Notes From Bear Stone Festival 2024 — Day 2

Posted in Features, Reviews on July 6th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Bear Stone Festival 2024 Day 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before Show; At Fest Grounds

“Kava” is coffee. I repeat: “Kava” is coffee.

I still ordered “coffee.” Chicken shit.

Hotter today than yesterday, which will reportedly be the trend for the weekend. The sky is cloudless, but I have water and a hat and the sun, and as I walked up to the backstage area where the espresso is the birdsong mixed with the already-tripping-out Svirav!Jam stage — I’d assume they just never stopped since last night, but the group was wearing different clothes, so at least there was a break overnight for some amount of time — and that’s a thing I hope to remember about this experience. The Main Stage soundcheck is loud, it wasn’t High on Fire, maybe ###, but I headed over quickly to the Mill to catch the start of Tight Grips. Less downtime today and tomorrow generally, but the tradeoff is more bands, so yes, all good.

More people swimming than yesterday too — kudos to the dude with the floaty that looks like a pocket calculator — and more people, period, but that’ll happen too after the warmup. I’ve still had no food beyond a pack of nuts, but I’m as ready as I could hope to be for this.

So we’re off.

Tight Grips

An interesting blend happening in suitably low-key style from the guitar/vocals, bass/synth and drums trio Tight Grips. Seeing them live is my first real exposure to them apart from a mention in the announcement that they were playing here, but with a foundation in heavy psych, they expand into more solidified riffage — a word I’m almost embarrassingly proud my phone recognizes when I type it — while keeping a rein on meter and aggression but still finding room for low-mouth duder vocals, some drone, a keyboard solo, sampled Tuvan throatsinging, some tremolo guitar in among and the crowd, and so on. Their builds were patient and the nod that paid them off heavy and big-riff enough to draw a crowd from among the swimmers and sunbathers, plus whatever I count as, and the impression they made despite the volume and snare snap was more subtle, calming but not without a cathartic side. Very clearly a band that listens to and draws influence from more than one kind of music, even if that’s mostly under the ‘heavy’ umbrella, and whether it was a more intense crescendo or a dreamier soundscape, crash or roll, they held tight to the weighted groove drawing together what would otherwise be disparate elements and so I guess Tight Grips is an apt moniker on that level, whatever else it might mean.

And all the while, the Sviraj!Jam rolls on.

Quiet Confusion

They were, of course, neither quiet nor confused. Very much the opposite, actually. The French four-piece brought a depth of perspective to their brand of heavy rock, with songs that were casually dynamic, ace basswork, two guitars — plus a cigar-box guitar that came out later — and a resultant style that left the crowd little choice but to be swept up. Accessible in a post-Queens of the Stone Age kind of way, they didn’t shy away from more motor-ready fare, jamming or a bit of crunchy jazz, some blues of course, and though they were heavy enough to fill whatever quota you might have for it, the songs were primary, thoughtfully constructed with dual-vocal arrangements, confidently pushed through their amps, and they leant a sense of range to coincide with the hooks and grit. The crowd under the pavilion ate it up like they’d been waiting for it, and if they had, I get it. Character is the word. I wouldn’t call them revolutionary, but they knew and clearly conveyed what they were about — shuffle included — and were infectious. I watched from the dappled light of the steps in back as a group of campers who I don’t think were attending Bear Stone at all came through in matching blue kayaks on the water. A tour group, maybe. They wound up where the swimmers were but didn’t stick around as Quiet Confusion hit a swinging slowdown and brought out the cigar box guitar at last. Their loss, surely.

Stonetree

Quiet Confusion were a hard act to follow, but Stonetree from Austria had a stoner rock thrust of their own with which to do so, and a vitality that served them well as the afternoon heat bore down. Limited shade to be had, even under the trees in back; I ended up walking those stairs all the way up — for any of my countryfolk reading, I’ll call it a Statue of Liberty’s worth of uphill steps — but I couldn’t find either the wifi or the management office, so I sat for a minute to catch my 40-something breath and made my way back down. When I arrived back at the Mill Stage, maybe eight minutes of real-time later, Stonetree were also visibly sweatier, and the crowd was packed into the shade under the pavilion’s roof such that there wasn’t really anywhere to be. I thought about sitting beneath, like, under the pavilion, but nah. A little further down the path, I found a corner near the river and could hear alright from there, even if there was some space rock bleedover from the jam stage. Gotta survive. There’s a lot of day left. Stonetree looked like they were considering hard whether to heed the calls for one more song, but in the end said their thanks and took their leave, having set their own high standard for the Mill Stage in energy and impact.

