Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Can’t say it’s much of a surprise, but the lineup for Hoverfest 2015 looks pretty awesome. The second installment of the annual fest brought together by Hovercraft Amps, Cravedog and Nanotear is set for an all-dayer Aug. 8 in Portland, Oregon, and like last year, the lineup of acts is made up mostly of locals — there are a few to choose from in Portland these days — and to go with all that hometown spirit, they’ll bring in San Francisco kings of weirdo trad metal Slough Feg to headline.
Slough Feg will sit atop a mighty Portlander grouping, varied between the doomly ways of Witch Mountain, who make a return appearance, a return as well for the ’70s heavy of Danava, Lord Dying‘s don’t-tell-anybody-it’s-death-metal-because-we-like-playing-with-stoner-bands genrebending, Sons of Huns on the heels of their new album, While Sleeping Stay Awake, a second showing from Holy Grove, and first-timers Zirakzigil and Mane of the Cur to lead things off. Sounds like a good time to me.
Last year, Billy Anderson was brought on to work the mixer, and whether or not he’ll make another appearance has yet to be revealed, but the preliminaries are out. With presumably more to come, here they are:
Cravedog Presents HOVERFEST 2015
Cravedog, Hovercraft Amps, and Nanotear Booking have teamed up to bring the second annual HOVERFEST on Saturday 8.8.15 in Portland, OR
The rocks starts at noon and rolls til sundown. Once again set in the alley behind Cravedog with the gorgeous sunset view of the Fremont Bridge. 611 N. Tillamook Street
This year will be 21+ so the whole alley is a beer garden.
Rock, metal, and doom all day long from:
SLOUGH FEG WITCH MOUNTAIN DANAVA LORD DYING SONS OF HUNS HOLY GROVE ZIRAKZIGIL MANE OF THE CUR
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
A Day of the Dead-concurrent companion for earlier this year’s Psycho de Mayo fest, Santa Ana, California’s Day of the Shred has assembled an unfuckwithable lineup of East and West Coast acts — go ahead and picture Ancestors and Elder on the same show, or Red Fang and Weedeater headlining with Hot Lunch and All Them Witches jamming out prior — for an all-dayer that promises hearses, skating and volume in good measure. Oh yeah, and Bongripper‘s gonna be there. Fucking hell it’s a solid bill. I don’t know what time they’re getting started on Nov. 1 but there are enough acts included to fill two stages and then some, so if you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in that part of the world come the Dias de los Muertos, Day of the Shred seems like one to mark on the calendar. Assuming there are still tickets available by the time the day actually arrives.
All the more staggering is that Radio Moscow will be flying out West from being on tour with Pentagram, Bang and Kings Destroy (the latter of whom I’ll be accompanying on the road) and then coming back east afterwards. No stopping the boogie, it would seem.
Dig the lineup and info for the fest below, courtesy of the PR wire:
From the creators of Psycho De Mayo…THIEF brings to life the first annual DAY OF THE SHRED – an all-day music festival celebrating megalithic riffs, skateboarding, and the souls of the departed. Join us this Dia De Los Muertos as we gather the living and raise the dead.
The forces behind Thief are preparing a bountiful sacrifice for the extinguished souls at this year’s inaugural DAY OF THE SHRED. Paying tribute to the fallen, Earthquaker Devices has teamed up with Thief and Arik Roper to birth an exclusive festival edition fuzz pedal, entitled; “The Grim Reefer.” The cool ghouls over at KR3W are hosting an open air skate jam and giving concert goers the opportunity to shred the dead on their mini ramp. Screen printed textiles both wearable and collectible will be available on November 1st, including a 9-color design by David D’Andrea and additional prints by UK legend, Godmachine. Vintage hearses will consume the blacktop of the Observatory and vagabond moto maidens: Babes Ride Out will also be in attendance morphing into the “Babes Of The Shred.” Thrasher Magazine will serve as the festivals official media partner, while Midnite Collective completes the festival’s ouroboros with a panorama of genres and audiences. On November 1st, these leaders in ceremony will unite to gather the living and raise the dead.
