Roadburn 2024: Notes From Day Four

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 22nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Roadburn 2024 sunday Becky and Walter talk

Before any of the actual sets, today started with the annual tradition of a sit-down audience with Roadburn’s Artistic Director, Walter Hoeijmakers, hosted by Becky Laverty, who not only puts the side-programme together, but has been a crucial part of pushing the festival forward stylistically and defining its ongoing mission. Mostly a Q&A from the people who crammed into the V39, where merch used to be, they covered a range of topics from the logistics of setting up the time table to why they’ve moved away from having curators like in years past. No, they didn’t say anything about who will play in 2025, but one assumes that will come in time.

I had a question I wanted to ask about the next generation of Roadburn taking shape in the last few years of lineups and where they see it all leading, but they sort of touched on it and since there was only an hour, I was in the back, etc., etc., I just let it go. But, a casual chat, and always interesting to get their insights on this weirdo behemoth that Roadburn has become.

Once upon a however many years ago, the last day of Roadburn was known as the Afterburner. They’ve dropped the branding — fair enough — but there are still fewer active stages today, some longer changeovers between acts on the main stage, and so on. A mellower vibe, perhaps, was taking hold, but plenty of anticipation in the air around the 013, that electric undercurrent running through. My trajectory was loose but there was plenty I knew I wanted to see, and felt a little less in-my-own-head than the day before. Hard not to be inspired though coming out of hearing Walter and Becky chat about the passion and care that goes into making Roadburn, top to bottom.

Secret shows announced for The Keening (at Little Devil, won’t make it; sadder because they’re playing a new song), Mojo and the Kitchen Brothers (skate park, 19.00, hope to make it) and Torpor (skate park, 21.40, would be awesome), but to start out, I headed into Next Stage to watch a few minutes of Belgian trio Use Knife. I’d been tasked with writing a small blurb about them previously and after taking a listen decided it was something Use Knife (Photo by JJ Koczan)I was interested in seeing myself. I guess I sold myself on it. Happens sometimes.

They touched on old-school industrial and techno throb, put together around Middle Eastern melodies and instrumentation and of course mountains of keyboards and programmed whathaveyou. They played behind three white sheets onto which varyingly manic projections were cast. I had sat on the floor to start writing and ask my wife for a picture of our daughter — got one, it was nice — and when I looked up, the room was full. It was somewhat of a later start today on the main stage with the Die Wilde Jagd & Metropole Orkest commissioned piece ‘Lux Tenera: A Rite to Joy,’ perhaps because of the need to set up a full 50-piece orchestra on the stage. Either way, Use Knife didn’t seem displeased from what I could see behind the sheets.

Metropole Orkest has had representation at Roadburn before — alongside Tom G. Warrior and Triptykon in 2019 (review here) — but the collaboration with Sebastian Lee Philipp of Die Wilde Jagd brought a full 50 players to the stage, so it was both bigger and presented in a different context. Ambitious, to say the least of it. Over the course of an hour, the piece evolved over several sections or movements, with conductor/arranger Simon Dobson leading as Philipp worked various synthesizer elements seated at a table or stood for a bit of ‘more traditional’ — which is only Die Wilde Jagd & Metropole Orkest 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)in quotes because classical music is actually more traditional — guitar and vocals.

Aside from the stunning visual impact of so many players on the stage and the huge drums flanking each side, the tiers for the chaired strings, brass, winds, and such, getting the notice to check in for my flight home tomorrow helped me put a few things into perspective, most specifically how fortunate I am to be here in the first place. Yeah, you might just see a thing that happens once, never again, and which is so fulfilling to the creator that the first thing he says on mic is that he can die happy having been a part of it. Could happen.

But even that’s only just a fraction of the thing, and true to the cliché, Roadburn is more than the sum of the sets that comprise it. They didn’t have to invite me. They don’t need me here now, and the truth is they never did, even in 2009 the first year I came. It wasn’t the first time this (long-) weekend that such a thing occurred to me, and I doubt it will be the last, but ‘Lux Tenera,’ in its subdued contemplations and moments of legit bombast, made me glad to feel alive. The value of that, I cannot hope to tell you. All I can do is to try to hold onto it for as long as possible, because I know in my heart that being here to experience it might not come again.

Dinner! I had dinner! The changeover between the commissioned piece and Grails afforded me time to go downstairs and have some food, sit down like the people do. There was Grails (Photo by JJ Koczan)cauliflower, even. I had that and greens and a bit of beef rendang for protein. When I’m not too dead on my feet to hold my head up at the end of the night, I have no doubt that will have been a factor in it.

Eating didn’t keep me from Grails, but I knew I wasn’t going to be staying all that long. Not lacking appreciation for the vast expanses of Emil Amos’ consistently-pushed creative reach, but there was that Mojo and the Kitchen Brothers secret show happening and I didn’t want to miss getting in to the skate park for it. About the decision, I’ll say this: ‘who haven’t I seen?’ has always been my first question for Roadburn time clashes. In this case, that meant heading up the street early.  The doors weren’t open yet when I got there, and it’s been chilly in Tilburg, but I was toward the front of a line that grew exponentially shortly after I joined, and a not-freezing wind was a small thing next to the fiery heavy boogie wrought by the Belgian six-piece. The second two-drummer outfit I’ve seen this weekend — bonus points on whatever imaginary score is being kept for one of Mojo’s singing — along with three guitars and a bass warm enough that it didn’t need more low end to keep it company.

They started about two minutes after people started to be let in, and what a blast. And like Heath, who I mention not as a sonic comparison — though if the 1970s are a genre, you could argue they’re both at least somewhat on branches of it — but just because they’re the other secret show I’ve seen, they were young. A clear look at the next generation’s take on the heavy of yore, but with a modern dynamic that didn’t ignore the five decades between then and now. With a bit of riff worship, an insistent shuffle, and an energy in their delivery that could not be faked, they swept up the skate park crowd and had people dancing on the ramps. It was fun, and as Roadburn has continued to grow beyond its foundations and, as the tagline says, ‘Redefine Heaviness,’ it’s encouraging to see them make room for a band like Mojo and the Kitchen Brothers too. I knew I was making a bet leaving Grails, but the payoff was easy justification. They can redefine heaviness all they want, Roadburn will always mean hard choices.

I took some pictures, but Mojo and the Kitchen Brothers 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)mostly just let myself hang around and enjoy it, which was why I was there. I had moved up to the balcony by the end — I’m iffy in crowds, and couldn’t see from anywhere else, really — but I watched the whole set and left the building a fan of the band, which for the first time seeing a group play is the ideal as far as I’m concerned.

The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s headlining set has been a ‘well duh’ kind of answer to the question of who people are looking forward to seeing since Wednesday, or to be more accurate, since they were announced. I was in high school when they were big in the ’90s, and while I could probably retire on the Gen-X cred that having seen them live afforded me and everybody in the room — that’s how retirement happens, right? — I was in no way rad enough to have been into them at the time. But aside from being Important in the capital-‘i’ critical sense and an obvious influence on any number of the acts on this bill, including Cloakroom, who were tasked with closing the main stage after them, they had more going on than established stage presence, colored strobes and a back catalog, and the room was accordingly full.

