands on a four-track and the rest is history.
Describe your first musical memory.
I actually think it is “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone” by The Temptations. I used to love that song. I also have recollections of the album cover for “Paranoid” being around the house and when I got that album in sixth grade I somehow already knew the songs on it, so I am assuming it was played frequently when I was a child. My mom also has a funny story of me stealing a “Nights in White Satin” 45 from K-Mart when I was two years old. She let me keep it.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
I would say that it would be 26-date Saint Vitus/Mos Generator European tour in 2013. It was a lot of hard work but we got to play for some rabid audiences and travel in style. Being on the road is all about making memories and of course later down the line you only remember the good bits.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
I believe that there is really no ending point to a musician who is driven and passionate. Growth is constant and sometimes moves faster than other times. Sometimes it would appear to move backwards and hopefully something can be learned from that too.
How do you define success?
I define success by respect. Someday I would like to be well respect as a musician and songwriter and recognized for the passion and dedication that I put into the music I make.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
My grandmother’s eyes the day before she died. I think she had moved on already because I didn’t see her in there anymore.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
I would like to create and album or song that moves people the way that certain songs move me. Sometimes I am so humbled by the songs I love that it makes me want to stop writing music because I believe I may never achieve these emotions in what I write. I also look at it as a goal and a challenge.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
Even though this is musical in its subject, it doesn’t directly affect me musically. I am looking forward to watching the musical journey my son is going on. He has the passion in his blood and it’s great to see him doing things to make music his life.
Mos Generator, “Breaker” from Electric Mountain Majesty (2014)