Roadburn‘s annual Afterburner is a brilliant idea. Essentially, it’s a scaled-down version of the larger festival. Two stages instead of four, merch moves into the 013 proper, there are fewer tickets sold — and they’re sold separately from those of Roadburn‘s prior three days — and all in all, it’s a more relaxed experience. I’ve come to think of it over the last couple years as a sort of transition point from the intensity of Roadburn back to normal life.
True, as Roadburn as a whole has grown, the Afterburner has followed suit, but its atmosphere is less hurried — or maybe it’s just that by the time the Afterburner comes around, I’m so worn out I can’t help but have it be less hurried — that is, I couldn’t hurry if I wanted to. Fortunately, there’s been no call to do so as of yet on the day. I woke up with the alarm at noon and reset it for 13.00, deciding that the extra hour was an investment in future consciousness. Yesterday was I think the busiest day I’ve ever had at a Roadburn, and even as I stood at the front of the Green Room stage at 013 this afternoon and readied myself or Electric Orange, I felt like I could barely keep my eyes open. No coffee today, unfortunately.
But, as the evening followed a mostly linear course and there was roughly no back and forth, and in keeping with the laid back approach of the Afterburner, I think I’ll run down today in note form rather than narrative all at once. Here goes:
Electric Orange: The German psychedelic rockers are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, and sure enough, theirs was a finely-honed wash of tones and effects; clearly took some time to carve it out. They were more of a thrill sonically than visually, though I guess that’s to be expected, but I really like this kind of post-Krautrock jamming psych, and they did it well. Next door in the main room, the Mt. Fuji Darkjazz Corporation opened the Afterburner with a swell of man-made and electronic drones (one guy in the back sat in front of a laptop and looked by the end of the set like he was checking his email on some of that free wifi the city of Tilburg granted for festival use this year), but Electric Orange were more my speed, and as I’ve been working up the gumption for a while now to give their latest record, Netto, a review, seeing them live, I feel like I have a better context in which to do so. They played for an hour and a half, which was the longest set of the day. Pretty much you could’ve gone, gotten a pizza, come back, watched Internal Void start up, and gone back into the Green Room, and they’d still be playing. A fitting 20th anniversary blowout.
Internal Void: It took every ounce of restraint I had in my body not to shout out, “Fredrick, Maryland!” as these Doom Capitol-ists took the stage. Fredrick’s about three and a half hours from where I live, but still, Internal Void were a slice of East Coast home. They didn’t get much of a light show, but considering the music’s so straightforward, no bullshit, biker riffs and punch you in the face, it worked well enough. They brought with them some recently-pressed vinyl of their 1991 Voyage demo, which I’m sure was well-received in the merch area — shifted from its previous location to Stage01, which hosted no bands — and played a cut or two from it, as well as “Blindside” from 2000′s Unearthed, which vocalist J.D. Williams dedicated to The Obsessed‘s Guy Pinhas, who was sitting at the side of the stage, and “Devil in Drag” from 1993′s Standing on the Sun. My only real context for watching Williams on stage is the War Injun set at last year’s Stoner Hands of Doom, at which he was all over the place and very charismatic, holding the crowd’s attention for the whole time. With Internal Void, he went behind the amps during solos and seemed less sure of himself in general. For what it’s worth, he and the rest of the band sounded great. Perhaps it was the Mt. Fuji Doomjazz Corporation‘s spell left unbroken responsible for holding back the more personable side of Williams‘ presentation.
Bongripper: People were really, really stoked on seeing Bongripper. I guess I was too, but there was an energy through the room I couldn’t match, and even though Urfaust and Atlantis were finishing and starting, respectively, in the Green Room, the main stage area stayed full the whole time for the Chicago instrumental foursome, who despite sharing a hometown and number of members in the band (the same amount of people, not the people themselves) with Pelican, have little else in common with that band, who played the same stage yesterday. Bongripper are ultra-aggressive sludge doom. All that’s missing is some guy screaming his throat out to the songs and they’d probably be in line with however many other sludge bands you want to name, but by keeping their approach instrumental, they’re able to immediately stand themselves out from the sludgly hordes and cut to the heart of what the genre is about, namely the power of the riff and how it doth compel. Their barrage of feedback kind of felt like they’d been taking notes while Sleep played last night, but one could hardly hold that against them or say they would be wrong to have done so. Musically, they weren’t really inventing anything new, but they did what they did well, drew and kept a huge crowd in the main room, and were undeniably heavy as balls. Quite an opening trio on the main stage today, with Mt. Fuji, Internal Void and Bongripper, but nobody seemed thrown off. Those who’d been to Roadburn proper, whether 2012 was their first or not, should’ve been well used to transitions like that by now, and for everyone who just had Afterburner tickets, any way you slice it, it’s all heavy. Bongripper certainly were that.