The reason I didn’t get (more) pictures was because they had a rule where you could only stand in a taped-off rectangle to shoot the set. It was my first time encountering such a thing since Queens of the Stone Age in Boston in 2013, and I wasn’t a fan of it then either, but it’s their show so fair enough. Compare that to the guitarist from Mojo and the Kitchen Brothers climbing up on the barrier — which I think is usually a grind rail but served well to separate band and audience for the secret shows — about three feet in front of my face to tear into an early solo, or, say, everyone else playing this weekend. Just two experiences to put side by side.

My original plan had been to watch as much of The Jesus and Mary Chain as possible before The Bevis Frond went on the Next Stage.The Jesus and Mary Chain (Photo by JJ Koczan) I think they’re the only band here who can say they played the first Roadburn in 2006, which isn’t nothing, and their sometimes heavy, sometimes spacy, sometimes jammy, sometimes poppy, sometimes psychedelic rock has always held an interest, so given the chance, it seemed like an logical place to end my Roadburn. They went on at 21.20 and were given a 70-minute set, so plenty of time to dig in, but they were already on when I got there, as Freeburn-wheeled up to the skate park to see what the deal was for Torpor. The deal was a line out the door (not open yet) that wrapped around the building and I knew that what I’d first intended had been the thing all along. The Bevis Frond welcomed me — no, not personally; existentially — with friendly vibes and a spirit of fun that went beyond the tunes they played, “Stoned Train Driver” among them.

There was room to breathe on the balcony, and so that’s where I stayed for the duration. I’d missed maybe the first 20 minutes, but they made it a pleasure to stick around until the end, and it felt in watching them like the show meant something special to them, particularly to founding guitarist/vocalist Nick Saloman. Even after being told they only had six minutes — it turned out to be 15 — his response was “Let’s make the most of it.”

And they did, covering The Open Mind’s 1969 single “Magic Potion” with due garage-psych flair and shouting “I’ve Got Eyes in the Back of My Head” from 1987’s Inner Marshland out to Rolf and Jeanette from Stickman Records. It was right on, a happening to-do. The guys from Full Earth/Kanaan were there, as was Stephen Smith from Virginia and a host of other recognizable faces, including the dude with the soul patch I know only as Capt. Stoner Rock, to whom I’ve never spoken but have seen at every loosely-riff-following set I’ve ever been to at this festival — he had a Hippie Death Cult shirt on the other night and I almost snuck a picture to send to their guitarist Eddie Brnabic with an explanation of why he should be so honored; The Bevis Frond (Photo by JJ Koczan) nothing but sincere respect for Capt. Stoner Rock — and people danced and smiled and the band seemed to have a good time and so did everyone in the crowd, myself included.

That was the note on which I wanted to end my Roadburn, so I did’ No disrespect to Cloakroom, who certainly gave me no reason not to show up when I saw them in 2022, but after The Bevis Frond, I knew I was done. A scheduled 9AM departure for Schiphol ahead of me, it was time, which I realized with no shortage of wistfulness as I walked back to the hotel.

I’ll hope to have more tomorrow from the airport, but in case for some reason I don’t end up with time or, more likely, energy, I want to express my thanks to Roadburn Festival for having me over, for making me feel welcome. Thank you Walter & Esther, Becky, Jaimy, Renske, Koos, Rian, Miranda at 013 and the multitudes of Roadburn crew whose professionalism continually astonishes. Thanks to Lee Edwards for putting up with me in sharing a room, Dante, Niels, Paul, Marco and all in the photo pit, and to everyone I talked to over the last few days. Thank you to The Patient Mrs., who made this entire trip possible the same way she makes everything possible, by being the least-fathomable human being I’ve ever met, and to my mother, who took The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan out for ice cream while I was gone, which I have no doubt was a welcome diversion, and whose support I treasure to the core of my being every single day of my life.

Madness ensued and I am grateful to have been able to find a path through it. Thank you, Roadburn, and thank you for reading. I’m fully Roadburnt at this point, but this has been amazing.

More pics after the jump.

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Roadburn 2024: Notes From Day Three

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 21st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Outside Koepelhal Roadburn 2024

In what I hope will be a defining moment of my day if not the rest of my year, I was sitting with Lee downstairs at the 013 for lunch — some greens and cheese; likewise simple and necessary — and I could feel my brain start to move to what I needed to be doing, some quick writing, starting this post, whatever. But I stopped. I reminded myself, out fucking loud, that I had the time to stay. And so I stayed.

That sounds like an small thing, and maybe it was when set against what the day would bring front to back. And I’m not gonna sit here and try to do some middle-aged-dude wellness philosophy here — neither the place nor the time, and frankly I can’t stand that shit you see on social media, vacuous endorsement of a capitalist idea of how to live; fodder for the tshirts they sell at Target — but as this homecoming has been emotional for me, I’m working not to run away from that.

I got through the writing, the minimal actual amount there was, and got to where I wanted to be well in time for when I wanted to be there. Go figure. Place in time.

Roadburn Saturday. Couch Slut on first at The Terminal, diving deep into avant sludge, noise, hardcore, grindcore and some spoken word over piano — Steve Blanco from Imperial Triumphant guesting — and trumpet, no less purposeful in the light jazz than the most slaughtering parts as they brought the released-yesterday You Could Do it Tonight album to life.

It was my first time seeing them — they’re from Brooklyn, so my only real excuse is I’ve never been cool — and there were times where it felt a bit like gazing at someone’s trauma through the sad and poetic storytelling of their songs, but Couch Slut’s aggressiveCouch Slut (Photo by JJ Koczan) confrontationalism was inner and outer, and they didn’t so much put these narratives on display as they did shove them up your nose like a covid test made of concrete.

The last song they played was longer — I hear that’ll happen with records — but I stuck it out through the intended challenge before stopping in at Hall of Fame to see the band put together by students from the Metal Factory music school. This is their second year featuring a group here, and, well, you want to support the kids. I very clearly was not alone in this thinking, as the room was wall-to-wall. The press of the crowd got to me quickly and I ducked out and back down to the 013 in plenty of time to stop in for a few minutes of Annelies Monseré as she opened the Next Stage with a pastoralia that felt folkish but experimental in its use of drone as more than just a backdrop to the four-part harmonies coming from the stage with the ‘band’ she led. Second flute of the weekend behind Tusmørke last night. Same room. Different context.

My next stop was the main stage for Kavus Torabi‘s commissioned piece, ‘Lion of the Lord’s Elect.’ I had no idea whatsoever what to expect from the set and won’t feign expertise on Torabi’s work through The Utopia Strong, Gong, The Holy Family, and so forth, but from melodic drone to two-drummer cacophony, with sax, bagpipes, synth, guitar, it felt like the construction of a psychedelic temple in that vast hall space. Never quite entirely still, never just about the wash, building up and receding back into its meditations — it was far removed from Couch Slut’s raw hurt and reality in general, a cosmic offering rife with float despite the double dose of kit percussion.

Like a lot of this Roadburn has been for me so far, ‘Lion of the Lord’s Elect’ was a chance to step outside of what I know or might chase down on my own. I’ll stop short of saying you have to step outside your comfort zone — remind yourself you don’t ‘have’ to do anything — but a willingness to take on somethingAnnelies Monsere (Photo by JJ Koczan) unknown is a big part of a commissioned project like this, which only happened because Roadburn made it happen. In its intricacies and overarching flow, proggy noodling and heavier push, it tugged at the limits of where space rock can generally go, and hell’s bells I’m glad I saw it. That hour went fast, and down to the last chime that finished, it was a master’s work. I watched the whole thing.

