April 19–22, 2018
If it’s spring in the Netherlands, it’s time for Roadburn. Once again the seekers gather to commune with like-minded sisters and brothers, looking for Peace, Love, and Heavy Riffage.
So the Concert Club convenes in Amsterdam, coming in from the US (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania) and Belgium. It’s a beautiful time to be in this part of the world and the Dutch capital is still alive and well.
Welcome to the land of Anything Goes, just watch out for the bikes.
We’re pre-gaming with an overnight stay, so we make our way to the hotel; our bunks are brutalist with a touch of fake wood paneling and the Wi-Fi is decidedly lo-fi, but we’re willing passengers. Bags dropped and faces splashed, we ramble tamble through the side streets and canals, score tallboy Heineken’s and some local tobacco. Along the way, there’s toasties and tap Grolsch, a herring sandwich and a Dutch cheese plate. We stumble over the proper pronunciation of broodje and get a lesson from the locals on their national drink, jenever. Day rolls to night with an Indonesian feast and night-capping at our favorite watering hole, Cafe Chaos.
Mind Riot: Do they only spin Bob Marley in the Amsterdam coffeeshops?
After 24 hours out on the tiles in Amsterdam, we’re ready to hitch a ride through the old world countryside, arriving in Eindhoven to a warm welcome and even warmer digs. The lovely hostess asks us if we’re a band and how can we say no?
Overheard: “If you’re not in a band, you’re bullshit!”
On to Tilburg via the Metal Express and an outdoor lunch. We ask the waitress if she’s heading to Roadburn and she says no, she likes Dutch music. We’re not sure where that places the local bands performing at the fest, but we give it a nevermind because the food is tasty, the beer is cold, and the sun is wide-awake.
At the festival grounds, we grab the wristbands, the purple coins, and the first festival pilsner in a cup.
We have liftoff.
The first band of the weekend is some good old-fashioned black metal from Black Decades (Netherlands); full-throttle, full-throated, punishing Thud Metal. I’m already exhausted. Over at the chow lines, we sample some Gado-Gado and BBQ ribs. And more beer.
Next up is Earthless (US) and they’re flying their SoCal colors with a bitchin’ skate rat banner that make us feel like it’s 1976 all over again. They’re outta the gate with some high-density psych-riffs that don’t let up, and why would they? It’s a fuzz-wah freak-out and the first tune clocks in at what feels like 40 minutes.
Overheard: “Is that Derrick Smalls of Spinal Tap on bass?”
Overheard: “The drummer looks like a hard-hitting Samoan!”
We check out Årabrot (Norway), who take the stage looking like a cult of tripped out Mennonites, which is pretty much what they sound like. The first tune is a twisted nihilistic gospel that’s scary and weird and all good. Over at the 013, metalcore superheroes, Converge (US) are all hard-core glory performed in the old way; harsh and brutal and seeking to tear down existing systems of traditional anything. We head over to Ex Eye (US) and these cats are something else entirely, mixing smash and grab with groove and melody, digging deep into the primordial sludge. Lead eye Colin Stetson pulls out a bass sax, and that’s just some crazy good shit right there. It’s some tangled mass of supersonic new prog and the drummer is doing his best Bruford imitation. It’s post-post-everything.
Overheard: “I came for the riffs.”
I think we need a beer and some fresh air, so we stream through the scene and catch up on the freak parade over at Weirdo Canyon.
Everybody wants to catch Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas (Sweden/US) so we bum rush our way through the fog and get a heavy dose of their extreme, luminous space metal.
Overheard: “Is this the Missing Persons of metal?”
Hooded Menace (Scotland) are a bunch of hooded, menacing Scots and I overhear someone growl “These guys make (undecipherable band name) look like a bunch of bunny rabbits in a poppy field.” I’m not sure what that means, but I’m rolling with it. We check in on Mirror Queen (US) and there are only two words I can discern from my drunken scribbled notes: Thin Lizzy.
The night ends with the trip back to Eindhoven and one last round at a hopping joint where the DJ is spinning old soul classics and the occasional Zappa freak out.
