04.11.14 — 00:08 — Thursday night/Friday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg
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 Lord were 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.
More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.