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2017-04-30

#LBS 17|52 - blurwood


Today is world pinhole photography day, so I filled the last frames of a film I already had in my Holga WPC last weekend. And since I hadn't shot any Lensbaby pictures this week yet I got to do that as well. But yes, that's really the whole "story" here. Sorry.



2017-04-29

ROADBURN Festival 2017 • DAY ONE: Thursday, April 20th

- Roadburn destroys minds and will not play Stonehenge again -


Coven

Unlike the last two years, my Roadburn Festival didn't start with the "Hard Rock Hideout" warm-up concert in the Cul de Sac this time. So if I would have been travelling directly from home, I had surely missed the beginning of the festival in the early afternoon. Luckily my trip began in Cologne, where I had attended a concert of the divine Laibach on Wednesday.

So the day was supposed to start smoothly. Since I had enough time on the way, I didn't have breakfast in my hotel, which I wasn't the biggest fan of anyway. (the specific hotel, not breakfast in general)
My not so favourable impression was confirmed, when the receptionist tried to charge me for the parking spot - which I had already paid for the day before. "This is always paid at the check-out."

Happy to leave the place my navigation system managed to curb my enthusiasm after not even five minutes, when I was stuck behind the litter service in a street, where road works slowed their work down so heavily that I stood there for fifteen minutes.

Apart from that I only had one bigger jam near Eindhoven and was still too early for my planned check-in in my Oisterwijk hotel (twenty minutes from the 013), so I made a spontanous detour to shoot some film photographs at a special place I won't spoil here for my revived "Scissorisms" series.


Fast-forward to about 2:30 PM I was in the center of Tilburg, my festival wristband on, full Roadburn mode. Bring it on, Walter!

And of course the party began with a huge clash, as four bands, which were all marked as interesting on my running order kicked it all off at the same time.
At least this first collision wasn't nearly as painful for me as several other who would occur during the following days. And I had already made up my mind. I wanted to start slowly - and I generally wanted to spend more time in front of the small Extase stage, were I had only caught one band (NYIÞ) last year. So why not start Roadburn in the music bar right away?


Musicians playing a festival in the afternoon on stage 4 (of 5) will probably always be thankful for every single person who finds his way to their show. So if they were opening Roadburn in front of a half-empty room any smaller band on the billing would surely still be happy. But of course many hungry music lovers were already in town, and those not attending the parallel shows of Crippled Black Phoenix, Wretch or Ashborer were still enough to guarantee a filled location for Lycus.

Lycus

Bleak, sad and slow. Along with maximum guttural death metal vocals and this certain underlying beauty below the crushing mountain above, Lycus checked all the boxes for funeral doom with a big black marker. It was like a slightly "faster" version of Bell Witch with a more traditional line-up. Add to this some black metal influences and you find yourself immediately sucked into the Roadburn world with the familiar question: So many bands and artist - and you're beginning with something already this good?

Lycus made their genre proud and when they finished after only a few of their long and epic compositions I couldn't believe that a full fifty minutes set had passed.


My next appointment was in the Green Room, the smaller stage in the 013 Poppodium itself, with a band I wasn't really sure if I would like them or not.

But before that there was still enough time to catch about one and a half songs of the ongoing Crippled Black Phoenix show on the main stage. 


Crippled Black Phoenix

There were a lot of people on stage and appearantly new lead singers were brought in for different songs, but I really haven't seen enough to give any qualified description of this performance.
From the small window of floydish tunes I had peaked through it seemed to be like an alternative Anathema from another universe I could actually like. Like as in "like a lot".

Yet for the moment I wanted to get a good spot in the Green Room, where I watched maybe half of the set of Alaric.


Alaric

Today I'm still not sure if or how much I really like the band.

The music was fine, some kind of psychedelic post punk with Killing Joke vibes, which could capture me in parts, but in the big picture I somehow missed, what was the point about it, where it was leading. And nothing tangible really stuck from this show afterwards.


To be fair: Maybe that is because my mind was already in the main hall, where one of my favorite albums of 2016 was about to be played in its entirety. I'm the crazy guy who last year sold his King Crimson ticket to attend a show of Subrosa with Sinistro, so seeing the grand dystopian concept work "For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages" surely was among my A-list priorities of this weekend.


