Notes From Bear Stone Festival 2024 — Day 1

Posted in Features, Reviews on July 5th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Bear Stone Festival Day One 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before Fest — In Slunj & At Festival Grounds

Oh, I slept. I slept and slept and slept. I don’t know that I’ve slept like that since before I had a kid. I. Slept.

The ride to Apartments Daniela — the room is a bed, small table, tv, rug, couple chairs, bathroom with shower, etc., AC which is always crucial, and a shared kitchen right outside the door; I’m in room 1, the couple in room 2 seemed to be having it out this morning — was plenty pleasant. I haven’t seen the town center of Slunj yet, but I already got a recommendation on a place to get good trout that I hope to take up at some point soon. Quiet though, which is good. Could use coffee, but that’s pretty much always the case. It’s a walk. I’ll walk it tomorrow, I hope.

The reason I didn’t today? Because I was sleeping. Hard. I showered as immediately as I could upon arrival yesterday evening, finished up a little other writing and email, blah blah, and thought I might play a little Zelda, but was unconscious before I even picked up the controller. I woke up at 11:30 in a panic thinking my alarm hadn’t gone off or I missed it or shut it off or whatever and brushed my teeth, got dressed for the pickup to go to the fest at 12:15PM and started packing my camera bag only to realize a few minutes later that it was still nighttime and 11:30PM and not 11:30AM, as I had apparently thought. Disoriented much? Coffee will help that too, I suspect.

I did play for a bit on the Switch, maybe an hour, just to calm down from that moment’s rush, then put on Star Trek: The Motion Picture — a download of the original director’s cut, as opposed to the 4K restoration — and was asleep again before the wildly indulgent circa-’79 sci-fi opening credits were done. I’d wake up a few more times, either to soon-reset alarms or not, and it was finally around 11:30AM that I convinced myself it was time to actually get up and get ready to go.

Being my first time at this fest, in this country and in the Balkans more broadly, I’m a little anxious for how it’s all going to go, but I’ve got a schedule document from the fest that I’m relying on. My 12:15 ride came a little after 1PM, so I spent some time writing/dicking around on my phone and watching a dude cut some stone tiles to put around concrete columns across the way — masonry — but it didn’t really matter as the day only has four bands, plus a big ol’ Sviraj!jam that I’m curious about, and seems to be easing the crowd into the weekend to come. Sunday is likewise mellow, while Friday and Saturday are more packed, with two stages (plus said jam) instead of one, more bands, headliners and all that. I look forward to seeing as much of it as I can.

“Bok” means “hi.” “Hvala vam” means “thank you.” “Voda” is “water.” “Molim” is “please.” “Kava” is “coffee.” If I can get these down by the end of the weekend, I’ll feel pretty good about it.

Bear Stone Festival Day One 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

A long, twisty road surrounded by green round-top hillsides and more distant, likewise eroded mountains, sporadic farms and residences and camps and such leads to the festival grounds on the bank of the Mrežnica, the river, which is clearly a draw for the area. It was about 20 minutes from my room to get there, driven by an apologetic Marco. No worries, dude. I slept.

The festival site is gorgeous, as anticipated. Since 2013, this place has hosted the psy-trance festival Mo:Dem, which takes place in August just up the hill with a likewise stunning in-the-round stage area — almost an amphitheater — with more of the incredible wood carvings that seem to be just part of the thing between the two events run by Marin Lalić, who was kind enough to show me around. There’s no wifi where Bear Stone happens — I’ll be writing without a net since I can’t save as I go; never without risk but a tradeoff I’m glad to make — but up by the management office, past Mo:Dem’s currently-closed experimentalist cinema/vegan bakery, there’s a connection. A bit of back and forth suits me fine. I get restless at these things anyway, if it wasn’t obvious.

This is the third edition of Bear Stone Festival proper, behind the last two years and a ‘Year Zero’ test run in 2021. It’s easy to see there’s room to build it bigger — 1,800 people are expected; about 50/50 Croatian and foreign contingents — should they want to, but the surrounding hillsides and the tiny fish in the river, which pours over rocks into a lake also fed by an underground spring, 18 meters deep and cold year round, the woodworking and so on all feels executed with naturalism in mind, and it lends the whole area an intimacy that has its own appeal. I opened the door of the van and stepped into the vibe. People were setting up tents to camp, and the buzz in the air as the production crew made final preparations, security all-in on first-day diligence, gave some underlying tension, but quiet corners and under-tree shade are everywhere even outside the press area, and there’s espresso to be had.

