You know what I hate most about Roadburn? The absolute lack of anything to bitch about. My usual default of claiming points in my life with a flag from the Kingdom of Dissapointment does not work here. If I have to deal with one more happy attendee or another smiling and helpful crew member, I’ll fucking puke rainbows and unicorns!
I learned about this festival when I was on my last stint of filling in on bass for Wolves in the Throne Room. They said, “Ross, it’ll blow your mind.” Sure, guys, I’ve been to some metal fests in my time, I think I can handle it. I was wrong. It’s the best. This has been a dream since to get Ludicra here, slay, and share the entire fest with my compatriots. Dream: realized.
The promoters were nice enough to arrange our hotel stay for extra days at the Formule 1 for all the days here, which is kind of like hotel and a hostel, but mostly like a prison. Every morning felt kind of like a Lifetime rape movie and we expected Brian Dennehy to be peering in our window with a sinister grin. We found out later about some cabins available for the same price with more beds at a campground that was actually close to the city center. It would’ve paid to do a better search online for cozier accomodations before arriving here. Noted. Compare and contrast:
The first day we got our passes and jumped into the mix. If I’d had a drink token for all the friends named Jan I ran into, I’d have had alcohol poisoning. We also made plenty of new friends, from Spain, Germany, Belgium, France, even the United States. It’s weird to get to know a neighbor from Oakland via the Netherlands. Maybe the lack of gunfire in the streets helps.
The first band I really got to see was Ghost. There’s a lot of buzz about this band. I’d call them the GWAR of Sweden. I guess it’s more arty though if you dress like a priest instead of fuck one with your cuttlefish. Decent Mercyful Fate meets BOC music.
Wovenhand was my next viewing, and no gigantic stack of amps can compare to the intensity David Eugene Edwards can put out with a combo. Talent before gear, the opposite of moi. Sure, he made some mocking cock star moves making fun of metal, but from a place so insane I respected it.
The last notable thing for me on the first day was Godflesh playing Streetcleaner in it’s entirety. By notable, I mean I nearly broke my body headbanging and dancing wildly. I love the Dutch, because they’re so polite I can easily force my way to the front using skills honed from growing up in America. The Sewage Surge.
More revelrous carousing later, and John said I entered a specific drunken state whereupon I passionately pound my fists on tables as punctuation, dance to no music, and fall asleep in the middle of saying, “Life is shit.” What a party, or so I have had to be told.
On Friday I was distraught to have missed most of prog-dark-doom band Aluk Todolo of France. What I caught at the end was amazing and really brought members of our traveling party to tears. Earth switched stages, to my dismay, so I was subjected to the Circle / Pharoah Overload circle jerk. What a waste of 15 guitar players on stage.
I took in some Sunn O))), but felt it was time to leave after I saw their slow-mo high five on stage. It did inspire me to start my new band, Crate. It’s awesome, because the amps never sound good and stop working before you are bored of the joke. Hooded Menace and Grave Miasma were more to my taste, but it did make me ponder why some new bands can make it with this kind of more alt, stoner crowd, but legendary Incantation is definitively for death metal fans only. Youth? Gimmicks? Maybe it’s the ‘stache they can’t see past.
The night was taken from Michelob and was firmly in the possession of Voivod. I have never seen a band smiling so much and having such a great time. It was infectious. I’ve seen Voivod many times, from the Outer Limits tour on, but I’ve never seen them with one of my all time favorite bassists. I was not let down. Blacky is not only über-talented but funny as hell in stage. Sir, I am firmly heterosexual, but I would suck your bass God dick. Snake churned it out even singing songs Eric had recorded and doing it justice. The new guitar player nailed it, and Away… Not only the nicest guy to ever play rock ‘n’ roll, but every drummer should get a lesson from him. By far, this was the best band of the festival.
