Notes From Bear Stone Festival 2024 — Day 4

Posted in Features, Reviews on July 8th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Bear Stone Festival 2024 Day 4 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before show; by the river

Hard not to chuckle at the river-rafting group coming down the rocks and being surprised by the jolt of speed, especially when they’re laughing so hard themselves. This place. The clear water, the sound of it rolling, the rocks around, trees, vines, moss for the tardigrades, dirt, bugs, birdsong during the day, peeper-frogs trying to get laid at night; life. Some clouds today, which is perfect. The van came early — 12:15PM for a 4:15 show start — but it’s a pleasure just to be here and sit, smell the water, drink my coffee and feel a little bit of spray to take the edge off the heat. Today I remembered my hat. Stuffed it in the camera bag last night to be sure.

I got back to the room last night, charged the camera batteries, dumped the photos off the memory card, and almost finished wrapping up the writing for the review of yesterday before sleep shut me down. Some sentences require an overnight, apparently. Getting all the photos sorted was a task, but so it goes. I screwed up naming them — fucking Windows 11 is the worst; been considering wiping the machine clean and downgrading, but it would take more time than I’ve got — and WordPress got all dumb about it withBear Stone Festival 2024 Day 4 3 (Photo by JJ Koczan) replacing band images with the wrong ones, but my hope is that at some point today or sorts itself out. It’s right in the html, so I’ve done my best. I’ll check it later when I get back to the room.

The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and Tillydog are doing well in Zagreb, as affirmed on a video call shortly before coming here. They’ve done a lot of riding the blue trams, it seems, and sightseeing around the city. I told The Pecan she would have to be my tour guide for the city since I haven’t been there yet and she got all excited. She likes me much better when I’m not there. Reasonable. I’m also markedly more fond of myself in concept than reality.

Only four bands today — Vukojarac, Misery Crown, Rens Argoa and Zolle. No jam stage, but maybe a secret set (?), which adds to the mellow afternoon. But even getting here early it was by no means empty, with campers having breakfast and/or beers and bumming around as one does. Existing, which is a worthwhile endeavor. I went a little up the river with Sander van den Driessche from Echoes and Dust, whom I’ve known for years at this point and consider a friend, and found a bench to sit on. He’s got a book, I’ve got my phone to write on, and neither of us minds the quiet. Easy win.

I may or may not get the chance to say it properly again, so thank you to Bear Stone Festival for having me, for letting me come here for these busy, incredible days, seeing and hearing things that I otherwise never would in a setting/context that is unto itself.

Specifically, thanks to Marin Lalič for making it happen. It is amazing and surely not a little bit of work to get such stunning results. To say I’ve never experienced anything like it fails to encompass how fulfilling it has been. I wouldn’t presume being invited back for 2025, but wouldn’t hesitate if that email came in. Either way, it will be fun to watch Bear Stone grow in the years to come.

As always, thank you to The Patient Mrs., who on every level is the universe in which I am a speck of dust (also gas). I am loved, supported, and cared for and about in ways I could never hope to justify.

Thank you to the press contingent with whom I did much of the back and forth — Sander of course, James from the UK, Gabriel and Anya from Switzerland, Kate and Tom, Ewu (great to finally chat). And from the very fabric of my being, thank you to Nelly and Elias for the kindness, the conversation, the rides at the end of the night and a spiritually-refreshing generosity that went well beyond the food. I don’t know that they’ll read this, but if so, don’t be surprised when I show up at your door in Bulgaria.

Something going on the Jam Stage now — that secret set, I assume; someone from Seven That Spells? — but I’m content to let it drift over on the air. Tempting to walk over, put the batteries in the camera, do the thing, but in the free spirit of Bear Stone, I’m going to take it as it is rather than force something. My own aspirations toward the organic, manifest in laziness, trying to turn fatigue into art on some level. Some intensity to be had with industrial ticks and bass wub, but that’s cool.

I’ll need a water refill soon, which means the fleeting moment is on its way to gone, but that is okay too. There’s no shortage of spots to be in for a while, so I’m going to put my phone down for a couple minutes and stare out. Still plenty of time before the bands start, but I brought more writing to work on as well, and if I spent three hours — or two, at this point — taking pictures of plants, insects, rocks and people’s dogs, I wouldn’t be wrong. I would, however, probably be even sweatier than I already am.

The first notes and snare hits of line check waft from the Mill Stage as I sit again and watch the churning water just below this bench on the small cliff. It’s about 45 minutes before the day starts, and I’m up for it, despite reveling in this spot, appreciating the time, the little spinning circle of water-plants that has me wanting to dive for a korok seed, and the sound of the river.

But if the message of today is the finity of all things, I’m fortunate to be here now, while looking forward to what comes next.

What comes next, as it happens, is the show. Thanks for reading.