I’ve been attending concerts since I was about 10 years old. In the more than three decades since, I’ve never quite experienced anything like this. And it hasn’t started yet. Bear Stone Festival has the chance to make and become something really special, and I am humbled and honored to be here for it, whatever the next few days will bring. I’m on an adventure.

The first four bands on the Mill Stage — a purposefully small pavilion which can be seen/heard from the path and knoll by the river — are A Gram Trip, Jantar, Entropist and Slowtorch. I had some time to explore, which is how I happened on the cinema/bakery, and get more espresso before the start. No regrets, there or thereafter when the music started.

Here’s how that went:

A Gram Trip

In what I suspect will be a theme of the fest as a whole, people crammed in tight to the Mill Stage to see Zagreb’s A Gram Trip open the weekend with duly sludged ceremony. Riffs and screams backed by shouts, a persistent nod with aggressive undertones that might’ve been too much volume for the couple dogs I saw hanging around, but was compressed nicely by the slanted roof of the pavilion-ish stage itself. Shades of Church of Misery, maybe earlier Electric Wizard; Dopethrone if you want a modern analog; stonesludge that knows from whence it comes. The band started jamming instrumentally and were joined by their vocalist soon after, and some of the mellower parts — a touch of earlier Clutch in “Cosmic Fortress,” with cleaner vocals to match, leaning more directly into Sabbathy build later on — echoed that side of their apparent persona, but they were all reverence and no pretense for the duration, bolstered by light reflecting and refracting through translucent flowers and panels to create color. As if on cue, the sun came out to aid that and bake the swimmers and denizens of the grassy area around. Don’t mind the bees — remember you’re a guest in this ecosystem — and try not to leave too many footprints on your way through. As much stomp as A Gram Trip put into “Quite Nice,” I suppose that was bound to happen one way or the other. They’d inject a faster stretch near the end — in “Speed Queen,” suitably enough — but the roll was primary, and rightly so.

Jantar

Jantar 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Sharper in tone and more progressive feeling in their still-jam-based compositions, Jantar brought a touch of doom-jazz with foot-pedal Moog and no shortage of twists and turns. I heard a Kyuss riff in there though, I swear it. It wouldn’t be the last of the day. A little spazzy around their root groove, the three-piece were instrumental for the duration despite A Gram Trip’s center-stage mic holding down that spot amid the rhythmic intricacies surrounding, which to their credit would’ve left little room for vocals anyhow and were about more than the technical showcase the band would probably have no trouble otherwise putting on. Songs, in other words. They played songs, rather than part-collections as is the sometimes-wont of the style, and while they felt very purposefully conscious in being unpredictable, the procession was such that folks were dancing as they looked on in the late-afternoon/earliest-evening air or under the roof itself, where vibe was all the more right on. Ultimately, they were weird for more than just the sake of it, dared a touch of funk in the bass, and presented complex sounds as a means to their own end. It was a shift from A Gram Trip, to be sure, but not so much as to throw anyone off as tension mounted and was released in succession. When they got to the last one, in “Disco King,” you knew it in the boogie. A couple of the dogs even got on board.

Entropist

Entropist 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I had stuck around in the stage area after Jantar, rather than adjourning to the picnic tables in front of where the jam stage will be later, and when Entropist went on, they just kind of started. First there wasn’t a set, then there was. I wasn’t sure if it was a line check or what, but nope, they were playing. I dig that. Also instrumental, they were a bit spacier and they let their songs breathe in a way that was post-metal-aware, if not necessarily actual post-metal, moving with a fluidity that wasn’t by any means lazy, but cast a gradual impression just the same. With some Pelican/Russian Circles chug and tempos malleable but mostly in a middle range, they were kind of thing you could really get lost in, and I did that for a while before I ran out of water and decided to rectify that and move to the patch of grass by the water for what ended up being most of the latter half of the set. There’s a kind of secondary gathering here, people sitting facing the direction the sound of Entropist is coming from, but not really able to see it all as such, both because of distance and a tree in the line of sight. I guess I just didn’t want to fall too much into the routine of taking pictures then moving back to the bakery/cinema stairs to sit and write. I’m doing something I’ve never done before, maybe I can change up how I do it as well. Entropist — a moniker I interpret as being one who plays the universal drift toward chaos as one might the tiny violin mocking that very same decay — would soon loose their slowest plod (before a faster finish) and even from where I sat, the sense of their basking in it was palpable. I’ve also seen a lot of press passes, so I guess the word’s out about Bear Stone. Fair enough. I’m always late to the party.