The Observatory in Santa Ana 3503 S. Harbor Blvd Santa Ana, CA
Red Fang Weedeater Windhand Elder Bongripper ASG Radio Moscow The Shrine Danava Graves At Sea Glitter Wizard Ancestors Hot Lunch Arctic Goya All Them Witches (16) Trapped Within Burning Machinery Greenbeard
Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The tour had started two nights prior at Underground Arts in Philadelphia. The night before, they were in Boston, and it would’ve been a much shorter drive to hit that show, but it was my 10th wedding anniversary. A drive down to New York to pop into Manhattan and catch Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats with Danava at Bowery Ballroom didn’t seem unreasonable. Traffic on the way down, on the other hand, was. I still managed to get to the venue before they opened the doors to the upstairs room where the show was actually happening — I’d never seen a line inside the downstairs bar before — so though I felt like I was going to be late the whole time, I still managed to get a spot up in front of the stage. Doomly serendipity.
Portland, Oregon’s Danava, who are veterans of Kemado Records, were the lone openers. A double-guitar foursome, they weren’t unknown to me, having made a somewhat less than favorable impression at Roadburn in 2012. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing them, to be quite honest. I don’t even remember what it was about their Roadburn slot that had me so irked — maybe just the simple fact that they were on before Conan and the room was so crowded– but by the time their set was three songs in, it was clear I was the one with the problem and not the band, who boogied down on winding ’70s-style riffage like they were born to do it, bangs-sporting guitarist/vocalist Gregory Meleny trading riffs with Pete Hughes, also of Sons of Huns, in a flurry of shuffle and push met head-on by the bass and drums, not quite retro but definitely skipping a couple decades in its influence.
It was a sold-out show, and people came early, so Bowery Ballroom was plenty packed for Danava‘s set. “Shoot Straight from a Crooked Gun” and “White Nights of Murder” from their most recent album, 2011’s Hemisphere of Shadows, were both aired, but the primary impression I had of them was mostly of my own jackassery after our paths last crossed. Again, not sure what my deal was or where the distaste came from, but they were more than solid and held the fickle attention of a Friday night Manhattan crowd. For that alone they deserve some measure of credit. I guess one of these days I’ll have to go back and dig into their records, but at least I know for the next time they come through that it’s worth showing up. Lesson learned.
Old tube televisions, one or two with built-in VCRs — there was a time when these things were a premium — were spread throughout Uncle Acid‘s amp backline, and they’d flicker on and off with static as part of the UK outfit’s lightshow, otherwise minimal. Guitarist/vocalists Kevin “Uncle Acid” Starrs and Yotam Rubinger and bassist/backing vocalist Dean Millar were backlit, their faces obscured, as the lights above switched colors from red to blue to green, orange, yellow, etc., each song in the set seeming to come with its own hue. Light-up cat’s eyes were attached to cymbal stands on either side of Itamar Rubinger‘s drum kit, and they remained on for the duration, feeding into the band’s schlock horror cultistry and malevolent mystique, the crowd eating it up from the start of “Mt. Abraxas” onward.
For a band to sell out a place like Bowery Ballroom is not an inconsiderable achievement, and NYC is far from the only city on the tour to receive the band thusly, but that it’s Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ first run through the US only emphasizes the passionate response they have received. In the UK, they toured with Black Sabbath, and after a couple shows in London, they made their official live debut at Roadburn in 2013 with a slot on the Main Stage curated by Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard. Their two latest albums, 2011’s Blood Lust (review here) and 2013’s Mind Control (review here), are among the most lauded records in this half of the decade, and their influence is already being felt in a burgeoning movement of garage doom that one expects will only continue to grow. They’ve got a lot riding on their next full-length, but Uncle Acid are already a big fucking deal, and they were greeted accordingly in Manhattan, the audience roaring like something off a live record as the first recognizable strains of “I’ll Cut You Down” emanated from the stage.