Too bad for Christy and John, who both misinterpreted the conversation about getting back to our hotel. John was stressing about getting sleep, and said we should leave after Voivod, for sure, which was 1 am. Christy took that as law, and paid no attention to me saying everyone will get to see all the bands they want. Big mistake, and a super happy Ross, Aesop, and Laurie met with a surly Christy and John who’d both left Voivod early and been waiting an hour. Toooooo baaaaad. I reminded Christy and John to never listen to John, he’s a goof. John agreed, and later in his drunkeness said that on the road, Ross is boss. Damn right.
Saturday, the day we would perform. Would I see a single band? I wasn’t counting on it. We unloaded our gear earlier than we were supposed to, and this started my relationship with the extremely sarcastic ginger lady who runs the backstage. This woman was so friendly and nice and managed to insult me every time I saw her and make feel like a moron. I loved it. I’m sure dealing with so many musicians all day, who are all also morons, it takes this kind of motherly dressing-down to make it all work. By the end if the night, when I, as a moron, had missed the appointed time to get paid which was posted everywhere, a got one wry eyebrow raise and she said she’d been so mean making fun of me through the day, she’d let this pass. Godflesh made me feel 16, now I felt 8.
The crew at Roadburn were amazing, duh, again. They had all the merchandise areas ready to go, so even bands showing up late had their spot. In America, if you don’t show up early, you’ll get your merch area in Fonzi’s office. They brought water around for people selling, even. Dammit! I’m afraid this is going to leave me spoiled. Not too spoiled as at least we did sell our own merch. Not to disparage those that hired on staff from Roadburn, but I think it’s important for a band, at least on our meager level, to sell some merch. The tigers can ask questions about stuff, and the band can get some much needed ego stroking on a face to face level. Pay your dues, younglings.
When it came time to play, the staff again was beyond reproach and helped us set up in record time, negotiating our gear through the tiniest room of the fest that was already filling up. We had been given an hour, more than we had initially planned for from the original contract, and we hoped we could fit in our best set in that time if we just didn’t fuck around. Everything was zipping along until Aesop’s jackhammering once again took it’s toll:
A broken mallett! Fuck! Luckily, the staff had a spare. Seriously, who has a spare mallett? And who makes this fucking drum pedal? Mapex… A brand name John wants to shit on like Deathism. Sure, these could be freak accidents, and sure, no drum part is ever 100% reliable, but I’m starting to miss Aesop’s old standard Iron Cobras. He says these play better, and hopefully they’ll start making them better.
Our set was finished and we did it all in 59 minutes. Much success. Honestly, I don’t remember much more of the night. I’d been so wound up about this, planning this trip for near a year, stressing, and now this show was done and I could fall into an eerie dream like trance for the rest of the fest. I’d seen many of the upcoming bands for the night, so it was more about time for good visiting and wrapping up business.
It was amazing seeing old friends from all over, and finally being able to play Ludicra live for them. It’s been a long time coming. Toby, Darcy, Chad, Olivier, the many Jans, Davey, Ashley, Artur, shit, so many others… And I must thank Walter, the father of Roadburn.
We stuck around on Sunday to see Afterburn. Laurie and John took it easy at the campsite we moved to while Conny, Christy, Aesop, and I were looking for a reason to go drinking. I really didn’t see much of any of the bands as we missed Spindrift, the only one I knew I wanted to see. I did see some Dead Meadow and their dancing ball of fur. What a pile of shit. It was pretty much hippy jams, so it was time to go drinking with friends that I wouldn’t see again in a long time.
Some fun facts about Tilburg:
Apparently there was a big textile industry here back in the day. The workers would save their, “water,” as the polite shop keep explained to me. She meant piss. They collected this in stone pots and they would take it to work. The urine was used to dye wool white. Go Tilburg innovation. A statue dedicated to this:
This celebration of Tilburgian urine innovaters is further celebrated in the local liquor, available only in Tilburg, called Schrobbelér. As described by new superfan John Cobbett, it’s “sweet, but not cloying, herbal like sasparilla, made from 32 herbs, what Jägermeister would be if it was cool.” Highly recommended if you come to Tilburg… Found exclusively in the stone bottle so you can drink it AND have a pot to piss in!
Doktor Ross Sewage
dispatched from Die Struwwelpetra Ludicra 2011 European Tour