Subrosa


And oh boy wasn't it beautiful? Even though I felt that a little bit of the emotion got lost in the pure vastness of the stage and hall, this was just a pure black majesty to behold.

One thing which I love about Subrosa as a live band is that even though their blend of sludgy doom, folk and gothic follows a very particular vision and has the conceptual fingerprints of front woman / guitarist Rebecca all over it - here is a five-piece group (also drums, bass and two violins) where you can truly sense a spirit of family and equal importance of everyone on stage.

As an addition they brought in a guest singer / flute player and even some more voices for the finale with the heartbreaking "Troubled Cells", which still is one of my favorite songs of recent times. And I was more than happy to finally hear it live.

Subrosa performing "For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages" was seventy minutes of bliss.


Pinkish Black

In german "rosa" is another expression for "pink", so it was quite a clever transition in my running order to return to the Extase for Pinkish Black. And right, there's also the thing that I had bought the synth/drums duo's album "Bottom Of The Morning" just a week or so before Roadburn and was indeed eager to experience the shine of the brown rainbow.

Their sound uniquely mashed dark Zombi synthwave with doomish and sludgy heaviness and slightly drugged up, detached vocals which sound as if german king of home organ comedy Mambo Kurt would actually try to sing seriously.
All in all Pinkish Black managed to keep the perfect balance between a certain humour in their concept and an undeniable drive which took over the whole room. Great band, great concert!


My body wasn't ready to stray from my planned running order yet. That's an exercise in letting go I only gradually get better in during the festival days. The first step probably is to except painful overlappings and leave even shows as befuddling as this of Pinkish Black after two thirds, because there are more unknown but promising experiences waiting on other stages.


Right here I'm speaking of Esben And The Witch in the Green Room. And an experience they truly were!


Esben And the Witch


When you're searching for Esben And The Witch on Youtube, you'll probably also find recommandations for artists like Darkher or fellow Roadburners Chelsea Wolfe or Emma Ruth Rundle, as they represent that same - stylistically very wide - new school of emotional, honest and kitsch-free singer/songwriter gothic.

You could also call them a heavily radioheadish rock group with some rough edges (maybe it was just the female bass player/singer tricking me, but sometimes I had to think of the surely much noisier Year Of The Cobra, who I had seen on the Hell Over Hammaburg festival last month), but no matter how you label their tightly delivered sound; what made the trio stand out on top of the flawless sound was the singing of Rachel Davies.
I can't even explain what the secret magical ingredient is that made me fall in love with this voice. But isn't exactly that the point of magic? To my great surprise and despite being unfamiliar with the songs I found this to be even more enchanting than the Subrosa show.

Thursday night was the only time I tried to put the shows I had seen into a ranking immediately afterwards in my hotel room. Esben And The Witch got the circle with the number 1 in it!



Coven

Coven


When a legendary band (in this case fully justified alone by introducing occultism and the devil horn symbol to popular music, as well as by heavily influencing generations after them, for example female-fronted groups like The Devil's Blood, Lucifer or Blood Ceremony), when such a cult group, that debuted it's first album almost half a century ago, but has been inactive for decades, returns to the stage and plays its first European show ever, you have to be prepared for the best - and for the worst.

The performance could be a fantastic celebration of undying classics. But it could also be a cringe-worthy embarrassment. Coven brilliantly managed to do both.

They were the only band I saw that closed the stage curtain before they began, only to unveil that there was a coffin standing in the center of the stage.
Well, I'm sure at that point everyone knew that the singer would step out of it. So there was really no need to drag that moment out with an intro that went on until eternity. Just be done with the gimmick and get on with it!
That goes especially if you need two stagehands to open the coffin and carry it away afterwards, and extra especially if you couldn't afford proper robes for those stagehands and also didn't rehearse the sequence with them. So there were these two poor souls totally failing to look dark and gloomy, standing there for painfully slowed down minutes, the guy reaching out and looking over to the drummer for a cue (No, not yet!) several times - and it totally prepared me for the show to go full Spinal Tap right from the get-go.

