Notes From Bear Stone Festival 2024 — Day 3

Posted in Features, Reviews on July 7th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Before Show; In the food tent, then Jam Stage

Me and my silly ADHD brain left my bucket hat back at Rooms Daniela. Big mistake. Also no sunblock anywhere in my luggage, which I feel like is even dumber now that I’m here. There’s no definition of “adult” that doesn’t apply to me. I should be better at this stuff by now.

That will make finding and staying in shade all the more urgent, and my pale form will burn as though torched like the cosmos by Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs themselves, but cancer is later-me’s problem, and he’ll deal with burns, tumors and such as need be. But yeah, might spend more time in the press area today, which is covered. There are also a couple clouds here and there to provide periodic relief. I’ll do my best, but it is sweat-while-stationary hot. More water. It will be okay. The music will start. Night will come.

Took a ride back into town with friends during Mother Vulture yesterday, as I mentioned near the end of that post, but I didn’t actually get to sleep until around 5AM. I was caught up sorting photos, which on my not-that-new-anymore laptop is less efficient than it used to be, and then just couldn’t quite key down. I guess the adrenaline that carried me through had a half-life. So it goes. I got up at 10AM, so not entirely sleepless, but yeah. The second long festival day here is going to be a trip, I think.

You could see the Milky Way banded across the sky as I made my way out last night, which was perhaps all the more valued as I missed out on stargazing during my recent Southwest US jaunt. A stirring reminder that we are all gas and dust revolving at however many hundreds of thousands of miles of hour around a supermassive black hole, which I feel like is worth keeping in mind anytime you might be tempted to think a thing matters or has any kind of permanence as humanity sits one EM pulse away from the Stone Ages. I could go on here, but it doesn’t seem in the spirit of things to be comforted by hopelessness. If nothing matters, you understand, it’s okay that I forgot my hat.

It is impossible to ignore the idyllic nature of this space; a forested canyon carved out by the Mrežnica, if I have it right, and the swimmers, canoers, kayakers, campers, and lawn-layers are correct to take advantage of the river, the trees, the grass, all of it. I’m a little too in my own head for that kind of whatnot, but that doesn’t stop me from seeing the pricelessness of the physical location and layout both for the attendees now and as Bear Stone continues to build on its to-date accomplishments, as one hopes it will.

However cool it will look in the aftermovie and all the posts people will put on Instagram once they’re back where there’s cell signal, the character of this spot is more perfect than a single sensory media can capture. I could do with fewer dudes urinating in random corners — I get it, bro, you’re drunk and you love nature, but the portajohn is two meters that way and the composting toilet is another five beyond that; you don’t need to pee in the river either — but you take the bad with the good, and as regards this place and this fest, it’s an easy trade to make.

Time to start this thing. Here we go.

Azutmaga

I’ve false-started on writing about Azutmaga three times now, which I guess means I’ve had enough coffee. The Hungarian instrumental two-piece — I’m pretty sure the guitarist said they were from Hungary; magyarok vannak, szerintem — got started quietly and kept a subdued, meditative vibe throughout, despite getting fairly heavy at times. They have a new album, which I will want to chase down hearing after seeing them play. Put it in my notes to remember. Just guitar and drums, though there were more effects pedals on the floor than some entire bands had, so perhaps an expansive sound isn’t a shock, but the languid groove hit me with the right kind of soothe, and in my shady stairs spot, maybe 10 steps up of the total a-whole-bunch, I watched as the pavilion likewise casually packed out, the comings and goings. A sprig from one of the trees above me fell into my lap and I stuck it behind my ear. It didn’t last, but I mention it because it seemed like a fitting thing to do as Azutmaga played, delving into some slower nod as they emerged from a wandering drift, apparently playing their new record — I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the name and can’t look it up; I assure you I mean no disrespect — and exploring through one fluid jam into the next, no pretense about it but ready to build it into a fuller nod, patiently. The guitar player spent most of the set facing the drummer head on, turned away from the crowd — one imagines them on a differently arranged stage set up next to each other, though I have no idea if they actually do that — but it didn’t matter. The focus was on trance, immersion, and I was grateful for the chance to let go of some of the anxious buzz for a bit.