Baron Crâne

I didn’t know funk was the theme on the Mill Stage today, but I chalk it up to my own ignorance as so-tight-it-was-like-a-moral-position Parisian three-piece Baron Crâne closed out the pavilion-based portion of the day with noodly-nerdy quirk opening to big-nod groove that both accounted for what everyone else was doing and diverged in another, weirdo-jazzier direction. They were pointedly individual, down to setting up their speaker cabinets facing each other, and purposefully swapping out tempos and effects as they went, more changes in a song than some bands have on entire records, but flowing despite the inherently busy modus. Not entirely instrumental, but more interested in that end than vocals, they were able to land hard or bounce as they wanted, and as they danced around the stage, pulled this way by a riff or a solo or a build or whathaveyou at any given moment — not to imply randomness or lack of intent behind what they were doing — the crowd took it as a cue to do the same. So be it. The intermittent heavier roll served as both arrival and departure points, complementing the parts weaving through and around it in a slew of directions, some surf rock happening in there too, because of course. They mellowed, Hendrix-jammed, but you knew it was momentary, and in the end their blast was propulsive and raucous. That payoff was the most satisfying, but it got a worthy follow-up in the next song they played, complete with a stirring guitar solo echoing out. For the duration: never any more out of control than it wanted to be, riding dangerous turns and making hard changes sound easy. They were pretty fucking rad, in other words. “We have two songs left to play for you. Time to dance. Let’s dance together.” And they did.

Stopped by the Jam Stage to see the end of the Sviraj!Jam for the day. They had it going right up to the Mill Stage’s finish, and people still got up on on the Jam Stage after throughout the day to noodle and bang around. Awesome to see such open creativity fostered.

###

Ah yes, the beginning of the day. Opening the main stage, the band whose moniker is properly pronounced by banging three times on a hard surface — I believe wood is preferred — kept it punk-rock short and noise-rock intense with some experimental flashes for vibe’s sake. It’ll be less cool when someone starts calling them Knock-Knock-Knock, but it ain’t gonna be me. No words from the stage — as would make sense, in context — save for some shouting into the guitar pickups toward the end, they were there and gone in maybe half an hour. Or maybe I’m just not counting the stretch of amp noise from which they launched the set. Or maybe I lost a few minutes somewhere. Or it took me longer to get water than I thought. I don’t fucking know, okay? It felt short, and I mean that as a compliment, because if what they were playing felt long, it would mean it sucked. It didn’t. I got my photos quick and did meander a bit — it will be a mercy when the sun sets, for more than just the psychedelic visuals to be projected, but we’re not there yet — but wound up watching the finish by the side of the stage, and they pushed further for the culmination facing into the sunlight. It looked hot as hell up there, but ###, as the first band on Bear Stone’s big stage — I’d say “at last” because it feels like a lot of the day has already happened, but I’ve already established I’m Billy Pilgrimming on time — unveiled hit with a force not yet heard today or yesterday, and the notice they served did not go, well, unnoticed.

Gnome

My first time seeing Gnome. Thank you, Bear Stone. Starting with their new single “Old Soul,” the Antwerpen three-piece moved between more and less aggressive parts in their material, but what I hadn’t realized about the band prior to now was just how much their material was made for the stage. That is, I knew that was the concept, but you see it live and it’s a different experience. Drenched in attitude and self-effacing swagger, they asked the crowd early on, “Are you ready for some more stupid shit?” And given the number of Gnome hats in the crowd, some of them autographed, people clearly were. I’m not sure I buy Gnome as dumb, though. I mean, it wouldn’t work if they got on stage and were hyper-pretentious about playing their songs, but as they hit into “The Duke of Disgrace,” another one from the forthcoming record, with some rougher vocals to emphasize the hook, I didn’t at all get “stupid shit” from it. Their King album was a big deal in Europe — the videos were great, they’re a touring band and all signs point to that continuing, etc. — and I’m not about to argue with that, but they’re toying with the idea of being ridiculous in a way that’s actually pretty clever. The hats? Well, if they’re still doing this when they’re 50, they might find the hats a little stale — or they might not; AC/DC still wears the same shit they wore however many decades ago — and two-thirds of them were off by the end of the set, but they’re having fun on stage, they’re righteously heavy, and they have the songs. To me, at least, that’s the source of their potential. If they were actually just screwing around, if there was no heart or consideration behind it, I don’t think it would have clicked as it has. Fuckery, but with songs, and just the right kind of revelry when it gets nasty. Riffs you want to know better for the next time you see them, and a “next time” that’s a given before they even finish this one. Dudes in the crowd went off. Good band. Look out for that album.

