Surviving Roadburn, Day One: To The Center Of The Universe
by JJ Koczan
You may know JJ Koczan from his writing at The Aquarian, the now dormant Metal Maniacs, Theobelisk.net, or as frontman of his band Maegashira. This weekend, JJ will serve as our man-on-the-scene at Roadburn in Tilburg, Holland! Look for daily reports through the weekend as he prepares for the return of Saint Vitus, as well as performances from a veritable who’s who of the underground heavy metal glitterati. We kick things off with his report from Day One, Thursday April 23, 2009…
The bleach blond party boy at the surreal tropical Scottish bar — who may or may not have been wearing white pants at the time — warned me against Tilburg. “Why would you want to go there?” Indeed, why would I or anyone else allegedly in their right mind want to expose themselves to four days of nonstop beer, doom, shitty hamburgers and sweltering Eurosweat?
This is my first Roadburn. I booked my hotel room once Saint Vitus was announced, and the Hotel Ibis, the uncomfortable bed of which I’m sitting on now, is a chain like a Comfort Inn with a really nice bar. A big part of me wishes I could have slept down there, and not just because they had candy.
If there could have been a more appropriate beginning for Roadburn 2009 than Italian psyche-droners Ufomammut, I’m at a loss for what it might have been. Their Green-amped, thick-riffed, mostly instrumental jams pushed so much air you could feel it from in front of the stage, and as they sloshed their way through most of last year’s Idolum, the main space crowd had no choice but to approve heartily. This is why we’re here, dudes. Hold those cups up high.
There’s no irony here. There are tight pants, and the girlfriends with hair blond, black or in the best of cases, red, are gorgeous. I took a cab to the 013 club (which might be pronounced “zero-one-three,” or “oh-thirteen,” or something else in a beautiful language of which I’m entirely ignorant; still not sure) and it was an expensive indicator of the need to learn how the busses work. We’ll get there, it was only the first day.
By a sheer coincidence of timing, this is the first year Roadburn has a dedicated merch area, located across the street at V39, where yesterday I stumbled drunkenly upon Burial Hex gnashing their teeth on a crowd that wouldn’t have looked out of place at Lit Lounge in NYC. First thing I did after getting my wristband, even before Ufomammut, was to go and drop €150 on CDs like the obsessive nerd I am. Most of the bands didn’t have their stuff set up yet, and unfortunately by the time Colour Haze arrived I was out of cash (that includes my taxi money, spent on the self-titled Stone Hex and a record by Void Generator).
Band of the night: Orange Goblin. No contest. They blew everyone else off the stage and even viewed from 20 feet up, front/madman Ben Ward cut an imposing figure as he admonished the audience for not drinking enough and encouraged us all to, “Have the best weekend of our lives.” I’ve never been a huge fan of Baroness, but it should be noted that they packed the main hall so tight that you couldn’t move and I was greatly outnumbered in my opinion. I wanted to get into it, I really did. Hey man, I like old Mastodon, and I like King Crimson and I can occasionally pretend to like Skynyrd, let’s get down. But it didn’t work and I went and grabbed dinner instead, checking out the start of Radio Moscow in the Green Room (not actually green) as I went.
Flying over here, I went from Newark to Chicago and then to Amsterdam and I shared the latter of those flights with the recognizable muttonchops of Sanford Parker, to whom I did not have the courage to say, “Yo dude, remember when you produced the good Pelican record? That was awesome.” His band Minsk played the Green Room and should have been on the main stage. I bumped into Steve Von Till from Neurosis while trying to make my way through to go somewhere, anywhere I could breathe, back to the merch area, toasted him with my plastic cup of Dommelsch and said, “Sir,” tipping a hat I wasn’t wearing. He looked warm in a leather jacket, but smiled politely and toasted back.
Compared to Orange Goblin who they had the unfortunate task of following, Amon Düül II were an energy downer on the main stage, but the level of appreciation was high. It was kind of like, “Okay, we’re all really glad you’re here and we’ll all be really glad to get to say we saw you, but we’re gonna go see what Black Sun are up to in the Bat Cave.” Incidentally, they were up to screamy doom and synchronized t-shirt wearing. Their band motto is, “You won’t like it.” It’s hard not to enjoy that.
As the night wore on, I kept moving from one area to the next. They let you come and go as you please, including reentry for anyone who wants to go down the block and sample the row of restaurants and bars, most of which have Roadburn specials posted. Back inside, it was Motorpsycho on the main stage, Alexander Tucker in the Bat Cave, Wolves in the Throne Room taking their sweet time setting up in the Green Room. I wanted to see bloody occult ritual rockers The Devil’s Blood, but didn’t make it that far because I’m old, American and lame. Plus I knew tonight (4/24) would be a late one with Church of Misery going until 02:00. Luckily for my broke ass, The Patient Mrs. — along for the trip but not the show — was in the hotel bar when I got back and paid my cab fare.
Back for round two at 16:00 today. If I, my checking account and my marriage all make it through this, it’ll be a god damned miracle.
stay tuned for day 2!
ROADBURN 2009 FESTIVAL APRIL 23 – 26, 2009 in Tilburg, Netherlands.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
AMON DÜÜL II
GREEN ROOM & BATCAVE:
Church of Misery
The Devil?s Blood
Wolves in the Throne Room
Burial Hex & Gnaw Their Tongues presents “Aderlating”
Friday, April 24, 2009
Bohren & der Club of Gore
GREEN ROOM & BAT CAVE:
The Atomic Bitchwax
The Outskirts Of Infinity
Steve Von Till
The Winchester Club
+1 more band
seven that spells
BEYOND THE PALE
Saturday, April 25
Six Organs of Admittance
A Storm of Light
The Young Gods
+ 7 more band TBA
Sunday, April 26