Rifftree

As pure riff and volume worship as I’ve yet seen at Bear Stone from the weekend’s second duo — and right in a row; a duology of duos –Rifftree had guitar and bass tones dialed in through separate amps to maximize volume and depth, and it worked well. They were more about rolling largesse than Azutmaga initially, and both the bass player and the drummer offered rough-edged vocal shouts, but it was the way the low and high ends of the riffs were arranged that made it work so well for me. One or the other would click off, guitar or bass sound, then snap back in a manner no less satisfying for being so clearly telegraphed. They sped up and slowed down, more High on Fire here, more Sleep there, as will happen, but the dirty tone was vivid and central, with some raw feedback for extra scathe on the sludge and pummel. It was a threat that lingered when they drew back the onslaught for a nod-out, and the set was more effective for that. Not the first time I’ve said this this weekend, I know, but I swear I heard a Kyuss riff in there somewhere. Fair use in the building of such stonerly shrines. They capped with a welcome insistence of chug and shove brought to a sudden halt, and I have to think that if they were called Bong-anything, you’d already have heard of them.

I walked back over to the Sviraj!Jam and caught a few seconds of Colour Haze soundchecking. They weren’t even playing songs yet, though that would come after Rifftree finished and could be heard over by the pavilion for the Mill Stage, but I could still sit for hours and just listen to that band meander. Gladly.

Acidsitter

Throbbing heavy psych rockers Acidsitter, whose slogan “make acid great again” — it’s also the name of their record — just kind of feels tragic coming from the States, where this notion of greatness apparently translates to christofascism, were a good time. The performative elements of their two guitarists’ stage costumes were contrasted by the bassist who mostly sat on an amp case, but the vibe was potent either way. They wove between drift and thrust, synthy flourish for a touch of prog but not much more than that as their priorities were clear from the outset. They would enact a full-tone nod topped with a duly classic-style solo, but they didn’t dwell in any one place for so long as to sacrifice volatility, and wherever they went, they continued to serve the song or the moment they were in, whether that was vocal effects, a guitar played with a wisk, or a sudden turn to garage-ier push. More bass on the synth was the request, which brought about a worthy rumble to match the bass on — wait for it — the bass, and in true acid rock fashion, they felt punk-born even in the calmest parts. I’m not sure which side of their approach was druggier, but after a while it all kind of forms a haze anyway. People caught on as the set played out, and though there was a near-heroic dose of chicanery, Acidsitter held together around the rhythm section and the close-your-eyes-and-go groove thereof. Another record in the notes.

Kayleth

Kayleth on the Mill Stage. I know their stuff, had an idea what was coming, so wasn’t caught off guard when they space-blasted desert riffing with synth and theremin during “We Are Aliens.” Headlining the Mill Stage puts the five-piece in a tight space, but there’s something cool about that too, right? I don’t get to European club shows every decade, so the chance to experience a band in a smaller setting works for me. I’ve heard a few complaints about how the Mill Stage and the Jam Stage should switch, and maybe that would work, but at least with the bands who’ve played it this far, I don’t think it’s held anyone back. Just the opposite, and that goes for Kayleth as well. I can’t always hang in a crowd press — okay, I never can — but I know that’s not the case for everyone or nobody would ever go to gigs, which I’m told people still do sometimes. Kayleth were easily worth showing up for, and I don’t honestly know if they usually do bigger or smaller shows, but they owned that space easily, like veterans, and put on a show that was fueled as much by heart as by the tone of the guitar. Of course the synthesizer expanded their dynamic, but it wasn’t by any means alone in that between the backing vocals, loud/quiet and tempo trades. A lot to dig, so I dug.

Nemeček

A deeply pleasant surprise were Nemeček, whose style brought together pieces of soulful Eastern European folk, progressive rock and post-metal, space rock, electronic noise and probably six or seven other styles I’m not cool enough to know about. They had given a few short teases during soundcheck, playing half of this or that song, and even from that it was clear something equal parts divergent and special was about to take place. I knew nothing about them prior other than they’d be here, but consider myself fortunate to have seen them. All three members sat, though the keyboardist did get up regularly as well, and the acoustic guitar (or something to it; pardon my ignorance if I’m wrong) still tapped deep into a sense of heavy that was about more than sound in terms of atmosphere, though when they hit a pulse coming out of a melodic contemplation, they had power behind it. That made their set that much richer, but again, that wasn’t something they were leaning on, just part of a more encompassing whole. I wonder how it comes across on record — like a lot of things, the production would matter — but even from the photo pit, the textures they unfurled were unlike anything I’ve seen in the last three days, and they spoke to traditionalism in a way that only enhanced their individual impression. I hear they’re local. In any case, Nemeček is a band I am glad to have seen. Now I know.