Slowtorch

Slowtorch 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The jam stage actually started warming up before Slowtorch went on, but one the Italian outfit got the ‘go’ sign, there was nothing else to be heard at the Mill Stage. The night’s headliners tore with vigor into classic riff rock, a little burl here, some blues there for sure, but fun more than anything else, with their singer poking out from the side of the pavilion to say hi to the folks watching from below and making his way mid-verse through the crowd, perhaps appreciating the forward shove of the band behind him. Slowtorch made a highlight of the title-track to their latest LP, The Machine Has Failed, which was of a kind in catchiness and punch with the rest of the set, and I found a perch a little higher up the stairs where I could see — there were more people on the steps as well — and appreciate the pull of more and more people to the vicinity. I guess you’d call Slowtorch the most straightforward of the four bands who played today, at least in a rock and roll sense of that, structures and whatnot, but in stage presence and performance, they put everything they had into that set. “Never too old to rock!” before requesting and chugging a “tasty Bear Stone beer” from the crowd. It was that kind of party, and it wasn’t over. There would end up being enough beer for everyone in the band and more besides, enjoyed communally as their time wound down and the set itself wound correspondingly up. They rocked until the lights came on — because it was getting dark, not because they were being told to stop — and it started and stayed a good time. Front to back. Fucking a. They rocked the sun down.

Sviraj!Jam

I wasn’t sure how the jam stage was going to work, but the answer to that seemed to be “it works like a fucking jam, you dope.” There were three synths going as I made my way over from the Mill Stage, dazed but not entirely done, which is fortunate since there are three more days. Live drums and vocals joined in soon enough — no idea what those echoes were saying, but it seemed like the kind of thing that if you had a guitar and wanted to hop up there and be part of it for a while, no one would yell at you. Someone did that, and I wasn’t sure if it had been preplanned or not, but probably. A band gradually took shape. I sat at one of the tables, drank my water, happy to roll with it and to be here generally, happy to have slept before the day started, to have reset my alarm the two or three times, whatever it was. The band that wasn’t until they were built up a decent head of steam, and it was easy to dig in a spacey, obviously meandering sort of way. Just a jam, maybe, but also both epilogue for today and preface of more to come, something to dig into before you go back to your tent or room, but emblematic of the professionalism that’s rampant beneath the surface at Bear Stone. I’m not sure any of this would work without it, and so far, it all very much works.

Thank you for reading. I recognize that the only reason I’m here — certainly not my charming personality or social grace — is because you do, so know that it’s appreciated. My ride back to Rooms Daniela was at 10PM, which would give me enough time to shower and start in on the day’s photos before conking out. I failed at eating today. Old habits. A pack of almonds during Slowtorch and some last bites of the nut butter I brought from home were it. Tomorrow at some point I will need to search out a meal, however that ultimately happens. Until then, you’ll find more pics after the jump. Thanks again. Good night.

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Bear Stone Festival 2024 Completes Lineup; Kadavar to Headline, 1000mods, Them Moose Rush & More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 4th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Thrilled to say I’ll be at this one. My flight is booked to Zagreb, and from there I’ll travel to Slunj for a couple days to hang by the riverside and cover the Bear Stone Festival, which has completed its 2024 lineup with the additions below. You can se Kadavar joining High on Fire in the headliner position, and as Greek heavy rock kingpins 1000mods add the fest to what will no doubt be another busy summer, they’re joined in this last announcement by a swath of bands representing Croatia’s local underground — Them Moose Rush, Muscle Tribe of Danger and Excellence###, and so on as you can see below — and others from Austria, Hungary, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Poland. It’s like an international conference, and one which I’ll be honored to attend.

Not even going to pretend to know all the names listed below, but I’ve included the descriptions with the announcement in case you’d like to check them out as well as for my own reference to study up before departure. While I’m talking about it, thank you to Bear Stone for inviting me. I look forward to being in Croatia for the first time, seeing old and new friends, and of course being pummeled into oblivion by volume for a few days. It’s going to be quite a summer. Stay tuned, and thanks for doing so.