I wouldn’t dare understate the power behind that song’s foreboding swing, murderous threat and otherworldly melody, but it was one highlight among several, “Crystal Spiders,” new single “Runaway Girls,” “Death’s Door,” “13 Candles” and “Mind Crawler” doling out rapturous hooks in Starrs‘ and Rubinger‘s vocals. They finished the regular set with “Withered Hand of Evil” and made an encore out of “13 Candles,” “Desert Ceremony” and the thudding “Devil’s Work,” a catchy finish but subdued in comparison to a lot of what preceded. No doubt this was by design, as was the entirety of the presentation, but the scale and realized sensibility with which Uncle Acid conjured up their demons and those of the multitudes in attendance — who almost to a head stuck through until the end — seemed to show a band rising to the occasion of the fervency they’ve induced. That is, while their ascendancy was already well underway by the time they started playing out, they’ve more than caught up with it. It would not be a surprise if on their next US tour, they play on even bigger stages.
Walking back the couple blocks to my car, it felt good to be back in New York. It had been a full year to the day since I last went to a show in Manhattan, which I think was the longest stretch I’ve had in more than a decade. I stopped into a cafeteria with some fantastic smelling Middle Eastern food and got a bottle of water for the road and then hit it, back up the FDR and toward the drunk-driver nightmare that was I-95 North heading into the weekend.
More pics after the jump. Special thanks to Jon Freeman for making this one happen and thanks to you as always for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I mean, I suppose you could put on a heavy festival anywhere near the Western Seaboard and not have Acid King play, but I’m just not sure why you’d do such a thing. Hoverfest — the celebratory gathering to be perpetrated by Hovercraft Amplifiers in Portland, Oregon, next month — clearly feels the same way. The San Francisco trio have been added to the lineup along with Portland’s own Danava, who’ll be debuting a new lineup, and Wounded Giant, all three joining an already landmark gathering of YOB, Witch Mountain, Mountain God, Eight Bells and Holy Grove. Oh, and Billy Anderson‘s working the sound. God damn. Can you fucking imagine seeing Acid King with Billy Anderson doing the sound? Talk about seeing a band the way they’re meant to be seen. Yeah, so, here’s the dude who’s produced all their records — including the long-awaited new one, out early next year on Svart — fidgeting the dials for their stage show. Sign me up.
The final poster for the shindig, and the lineup and ticket info follows here, snagged ruthlessly from the clutches of the PR wire:
DANAVA, ACID KING & WOUNDED GIANT added to Hoverfest; final lineup and poster revealed
We are proud to reveal the final lineup of HOVERFEST, happening on August 23rd, in the alleyway behind Cravedog in Portland, Oregon, at 12:00pm.
The final lineup is as follows:
YOB DANAVA (FIRST live show with their new lineup) ACID KING WITCH MOUNTAIN EIGHT BELLS WOUNDED GIANT HOLY GROVE MOUNTAIN GOD
On behalf of Hovercraft Amplifiers, we are thrilled to announce the first-annual Hoverfest, a festival of friends of and music created with Hovercraft amps, which will take place on August 23rd, 2014 in the blocked-off alleyway by Type Foundry Studios at 611 N. Tillamook St. in Portland, Oregon. Presales will be available in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here is some info on this incredible event. The event is being graciously hosted by Cravedog Media, booked by Nanotear, sponsored by PBR, and the live music on the day of the show will be mixed by the legendary Billy Anderson. Presales will be available in the coming weeks.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’ve ever wondered when you might finally get the chance to see Black Oak Arkansas and Lecherous Gaze on the same bill, behold the Meltasia Music Festival 2014 and its bizarre possum mascot, Melty. The three-day outdoor campout/fest is set for Sept. 5-7 in LaFeyette, Georgia, about two hours outside of Atlanta, and it’s a more eclectic lineup than just those two bands even would lead you to believe, with the likes of Witch Mountain and Danava coming east to join a widely varied group of acts in a range of styles. You (and by you I mean me) might not be into all of it, but the mission is admirable anyway, and a celebration of the weird is something worth noting wherever and whenever it might be happening. Shit, Nik Turner‘s gonna be there. Anywhere that guy goes, it’s news.
In case you’re feeling artsy, Meltasia is currently running a contest on the fest’s Thee Facebooks wherein whoever draws the best version of Melty gets a free three-day pass. I can’t draw, but seems like it might be worth a shot anyhow.