YOB: To back up their set Friday night doing all of The Unreal Never Lived (plus a stellar rendition of “Adrift in the Ocean” from last year’s Atma), and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt‘s solo acoustic set yesterday, YOB joined the lineup of the Afterburner to play 2003′s Catharsis front to back. Now, all fanboy hyperbole aside, Catharsis is a record that’s very special to me. It was the first YOB album I heard when it came out, and it was probably the one record that showed me that psychedelia, stoner rock and doom did not have to all be separate entities if you do it right. The song, “Catharsis,” is the 23-minute blueprint by which other YOB album-ending epics have been constructed since, and as the album approaches its 10th birthday next year, I find its power has diminished none. It is a breathtaking work, not only of genre defiance, but of genre definition. Just three tracks — “Aeons,” “Ether” and the title cut — but a lifetime’s worth of depth. You know the desert island scenario? Catharsis is one of those albums for me, so to get to see Scheidt, bassist Aaron Reiseberg and drummer Travis Foster play those three songs in a single set — that was special too. I don’t know how else to put it. It was emotional for me to watch, and I meant to count the chills up my spine, but after five, I didn’t want to pay attention anymore. For me, it was on the same level as watching Sleep last night, that same kind of feeling of culmination. I’ve been away from home now for 11 days on this trip, and as Scheidt strummed the melodic introduction to “Catharsis,” I felt like I’d hit the end of a pilgrimage. It was beautiful. They reportedly hadn’t had much time to rehearse, and there were some awkward changes in “Ether” that I thought I picked up, but just for the fact that it was those songs, unbelievable. I stood on the side of the stage for the first time all weekend — it was something I’d been saving for just that moment, when the distortion, drums and bass kick in on “Catharsis” and you get your first sense of the journey you’re on. Glorious. They closed out with “Upon the Sight of the Other Shore” from Atma and reinforced the dynamics of Catharsis while showing all the growth they’ve undertaken since. No bullshit, I was floored. YOB is love.
Coroner: Frankly, after YOB, just about anyone would’ve seemed like a comedown to me, and that includes post-reunion Swiss tech-thrashers Coroner. They were probably the most metal band on the bill this weekend, in terms of acts who don’t add a qualifier to it — i.e. “doom” or “black” or whathaveyou — but they filled the main room anyway and got underway in good time. “Hello, Tilburg!” shouted bassist/vocalist Ron Royce. Compared to the exaltation that Mike Scheidt or even Al Cisneros from Sleep left at the feet of the festival, it wasn’t much, but the crowd dug it, and it worked with Coroner‘s overall context. They were cool, and, again, very metal, but I went and tried to check out some of Fleshpress in the Green Room, only to find it packed out and watching for a few minutes through the doorway until I went back to the main stage in time to hear Royce announce “Masked Jackal” from their 1988 full-length, Punishment for Decadence, as the first video they ever made. Good fun, but the weekend and the fact that I needed to be up early for a flight to London tomorrow morning began to weigh on me once again and I ultimately split out.
In doing so, I missed Black Cobra, who I saw last week at Desertfest, and also Bong, who I saw last year here at Roadburn, but what’s worse, I officially put the finishing stamp on another Roadburn experience. The last two years especially, as I’ve gone to leave, I’ve hesitated, as though by just standing in the hallway, I could somehow prolong the experience. Needless to say, it didn’t work. It was time for the Afterburner and for the whole of Roadburn to be over — for me, at least — and time once more to come back to the hotel and get ready to leave in the morning to get back to New Jersey.
I’ll be traveling most of the day tomorrow, but I’m too tired to give any kind of full conclusion to this trip and to Roadburn tonight, so if I can, I’ll write that on the plane and post it as soon as I am able. In the meantime, thank you as always.
More pics after the jump.