Flying Out to Roadburn 2024

View from gate

04.16.24 – 2:18PM EST – Tue. – JFK International Airport

Two hours to get to JFK, another three-plus before the flight takes off if it does so on time. Two snacky packs of almonds to my name and a bottle of water I filled from the fountain that just kind of dumps it on your hand. New Ufomammut on. I’m flying to Roadburn this evening. I’ll fucking live.

This is my first time making this trip in five years. Granted, plague, but still. I barely remember 2019 — to wit, I couldn’t tell you if I flew out of Newark or Boston to get to the Netherlands that long-ass half-decade ago, from which you’d be correct in extrapolating that I can’t remember when we moved back to New Jersey full-time. I could probably go back and look. Hang on. Boston. I flew back there as well, apparently. Wonder when I moved?

Doesn’t matter.

I have a pretty broad swath of memories of Roadburn from 2009 to 2019, almost all of them positive, so if you were to ask me what I’m nervous about, putting aside the general anxiety that goes with flying and/or leaving the house on any given early afternoon, I’m not sure I’d have a response for you. I had a telehealth — god I hate that word, but on the other hand, who wants to go to a doctor’s office ever — appointment with my neurologist yesterday. She told me to meditate, to work through things from my past that I feel like have held me back in the present, to rewrite my own narratives of my life. I’ve never been able to keep my mind still long enough to actually meditate, and I may or may not give it an earnest try — sitting still and concentrating on your breath is pretty low risk if you’re worried about broken bones; the only real risk is feeling silly to myself, which is a sad-boy narrative in itself worth revision — but it’s a wicked idea. She also once recommended I try faking it till I make it as regards mental wellbeing, so there you go.

But Roadburn became a home to me for those years. By 2017, 2018, I would get off the plane at Schiphol, walk right down to where the car pickup was, get my ride and roll out to the fest, like clockwork. In 2018, I ended up on a bus with at least 80 percent of the San Diego heavy psych scene that was playing. Earthless weren’t there, but many acolytes and others for sure were. Stoner brodown, that was. But that I remember. And getting out of the van at the 013, walking over to the hotel, feeling the fresh air on my face and knowing that I was where I belonged — I guess maybe what I’m nervous about is not feeling that. What if I go to Roadburn and it doesn’t feel like home?

And while I deep dive into feeling silly for tearing up as I sit at the gate for my flight — that’s B24, a 5:35PM departure; heads up, there might not be wifi on the flight because of a technical difficulty, which is always what you want to be reading about concerning the plane you’re boarding — thinking about feeling rudderless over the next five days, I’ll offer myself the small consolation of the different Roadburn experience I’ve planned out for myself.

To explain: You may or may not know this, but I’ve done a decent amount of writing and editing for the festival. Not band blurbs or such; I’m nowhere near knowledgeable or cool enough for that. But social media posts, copy editing, that kind of thing. I have a casual voice in writing — just might say fuck in a given sentence, though I try to temper it in RB stuff because they’re classy like that — so it makes sense and I’m happy to contribute anywhere and anytime I am asked.

In one of the texts I was editing for Roadburn 2024 — I don’t know which one it was — it was talking about “don’t have a plan.” Go to Roadburn and just roll through. Honey, you should’ve seen me clutching my pearls. No plan? Are you mad??? I’m supposed to go to Roadburn and, what, improv it through the day? Sounds like a good way to miss some once-in-a-lifetime shit, no? Well, Roadburn-proper is four days after the pre-show tomorrow night — it’s called ‘Ignition’ now — and for at least the last 15 years, it’s been a choose-your-adventure kind of fest. Between a packed schedule, limited human energy resources, and the basic needs to tend to same as regards sleep, sustenance, etc., you have to pinpoint where you want to be and when you want to be there.

Want to get up front in the Green Room? Last I checked that meant you wanted to get there before the act on stage before the band you want to see finishes, then move up when whatever portion of their crowd clears out. Taking photos meant camping out a lot for me in years past.

This year, my mission is less. Not less fest, but less internalized worry. I’ll get where I’m getting, I’ll get the shots I’m gonna get, but if that’s behind some seven-foot Dutch dude and his seven-foot special lady, fuck it. For years I’d break my ass trying to put myself in a spot to take a picture without someone’s head at the bottom of it. Maybe this year I’ll back up and get the crowd in the shot too. You see what I mean? I’m trying to make my life easier.