The PR wire offers makeup tips and advice on how to win friends and influence cleverly-named noisepunk bands:
MELTASIA MUSIC FESTIVAL
3 Days and 3 nights of camping & music
September 5th, 6th & 7th
Cherokee Farms, LaFayette Georgia www.meltasia.com
For five years, Andy Animal, (who was described by MTV as the “Wavy Gravy of the Black Lips generation,”) has been throwing an annual private gathering in the Catskill Mountains, called ANDY ANIMAL’S MELTDOWN FUNABRATION. But it maxes out at a few hundred, and the party’s too good to keep under wraps. So Andy’s decided to take his circus down South, with MELTASIA. Get ready for three days of camping, vendors, vintage, swimming, food, beer, bands and bonfires. Because Andy wants to party with you.
Bands: Black Lips, Nik Turner’s Hawkwind, Bloodshot Bill, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, Cherie Currie, Shannon & The Clams, Black Oak Arkansas, Danava, Vockah Redu, Shazzula, Daddy Long Legs, Biters, The Coathangers, Ice Balloons, Cheap Time, Gringo Star, Apache, Liquor Store, Barreracudas, Witch Mountain, Dinos Boys, Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, Dirty Fences, Predator, Ravi Shavi, GG King, WEATHER WARLOCK, Golden Pelicans, Atlantic Thrills, Lecherous Gaze, Rapturous Grief, Birdcloud, Expo 70, Crazy Spirit Gymshorts, Black Linen, Hedersleben, Manic, JP5, Zoners, Fletcher C Johnson, White Mystery, Bummers Eve, The Mold, The Neighbors, Rattlesnake Milk, Tight Genes, Classholes, Froth, Mr. Elevator & The Brain Hotel, Dancer, Golden Grass, T3rd, The Wildtones, Ecstatic Vision, GHB, Citizen Blast Kane, Deadly Lo-Fi, The Birdwings, The Golden Grass, The Mumzees, Gorgeous, Cy Barkley & The Way Outsiders, Turf War, Las Rosas, Corners + a few more TBA
DJs Jonathan Toubin (New York Night Train) Cole Alexander (Black Lips) Howie Pyro (ex Danzig, Intoxica Radio) Josh Styles (Daddy Long Legs) + many more
Sponsors and vendors TBA
Nik Turner’s Space Ritual, “Children of the Sun” live in Silverlake, 2013
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The linup for Desertfest in Berlin gets a little more unfuckwithable with the addition of Witchcraft in a headlining spot. Danava and Lecherous Gaze were also added over the course of the last couple days, and the fest sent over a couple announcements. Desertfest Berlin 2013 is set for April 25-27 at the Astra Kulturhaus, and the list of bands is monstrous with Unida, Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man representing the Californian desert scene while Euro heavy answers back with classics like Lowrider and Dozer and newcomers Kadavar and Belzebong. Not much more you can really ask of three days of doom and music.
After a 5 year wait for all the fans that have been watching out for a new sign of life, the Swedish band WITCHCRAFT have marked the fall of 2012 with their new album ! And we are thrilled to say they will mark 2013 by playing at the DesertFest Berlin on Saturday 27th !!
From Örebro, Sweden, WITCHCRAFT was founded in 2000 when Magnus Pelander wanted to record PENTAGRAM tribute album. It took until 2002 when the band finally released a first single which caught the ear of Lee Dorian’s label, Rise Above Records, who quickly signed them. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2004, followed by their 2nd one “Firewood” in 2005, and “The Alchemist” in 2007. They manifested their very seventies-esque distinctive signature sound that made WITCHCRAFT known as Swedish finest psychedelic/classic rock band that helped to spearhead the now very bright Swedish rock scene.
After a five year break, WITCHCRAFT released in September 2012 their 4th studio album “Legend” on a new label, Nuclear Blast. The new album marked the recording debut of the band’s new members, including Simon Solomon (guitar), Tom Jondelius (guitar), and Oscar Johansson (drums), with singer Magnus Pelander focusing only on vocals instead of both vocals and guitar. Now a double-guitar five-piece, WITCHCRAFT reinvented their sound and shirked off most of the vintage stylization that marked their previous work and boldly opted for something new and heavier. And they delivered the most rocking album of their career!