Feeling antsier today, which might just be fatigue, but still. After Kavus Torabi and co. ended, I moved downstairs to get water and then back up and around 013, looked in on Next Stage, nobody on, and decided to run back to the hotel for a few minutes, take a pill, brush my teeth — the salad/cheese combo had my mouth feeling fuzzy — and take my shoes off for a few minutes. Some of that was nerves for seeing The Keening, the Portland, Oregon, outfit led by Rebecca Vernon (ex-SubRosa) who would shortly perform their 2023 debut, Little Bird (review here) in full on the main stage. The lineup she’s assembled for the tour the band are about to undertake with Bell Witch — they’ll pick up in Spain on a couple days — includes Billy Anderson (too many to list for his production background, all the names tried to escape my brain at once, but he’s handled low end for Blessing the Hogs, High Tone Son of a Bitch and a slew of others) on bass and Nathan Carson of Witch Mountain on drums, as well as Andrea Morgan (Exulansis) on violin and vocals and Christy Cather (Ails, Ludicra) on guitar and some vocals, and if all that pedigree doesn’t do it for you, fine, the band stand on their own anyway.

The main stage has a lot to offer in terms of a flow from one act to the next, and reminds me a bit of years past in how a linear progression is set up throughout the day. That applies less to Kavus TorabiKavus Torabi (Photo by JJ Koczan) than to The Keening and the three acts that will follow them, but you can still find threads from one to the other, The Keening into Lankum, into Khanate and Blood Incantation. Or at least you can put a story to it that makes sense in sound. It’s not just one band piled on another. There’s thought, and heart, put into it.

I took pictures for two songs of The Keening and went up to the balcony for “Little Bird,” which Vernon dedicated to the people of Palestine, and the rest of the set. After a couple minutes I had to sort of force myself to put the camera down, put my phone away, repeat my various mantras about Freeburn this and that, living the thing instead of just covering it, etc., and I think I was probably better off for that. Little Bird, which has only grown on me since last year — and I liked it plenty when it was reviewed — culminates with “The Truth,” the studio version of which is 17 minutes long. No, I didn’t time it from the stage, but it was no less expansive in-person in its multi-movement unfolding and almost chaptered feel. Vernon’s voice is seething at times, the patterns of her lyrics rooted in ’90s post-hardcore emphatic repetition but so far removed from that thing as to be her own. I’d been looking forward to seeing them since I found out I’d be at Roadburn, and I’m not saying I wasn’t going to check out Khanate in a couple hours, but in many respects they were my priority of today and the fest overall. They did not disappoint, and Morgan nailed the operatics later in “The Truth,” making it all the more gorgeous and stirring. I hope the tour goes well, hope they do more.

Back and forth a bit in the break, but the truth is I was tired, found a corner, and stayed there, so it wasn’t much more than getting water. I ate a pack of almonds I brought from home and had tucked in my camera bag. I did a couple Hungarian lessons on my phone. I did not socialize. I The Keening (Photo by JJ Koczan)waited until about 15 minutes before Lankum went on, then went to the photo pit to do the thing. There’s always one lonely day at Roadburn. Should’ve been yesterday, was today.

Even Lankum’s line check was heavy, though, and it was mostly the four of them singing. That was a thing to dig, even if Irish folk ‘n’ drone isn’t exactly going to pull you out of your own head most of the time. I recognized “Go Dig My Grave” from last year’s False Lankum later in their set and I very obviously wasn’t alone in that. The main stage room was as full as I’d yet seen it — true I wasn’t in it at all on Thursday, when Chelsea Wolfe played, so if you want to just take that to mean “quite crowded indeed,” go ahead — and with arrangement dynamics that came through in vocals that moved into and out of four-part harmonies, found instruments swapped out between songs and persistent low end hum that I think came off the big drum in back that threatened to swallow melody and audience alike and I’m pretty sure was on purpose, Lankum harnessed traditionalism to suit the purposes of their craft, whether it was an original piece or not. When they left, the P.A. played Cinder Well’s “No Summer,” and that felt right.

Khanate were next.

It would not be my first time seeing Alan Dubin (O.L.D., Gnaw, etc.), Stephen O’Malley (SunnO))), Burning Witch, etc.), James Plotkin (O.L.D., Lotus Eaters, Atomsmasher, etc.) and Tim Wyskida (Blind Idiot God, Insect Ark, etc.) together on stage. One dark, deeply inebriated night two decades ago, I was in their presence as they played a Southern Lord showcase at SXSW that also featured Outlaw Order, Earthride (RIP Sherman), Place of Skulls and Graves at Sea.Lankum (Photo by JJ Koczan) Yes, I had to look up when it was. And no, I’m not telling you that to be cool. I’m not cool. I’m just old. But Khanate were my prevailing memory of that evening, the singular bleakness and scathe that they wrought, and while I’ve seen the component members of the band in other projects since, there was no question that their performing together under the Khanate banner for the first time in reportedly 19 years was one of the most crucial opportunities Roadburn 2024 provided. There’s a reason they were the first band announced for the fest. It was a big fucking deal.

Their surprise 2023 album, To Be Cruel (review here), underscored the aural black hole they’ve always been. It wasn’t about reinventing their approach so much as about being brave enough to try to make those awful sounds again. Understand: Khanate stand at the end point of music, extreme enough in their mission and end result that nothing but hyperbole can rightly apply. Save for O’Malley tuning between songs, they offered no moments of respite or safe pockets in which to dwell. No cathartic release. They stood close together on stage under stark spotlights. No video screen. Nothing to distract you from the punishment on offer. The only flourish around O’Malley’s glacial riffs and Plotkin’s coinciding rumble was the caustic feedback either of their own or of Dubin’s making with his sampler, noisebox, or whatever the fuck it was. No rescue came. No melody. No letup. “Kick a helpless thing,” and the crowd was the helpless thing. If it was arthouse, it was the moldy basement underneath that smells like rotting meat and no one knows why.

At the Hall of Fame, Full Earth would play nearly the entirety of their own set during Khanate’s. Not a conflict of note for most here, I would think. I did abscond up there to try to see them at least for a few minutes, but the line was out the door — classic Roadburn Khanate (Photo by JJ Koczan)indication that you’re not getting in — and yeah, I’ve got a pass, but I figured all was well, I was glad a whole bunch of other people would get to the show even if I didn’t, and hightailed it back to the 013. Gotta get your steps in. I’m pretty sure Khanate were still playing the same song when I got back. No summer here either. Lonely day at Roadburn? Fuck you, here’s shit-coated obliteration instead.

And maybe I was done when they were. A long, long time ago and talking about another band, I told a guy I knew that it wasn’t about the notes they were playing, or the notes they were not playing, but about the spaces in between. That’s truer of Khanate than it was of that other band, and with Khanate, even those tense, empty spaces feel like fingernails on the eyeballs. Thusly bled, I walked back down the row of bars around the corner from the 013 — it has a name, who can remember? — and watched humans having dance parties, talking with friends, drinking, laughing, living. Cognitive dissonance to the fact that the world just ended.

Or didn’t, since there’s still another day of Roadburn tomorrow. See you then, and thanks for reading in the meantime. More pics after the jump.

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Roadburn 2024: Notes From Day Two

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 20th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Map w weirdo canyon

About a 1PM start writing. I lasted even less time at the Roadburn networking meeting than I expected to. Got my nametag for a souvenir, found Lee, said hi to like two people and split. Not that anyone was unfriendly or anything like that — I wasn’t in the room long enough for something like that to happen — I just couldn’t hack it.

I’ve never been able to conjure a decent performance of self in that kind of setting, and I’m even less able toNetworking name tag handle crowds generally than I used to be. To be clear: I’m not saying a bad word about people who work in the same field meeting each other — it both makes sense professionally and can be a way to connect likeminded humans — but I just can’t do it. It’s on me, completely. I’d always been invited but shy about checking it out, said this was the year. Okay.

A quick run — well, mid-paced plod, really — back to the hotel to reorient, take Advil, drink water, have a bit of a cry, etc., and try to call my wife. No answer, and if she’s sleeping past what’s 7AM at home, that’s unquestionably to the benefit of her day. I was at the 013 office before the networking meeting doing a quick blurb or two while pounding espressos, so have been up for a while, but the day doesn’t ‘start’ for another hour, so I’ll breathe a minute, get my head right and head up to Hall of Fame in a few with my even-weird-among-weirdos self. Oof.

Light rain in Tilburg, off and on. It could be far worse. I bumped into Darsombra on my way to their show. They were on their way to lunch, which is how I knew I was early for their 2:30 start. I went to the Hall of Fame, completely empty. I’ll admit that in my head they were going at 2, but when the dude working the board said the room wasn’t opened yet, I said, “please, I’m just looking for a quiet place to sit. I’m sorry. I have a pass if that helps,” and I guess it helped because when he left the room a minute later he didn’t come back with security to kick my ass out. Thank you to him.

Turned out a few quiet-ish moments would be crucial to getting in the right frame of mind for Darsombra, who exuded joy from the moment they got on stage to explain that this was the first show on their European tour, then left and came back out with the backdrop of the video premiered here Monday for “Shelter in Place” to start their set with “Call the Doctor,” glee abounding in the prog rock vocal melodies and total other-planetary reach of their sound. Sharing vocals with themselves and everyone else in the Darsombra (Photo by JJ Koczan)room who knew the song, Ann Everton shifted from synth to gong to bells and clacky-clackies while Brian Daniloski reveled in tonal presence and shred, the two of them moving in their own kind of dance that was the best argument I’ve seen in a while for a vigorous stretching regimen, not that I needed convincing in that regard. Where’s Roadburn Yoga in the mornings? Completely serious about that, by the way.

Smiles on stage and off, it was a celebration of the noise itself and the ability to find one’s place in it. I dig their records and could easily provide (more) links to prove that, but it had been too long since I last bathed in their live sound. Refreshing, they were. Precisely the redirect I needed, and at just the right time. And speaking of time seeing how full the room got, I was glad to have been early, even with the more laid back Freeburn ethic I’m trying to abide by while I’m here. Once they started, time was irrelevant anyhow.

Most of my day today was at the 013 for the main stage, and that started with Mat McNerney’s commissioned project, ‘Music for Gloaming: A Nocturne by the Hexvessel Folk Assembly.’ Following on from yesterday’s full-album performance, I had been expecting a more folkish offering this time, perhaps in part because it was called a Folk Assembly, but I should’ve known better than to expect any single thing. Blackened tones and push, throaty screams and room-shaking low end pervaded amid doomly nod, quiet, ambient stretches of acoustic guitar, piano, softly intertwining dual vocal arrangements. I don’t know if it was being recorded, but it was expansive in a way that accounted for a lot of what Hexvessel have done as a bandHexvessel (Photo by JJ Koczan), and brought it together thoughtfully and with purpose. I’ll keep my fingers crossed it surfaces at some point as a live release, or that they decide to take it into a studio.

The room cleared a bit when they were done — there was nearly an hour before Blood Incantation were going on with the first of their two sets this weekend, this one focused on their ambient Timewave Zero LP that they’ve never played in Europe and have only done I think one or two other times live. Sounds like something perfect for Roadburn, right? How about that.

The long break post-Nocturne afforded me a chance to pop into Next Stage for a few minutes for Miaux’s standalone cinemascocpic synthery. It was low-key enough to suit my brain but I opted for a refresh of coffee and water downstairs and would not regret it as the afternoon turned to evening. I sat for a bit outside the main stage on one of the benched in the hallway — if I’m talking a lot about sitting, understand that I’m also doing plenty of standing and moving about from here to there, but that not-that is a novelty and something I consider part of finding a place for myself during these days; not actively trying to break myself is new — and ended up chatting with Timothy from Supersonic Blues, who are apparently back to being a trio and have plans to record this summer. Good news.

By the time Blood Incantation actually went on, the main stage was jammed. I’ve seen them in their more pummel-prone death metal form, but was curious to watch them explore this more ambient side. I can’t recall ever seeing a band with salt lamps on stage before, so that ticks the box of another Roadburn first for me, and in the wash of synth, loops and effects, the fog, lasers and mostly dim lights, there was no want for mood. Sitar, acoustic guitar, a gong, quiet-then-not vocals, an Attila Csihar guest spot, sampled birdsong, even a trombone that seemed to feedback a couple times became part of the procession along with a defined, slow beat and more persistent percussiveness that emerged after 40-someodd minutes to give shape later on, but the central drone never left and they never lost track of what they were building on top of as it all oozed out from the stage, not so much overwhelming, but growing into its shape in its own time. World creation, and exploratory to be sure, but even at the peak, never too kitchen-sinked or doing anything to Blood Incantation (Photo by JJ Koczan)pull you out of the hypnotic state. I was left wondering what the inevitable sequel — maybe Timewave One? — might bring. Keyboards and sonics, likewise sprawling. I watched the full set.

They said a subdued thanks and the lights came up to dissolve that reality and let the crowd make its shuffling way to wherever was next. For me that was Dool — a band I first heard and saw at Roadburn eight years ago — doing their third album, The Shape of Fluidity, in its entirety. It’s release day, so all the more a special occasion, but again there was a long break, so I hopped — note: definitely did not hop, just trying to counteract the sitting narrative above — into the Next Stage to soak in a few minutes of Forest Swords. And soaking was about it, since where I stood — look at me go! — could see little more than the flashing lights and a corner of the video screen on the stage.

I stayed long enough to appreciate what I was hearing, but my trajectory had been a repeat of between Hexvessel and Blood Incantation — water refill and then on to the next main stage set, allowing for whatever socializing between might crop up, as some did — so I left the left Next Stage to what seemed like its post-industrial vibes and did the thing. The endgame of the break was Dool (which I’ve been pronouncing wrong all this time; it’s like “dole”), who were the imperative around which I’d made the loose structure of my Roadburn Friday.

The album was fresh in my mind. I listened to it twice after getting back to the hotel the night before, and it’s been getting regular spins at home. It’s plenty heavy, but produced for more than just that, and hearing a song like Dool (Photo by JJ Koczan)“Hermagorgon” or the duly scorching opener “Venus in Flames” come through full blast from the main stage, both while I was up front taking photos and after moving up to the balcony to see the rest, was more affecting than I had anticipated.

I don’t talk about it a lot on this site because of what might happen if the wrong person read it, but as a parent trying to help guide a trans kid growing up in the United States — where it is terrifying to think that someday my child might be beaten to death for nothing more than being who she is, or might be driven to hurt herself by just moving through a world that gets off on the cruelty of its rhetoric and culture — to watch Dool guitarist/vocalist Raven van Dorst, whose experience of gender informs the theme of the lyrics throughout The Shape of Fluidity, who has grappled and maybe continues to grapple with that kind of complexity in their daily life, get on the biggest stage here and absolutely own it, own themselves, own that complexity, was powerful and moving well beyond what raw volume could hope to encompass, though there was plenty of that too. To bask in the triumph of Dool’s moment struck me hard, and it’s something I’m so, so incredibly grateful to have witnessed. To imagine along with all the horror in my mind, that kind of possibility exists, even for just a few minutes, was beautiful. I hope sometime in the future to be able to share with my daughter what it meant to me, if she still talks to me by then.

So yeah, it’s a really good record. They did it justice. Big feelings. I guess that’s what it comes down to. I watched the full set.

I missed Inter Arma’s secret show, but fair enough for them to do one after doing their own new record in full. L.A.’s Health — who are most assuredly not to be confused with Heath, who played the skate park last night and will be at Hall of Fame tomorrow — were next on the main stage. Water and a quick hey to Oeds from Iron Jinn and Timothy from Supersonic Blues as they were chatting on the main stage floor level, then to the front for that part of the thing. Am I shirking the Freeburn ideology with a routine today and similar pattern for tomorrow? Maybe on some level, but if it’s about doingHealth (Photo by JJ Koczan) what I want to do and feeling good about it — and it is — then I’ll say I’ve yet to regret any of the choices I’ve made or refused to make thus far into Roadburn. Catching Health, about whom I know precious little being simple genre categorization, would be no different.

Making a visual impact in their light and video show to go with their industrial metal — guitar, bass and drums alongside the digitized aspect — Health were loud the way you think of mountains as big. I’d heard some stuff going into the set but would in no way claim to be an expert, but there wasn’t one song they played the crowd didn’t go off for, and reasonably so with the body-volume, intensity of strobe and the breaks that let you go just long enough before the next pulse of bass frequency slammed you into the ground. The flashing lights got to be a lot after not really all that long, and since I knew I wanted my evening to end with Tusmørke in the Next Stage room following the recommendation of a good friend who’d probably rather not have his name dropped, I hit up the balcony in time to get a spot where I could both see and breathe. Not a luxury to be taken for granted.

The thoroughly Norwegian proggers assured my night finished with a smile no less wide than it started however many centuries ago this afternoon with Darsombra at Hall of Fame. Where guitar might be early on was organ and flute along with the bass and drums, and in addition to being tight enough to pull that off as a take on ’70s prog, their between-song banter was hilarious, making fun of Norway with dry humor and talking about Lord of the Rings, Norwegian children being sacrificed to elk, the proliferation of medieval reading material about how to avoid hornets, and so on. To say the room was on board would be putting it mildly. People danced to the warm groove underscoring all the wilfully-odd quirk, and the lighthearted mood on stage set the tone for their entire set, up to and including when they traded keys for guitar, having already jumped between English and Norwegian lyrics.

I hadn’t planned on staying the whole time — tomorrow is another day — and it wasn’t just the tossoff line about witches wanting to control the means of production that held me in place, but it definitely didn’t hurt Tusmorke (Photo by JJ Koczan)the cause. I saw a dude playing air-flute. It was that kind of party.

The guitar/keyboard issue was settled when they moved the synth over to the other side of the stage — took a minute, as that kind of thing would — for the last song, but they were fluid jamming whatever anyone on stage was actually doing as part of that, funky like classic prog always wanted to be and delightfully nerdy, toying with effects and getting fuzzy or a little spacier for it, sneaking a reference to the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack into the first song and ending as a guitar/bass/drums/flute-and-keys four-piece after what felt like a genuine adventure getting there. I was glad to have gotten that recommendation, and yes, I watched the whole set. That’s how I know they finished late, which is something I’ve rarely seen a band do at Roadburn. When they neared 10 minutes over, I thought the house lights would come up, but it didn’t come to that.

Roadburn 2024 continues tomorrow and I’ll have more then. Until then, if you’re here, I hope your Roadburn has been as uplifting as mine has so far, and if not, I hope some sense of that comes through in reading. And thank you for reading.

More pics after the jump.

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Roadburn 2024: Notes From Day One

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 19th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Roadburn welcomes you.

Before 2PM writing start. Check-in at the 013, easy, the ideal. Head up to the office, coffee, a bit of sitting around, loosely productive chatting. Some quick writing that hopefully turned out to be complete sentences. Nice to feel helpful.

Merch opened at noon. I arrived at Koepelhal about 20 minutes after and it was crammed as expected. Inching forward and imagining the shirts selling out, more urgent in my head than in real life, to be sure. I don’t even know how many lines — more of a congregation. Label stalls over there, band merch, etc. Soundcheck wubbing through from wherever. Come on, man. Live a little.

Back to the hotel after to drop off purchases — tote and hoodie for The Patient Mrs. acquired as requested, along with a tshirt for myself —Roadburn merch and charge the phone for a few minutes, then up to Koepelhal again in time for The Terminal stage to open. The sign above, “Roadburn welcomes you,” outside as you walk up to the building. Trying to breathe that in slowly.

I haven’t decided yet how I’m going to format the next few days of writing. Might just make words? Crazy thought, I know. The festival starts in about 15 minutes and I can feel it in my nervous blood. Slow down the brain, remember where you are. This used to be easier. Was never as easy as the check-in this morning. I’ll get the camera out in a bit. Fidget fidget. Are the batteries in of course the batteries are in. That kind of thing.

Lights come down, room fills up. The space is set up differently than last time I was here. I like that as a running theme. For what it’s worth — and in my estimation, that’s just about everything — I do feel welcome, and have since the moment I ran into Walter yesterday n the hotel lobby and ended up sitting down to the end of breakfast. I like that as a running theme as well.

Okay, Roadburn. Let’s see how this goes.

Hexvessel are a quintessential Roadburn band in my mind, and yes that’s a compliment. They were doing last year’s black-metal-adjacent Polar Veil (review here) in full, and thinking about past times I’ve seen them here, it brings to mind how broad their scope has been but how each whim they follow is wrapped around an organic core of craft whether it’s woods-worship folk mourning, dark post-punk, psych-pop experimentalism or the blend of melody and char of this latest work. The fact that you don’t know what’s coming next until it’s happened, and Hexvessel 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)the way they bring everything they do into their sphere rather than playing to style — whatever style — makes them a fitting lead-in for who knows what the next few days will bring. I watched the whole set.

Sunrise Patriot Motion were going on 10 minutes later in the Engine Room, which is right next door to the Terminal, so I sauntered over, casual-like, to check out an act I knew nothing about but had heard were cool. Not quite as sad as Crippled Black Phoenix, but a not-dissimilar feel in their post-everything-but-not-too-cool-for-their-owm-songs approach, the keyboard probably more prominent for where I was standing and the vocals blown out to add some rawness to the gothy vibe. I don’t know where they’re from but their music is English as fuck. Beacon, New York. The lineup is half of Yellow Eyes, I’m told. Fair enough. Knowing the actual geography, I couldn’t help but hear some Type O in their slower parts, but I admit that’s more in my head than in their sound.

Some quickly fixed technical hiccup and they were back at it with little actual momentum disruption. Apparently it was their first show ever. Hope the second one lives up. They finished 37 minutes into a 40-minute slot and with a half-hour before Body Void back over in The Terminal — which is the bigger of the two connected Koepelhal spaces — I sat in back and purposefully let myself be in no rush to anywhere. Someone offered me beer as they were walking by — I guess I happened to be in the path of their generosity — but I don’t drink, so politely declined. When I was just about the last one in the Engine Room who wasn’t breaking down the stage, I decided to go find some water. I don’t know if it’ll last, but I like my low key approach so far. In my head, I’m calling it Freeburn as of like 30 seconds ago.Sunrise Patriot Motion (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Emphasis on ‘burn’ there as regards Body Void, who in performing their Atrocity Machine LP in full set alight grind and caustic sludge for a feedback and noise-drenched onslaught of extreme, churning disaffection. Harsh harsh harsh, but, you know, they’re probably super-nice people. I didn’t get mean vibes certainly as their bassist took a couple selfies during one of the breaks in the songs. Laced with synth for further noise drench, thudding with a pulse you could feel in the side of your head, and with screams cutting through to offer no comfort whatsoever, they were brutally life-affirming, a wave of self-declarative volume, music wielded as expression of self coincidental to self-expression. To call it inviting would be to undercut just how far they were pushing limits, so I’ll say that there was room for everybody in that slaughterhouse of sound.

A quick stop to see Andreas Kohl at his Exile on Mainstream both, big hugs, then walked back behind the warded off doings of the Koepelhal, took a cup from an errant pot of coffee, heard something like somebody sawing through metal — no competition for Body Void — and ended up by the art show space and re-met Maarten Donders, bought a couple prints from Vince “Cavum” Trommel, who had an 1860s printing press ready for a workshop tomorrow. Outside briefly and over to Hall of Fame for the start of Seán Mulrooney, 5:10PM in a deceptively quick passage of time for the day. People, places, music. Vibe is on. It’s one to the next, but the resonance of Mulrooney intoning “Slow down, do what you want” from Tau and the Drones of Praise’s “The Sixth Sun” might just be the key to my time here. I know enough now to know this might not come again. I never took Roadburn for granted, but I’ve missed it more than I understood, and maybe more than I wanted to understand.

I damn near wept as Mulrooney — who’s the type Body Void (Photo by JJ Koczan)of hippie folk troubadour that just might make a chorus out of the single word “osmosis” — brought out “Seanóirí Naofa” and “Ceol ón Chré,” fronting a four-piece solo-band built up around the initial duo of himself switching between guitar and piano with a stompbox for percussion along with standup bass. He’d get get to electric guitar in his time, but it was a quiet start that grew more outwardly vibrant, as he said it would. But while he wasn’t onstage alone by any means, it was his first solo show performed under his own name, and I sincerely doubt it will be the last. The crowd knew the Tau stuff, as they would given that the band played here, did the Roadburn Redux thing that non-year, etc., but if it seems like a stark contrast going from Body Void to Seán Mulrooney, he was no less a realization than they were, just working from a different point of view. Maybe I don’t have to tell you that.

Was hit by the old you-need-to-go-write itch as I stood there on front of the Hall of Fame stage, and I almost heeded it, but stopped myself before actually leaving my spot. That’s not how we’re doing Freeburn. Me and that bird that pecks at my compulsive brain with its gotta-remove-myself-from-a-thing-before-I-actually-start-enjoying-it beak go back a long way, but I’m glad it’s a habit I’m trying to break. If I only succeed in doing so one time this weekend, I’m glad it was for Mulrooney’s set, but his was the third full set of the day I saw, and that’s more than I’ve done in entire years at Roadburn.

A few more hellos en route to the fourth, which was Inter Arma back at The Terminator — that’s an autocorrect typo, but I’m leaving it because Inter Arma are nothing if not cybernetic organisms from the future sent to undo history by killing us all — as they presented their yet-unreleased New Heaven LP, which is out next week on Relapse. I’ve heard the record, in all its sweltering progressive death metal dissonance and encompassing crush, but they are aSean Mulrooney (Photo by JJ Koczan) particular beast live and I’ve put off really digging in until I saw it in-person. They should be playing art galleries, and not just for the theremin, but close enough at Koepelhal.

Every now and then they still lock in a doom groove, but they’ve been in obvious pursuit of their own thing as they’ve grown darker, more vicious and experimental in terms of their willingness to fuck around stylistically. Their last record was 2019’s Sulphur English (review here), and between you and me, I thought that was as far as they could go, but I’d sat down along the wall to write and stood back up when the harmonized leads and cleaner vocals — later on, they’d get Nick Cavey with voice and piano — started. So is New Heaven it? Maybe. Hell if I know, but I can’t think of anyone else who does what they do better, in, out or around progressive death metal, though I acknowledge I’m no expert. At the very least, it’s a new mark on their forward path, another reach into the threatening, staring-back void, and definitely enough to flatten an audience in the Netherlands most of whom haven’t heard it yet, so take it as you will.

I ate before the day started, finishing off the last of a half-pint of home-ground almond and pecan butter I brought with me, but hydrating had been trickier. I ran into Dennis and Jevin from Temple Fang, as well as Rolf from Stickman Records, saw Désirée from Lay Bare and chatted briefly, said hi to Jurgen from Burning World, hugged Amy Johnson, all of whom are very kind, nice people I’m glad to know. It had been posted on social media as well, but the Temple Fang guys let me know that Heath were doing a secret show at the skate park at 9:40, and my night got immediately more complex. They were on their way here or there, to piss first, I believe, so I hung back and by 8PM I could feel myself needing water if not more calorically complex sustenance. The line at the bar in the Engine Room meant it would have to wait until after I got whatever photos of White Ward I could and their set was properly underway. The Ukrainian black metallers have been four years in the making for Roadburn between the plague and the Russian invasion, and I didn’t want to miss it. I took my pictures, got two waters from the bar — however much they cost it was worth it — and was in much better spirits after for the scathing black metal catharsis that ensued, like tearing off your flesh to let your soul go. All that tension and release. Next time they’re here, and I have to imagine there will be one, they’ll probably play the main stage.

They took the stage as a four-piece and mentioned it was because one of their members had joined the military. I don’t know if that was voluntary or conscription, but it brought the ongoing conflict in and for White Ward’s home country into the room — it was there anyway — and showed it’s real for them in a way war never has been for me as an American.Inter Arma (Photo by JJ Koczan) War is a thing that happens elsewhere, exclusively, though there’s never a lack of random violence, whether repressive in nature or the woefully normalized mass shootings. In any case, despite being down a member, White Ward shredded the Engine Room into little tiny pieces with glorious intensity that extended even to the sampled sax over some of the songs, the piano, spoken sampling and such and sundry added to their core fury. Once again, I watched the full fucking set. I hope I do this all weekend.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but my heart said that going to see Heath at the skate park was a probably-once-in-a-lifetime chance and that even though I’d miss Chelsea Wolfe to do it — Roadburn means hard choices — I’d already had my one-per with Chelsea Wolfe, albeit brief, watching her and the band rehearse the night before in a group of five people in a room that holds well over a thousand, all that empty space filled with sound. So when White Ward finished, I made a right turn out of Koepelhal to get to the Hall of Fame, and from there, asked a helpful security guy where to go. Sure enough, the skatepark was closed but the doors had ‘there’s something secret happening here’ printed on them. A small group of people had gathered, and a couple minutes later we were let inside.