And as regards no plan? Well that’s really, really scary, isn’t it? I don’t think I can do it, but that very feeling of not being able to let go of some sense of control over the situation — because make no mistake, that’s what it’s about — has inspired me just the same to ease up a bit. Maybe I’ll watch more bands than I used to, maybe fewer. But maybe I’ll let myself enjoy it more. Just stand for a few minutes in the volume of a thing. I want to try that. Feels bigger in my head than it looks in writing, but that’s what I’ve got.

Here are the day schedules for Roadburn 2024:

Thursday, April 18

Roadburn 2024 Thursday schedule

Friday, April 19

Roadburn 2024 Friday schedule

Saturday, April 20

Roadburn 2024 Saturday schedule

Sunday, April 21

Roadburn 2024 Sunday schedule

Couple early starts, between Hexvessel doing Polar Veil on Thursday and Darsombra on Friday, but screw it. I have a few landmarks I know I want to see — clipping. and Khante, Dool, The Keening, Tusmørke, at least part of Heath and both The Bevis Frond and The Jesus and Mary Chain among them — but that’s still nowhere near the down-to-every-fifth-minute planning I’ve done for Roadburns past, so I do feel like there’s some letting go happening. I don’t know that I could ever do an easy-breezy no-plan RB, but I don’t think that’s an invalid approach just because I’m too uptight to live by it for a weekend.

If you keep up over the next couple days, thank you. If you read any of this, either right now or ever, thanks for that too. Once I actually get on the plane — it’s here now, wasn’t when I started this — and do that eight hours of time, get to Tilburg and maybe dare to sleep for a couple hours, I’m going to try to have a good time, to not leave the festival even more exhausted than I was when I got there. This is my break, after all. Maybe it’s time to stop thinking of The Obelisk as work and remember that the reason I spend so much of my time doing this in the first place is that I fucking love it. God damn I hope I can make that true by the time Monday comes around and I fly back home.

That’s where I’m at. Thanks again for reading.

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9 Responses to “Flying Out to Roadburn 2024”

  1. Antoine says:

    Have a safe trip man! Have a spacesuit, will travel. CU in Tilburg. Looking forward to your posts!

  2. Chris says:

    Glad to see that you’re hitting up DOOL. Total bucket list band for me. Looking forward to your coverage of the fest.

  3. SJMatt says:

    “Just stand for a few minutes in the volume of a thing.“
    That’s heavy, man. We should all do this more often.

  4. Matt says:

    Looks like Royal Thunder is playing twice? That’s cool, but real talk/question, did their drummer leave the band again? He wasn’t on their recent east coast swing and the promo’s on the Royal Thunder social’s only had Mlny and Josh on them.

  5. Ea Gregory says:

    Good travels! I’ll be looking for your write-up because, in all honesty, there aren’t many bands there I know. Get some good rest before Saturday because I’m dying to read your review for Lankum (amazing Irish folk) and Khanate (!), also Ottla (cool jazz).

  6. Mick says:

    I’m also enjoying that Lankum album, having recently found it!

  7. Ea Gregory says:

    Yeah, they are great. I probably found them right on this site a while ago! I wish I was heading over to Roadburn – I haven’t been to one since the very first one, an amazing show of Cathedral, Orange Goblin and a bunch of great bands across the board all in a snow-and-frost-covered Netherlands. I still remember driving from the last show in Tilburg to the airport in Eindhoven with ZERO visibility due to an insane thick winter FOG which had us driving about 10 km an hour with flashing lights on to avoid instant death on the highway. We arrived late but found the flight was delayed anyway, so happy endings!

  8. SabbathJeff says:

    Just responding to Matt specifically: Adam “Cap’n Adzo” Otracina (he of La Otracina/The Golden Grass, etc.) has been filling in since January for the scrubbin’ & tubbin’ role in Ruby The Hatchet as their drummer broke their leg, if I recall from a Ruby gig I caught in January. He’s just filling in until their drummer heals.

    And responding to everyone generally: have fun, JJ. Thank you for witnessing the rifferies and bringing us who aren’t there a simple taste of what must undoubtedly be an experience best experienced, all we can do is read on and imagine the volume and tones distorting the lens and the digital pen you so masterfully wield for us to live vicariously through – it is…beyond gratitude, to be sure.

  9. J. says:

    Hope you have the best of times man. I’m off to Tilburg now, might see you there!

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