To start this rocking new year, we are very happy to announce that DANAVA comes back in Europe in April/May, and will play at the DESERTFEST BERLIN!!! DANAVA is a band based out of Portland, Oregon, that has been steadily rising in the metal underground over the past eight years. The band turned heads with a a lysergic cocktail of stoner sludge, prog pomp, and rocket blastoffs!
They released 3 full-length albums in the past, the self-titled debut in 2006, “UnonoU” in 2008, and “Hemisphere Of Shadows” in 2011, all three on Kemado Records. Through the latter part of the decade, DANAVA also toured with the likes of Witchcraft, Voivod, The Melvins, Acid Mothers Temple, and Down (who have invited the band out three times now.) In 2012, they made an European tour with Saviours including Roadburn Festival!
Now it’s time for them to play at the DesertFest ! Get ready to enjoy their bombastic sound!!
LECHEROUS GAZE (USA)
Some of you maybe guessed when we announced Danava : LECHEROUS GAZE is added to the DesertFest’s line-up!! The history of LECHEROUS GAZE goes back to 2001 when guitarist Graham Clise and bassist Chris Grande started the hardcore punk band, Annihilation Time. After several personnel shake-ups, the band chose to lay the name to rest and begin with another project. They re-emerged with a new vocalist under the name LECHEROUS GAZE.
And after a few more line-up changes, the band released a self-titled 4 song EP with singer Lakis Panagiotopulos on Tee Pee Records in 2011. However, after some brief touring of the US and a full European tour, the Gaze decided to part ways with Lakis, again taking a brief period off to expand their arsenal of riffs. They soon enlisted the help of long time friend, Zaryan Zaidi to join the Gaze as their new front man. With his raspy delivery coupled with aggressively dark tones Zaryan gelled perfectly with the frustrated and heavy sonic assault the band had been building up for release since the break up of Annihilation Time.
October 2012 sees the release of the debut full-length 3 years in the making; which with its maelstromic mixture of heavy rock riffage, punk snarl attitude, and Zep-like attention to detail, “On The Skids” comes across as a hesher’s record collection melted together into one crushing slab of volcanic rock and roll that leaves nothing but burning embers and ringing ears .
Harsh and heavy, LECHEROUS GAZE is now ready to play destructively nasty music for fiendish people !
Posted in audiObelisk on June 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is one of my favorite series of posts throughout the year, and it’s even better now because I can actually embed the players. Thanks as always to Roadburn for documenting these sets and to Marcel van den Vondervoort and his crew at Spacejam for doing the hard work of recording and putting it all together.
If you missed the first batch of 2012 streams, they’re right here, and as always, enjoy:
Posted in Features on April 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.13.12 — 00.10 — Friday Night — Hotel Mercure
Today was going to be my calm day. Yesterday was a ton of running around, tomorrow indeed will also be a ton of running around. Today the idea was fewer bands, but more full sets. I wanted to let the fest sink in a little. To savor it for a while without having to be off somewhere else immediately.
Day two of the 17th annual Roadburn festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands, was dedicated to Canadian legends Voivod‘s curated event, Au-delà du Réel (the French translation of “the outer limits,” keeping with the band’s oft-affirmed affection for sci-fi). With the likes of Farflung and Barn Owl on the bill, though, it was as Roadburn as ever, but the idea — at least according to the literature — was to blend loud and quiet around the Voivod set doing all of Dimension Hatröss, and in that, they succeeded. It was probably the most mixed Roadburn lineup I’ve ever seen.
I’d been up until about 05.00 in the morning putting together the writeup of day one, so I slept late and got up after noon to get ready for the next round. Wino & Conny Ochs provided a subdued beginning at Het Patronaat, which was welcome. They both mentioned that they’d been on the road together touring Europe for six weeks, and they sounded like it. The harmonies between the two singers were tighter even than on the Heavy Kingdom collaborative album (review here), and they opened with the first cut from that, the ultra-quiet “Somewhere Nowhere.” Cameras around me clicked off pictures, and the music was so quiet that each click of a camera sounded like someone was breaking a window.
