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 Fire album 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 to Ascend as well as others from the back catalog, and particularly after watching them nail The Great Cessation yesterday, 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 Atma before 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.
More pics after the jump.