ROADBURN FESTIVAL 19th – 22nd April 2018 Tilburg, Netherlands
DAY FOUR – Sunday 22nd
Bands seen: Vánagandr: Sól án várma, Bell Witch, Wiegedood, Zonal ft. Moor Mother, Alda, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Hail Spirit Noir
And so, the final festival day has slowly crept in on us. Or, depending on how you perceive it, really fast. It’s strange how the first 48h at Roadburn usually feel like they’re lasting forever and then suddenly everything speeds up. You wake up one morning and suffer a minor panic attack upon realization it’s already Sunday, the last day to see the bands. This is, at least, how my every Roadburn Sunday morning looks like, year after year.
This Sunday, I was intent on taking it easy. The utmost priority was the second of specially commissioned pieces for Roadburn entitled Sól án várma (‘sun without radiance’) performed on Main Stage by members of MisÞyrming, Svartidauði, Naðra and Wormlust. Having a completely lukewarm reaction to ‘Hieros Gamos’ (NyiÞ/Wormlust collaboration) on Saturday and seeing only the last 15 minutes of the now legendary Úlfsmessa couple of years back, I truly didn’t want to miss this opportunity. Attendees were greeted in the hallway by venue staff giving away black booklets embellished with intricate cover designed by Costin Chioreanu. Inside, the pages contained the programme (song parts titled Afbrigði I to XI), list of musicians (initials) and sigils. It was a really nice touch and I kept it as a memorabilia item too. Even though the show started rolling out pretty slowly and atmospheric, with each new segment the music and ambiance were gaining momentum, beautifully accompanied by a mesmerizing animated backdrop showing various degrees of the glowing sun and solar material arching up and out (I think). The combo came across as very ominous, borderline hostile even, but once sucked in the whirlwind of chaos and darkness oozing through each and every riff, it was almost impossible to let go. Just like with Waste of Space Orchestra, it would be a total shame not to have this performance released in some format. It was brilliant!
I never thought I would see anything like Zonal and Moor Mother on the Main Stage at Roadburn, but that actually happened too. For the first time ever at this festival, I went up to the back of the venue and sat down to watch. The stage was mostly dark save for the occasional red or blue light outbursts and generous amounts of smoke. Not seeing much meant listening more attentively. Moor Mother was delivering her lines with sharp precision while ‘dat bass’ was having a run in with every nook and cranny of my innards. Whatever I was watching afterwards just paled in comparison and couldn’t live up to the intensity of the earlier performances. As far as I was concerned, this was the culmination of the closing day.
Zonal ft. Moor Mother
Reminiscing on the past few days of the festival, I came to conclusion that this year was, in many ways, my personal favourite. Not only cos of the immensity of the bands and genres on display and singular performances to choose from, but also because I’ve decided to take a bit of a care of myself. I learned to sit down, eat and actually allowing for time to eat (still feeling guilty about it cos every minute eating meant a minute less of music), have a couple of drinks with friends and take a breather. Finally, after such a long time, I grabbed the opportunity to try the highly coveted ice-cream on the intersection of Spoorlaan and Heuvelring, and went back twice more. Having two new venues further apart from the ‘base’ also meant more walking and more chances to explore the hood on the other side of the train tracks. I was hanging around the merch area which probably tripled in its size this year, checking all the goodies and the Full Bleed exhibition right next to it. I also got to see one of the panel talks (Black Metal & Brews). All in all, I didn’t have more time than before, but the difference was that I’ve used that time in a more thoughtful way. I still cannot help guilt-tripping about not seeing some of the performances, but those thoughts are slowly being replaced by contentment for those that have been witnessed.
Hail Spirit Noir
To wrap things up, I wanted to offer a couple of closing thoughts and observations. One thing that painfully stood out this year was the somewhat inefficient crowd control. Roadburn seems to be hosting more and more visitors each year and to facilitate the large numbers of guests in attendance, smooth transitions from venue to venue, the available entrance/exits points should be accessible and a priority. In 013, for around 90% of the festival, the exit doors straight onto V39 were not being used. The crowds had to go all the way back to the main (and only) entrance (now also exit), clashing constantly with rivers of people flowing both in and out at any given time. On occasions, the side (hallway) entrance to the Green Room was also completely shut with prominent signage warding off, forcing the crowds to try to come in from the tiny entrance at the back of the venue. If you’ve ever tried to get into the Green Room, you know how important those side doors are, both to get in or out. The same with new venues, one single and the same entrance/exit while, at least in Koepelhal, there were additional exits available sideways and they were never used. For example, getting out of the Koepelhal from the photo pit, during Damo Suzuki /Earthless’ jam-packed show, took me around ten minutes (!!) as I had to go all the way to the back of the venue again to get out. All the pushing, nudging and elbowing for four days was truly unnecessary, especially when we all know that there are additional doors, doors which have been used pretty successfully in the past. It is also a safety concern, so here’s to hope this issue will be better handled next time.
Another observation has to do with the beloved zine, Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. Usually, printed in very small batches, there was often a bit of a competition to get in early in order to secure your copy for the day. This year they seemed to be everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE! So much so that they were mostly found lying on the street stretching from 013 to the train station, pieces and pages of WCD being unceremoniously butchered and left to rot. That was a sorry, heartbreaking sight…
As ever, nothing would be possible without the never-ending dedication and artistic vision of Walter and Becky, supported by the fantastic, sometimes invisible, but not less important, crew behind the festival. I want to use the opportunity to acknowledge and thank you all for your selfless work. See you again next year!