We’re among friends, gentlemen.
It’s a fuzzy Friday morning so we take our coffee on the terrace and meet a wild-eyed enthusiastic Frenchman who’s been bumming around the European music festivals for the past month. He’s a self-described “music addict” and we entertain a long and winding convo about 70s prog and the genius of Steve Howe and what were the first albums that flipped our lids as kids. We realize it’s a question without a simple answer but we enjoy racking our damaged memories to find the reason we’re all here in the first place.
Music addicts indeed.
Back in Tilburg, our first band of the day is Mutoid Man (US). They bemoan the early start time but throw down a set that is brutally true and beautifully weird. Over the top and furious, the men of Mutoid Man have flown the coop, way over the cuckoo’s nest.
Mind Riot: Isn’t everybody here just trying to re-invent the first Sabbath album?
We need to check out Motorpsycho (Norway) if only because they possess a truly great band name, and they’re living up to the promise by kicking out some Scandi-prog jams that make us feel good about our particular place in the cosmic debris. Over at Koepelhal, Kikagaku Moyo (Japan) are serving up some good and plenty sitar grooves from the other side of 1967 and we’re wondering if anything can go wrong ever again because our collective mood is so dialed into the righteousness of this day it’s downright scary. So we roll with it.
Overheard: “The Japanese bands have the best hair.”
It’s time for another trip to the bar, so Joe bellies up, throws down a pile of purple coins and tells the barkeep to pour a scotch and soda, and keep the scotch coming. It’s a new paradigm so nobody knows how many coins it takes or where to stop the pour, but everybody is up for the challenge. It’s quickly christened the Concert Club Roadburn Special, and it’s every bit as tasty as it sounds.
Ming Riot: This may be the only scene where the fanny pack is still acceptable.
Minami Deutsch (Japan) take the stage to the purple haze and they start pushing the one-note groove about as far as it can go. They’re locked in and on point, and we’re not really sure what time of day it is or even if it’s day at all, know what I mean?
Whose round is it anyway?
At the Hall of Fame, Petyr (US) is raging through a hard rock 70’s cover set that’s got the skate kids excited, and we knock around the festival grounds for a good part of the early evening soaking in the good cosmic karma. Back at Het Patronaaut Jarboe Featuring Father Murphy (US) are weaving their way through some Fluxus style NYC avant-garde that’s edgy and metallic and all together pitch perfect for the here and now.
It’s feed time so the only real question is, Who wants more ribs?
At Cul de Sac we’re waiting for Worship, who are either taking their time tuning up, or this is their actual set.
Overheard: “I can’t unhear it.”
We call it a night and head back to Eindhoven for more midnight merriment that includes a tasting tour of the local automat food offerings, which ends up being something like a salt bomb explosion in an MSG minefield.
Another cracking day, we hit the grounds and start things off with Steve Brodsky and Adam McGrath (US), who are performing a passionate acoustic set dedicated to their friend and former bandmate Caleb Scofield, in memory of his recent tragic passing. It’s filled with heavy moments and heartfelt music and we’re humbled.
The musical portion of our own road show ends with Hugsjá (Norway), an operatic, Norse-prog collective that’s shooting high and aiming low, hitting all pleasure points at once.
Feeling spent but satisfied we head back to Amsterdam for a final day of hoboing revelry. We take as much as we can get as our mantra remains:
“I’ll have everything and more of it.”
It’s not hyperbole to say truth is scarce these days.
The fog of bloviating madness coming from so-called “world leaders” brings no peace, no love, no facts, and nowhere closer to the truth. In times like these, we search for the promise of the real — something to hang on to, something to feel joyous about, an affirmation of life.
It’s with these thoughts that our time in the Netherlands comes to an end. The trip ends up being more than just a chance to see great bands from across the globe. It’s about spending time with the people you love and keeping connections alive. It’s about finding truth in community, beauty in friendship, and of course, heavy riffs.
For these few days in April, we found what we were looking for, but the search continues.
It always does.