Blitzpop

Aptly named, if you take the blitz as signaling the energy with which Blitzpop took and commanded the stage and ‘pop’ to mean hooks, of which the four-piece brought plenty enough for everyone and generously offered them in with boogie as a bonus. Classic in a ’70s via ’90s way, they were for sure a turn from the more severe persona cast by Nemeček — perhaps that doesn’t apply to the catchy chorus that went “Kill that motherfucker” — but even that they made fun, though I wouldn’t want to be the motherfucker in question, as their argument was pretty convincing if you count the tempo kick later in the song. A quick plug for merch, then back to the hook. They were another one about whom I knew squat, but they did a bit of “woo! woo! woo!” and ululating to bring the crowd with them and locked soon enough into a groove that at least to my ears sounded like Rage Against the Machine, not that they were at risk at that point in the set — a little more than halfway through, probably — of only doing one thing. They toyed with funk, but never lost track of where a song was headed, and as the direct sun beat down on the Main Stage, they kept the momentum up. In the back, in the shade, where I was, people ate and drank and chatted and dogs played chasing each other around as Blitzpop closed out with a Blur-style “woo hoo” that I have no doubt I’ll still be hearing on repeat in my head when I’m trying to sleep tonight. Hazards of the trade.

I ate. This part is mostly for my wife, to whom I’ve not spoken in an actual day — not unheard of if I’m off somewhere, but rare even so — but it was such a joy that I don’t mind sharing. It was a local cheese that tasted to me like sheep’s milk and was divine, and tomato stuffed with cheese, garlic and truffle flanked with greens — greens! — that was whatever the next step up from divine is. Transcendent? Probably. Not my first experience with the sustaining nature of sustenance, but after nothing but nuts for the last three days, it was a pretty amazing moment in my life that I’d like to remember. It was so good. I finished those, but have more for later. Still a lot of day left, but the sun has started to recede, which is something else I’m thankful for.

Them Moose Rush

Weren’t the band I thought they were, but were way funkier than that band, so I’ll take it. Distinguished by a tendency toward unexpected pivots, you could probably hear as much noise as punk or heavy rock in what they were doing, but it seemed clear in the intention to get bodies moving in the crowd, which it did through the course of their hour-long set, and with a notable range from their guitarist’s vocals, they immediately felt like a standout. Again, not what I had been expecting, but better. I’ll admit I’m having trouble getting over how good the bass sounds here, echoing around as it does, but Them Moose Rush were as much about the subtly mathy twists as the heavier stretches to which they alternately did and didn’t lead, and that coupled with the rampant falsetto and vocal reach, the badass bass, the ready-when-you-are drumming made for another shift on the Main Stage, but a natural one coming off of Blitzpop, who also used heavy rock as a starting point for their own purposes in craft. They went hard a couple times, and had now-we-riff-big there when they needed it, but they were just as likely to find themselves in head-down push or someplace else entirely. I’ve heard a lot of rock and roll this weekend, so if I’m repeating myself, I’m sorry, but the bottom line is they made their own kind of sense stylistically and seemed to work from the ethic of conforming genre to them rather than the other way around.

1000mods

I don’t know how much I have to say about 1000mods that I didn’t say when I saw them like a month ago, but hell, Greece’s foremost heavy rockers once more justified that title, taking the Bear Stone crowd on a ride that barely let up even when a guitar gave out and they had to fill the time with a sampled loop and cymbal wash. I had 1000mods tunes stuck in my head for weeks after Freak Valley, and if the same happens when I leave here, I won’t complain. They moved the festival into the portion of the night that’s basically three headliners back to back (to back), between themselves, Colour Haze and Kadavar, and I don’t know how you don’t get into them if you have any place in your heart for heavy rock. They’re pros; they take the stage and do their show. And if you’ve ever seen them, you know that means something. “Their show.” They got rolling again after the technical interruption like nothing had ever happened. It’s never a good time for that kind of thing, but if you have to deal with it, before “Vidage” is when you want to. The audience, clapping along to the drums — and with good fucking reason — sang along, put hands in the air and gave the band back the energy that burst from the stage, and whether I said it last time or not, it remains true: 1000mods are one of the best bands of their generation. And they’ve never done the same record twice, or given in to hackneyed songwriting or made any music other than that which they needed to make. Anytime you can see them, yes, do that.