But when Jinx Dawson stepped out (at first with a mask, in the later run of the show switching to other accessories like a skull or a biker hat) and the band started with the first songs from "Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls" everything was more than fine.


Some of the tunes from the later albums sounded a little corny to me, but all in all the song material, which was performed mostly heavier than the original versions (but without slaughtering them) has aged astonishingly well.

The same of course goes for the (grand)mother of all rock temptresses Jinx Dawson. Since Coven released their debut in 1969 that woman is how old now? I had a coversation about the show the next day, where we agreed on almost everything but Jinx's voice, so this is not undisputed, but I had heard them in the car in the morning and was impressed how close she still came to her much younger self.

If I stopped the review here, it would have been all glorious and legendary.
And I won't say that it wasn't! But...

But there was still one big source of comedy gold... 



The band was obviously mostly comprising younger musicians. One of the two guitarists could be from the original old days, I'm not sure to be honest. What I do know is that his gear had some massive problems. The guitar went on/off throughout almost the whole show and you could tell that he understandably was pissed.

Who knows if he wanted to fix the problem off-stage or had given up, but at one point the man was just complete gone frome the stage for almost two songs.
This totally looked like Spinal Tap at the airforce base. Did we just witness a Tufnel-style on-stage breakup? I seriously deemed it possible. But then he finally returned - of course also in true Tap fashion right in time for the twin guitar harmony lead. Hilarious!


Like I said in the beginning: from the cringe to the divine this show just had it all. Utter brilliance!



When I went outside the 013 to see my first show in the church-turned-music-hall Het Patronaat it greeted me with a discouraging long line. Many visitors were interested in seeing what Dälek, the first hip hop group ever to perform at Roadburn, was about - and others where already standing there to see Batushka afterwards.

Knowing about the Oranssi Pazuzu situation from last year (when I had fortunately been in the building in time) I had already given up on those shows and planned otherwise. The doom of Bathsheba in the Cul de Sac seemed like a good option - until I realized how crowded the bar already was and that there was no way to get a good spot. So I went out of there again and headed back to the 013 to see either Scissorfight or Deafheaven.
But magically the Patronaat line had almost dissapeared by then. Huge miscalculation from my side appearantly. So up the stairs I went.


Dälek

I was very late for Dälek now, only catching the last one and half songs, and I immediately regretted my unnecessary odyssey before, because the beats and basses of this hip hop group droned thick and noisy as fuck. Only a brief glimpse at the audience and there wasn't a hint of doubt that this crew was in the right place here. Hell of a party!



Batushka


What better way to close a night in Het Patronaat than celebrating a dark mess. Chatting with two guys we soon discovered that we all shared a fond memory of last year's "Úlfsmessa", which had to come to mind with another group of masked and hooded figures awaiting us now.

Batushka from Poland are based on a very simple idea: mixing black metal with the chants and rituals of the Russian Orthodox Church. The lead singer is preaching and gesturing from a pulpit, accompanied by four choir singers. Quite a luxury given the financial realities of making music today, but all worth it.

The blasts and occasional Death Metal riffs were all on point, making this a splendidly brutal and majestic affair. Not a total highlight of the festival for me, since after two thirds (just like on their album "Litourgiya") you have kind of heard it all and grow a little tired of the concept. Still a show very well worth seeing, though.



It was already after midnight now. I took a very brief look at what was happening in the Green Room, where Drow Elixir, a Wolves In The Throne Room side-project was performing a deep drone thing, but it felt weird to catch something like that in the middle without the whole context, so I called it a day.


If this wasn't a gigantic Roadburn Thursday, then such a thing doesn't exist.




reviews of the other festival days:

ROADBURN Festival 2017 • DAY TWO: Friday, April 21st
The riverbed will run red with the blood of the saints and Magma of the holy

 

ROADBURN Festival 2017 • DAY THREE: Saturday, April 22nd
She's a droniac, droniac on the floor  / And she's droning like she's never droned before

 

 ROADBURN Festival 2017 • DAY FOUR: Sunday, April 23rd
The silence of the wolves





Lycus:









Alaric:











Subrosa:


















Pinkish Black:



Esben And The Witch:














Coven:






















Dälek:






Batushka: