Text & Photos: Kris T. Therrian / 17 seconds photography
ROADBURN 2017: 20th – 23rd APRIL, Tilburg, Netherlands
I can honestly admit that the only time of year that I like more than winter is the month of April – or, more precisely, the month of Roadburn. Even though I keep an eye out year round, anticipating the band and program announcements, it’s past my birthday in February that the excitement really kicks in and I think to myself – man, this is really happening, I’m going to Roadburn. And the backward countdown begins.
There’s hardly anyone who by now hasn’t heard about this legendary festival, but if you are one of those, and if you’re interested in coming over to Tilburg, you can find all the info and practicalities explained on their website to help you sort out the logistics, as I won’t be covering those topics here.
Usually, one of the best things about Roadburn is walking into a random venue and discovering an awesome band you knew nothing about playing a set of their lifetime. I’ve come across some incredible acts over the years by doing just that. However, it would also inevitably happen that in hindsight, upon returning back home, I’d realize there were ‘other’ even more sick bands I would’ve loved to see if only I knew… So for that reason alone, I decided for the first time ever to actually check some of the bands beforehand, and boy oh boy did that add to the pressure.
The moment the running order was released, there were already clashes and ‘must-see’ bands overlapping, add to it the newly discovered ‘would-be-amazing-to-see’ bands and your head is spinning. But hey, that’s Roadburn for you.
DAY ONE – Thursday
Breathe in. Breathe out. After an almost disastrous start of the day 2000km away from NL with flights first being cancelled, then rebooked, some nine hours later I finally made it to Tilburg, and I head on into the festival.
Running late and deciding ad-hoc between doors to the left and doors to the right, I took left for the Main Stage and Crippled Black Phoenix who were just starting. A couple of songs in I realized they weren’t really resonating with me, so I took right to Ash Borer, who were delivering the last two songs of what seemed to be a very charged yet captivating and merciless black metal set. Bummed for seeing the end of it, I made a mental note to catch these guys again somewhere in near future. Shortly afterwards, it was time for Alaric to take over the same stage. From the moment I heard that bass and the brooding guitar melody on ‘Mirror’ from their latest album, that was it – I had to see this band. The sheer magnitude and crushing intensity of the performance had me glued to the spot until the very end.
SubRosa laid Het Patronaat to ashes last time I saw them. This year they returned to perform two distinct sets, one of them being their newest output For This We Fought the Battle of Ages played in its entirety on the Main Stage. There’s something out-of-worldly about this band that leaves me dumbfounded and staring in disbelief every time. It’s impossible to say if it’s the passionate performance, mesmerizing stage presence, sheer emotion in their music or all these things and more combined. One thing’s for sure, I keep coming back for more. After such an uplifting experience, Unearthly Trance were somewhat of a sober downer and it was hard to appreciate the bleakness and heaviness of their sludge, so I moved to Het Patronaat where the stage for Rome was being set to the tunes of chansons françaises. It was Jerome’s debut at Roadburn and there couldn’t have been a better setting for his mellow voice and soothing ballads which transfixed the audience.
However, something entirely different was cooking up back on the Main Stage, where the air was infused with excitement and nerve-wrecking anticipation of Wolves In The Throne Room’s long overdue appearance. Although no strangers to Roadburn, it took them five long years to come out of hibernation and get back to Europe. The hypnotic performance was enshrouded in generous veils of smoke and low lights throughout the playlist which closed off with ‘I Will Lay Down My Bones…’. Definitely one of personal highlights this year.
Next stop was a truly legendary outfit fronted by a mysterious wicked woman whose legacy spawned a number of equally remarkable bands throughout the decades and still continues to do so. Even more remarkable was the fact that this was Coven‘s first ever show in Europe and definitely an extraordinary, probably once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness them in flesh. I found out only by chance during the day that Jinx pulled off a Diamanda Galás and photographing the show was only allowed for the select few so I opted for the spot in the middle of the venue to enjoy the show. Only later have I heard that the security didn’t get the memo, the photo-pit ended up being packed and you can guess twice who’s the loser that followed the rules and ended up having two (yes, t.w.o.) shots from the distance (shout out to JJ of The Obelisk who’s feeling me right now). Either way, Coven were fantastically groovy and fun to watch. It was a bit surprising they didn’t go all out on this one considering how elaborate their live shows were back in the day but it was all blissful nevertheless.
In principle, I’ll support any band that raises those orthodox elitist musical eyebrows, therefore Deafheaven was a must see, not least because everyone raved about their memorable theatrical live shows. However, all ‘controversy’ and aggression aside, I couldn’t really go past the shrieking. They played some new tunes, but the audience seemed to respond better to the material from Sunbather.
And thus ended the inaugural festival day.