Colour Haze

Speaking of generational bands, Colour Haze were soon to follow. I don’t like picking favorites, but I can’t think of anyone I’d rather see take a stage on a given night. They’re always finding a route, some new nuance, some turn or small improvisation or just some moment, to make it special. They made an hour and 15 minutes feel short, but it’s a festival set, so I’ll take what I can get. “Skydancer,” always a highlight. Jan Faszbender’s keys taking the spot where the horns go in “Transformation,” which closed. Mario Oberpucher playing the melody while Stefan Koglek takes a solo. And what on earth can you say about Manfred Merwald’s drumming. It had character, it’s intricate, tight on the guitar, but free-flowing, impactful when it needs to be. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen them, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that they’re part of the reason I do this in the first place. They’re inspiring, and only more so as they grow more progressive in sound and build on their foundation of heavy psychedelia, which itself set a path of influence so, so many bands have followed. Bands who at this point don’t even realize they’re influenced by Colour Haze because the bands they were trying to sound like were trying to sound like Colour Haze. That they were themselves is the highest compliment I can give them. They are my favorite band in the world.

Kadavar

Again, I caught them pretty recently, but I had cheesed out early on Kadavar’s set and lived to regret it last time, so I knew I wanted to make up for that to myself at Bear Stone. I know they’re long past the vintage thing, and I love those records too, but they have so much more room to grow now, and they have grown, and when they get on stage, the new and the old come together and it’s all united by the passion in the performance, the strut, the swing, vibrant. I love that they’re such a known quantity — they’re the last band tonight, third of the three headliners; people are familiar — but I have no idea what their next record will sound like beyond “it’ll probably have songs.” That’s the safer bet, anyhow. But whatever shape that takes, the fact of their delivery is that it’s encompassing of decades of heavy rock while remaining entirely their own. Onstage, they’re part glam, part hard-hitting, brazen rockers, never willing to settle artistically or stop pushing the parameters of their sound, but somehow so sure of what they do regardless of outside expectation or pressure. Of course the set was awesome. Kadavar were on a stage and the power didn’t go out. That’s a recipe for a winning way to close ab evening right there. I don’t know the status of the album they had been working on in the last however long, but it’s a no-brainer must-hear in my mind when the time comes. The same “duh, yes” principle applies to whenever the next opportunity to see them live might be.

Back at the room now, falling asleep at the keyboard a little bit. Long day, not enough sleep, blah blah you’ve heard it all before. I got a ride back from Nelly and Elias again this evening, and Nelly was the one who brought me food. She also gave me what she called “mishmash,” which was egg, roasted bell peppers, cheese and I think some tomato in there as well. I ate the last of it like five minutes ago and now I am ready for sleep.

Bear Stone’s second and final long day — tomorrow is back to just the Mill Stage — was a banger. You can see the potential all over this festival, and I’m too goddamned tired to see anything clearly right now. Thank you for reading, goodnight, and there are more photos after the read more thing. You know what I mean.

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Bear Stone Festival 2024 Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 23rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

bear stone festival 2024 banner

There’s more here than I knew was coming, which is cool. High on Fire are the first announced headliner for Bear Stone Festival 2024, to be held next July across four days and three stages. Big, in other words. Or getting bigger, anyhow. I’d imagine that some of the acts listed here who are Croatian-native — Jantar, Tight Grips, Rens Argoa, A Gram Trip, Vukojarac, etc. — will feature on the newly-added third stage, and since I’ll be in attendance for this one (I don’t have the flight/lodging booked yet, but I’ve been invited and said yes and it’s okay with my wife, so I’m going) I look forward to finding out more about the country’s hometeam underground. Having the likes of Colour Haze, GnomePigsx7Mother Vulture and more to fill out the bill is huge, and if it seems like a lot, it’s half the fest. They say there’s one more announcement coming.

What they don’t say is when, but when I hear something I’ll let you know, and while I’ve got your attention, I’d like to thank Bear Stone for the invitation to attend their incredible-looking festival. I have high hopes for both the experience and the music, and I expect both to be exceeded. If you’d like to know more about the bands, there’s a Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post. Bear Stone made you a mixtape.

Here’s info from the PR wire:

Bear stone festival 2024 poster

First Lineup Announcement For Bear Stone Festival 2024

Here it is, the first half of Bear Stone Festival 2024 lineup. As we have previously announced, Bear Stone Festival 2024 will have 28 bands spread throughout 3 stages over 4 days of the festival.

We would also like to announce that Early Bear festival tickets are now on sale! At the end of this email you will find the button that will lead you to the Entrio ticketing site.

Check out our poster below to discover the first 14 bands of Bear Stone Festival 2024.

HIGH ON FIRE (USA)

Prepare for an electrifying experience as the legendary High On Fire take hold of Bear Stone Festival’s main stage! Marvel at the unforgettable sonic journey filled with their signature blend of heavy riffs and powerful vocals.