Vukojarac

Even their line check was among the nastier of the tones emitted this weekend, and under an appropriately clouded sky with a suitable humidity at ground level, Vukojarac’s set proved likewise dank, if less punishing initially than expected from that short preview as the drummer and bassist (who played an electric/acoustic, presumably for resonance) shared lead vocal roles and both swapped between gutturalisms and morose, cleaner melodies. In combination with the heft of the riffing, flashes of more extreme aspects — I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong about theirs being the first blastbeats of the weekend, if not the first double-kick — and the occasional bellow echoing out down the river, Vukojarac were still well in aggro territory, but I got more depression than anger in terms of mood. Dark, in any case, but able to roll out a stoner riff or speedier progression and transpose it to their purpose, as they did more than once while the sun dared show its face for a quick minute before again receding, only to return in force before they were done. Have I told you I’m thinking of founding a religion based on modern sun worship and astrophysics? As to what makes it a religion? Five bucks to join (digital transfer accepted, cash-in-envelope preferred). Might make patches too. Anyhow, something clicked and Vukojarac got rawer as they went on, and for sure there was burl to spare, but by then, that was adding to the character of their sound rather than defining it, and while it got mean, they kept up the roll and the now-full pavilion matched it with synchronous nod. One more on the list of bands I’d probably never be able to see if I wasn’t here.

Misery Crown

Low-slow groove saturation. I saw Misery Crown walk up when they got here just before Vukojarac got started, and one of their two guitarists had a Down shirt on, while their bassist/lead vocalist wore one for Pantera’s “Drag the Waters,” and my impression of them couldn’t helped be defined in part by that, though they were more metal altogether. Both six-stringers added backing vocals throughout (the one in the Down shirt changed to A Gram Trip; fair enough), and in keeping with Vukojarac, they switched between clean singing in a Southern, low-mouth style and growls to go with some but not all of their bigger riffs. More double-kick from the drums was a decent fit with the brood and periodic pace-upping, and as they pushed into a building chorus, they were all the more able to serve the song with the vocal dynamic. I split in the middle – empty water bottle would not do with the sun out – but made it back in time to see theirs last couple songs, and no regrets, even if it’s probably not the kind of thing I’d put on for a given afternoon reading to my daughter or playing board games. And considering what Misery Crown were going for sound-wise, they should probably take that as a compliment. That works for me. I had some reservations about themes, notions of things lost being regained, and so on, but I wouldn’t judge one way or the other without reading actual lyrics. They finished upbeat with “10 Years of Misery,” which was aiming catchier (and getting there) more than most of their material, and backed that with due punch to reinforce the point.

Rens Argoa

Dudes in the front tried to get a “hey! hey! hey!” going during one of Rens Argoa’s songs but couldn’t quite find the time signature. I was ready for a change in vibe and the trio brought that with a more technical and quirky approach to heavy instrumentalism, the return of the funk bass, and an edge of shenanigans that manifest as well in the guitarist and bassist swapping instruments after the first song. Adventurous, with some shimmer of psychedelia running throughout, but whoever was doing whatever after that charming initial misdirect in the strong section, the core was urgent heavy prog, and they were just as likely to math out as to bounce on a more straight-ahead riff. When they eventually won me over was the quieter song — I’m sorry, I don’t know where in the set it was and I can’t look it up — that built up gradually around an emotional current in the guitar. I’m a sucker, I guess. They were back to the jabs and bops on the head soon enough, no worries, but the more they played, the more depth their was to hear in their sound, and while the balance was pushed toward the dizzying, that was a wakeup people needed. I’d like to go on record and say I wasn’t the one shouting for English when the guitar player — who started on bass — was talking between songs. Speak your language, dude. Unless you’re telling me my foot is on fire — and it’s not; I just checked — it’s all good. To end, they paired a flowing heavy roll with more spacious lead guitar, and I guess I wasn’t the only one digging it, because the pavilion went off when they were done.

Zolle

Italian duo Zolle had pink balloons on their cymbal stands with hearts on them, most likely in honor of their new album, Rosa. The day had been pretty subdued up to here, but all signs pointed to a blowout to bring Bear Stone to its finish, and the anticipated high-impact fuckery was delivered. Dudes in the crowd were dancing even before the two-piece walked up through the crowd to fanfare and the ringing of churchbells. Energy-wise, they were up there with Melvins at their most coked, and arranged next to each other in the front of the stage area, with stops for beer from the stand in front of them, Zolle let the Mill Stage have it with a party rock born as much of heavy punk as sped up AC/DC’s school o’ riffing. I acknowledge those two might be the same thing when you do the math. The drummer sat on a chair instead of a stool, and that seemed like a good move given how much time he spent standing on it egging on the audience for sing-alongs to parts that very clearly were written for singalongs, which worked, and they kept it up. Not at all the same kind of unrelenting as High on Fire, but a shot of adrenaline just the same and ready and willing to be silly and fun. They finished with more sampled fanfare and were mobbed by clearly established fans and new ones alike. No argument from me. They were a total blast.

That was it. I took the bus (van) back to the rooms with a crew of press after saying goodnight and last thanks to Marin and his wife Ivana for having me here. It has been an incredible time, and I’m well enough asskicked, but even in such a state I had to stop and get the camera out for a picture of the sunset sky over the mist of the river. Unfathomably cool.

I don’t want to get into some trite diatribe about how lucky I am, but as I swatted the odd fly off my dome, I’ve also been scratching my head at how I got here. I spend a lot of my time sort of bringing myself down, and sometimes anyone else who happens to be in the room, including my family who I could never hope to deserve. Being able to do this, to travel and see things I’ve never seen, meet people and hear great music, makes me understand in a different way how special my life is and how fortunate I am to live it. With more gratitude to my wife for keeping me alive all these years, I’ll leave it at that.

And finally, once more, thank you for reading. None of this happens otherwise.

More pics after the jump.

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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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Bear Stone Festival 2024 Spotify Playlist

Bear Stone Festival 2023 Aftermovie

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