They picked up the energy level, though, at least somewhat. “Labor of Love” was a high point, as was “Heavy Kingdom,” and they played a new song they wrote while on tour called “Hellbound Train” that was bluesy enough to earn its title. It’s good to know that their collaboration will continue, or that they’re thinking it will at this point, anyhow. It will be interesting to hear how (and see when) they follow Heavy Kingdom and in what ways they expand their approach. Wino kicked some fuzz into his acoustic guitar for a solo — it might have been during “Old and Alone,” it might not — and later, Ochs brought out a bow and started playing his guitar with that as he also worked a kickdrum with his foot to provide more of a rhythm. Not exactly fireworks, I know, but it was an unplugged set, and seeing how well Wino and the malleable-voicedOchs work together was excitement enough.
Nachtmystium was taking the main stage at the 013 just as Wino&Conny Ochs were finishing, but I stayed put and waited a short while until Hexvessel came out and delivered their take on alternately Satanic and pagan folk. Before they took the stage, the Het Patronaaat DJ — whose name was Kevin, we’d later eat dinner together — played Black Widow and Coven, and that was appropriate enough a lead-in for Hexvessel, whose sound is very purposefully in that vein, but a tad more Finnish. I give it about five more months before avant garde pagan folk is the new doom, everyone wearing forest tunics and selling the good word of Satan’s majesty made flesh in the indulgent wonders of the earth. Not that I’d care if it happens, but if it does, I’d like another band to add to the list of comparison points. One gets tired of repeating, “Black Widow and Coven” all the time.
I did not stay in Hexvessel‘s darkened forest for long. Los Angeles psych unit Farflung — who I believe are actually in the process of being legally adopted by Europe — were in the Green Room, and I stood and watched some through the door, but my main thing was hitting the merch area at that time. I know I didn’t mention it yesterday, but buying merch is a major part of the Roadburn experience, whether it’s the festival t-shirt itself, exclusive vinyls, limited CDs. Whatever itch you’ve got to scratch as regards doomly commerce, all the bands are there at V39, which is right across the alley from the 013, and they’re all ready to sell. Groups playing Het Patronaat also get to sell their stuff at the church’s downstairs room, and it was there I bought six short-run handmade CDRs from GNOD, who I’d wind up not seeing tonight but am still glad to have dealt with. The dude took me through each CD one at a time and explained what the band was doing at that point, which order the discs were in, etc. It was actually pretty fascinating.
Back at the main merch area, though, it was crowding up. Depending on who’s at what table, it can be just as hard to move through there as it is to get into the Green Room or Stage01, but the difference I suppose is the merch area is a constant flux. I got myself a much-needed espresso from the machine (could use one now; my eyelids are getting heavy as I type) in the lower room that looks out onto the little courtyard smoking area, and conducted some business, picking up discs from Farflung, Black Rainbows and Dopethrone. The same people selling The Obsessed‘s new limited live LP were also selling CD/DVD digipaks of the new Saint Vitus record, Lillie: F-65 (review here), so I grabbed that too, and a Voivod shirt specially made for the Dimension Hatröss performance at Roadburn.
The next several moves I made can basically come down to one goal, and that was to see Conan at Stage01. I tried to get into Stage01 twice yesterday and failed both times. Couldn’t even get to a point where I could see in the doorway. It was pitiful, and as a result, I adjusted the course and direction of my afternoon with the single trajectory in mind: To be up front, Stage01, 19.15 as the British megadoom trio hit the stage. Was a bit of a process, beginning with seeing J.G. Thirlwell’s Manorexia in the main room. I think Sólstafir at Het Patronaat was drawing a lot of the crowd away, not to mention what remained of Farflung‘s packed-out set, but I wanted to catch J.G. Thirlwell’s Manorexia specifically because I knew nothing about the project. When I walked into the main hall, there was a string quartet setting up and piano, extra percussion — bit of chamber music to balance out the Au-delà du Réel mission. So be it. Excellently performed and it was great to watch these burly beardo sludge heads in the crowd shut their eyes and did on the cello. I’d have stayed longer, but for the mission of my own.