White Ward (Photo by JJ Koczan)Secret shows have become a Roadburn tradition, like commissioned pieces, the side programme, full-album sets. It’s part of the thing. There were three tonight, between Backxwash on the main stage at the 013 — a big deal — and Heath and Ontaard at the skate park. Like everything, there are arguments for and against the notion, but they add a chance for intimacy at an event where every room you stand in is most likely to be slammed with people, so I’ll take it when I can get it. And bonus, Heath were a hoot.

Some shuffle here, some grassy, pastoral psychedelia there, and a lot of classic prog rhythms topped off with in-on-the-jams harmonica from their frontman, who can both sing and keep up with the twisting riffs throughout their songs. Their debut album, Isaak’s Marble, is out next month. I’ll be interested to see how it’s received, but the songs, energy and spirit are there, and they looked like they were having fun playing the material live, whether it was breaking out the mallets for the drums, putting effects on the harmonica for the psych parts, trading solos between the two guitars or the builds and runs on bass. Fiery at their most upbeat, trance-inducing in their atmospheric stretches; I found myself recognizing parts from the record, which was even more encouraging, and digging the fact that they had more going for them as regards character than being young. Potential for growth and more than a little boogie to boot. There weren’t 100 people in the room, and I was very, very glad to be one of them.

They’re a band to tell your friends about,Heath (Photo by JJ Koczan) so here’s me telling you about them. None of the singles on their Bandcamp are on the album, which is on Suburban Records, but the title-track is on YouTube here. Happy travels.

I could’ve kept going after they finished — say it with me now: “I watched the whole set” — but it would’ve been an uphill push and that’s not the Freeburn way. I got back to the hotel a bit before 11, a little over 12 hours from when I left in the morning. Roadburn day one was a reminder of how special this time is to me, and I’m thankful to be here to be reminded. Thank you for reading. Sorry for the writing-on-my-phone typos.

More photos after the jump.

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Roadburn 2024: Travel & Ignition

Posted in Features on April 18th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Sonja at Ignition Roadburn 2024

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

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

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

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

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

Later, After Ignition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flying Out to Roadburn 2024

Posted in Features on April 16th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

View from gate

04.16.24 – 2:18PM EST – Tue. – JFK International Airport

Two hours to get to JFK, another three-plus before the flight takes off if it does so on time. Two snacky packs of almonds to my name and a bottle of water I filled from the fountain that just kind of dumps it on your hand. New Ufomammut on. I’m flying to Roadburn this evening. I’ll fucking live.

This is my first time making this trip in five years. Granted, plague, but still. I barely remember 2019 — to wit, I couldn’t tell you if I flew out of Newark or Boston to get to the Netherlands that long-ass half-decade ago, from which you’d be correct in extrapolating that I can’t remember when we moved back to New Jersey full-time. I could probably go back and look. Hang on. Boston. I flew back there as well, apparently. Wonder when I moved?

Doesn’t matter.

I have a pretty broad swath of memories of Roadburn from 2009 to 2019, almost all of them positive, so if you were to ask me what I’m nervous about, putting aside the general anxiety that goes with flying and/or leaving the house on any given early afternoon, I’m not sure I’d have a response for you. I had a telehealth — god I hate that word, but on the other hand, who wants to go to a doctor’s office ever — appointment with my neurologist yesterday. She told me to meditate, to work through things from my past that I feel like have held me back in the present, to rewrite my own narratives of my life. I’ve never been able to keep my mind still long enough to actually meditate, and I may or may not give it an earnest try — sitting still and concentrating on your breath is pretty low risk if you’re worried about broken bones; the only real risk is feeling silly to myself, which is a sad-boy narrative in itself worth revision — but it’s a wicked idea. She also once recommended I try faking it till I make it as regards mental wellbeing, so there you go.

But Roadburn became a home to me for those years. By 2017, 2018, I would get off the plane at Schiphol, walk right down to where the car pickup was, get my ride and roll out to the fest, like clockwork. In 2018, I ended up on a bus with at least 80 percent of the San Diego heavy psych scene that was playing. Earthless weren’t there, but many acolytes and others for sure were. Stoner brodown, that was. But that I remember. And getting out of the van at the 013, walking over to the hotel, feeling the fresh air on my face and knowing that I was where I belonged — I guess maybe what I’m nervous about is not feeling that. What if I go to Roadburn and it doesn’t feel like home?

And while I deep dive into feeling silly for tearing up as I sit at the gate for my flight — that’s B24, a 5:35PM departure; heads up, there might not be wifi on the flight because of a technical difficulty, which is always what you want to be reading about concerning the plane you’re boarding — thinking about feeling rudderless over the next five days, I’ll offer myself the small consolation of the different Roadburn experience I’ve planned out for myself.

To explain: You may or may not know this, but I’ve done a decent amount of writing and editing for the festival. Not band blurbs or such; I’m nowhere near knowledgeable or cool enough for that. But social media posts, copy editing, that kind of thing. I have a casual voice in writing — just might say fuck in a given sentence, though I try to temper it in RB stuff because they’re classy like that — so it makes sense and I’m happy to contribute anywhere and anytime I am asked.

In one of the texts I was editing for Roadburn 2024 — I don’t know which one it was — it was talking about “don’t have a plan.” Go to Roadburn and just roll through. Honey, you should’ve seen me clutching my pearls. No plan? Are you mad??? I’m supposed to go to Roadburn and, what, improv it through the day? Sounds like a good way to miss some once-in-a-lifetime shit, no? Well, Roadburn-proper is four days after the pre-show tomorrow night — it’s called ‘Ignition’ now — and for at least the last 15 years, it’s been a choose-your-adventure kind of fest. Between a packed schedule, limited human energy resources, and the basic needs to tend to same as regards sleep, sustenance, etc., you have to pinpoint where you want to be and when you want to be there.

Want to get up front in the Green Room? Last I checked that meant you wanted to get there before the act on stage before the band you want to see finishes, then move up when whatever portion of their crowd clears out. Taking photos meant camping out a lot for me in years past.

This year, my mission is less. Not less fest, but less internalized worry. I’ll get where I’m getting, I’ll get the shots I’m gonna get, but if that’s behind some seven-foot Dutch dude and his seven-foot special lady, fuck it. For years I’d break my ass trying to put myself in a spot to take a picture without someone’s head at the bottom of it. Maybe this year I’ll back up and get the crowd in the shot too. You see what I mean? I’m trying to make my life easier.

And as regards no plan? Well that’s really, really scary, isn’t it? I don’t think I can do it, but that very feeling of not being able to let go of some sense of control over the situation — because make no mistake, that’s what it’s about — has inspired me just the same to ease up a bit. Maybe I’ll watch more bands than I used to, maybe fewer. But maybe I’ll let myself enjoy it more. Just stand for a few minutes in the volume of a thing. I want to try that. Feels bigger in my head than it looks in writing, but that’s what I’ve got.

Here are the day schedules for Roadburn 2024:

Thursday, April 18

Roadburn 2024 Thursday schedule

Friday, April 19

Roadburn 2024 Friday schedule

Saturday, April 20

Roadburn 2024 Saturday schedule

Sunday, April 21

Roadburn 2024 Sunday schedule

Couple early starts, between Hexvessel doing Polar Veil on Thursday and Darsombra on Friday, but screw it. I have a few landmarks I know I want to see — clipping. and Khante, Dool, The Keening, Tusmørke, at least part of Heath and both The Bevis Frond and The Jesus and Mary Chain among them — but that’s still nowhere near the down-to-every-fifth-minute planning I’ve done for Roadburns past, so I do feel like there’s some letting go happening. I don’t know that I could ever do an easy-breezy no-plan RB, but I don’t think that’s an invalid approach just because I’m too uptight to live by it for a weekend.

If you keep up over the next couple days, thank you. If you read any of this, either right now or ever, thanks for that too. Once I actually get on the plane — it’s here now, wasn’t when I started this — and do that eight hours of time, get to Tilburg and maybe dare to sleep for a couple hours, I’m going to try to have a good time, to not leave the festival even more exhausted than I was when I got there. This is my break, after all. Maybe it’s time to stop thinking of The Obelisk as work and remember that the reason I spend so much of my time doing this in the first place is that I fucking love it. God damn I hope I can make that true by the time Monday comes around and I fly back home.

That’s where I’m at. Thanks again for reading.

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Roadburn 2024 Completes Band Lineup; Pre-Show Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 27th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

I had already nestled into my not-going-to-Roadburn-this-year melancholy, but a couple weeks ago, I actually got invited to go. And I’m going. It’ll be my first time in Tilburg since 2019, my first Roadburn of the post-pandemic heaviness-redefining era, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Not knowing most of the artists isn’t a big deal — Roadburn delights in ground-floor introductions and is happy to make them without judgement — but I’ll be in a place that I used to very much think of as a kind of home for the first time in five years. What if it doesn’t feel like home anymore?

I have no logical answer for why it wouldn’t — usually an invitation is a decent sign you’re wanted somewhere, and I’ll say outright that neither the Roadburn Festival as an entity nor any individual or group involved with it has any need of me there — I edited the daily fest ‘zine for years with Lee from The Sleeping Shaman, but that’s long gone and I figured I was with it. Even having that as a place to contribute felt pretty tertiary to the experience of being there, but it was part of the thing. Do you think they’d still let me in the 013 office at 10AM each morning to drink coffee and shoot the shit? Yeah, probably not.

It will be an adventure in where-to-put-myself, but Roadburn‘s got pockets for even the most misanthropic of us to dwell for a few days, and I know once I get there and the music starts everything will be okay. I very much look forward to that. Thank you Roadburn for having me.

Their latest announcement follows. Also note that Inter Arma, whose New Heaven LP was announced today, were already confirmed to play the album in full at Roadburn 2024:

Roadburn 2024

Roadburn adds 16 new names to the 2024 lineup including King Yosef, Lord Spikeheart, HIDE, Brigid Mae Power, Hilary Woods and more

Roadburn has today announced the final names for the main musical programme of the 2024 edition of the festival. The festival’s side programme, art exhibitions and Paradox jazz club artists are still to be announced for the festival, which will take place between 18-21 April in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Roadburn’s artistic director, Walter Hoeijmakers, comments:
The line-up for Roadburn 2024 is finally complete. We are immensely proud of the diverse array of artists that we have gathered, and we feel that we are channeling past, present and future artistically, musically and spiritually. We can’t wait to explore and discover everything that is in store and celebrate our beloved underground together with all of you.

Brigid Mae Power will deliver alchemical incantations and dreamy folk-pop melodies.

Channeling intensity and vulnerability, deathcrash’s slowcore will be a welcome addition.

Fear Falls Burning will premiere new music in the form of their new album, The Principle Flaw.

Gros Coeur are set to bring a psychedelic rainbow of sound to Roadburn.

With a new album on the way, Habitants will make their Roadburn debut this year.

Den Haag’s Heath promise “odd time signatures, blazing harmonica and hypnotic guitars” and more!

HIDE will bring their uncompromising live performance to Roadburn for the first time.

Fresh from the success of her latest release, Acts of Light, Hilary Woods will perform at Roadburn 2024.

Bringing a heady blend of industrial noise, hip hop to Roadburn is King Yosef.

Lord Spikeheart will make his Roadburn debut as a solo artist, performing music from his brand new album.

Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys have been highly praised for their live show which will make its way to Roadburn this April.

Tilburg’s own Mirusi Mergina will present an experimental mix of whispers and soundscapes.

Neptunian Maximalism will present their ambitious and expansive new album Le Sacre Du Soleil Invaincu.

Having previously performed at Roadburn with his band, Tau and the Drones of Praise, Seán Mulrooney will return for a solo performance.

The Infinity Ring will head to Europe for the first time and perform at Roadburn 2024.

Throwing Bricks seek to find joy in heaviness and combine elements of punk, black metal, screamo and sludge.

The Spark, Roadburn’s Wednesday night pre-festival party, was recently announced featuring performances from Final Gasp, Sonja, and Riot City.

The above artists join a line-up that includes The Jesus And Mary Chain, Khanate, Chelsea Wolfe, Lankum, Clipping., Blood Incantation, Health, Royal Thunder, Hexvessel, Dool, Inter Arma, Agriculture, Fluisteraars, and many, many more. More artists will be announced in the coming weeks. For all information including tickets, please visit

Gros Coeur, Gros Disque (2023)

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Roadburn 2024 Announces 20+ Bands Including The Keening, DOOL, Inter Arma and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Behold RoadburnRoadburning. Full-album performances, commissioned pieces, whatever the hell Xiu Xiu have going on I guess ever, and a glut of names you either know and are stoked on or don’t know and will likely see on festival bills throughout Europe for the next however many years.

Inter Arma have a new record called New Heaven that doesn’t have a release date yet that I’ve seen but that they’re slated to perform. They, like The Keening, come from the roster of Relapse Records, and The Keening will also have a full album performance for their debut, Little Bird (review here) (they’ll meet up on tour with Bell Witch shortly after; Bell Witch also play Roadburn, likely the first day given tour routing). Grails and Dool also feature, and there are special performances from Die Wilde Jagd, Couch Slut, Verwoed and Void ov Voices, and frankly the fact that White Ward can make it out of Ukraine to play at all should be considered one as well.

More than you could ever hope to fully experience in a span of four days and still just a fraction of what’s actually on offer. As I said in the first sentence: Roadburn, Roadburning. Creative director Walter posted the following on socials. There was a PR wire thing too, but this is a little simpler and I helped edit his quote, so I’ve got it there for posterity for myself as well. If you want more info on any of the below, you know how to use the internet. I’m sure the PR is out there.


Roadburn 2024 poster

With this announcement, it all starts to come together. Artistically and musically, we are connecting dots between artists, genres, and audiences. We’re drawing lines between new and exciting bands and Roadburn veterans, attendees new and old. But the key is connection and inclusion. We are finally aligning all the creative elements with which we have been building Roadburn 2024.

These latest additions are instrumental in creating the communal joy of exploration we hope to foster in this year’s Roadburn.

Twenty two names have been added to the Roadburn 2024 line up today:

Angry Blackman
arms and sleepers
Couch Slvt performing You Could Do It Tonight
Death Goals
DOOL performing The Shape of Fluidity
Fluisteraars presents: Manifestaties van de Ontworteling
Inter Arma performing New Heaven
John Francis Flynn
Kavus Torabi
Spill Gold
The Keening performing Little Bird
Verwoed performing The Mother
Void Ov Voices presents Roadburn to Sungate
Xiu Xiu presents The police bear such resemblance to those they pursue

Stay tuned for more line up announcements – including our free Wednesday night pre-festival warm up show.
For all info and tickets head to

Inter Arma, “The Atavist’s Meridian” official video

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