Muscle Tribe of Danger and Excellence

While they boosted the only cupped-mic thus far into the weekend, the heretofore-unknown-to-me Muscle Tribe of Danger and Excellence were as dudely as one might expect from the name, informed by hardcore, and had an underpinning of Clutchy groove that came out in both the quieter and outright pummeling parts, and as the sun went down and the stage lights were visible for the first time — last night’s projection test notwithstanding — they kept momentum on their side and had people out front dancing for most of their hour-long set. I don’t know where in Croatia they’re from, but the local contingent of the crowd — and that’s an assumption, yes; I’m not out on the grass checking passports — obviously was more familiar. Maybe more burl than I’d go for in general, which is what I’ve been beating around the bush of saying, but I’m not going to take away from the vitality they brought to the stage or the ease with which the metal side of their sound came and went, guttural shouts and cleaner singing intertwining for a broader take than the “dudely” tag I saddled it with above really communicates, though I stand by that too. Or sit, as it were, since I moved to the back, the food tent, to psrk my ass at a table and write as the set progressed. No worries though, that punch carried over the evening air just fine. Done well, and at a certain point hard groove is hard groove and this particular Tribe had plenty of it to go around, but not really my thing on the balance of it. That happens. They had the dogs barking approval between songs, so there you go.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

Am I cool enough to call them PigsX7? Nope. Someday maybe? Probably never. It’s typing out Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs every time for me. This would be my first on-stage encounter with Newcastle’s Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, and one to which I was looking forward. There was a half-hour break before they went on, presumably to let people eat — something I again failed on, because I am terrible at being a person; I’ve found an option though, so maybe tomorrow I’ll pull the trigger on it — and in that interim the last vestiges of evening began to turn to night. I moved up to the press area by the Jam Stage-adjacent bar for a few minutes of away-ness, and I think it did me some good in resetting before Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs — oh come on, please? nope. — Pigs Pigs got to it. And when they did, surely LIGO could measure gravitational wave as they wrent the fabric of spacetime with a cosmic thrust that, in my experience, is singular among their generation. I felt a bit like a rube having not previously been indoctrinated, but for anyone else who might be reading this who hasn’t seen them, rarely does lysergic music get delivered with such ferocity. Imagine getting five dudes in a room and this is what happens. My goodness. And not only were they charged, but h-e-a-v-y. I knew they had a reputation. It is earned, unflinchingly. Not enough hyperbole for it. They’re the most most. Stars came out while they played, drawn I assume by the gravity as Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs began fusing hydrogen in the middle of a stellar nebula. Whatever you’re thinking when you ask the question “were they really that good,” I assure you the answer is yes. I wasn’t ready for it. They knocked me on my ass. Imagine a now-heavy incarnation of earliest Monster Magnet prone to fits of cosmic hardcore punk and doom. Hell yes I’ll type their full name. It’ll be an honor.

High on Fire

Jeff Matz on a Boris-style double-neck guitar/bass. Not sure what you could ask of High on Fire than that, but you’re getting the barrage anyway. I wouldn’t trade this lineup of High on Fire, Matt Pike, Matz and Coady Willis for any other in the band’s quarter-century history. They’re tighter than ever, and they have a catalog to draw from that they’re able to bludgeon you from any angle they want, even if that’s usually just straight out running you over on their way to the next in line. They played “Fury Whip,” did a bunch from Cometh the Storm, and were High on Fire. That’s it. It’s a rare band where you know what’s coming and get blindsided anyhow. But that’s who High on Fire are. There’s a reason they’re headlining heavy fests across continents, and it’s because no one else delivers like they do on stage. Loud but precise, hanging by a thread like Slayer at their Dave Lombardo-drummed best, more able now to change up around that core breakneck pace, but absolute masters regardless of tempo of this monstrous, only-theirs fucking sound. And I’ve never seen them, with this lineup or any other, where they phone it in. They get up there and kill. Reliable into themselves. I was here and there as they played, but wound up by the side of the stage near the photo pit, and watched the finish from there, Matz picking the double-neck back up to riff at centerstage with Pike before swapping back to the bottom end. My goodness what a show. Like cruel kings reigning. Coady Willis gave someone in the front his crash cymbal when they were done. Wow.

Mother Vulture

You know, I’m not gonna lie and say that I saw the whole set or that I’m any kind of expert on what the UK’s Mother Vulture do, but I respect the shit out of the fact that after High on Fire handed the Bear Stone Festival crowd its collective ass, the brash Bristol heavy punk-metallers refused to be cowed. They would not be an epilogue, or an afterthought. They played their show and it was its own kind of intensity, with the band all over the stage — the bassist even leapt off from behind his cabinet at one point — the guitarist couldn’t seem to stop spinning in circles, and their vocalist was both ringmaster for the circus and in on it. I was surprised the drummer sat at all. But at the same time, what they played had so much more going on than a young band’s penchant for physicality. Some classic rock, loads of punk, some screams worthy of black metal, and a whole lot of “uncompromising.” They gave Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs a run for their money, while doing something different musically than any other band who’ve played thus far. Admirable and tight in kind.

My ride was waiting for me to get Mother Vulture pictures — thank you Nelly and Elias from Threechords Records for the lift; it made finishing this in time possible — and as we rolled through the dark and twisty streets on the way back to Slunj, we listened to Queens of the Stone Age’s Rated R and I looked at the stars and it was a good way to end the day, being able to take people from ‘people I know’ to ‘friends’ in the span of a weekend. That’s how it happens at these things in the best of times, which seems to be what I’m having. How about that.

Day three tomorrow is another long one. Buckle up. Colour Haze, 1000mods, on and on. Gonna be fun. More pics after the jump in the meantime.

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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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