From the PR wire:

Bear Stone Festival 2024 Full Lineup Poster_Square

Bear Stone Festival 2024 Full Lineup Announcement

Ticket link: https://eventix.shop/cexrwn4b

Here it is, the full lineup for Bear Stone Festival 2024!

28 bands spread out across 3 stages with our festival veterans Sviraj!Jam taking over the Jam stage as always.

There will be a couple more surprises announced as we get closer to the festival, so make sure to stay tuned to our socials.

Standard festival tickets include parking and camping for the entire duration of the festival and they are available on our website and via Entrio. There will be no day tickets.

Get your festival tickets here: https://eventix.shop/cexrwn4b

KADAVAR (DE)

We are beyond happy to announce the legendary Kadavar as the second headliner of Bear Stone Festival!

Their meteoric rise began with the release of their debut album in 2012, followed by breakout records like “Abra Kadavar” and “Berlin”, which earned them critical acclaim and chart success in Germany. With subsequent albums like “Rough Times”, “For The Dead Travel Fast” and their latest album “The Isolation Tapes”, Kadavar continued to evolve their signature sound while also establishing their own label, Robotor Records.

Known for their energetic live performances, Kadavar’s self-recording approach and unique production techniques ensure an authentic representation of their dynamic stage presence. Their riff-heavy sound resonates with fans of Hard Rock and Psychedelia alike, solidifying their status as pioneers in the modern Rock landscape.

1000MODS (GR)

Rising from smokey basements to packed arenas, 1000mods stands as Greece’s most successful rock band of recent decades. Their seminal album “Super Van Vacation” in 2011 revolutionised European rock with its heavy sound and vintage vibes, cementing their role as leaders of Greece’s Heavy Rock scene. With subsequent releases like “Vultures” and “Repeated Exposure To…”, they showcased remarkable songwriting skills and garnered critical acclaim, setting the stage for international recognition.

MUSCLE TRIBE OF DANGER AND EXCELLENCE (CRO)

Muscle Tribe of Danger and Excellence, born from the vibrant Zagreb Stoner scene nearly two decades ago, brings together top musicians from diverse backgrounds to create a potent blend of Rock and Metal.

With two albums and EP’s under their belt, the band’s latest release, a new EP titled “Call If You Need Anything Else” featuring three fierce tracks, solidifies their reputation for delivering energetic, no-nonsense rock with their thunderous frontman Domagoj Šimek leading the charge.

THEM MOOSE RUSH (CRO)

Them Moose Rush, though often likened to Mars Volta due to their specific vocals, carve out their own sonic niche with a blend of influences spanning from Mike Patton to Radiohead, resulting in a unique fusion of Prog, Noise, Math, Pop, and Stoner elements.

They are already notorious for their DIY art, inventive videos, and critical acclaim from outlets like Prog Magazine and Metal Injection, the band returns with their fourth studio album, “Zepaxia”, featuring 16 tracks, embarking on a European tour and gracing festival stages to promote their latest release.

BLITZPOP (AT)

Formed by Yves Krismer from Mother’s Cake, Pia, Arthur, and Kajetan from Motion Sick, Blitzpop emerges as a revolutionary, convention defying musical force with an ethos that transcends mere music and embodies a vibrant philosophy that resonates with contemporary social dynamics.

Their compositions echo the raw intensity of Dead Weather and Nirvana while forging a path uniquely their own, marking a bold new chapter in the realm of rock ‘n’ roll.

### (CRO)

### (pronounced by hitting a random object three times) is a band best described by instrumental guitar noise, feedback and pulsating lights. They are already well known in the Balkan underground for their DIY approach while avoiding a normal course of things, they have recorded and/or performed in abandoned ironworks buildings, roofs, lavatories as well as moved a whole studio to a squatted cinema.

Since 2013, this group of people have tried the best they can to harvest the silence of their small hometowns Sisak and Novska into a self-propelled world of video experiments, tinnitus and print stains on their fingers.

ZOLLE (ITA)

Zolle, the heavy rock duo comprised of Stefano on drums and vocals, and Marcello on guitars and vocals, defy conventional boundaries with their raw and intense sound, echoing the primal essence of existence.

