Roadburn 2024: Travel & Ignition

Sonja at Ignition Roadburn 2024

04.17.24 – 4:49PM – Wed. – Hotel Mercure

I was the only one in the Sprinter van from the airport. Just me, the driver, and a sunny morning on the highway in Nederlands’ big-sky country headed out of Amsterdam to Tilburg. It was nice to recognize spots on the way into town, though there are some newer, taller buildings as well that I didn’t remember from five years ago when I was last here. Change is inevitable.

So far today, the weather here has been like the weather at home — insane. It has hailed twice and been coated in sunshine. My flight got in early, and passport control took about two minutes because I wasn’t entering the US and it was six-thirty in the morning. I grabbed a coffee and headed to where the car was going to pick me up by memory. That felt good, and not just the coffee.

The flight was a flight. I apparently got charged twice for what I thought was a free seat upgrade, but beyond that, the seat in front of me being so leaned back I had to watch bumping my head into it and having to restart A Link to the Past on my phone because I went to the Dark World too early — cheat code glitches on the emulator; nostalgia abounds — it was smooth enough. Empty seat next to me in the row of three, so I rate it as a positive experience. I’ve never enjoyed commercial air travel. It’s an unwelcome reminder that the world is not built for people of my general proportion. And I don’t think it’s something humans should have to pay for, but I also kind of feel that way about everything. No gods, no masters, no borders, no baggage fees.

Plane listening: Brume (yes, again), Lord Buffalo, The Keening, Iota, Sunnata, Greenleaf, then the headphones died. I should also count Type O Negative’s “Die With Me,” which I’ve been hearing in my head since boarding at the gate for KLM. I slept for about half an hour on the plane.

Later, After Ignition

Between Riot City’s more traditionalist approach delivered with duly non-sexagenarian vigor, Sonja’s more rock-infused NWOBHM riffing and Final Gasp’s hardcore-rooted moody-but-active take, it was a pretty metal evening out at Ignition, the free-entry pre-show for Roadburn Festival. Last time I was here, it was Hard Rock Hideout at Cul de Sac. Ignition had room for more people, and the people showed up to fill the space. Faces familiar and not in what I suspect will be a theme for the weekend, a couple “oh hi!”-type interactions between the bands, a bit of back and forth. I’d slept earlier in the afternoon, but I’m still in just-got-here mode, so no, I wasn’t hitting the mosh. I’ve always been pretty easily out-metaled anyhow.

But walking into the 013 again after five years was a trip. Next Stage, the old Green Room, is where the three bands were playing. The main stage area was closed off for the night, and downstairs was merch and the bar and DJ and so on. I went upstairs when Sonja were on, basically to take the above photo on my phone — I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to do a more relaxed Roadburn — and it was also packed.

Riot City had acquitted themselves well in starting the show, well aligned with the metal of eld, their singer making Rob Halford screeches sound easy while strewing them liberally throughout the songs, thrash-informed but not necessarily as retro in sound as in their logo. Following up, Sonja were rawer on-stage than I’d expected them to be given the sound of their 2022 debut, Loud Arriver (review here), but physical force works with their style. I hung out with Lee from The Sleeping Shaman, with whom I’m also sharing my hotel room, for a bit, talking about old times and catching up since we last saw each other pre-pandemic, and honestly that experience was probably more what it was about for me tonight. Being here, getting to hang out at the 013, not trying to chase anything, the next thing, whatever it is. I don’t want to leave here next Monday feeling like I was so busy running around trying to take it all in that I missed it.

I’ve done that. And I’m not knocking it — Roadburns have been some of my best times, period — but I’m not lying when I say I didn’t ever think I’d be back here. This community and this time are special to me, and when it comes down to it, I have no trouble admitting Roadburn has been a part of shaping my perspective on music and art more generally, and the fest hasn’t even actually started and it already feels like a celebration. I’m lucky to be anywhere, but I’m especially lucky to be here right now.

Chelsea Wolfe was rehearsing on the main stage. I was able to watch for a few minutes with Lee, with Walter and Becky and Jaimy and a few others from the behind-the-scenes machine that makes the next few days happen. A small moment in the scope of those days to come, but one that I’ll remember, sitting on the steps up in the back of the room, just watching the lights and visuals, all also being tested out along with the sound, and a couple songs of what felt like a private show. I didn’t have to sneak in. It wasn’t clandestine. I was with friends. Sometimes I forget I have friends. Too often.

Roadburn starts tomorrow. No zine, but there’s a meeting tomorrow morning at the 013, some words to write/edit for secret show announcements and that sort of thing; stuff that, if I can help out with it, I’m happy to. Merch opens at noon. The Patient Mrs. wants a hoodie and a tote bag — she’s big on totes — so I’d best get on that. Then music. Hexvessel open at 2PM at the Terminal, which is the bigger Koepelhal stage, up the way from the 013. I will hope to see you there.

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