Dinner was a necessity. I was dragging ass already and it was only 17.50. Still a lot of Day Two left. So I went and ate as fast as I could so that I’d be in time to catch some of Kong in the Green Room — but upstairs, on the balcony. You see, the balcony of the Green Room connects to Stage01 in a way that already puts you in the room. No more waiting by the door. Well, yes, you’re still waiting by the door, but it’s a different door, and you don’t have to be in the hall — ah, forget it. It made sense at the time. Let’s just say that and roll with it. I made my way through and up to the Green Room balcony as Kong were setting up. They were pretty decent, instrumental heavy stuff with a bit of electronics thrown in in a way that was satisfyingly creative without being weird on purpose or desperate for attention. I snapped some shots, most (if not all) of which were terrible, but could not linger, lest I mistime my approach to the smallest of 013‘s three rooms and blow the entire Conan operation.
No way I was going to let that happen. Danava were on stage in there, and I’ve never been a fan. Back home in the States, we call it “hipster metal,” but I guess that matters less here. No wonder the Euro scene is so strong. Some dude leaned over to me and in an accent I’m pretty sure was Italian said, “They’re good like The Atomic Bitchwax!” The Bitchwax with a marketing budget. Had all the right t-shirts — Ted Nugent, Blue Öyster Cult — but weren’t nearly as tight as the last three Bitchwax gigs I’ve seen. Nonetheless, when traveling away from home, one hesitates when it comes to engaging debate on these points. No real cause to do so anyway. I’d just be a prick who doesn’t like popular bands. Better to just save the time and realize that at the outset. Whatever. They were fine and the crowd loved them.
And I probably wouldn’t have been there at all, but Danava — who, of course, more drew Stage01 to be more-than-capacity full — were another means to the my already stated end. They still had more than 20 minutes of their hour-long set left, but during that time, I put my plan into action and slowly made my way into the crowd. I didn’t push. I wasn’t a jerk about it. As people made their way back, I made my way up, and then, when Danava were finally done, I bolted (as much as I ever “bolt” anywhere) toward the front of the room and nabbed a spot right in front of the stage. Victory was mine, and victory was sweet. Not even the carts of road cases and amps that were wheeled up to go on the stage would deter me from my position in front of it. Of course, I made room, but when Conan was done loading their equipment on and those carts were pushed away, I was right back to where I was, which was just where I’d wanted to be. It had taken me the better part of an hour and a half to do it, but I was up front for Conan at Roadburn.
Sure enough, I stayed put for the entirety of their performance. There wasn’t much choice in the matter, but I wanted to be as close as possible to that tone that’s been my litmus test for “heavy” ever since I first heard Horseback Battle Hammer in 2010 (review here). Their new full-length, Monnos (review here), proved no less uncompromising, tone-wise, so I knew it would be worth my time, and it was. They played cuts from Monnos including opener “Hawk as Weapon” and did “Retaliator” and “Older than Earth” (I think) from their split with Slomatics (review here), bassist Phil Coumbe adding metallic growls and screams to guitarist Jon Davis‘ shouts and cleaner yelling. Conan were one of my impetus bands this year — that is, one of the reasons I’m here — and there was no letdown to be had. The lights, the fog, the overwhelming crush of sound — it was all astoundingly heavy whether they were playing fast or slow.
It also gave me a new appreciation for drummer Paul O’Neil‘s work in the band, as he not only manages to keep time through their tidal morass, but does so interestingly and works in subtle flourishes on his cymbal work that maybe get lost in the shuffle because they’re not as obvious as, say, the giant riff that’s bashing your brains out. Either way, Conan were so heavy that my earplugs vibrated in my head, and that hadn’t happened yet this weekend, so it’s worth noting. I was glad too to be trapped up front the whole time, so I didn’t get the itch to go and wait for YOB to come on in the photo pit. I still had plenty of time to get there watching all of Conan, and since it’ll probably be the only time I can get in there this weekend — Mike Scheidt of YOB opens up in there tomorrow doing solo acoustic stuff, but that’s a hard one to work out the logistics on making it to, much as I’ll try — I’m glad it was for a band I couldn’t see anywhere else at this point.
I say, “At this point,” because with a band as massive as Conan, you never know what’s going to happen. Already they were too big for the stage they played on, so hell, maybe they tour the US in some future either near or distant and demolish everything in their path. Who knows? There was a time — a few years, actually — when I was sure I’d never get the chance to watch YOB play a show, and it’s been four times now and by Monday it’ll be five. I caught Midian when they came through New York, but I knew there was no way I’d ever get to see YOB, and it was a bummer. I’m sure I’ve told the story before, so I’ll spare it, but as I made my way back over to the main stage to watch the Eugene, Oregon, trio unleash the 2005 full-length, The Unreal Never Lived, in its entirety, I couldn’t help but feel glad to have the chance to do so.