Witness their seismic performance and join us in an epic night of Metal mastery!

COLOUR HAZE (DE)

Following their sensational Bear Stone Festival Warm-Up club show in Zagreb, we are thrilled to announce that the mesmerising Colour Haze will be gracing our festival stage for the very first time!

Get ready for an unparalleled fusion of Psychedelic Rock and intricate melodies that will transport you to new sonic dimensions. Don’t miss this chance to experience the captivating artistry of Colour Haze in the vibrant atmosphere of Bear Stone Festival.

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS (UK)

Allow yourself to be ensnared by the mighty presence of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs as they summon the very essence of Doom Metal overlaid with their distinctive blend of Psychedelic Rock and Heavy Metal. Let the walls of sound crafted in the fumes of Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard and Sleep wash over you, as they embody heaviness itself.

Witness their unparalleled display of distortion, unveiling the exhilarating saga that is Land of Sleeper and encapsulate the heart and soul of the genre in an electrifying performance!

MOTHER VULTURE (UK)

After their electrifying performance at Bear Stone Festival Year Zero edition in 2022, Bristol’s very own Mother Vulture are back by popular demand! Gaze at their adrenaline-fueled spectacle as they once again shock us with their unique energy and raw Rock prowess.

Get ready to be blown away by the powerhouse performance of Mother Vulture at Bear Stone Festival 2024.

GNOME (BE)

Do you feel like your life is missing more songs about gnomes that are oppressed by their evil king? Belgian band Gnome will take care of that and more with an enchanting performance soaked in their signature blend of Progressive and Stoner Rock, accompanied by their already legendary gnome attire.

NEMEČEK (CRO)

Immerse yourself in the raw, intense sounds of Croatian band Nemeček as they mesmerize Bear Stone Festival with their powerful blend of folk-inspired music marked by its fierce and darkly evocative tones.

BARON CRÂNE (FR)

Baron Crâne are a Paris-based instrumental trio known for their dynamic fusion of psychedelic, progressive, and experimental sounds that shape an immersive musical journey filled with powerful riffs and a blend of diverse influences.

SLOWTORCH (ITA)

Channeling an explosive blend of Clutch’s fervour, Black Sabbath’s heaviness, and Corrosion of Conformity’s raw energy, Italian heavy rockers Slowtorch deliver an incendiary onslaught of relentless, riff-driven soundscapes, marked by their fiery intensity and hard-hitting musical prowess.

JANTAR (CRO)

Jantar are a Post-Metal/Prog Rock band from Zagreb, formed after the dissolution of Pink Fairy Armadillo. They are set on delivering a sound that delves deep into irregular rhythms, dissonant tones, and overlapping layers of analog synths.

RENS ARGOA (CRO)

Wonder at the genre-defying musical experience with the instrumental trio Rens Argoa, whose passion for rhythmic riffs and melodies has inspired them to blend together elements of Jazz, orchestral music, Prog Rock, and Punk all across their four albums.

QUIET CONFUSION (ITA)

Join us in welcoming the dynamic Rock’n’Roll/Psychedelic/Heavy-Blues band Quiet Confusion from Verona, Italy, best known for their electric performances and distinctive 70’s-style Stoner Rock vibes showcased in their latest album “Magella”.

TIGHT GRIPS (CRO)

Tight Grips are an explosive and experimental Croatian Rock trio with an evolving sound which infuses mono-synth, Blues, and Grunge elements. They captivate audiences across festivals and regional tours and are currently gearing up for the release of their highly anticipated third album “Jewels”, set for release in autumn 2023.

VUKOJARAC (CRO)

Vukojarac, the dark embodiment of chaos and despair, emanates an otherworldly power that beckons followers into an abyss of maniacal madness. It is driven by its unstoppable desire to spread The Riff and plunge humanity into the void.

A GRAM TRIP (CRO)

Hailing from Zagreb, Croatia, this four-piece band fuels their sound with fuzz-driven intensity, intertwining mantric Doom riffs, Sludge vocals, and intermittent Stoner melodies. They are carving out their unique path across the trifecta of these genres, best exemplified in their debut album “Long Overdue” released in May 2023.

You can listen to our favourite songs from all these bands by clicking on the button below!

https://www.instagram.com/bearstonefestival
https://www.facebook.com/bearstonefestival
http://www.bearstonefestival.com

Bear Stone Festival 2024 Spotify Playlist

Bear Stone Festival 2023 Aftermovie

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