Their latest album, “Macello”, delves into the complexities of human existence, exploring themes of ambivalence, contradiction, and paradox with unapologetic honesty. From the chaotic energy to moments of profound introspection, “Macello” invites listeners on a journey through the raw, visceral realities of life.

KAYLETH (ITA)

Formed in Verona in 2005, Kayleth draws inspiration from the Stoner/Desert Rock sounds of Kyuss, Monster Magnet, and 37005, infused with space influences. Over the years, they’ve self-produced several EPs, evolving their sound to incorporate space/psychedelic landscapes, culminating in the release of “Space Muffin” in 2015 under Argonauta Records.

With successful albums like “Colossus” and “Back to Earth”, Kayleth continues to captivate audiences, earning praise from both critics and fans alike, eagerly anticipating their forthcoming album slated for Spring 2024.

STONETREE (AT)

Emerging from Austria, Stonetree delivers a potent blend of riff-oriented Heavy Rock, characterised by explosive instrumentation, dynamic vocals, and polished production. Formed in 2016 following the disbandment of Machine Zoo, they’ve honed a distinct style fusing elements of Alternative Rock, Grunge, Stoner Rock, and Prog Rock, showcased in their debut album ‘”The Tempest” (2017).

Renowned for their energetic live performances staged from “Evertruck”, an old Volkswagen van transformed into a live stage, the trio has continued to innovate, releasing EP’s like “VOID FILL” and “VOID FILL 2” during the pandemic, setting the stage for their upcoming EP “VOID FILL 3”.

ENTROPIST (CRO)

Entropist is a Rijeka-based trio whose musical oeuvre spans through Instrumental Doom with nuanced influences of Space, Psychedelic, and Post-Stoner Rock, reflecting their diverse musical palette and harmonious fusion.

Their low-key approach and affinity for a bold, robust sound turns their live performance into a must-see experience of their sonic ethos. While carefully balancing diligence with patience amidst the pandemic’s challenges this trio dedicatedly crafted a commendable debut album which, in their own words, is best experienced live.

ACIDSITTER (PL)

AcidSitter are a vibrant musical collaboration, uniting seasoned Psych Rockers from Poland and Japan, headquartered in Krakow, where they delve into a diverse spectrum of psychedelia fueled by Rock ‘N’ Roll fervour and Punk vitality. Having graced stages at renowned festivals such as Red Smoke and Soulstone Gathering, and even embarking on a brief tour alongside King Buffalo, they’ve solidified their presence in the live music scene.

Their latest album “Make Acid Great Again” represents an exhilarating journey through dreamy, spacey realms intertwined with a solid Rock core, evoking a uniquely grounded yet fuzzy sensation akin to stepping into a new Earth.

MISERY CROWN (BIH)

Originating from the picturesque city of Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina alongside the scenic river Una, Misery Crown emerged in 2012 as a Southern/Sludge/Stoner band with influences from genre pioneers like Down and Crowbar, evident in their debut album “When North Meets South” released in 2013.

Evolving their sound with subsequent EPs “One Stone” and “Northern Wind”, Misery Crown balanced homage to genre roots with a quest for originality, culminating in a performance at Croatia’s Bear Stone Festival, marking their debut in the country’s vibrant music scene.

VAN MANAKIN (AT)

Van Manakin, a Vienna-based instrumental duo formed in 2020, has been crafting music together for nearly a decade, channelling their daily experiences into their jams and performances.

Creating wild and energetic soundscapes in their natural habitats, the rehearsal room and the stage, Van Manakin’s music is a cathartic blend of Post-Rock, Stoner Rock and Progressive Rock with hints of Metal and Funk, inspired by the panamanian bird of paradise known for its lasting friendships, creative sounds, grooves, and mesmerising moves.

AZUTMAGA (HU)

Azutmaga, a Budapest-based instrumental stoner rock duo, embarks on a sonic journey marked by climbing riffs and tribal rhythms, interspersed with improvised departures. Founded in 2019 by Patrik Veréb and Martin Várszegi, their music is a meditative massacre, blending psychedelic elements with the raw energy of Stoner Rock.

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http://www.bearstonefestival.com

Bear Stone Festival 2024 Spotify Playlist

Bear Stone Festival 2023 Aftermovie

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