Fact: In my CD wallet, there is only one disc I’ve never been able to remove, and that disc is The Unreal Never Lived. The swan-song of YOB‘s original run, it was the culmination of everything the band had built to creatively up to that point; a four-song masterwork of psychedelic undulations that capped with the 21-minute monolith that was “The Mental Tyrant.” YOB has played “Quantum Mystic” every time I’ve seen them, and usually at the start of their set, so that was familiar enough, but as they progressed through the rolling groove of “Grasping Air,” another regular, and “Kosmos,” not so much, the tension seemed to be building to get to the final onslaught. When it arrived, it was glorious. They cut nothing out of the long opening and the gradual course of the song held its flow the whole time. There was one point during “Grasping Air” where I thought the whole rhythm was going to come crashing down, but kudos to drummer Travis Foster. He kept it together and pushed YOB forward into reaches of slow so desolate they were more or less stopped.
Decked out in Iron Maiden sneakers, the aforementioned Mike Scheidt only came more alive as the set progressed, and when it finally was time for “The Mental Tyrant” to begin its galloping payoff, I got a chill up my spine. It wasn’t the first claw I’ve hoisted over the last two days, but it was the most automatic, visceral response. Bassist Aaron Reiseberg (also of Norska) stepped back to let Scheidt riff out, true to the album, but every hit, every time he played a note, the floor I was standing on toward the back of the room shook. Not to overstate it, but it’s basically been seven years that I’ve wanted to see “The Mental Tyrant” played live, and the only reason I don’t go further into hyperbole is because I’m saving it for Sunday when YOB is set to do all of 2003’s Catharsis. Worth the flight to hear those two records alone. When they were done, I had to sit down.
There were a lot of bands today I didn’t see. Some, like Dopethrone, or Gnod, or Barn Owl, or End of Level Boss, I would’ve liked to. As Voivod came on stage, though, I was glad to have held firm on the course I’d charted for myself, staying through whole sets and not volleying from room to room, only to catch the first couple songs before having to tear myself away to get to the next thing. I mean, that’s fun too, that rush, but I very much needed a day of standing relatively still, and I was glad the schedule could accommodate. Voivod — vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger, bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault, drummer Michel “Away” Langevin (also responsible for much of the visual aesthetic of this year’s fest) and guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain — come preceded by 30 years of individualistic innovation. I won’t pretend to have a grip on their entire catalog, but even if I hadn’t seen them at Roadburn last year, I knew they were a sight I had to see, and more so for their doing Dimension Hatröss.
Of course, one can hardly think of Voivod and not recall the untimely passing of guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour in 2005, but Mongrain (also of Martyr and formerly of Cryptopsy) has become more than a hired gun in his position. D’Amour having been so instrumental in constructing Voivod‘s sound and progression, I don’t know if he’ll ever be as heralded in the guitarist spot, but he was clearly playing the songs with feeling and seemed natural on stage with Langevin, Bélanger and Thériault. As they were last year, Voivod was a pleasure to watch and had a presence on stage that spoke to their decades of influencing forward-thinking heavy music. It should say something that as they continue to push their career to its own seemingly expanding outer limits, as much as one gets excited at something like the prospect of hearing Dimension Hatröss done live, the prospect of finding out what they’ll do on their next record is no less thrilling.
They were the finale of my evening. I thought I’d maybe catch some Dopethrone, but you know how that goes, with the doorway and all that, and anyhow, it was getting on time to come back to the hotel and start typing. It’s three in the morning now as I wrap this and look at the prospect of having to find images for these bands, but hell, at least I can sleep late tomorrow, since the only thing I have to do is wake up and go to Roadburn for the final day of the fest proper, which will feature much back and forth between the main stage and the Green Room for the likes of 40 Watt Sun, Church of Misery, The Wounded Kings, The Obsessed, Mars Red Sky and Sleep, among others. It’s the most packed day yet, so please, stay tuned.