Roadburn 2018

Roadburn 2018 poster by Ricky Beckett

April 19–22, 2018
Tilburg, Netherlands

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.

Where the riffs at?

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?

Pass the peanuts.

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.

Radical burn dude.

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!”

Earthless going long.

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.”

Under his eye.

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.

So there.

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.

The face of Evil.

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.

It just got weird.

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.

Good hair.

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?

Metal, beer, ribs, repeat.

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.

Freak flags.

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.”

Just give me some truth.

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.

Photos and videos by Concert Club for the Rockfile.
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Oh No, There Goes NYC, 2018

Fu Manchu laying waste to the Bowery Ballroom with their crushing version of the BOC classic, “Godzilla.”

And the set opener, “Eatin’ Dust.”

Now that’s some radical fuzz right there folks.

Video by the Concert Club
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American Master

Today we honor the memory of Tom Petty with the Rock File’s review of an epic live show in 2013.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
May 20, 2013
Beacon Theatre
New York, NY
Tom Petty brings you back.
Back to those classic moments when you were growing up in a suburb of a Florida suburb and wondered how it was possible that every Petty song could be about you and your scrawny little pimple-faced teenage life.
Back to the memory of a Marine named Victor who lived next door and used to change his oil in his driveway, illegal because the oil would seep into the already rotten egg Florida water supply but a kind of a good ol’ boy macho ritual having your hot rod on cinder blocks on the front lawn so to speak. So Victor the Marine would blast “Rebels” over and over and over and I always wondered if he really got the full meaning of the song or did he just think it was like written about him because “Rebels” is really all that needs to be said about Victor the Marine:
I was born a rebel, down in Dixie
On a Sunday mornin’
Yeah with one foot in the grave
And one foot on the pedal, I was born a rebel
Back to the memory of a Disney World Grad Night sometime in the 80s where Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were the evening’s live entertainment. Disney Grad Night, a kind of all-night high school bacchanalia dedicated to letting kids run wild and rampant through the surreal and fucked up landscape of Disney World, which is either a big mistake or a stroke of genius, depending on who you ask. So like the high school seniors hop a bus to Orlando and pack Gatorade growlers mixed with vodka and of course your PE teacher/chaperone doesn’t know anything about the lime green booze concoction, or he totally does but couldn’t care less because he’s too fucking high and it’s simply too goddamn hot to actually give a shit about anything, especially a bunch of kids getting their Grad Night groove on. So Petty is the entertainment for this fine Florida tradition, which happens between the hours of like midnight and seven in the morning and the park is closed to the public which is very cool, but at some point you find yourself tripping balls in the Haunted House, whether from psychedelics or lack of sleep or vodka-flavored Gatorade or just plain 18-year-old excitement at being able to do whatever the fuck you want in the middle of the night in the middle of Walt Disney World.
But is that really Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers playing in Never Never Land? Fuck, this is like the best night ever.
Back to the memory of that first time you heard “American Girl” and how rad it was that Petty was name-checking State Road 441 and of course that leads directly to all those moments of you racing down that cracked-up Florida highway in that beat-up shit bucket 1978 Toyota Corolla that you had spray painted baby blue because that was the only color the high school body shop had leftover that year. So when Petty ends the concert with “American Girl” you may just be the only one in the audience screaming out the lyric Out on 441 like waves crashin’ on the beach because of course it has so much meaning in your personal history and encompasses pretty much everything about living in Florida in the late 70s, and how did he get it so right and how is it possible there’s so much truth and meaning in all of nine words anyway?
Which almost impossibly brings us back to the live Petty experience that’s going on right now and how it’s real and true and classic and essential and totally and fully American—but not in that Antiques Roadshow sort of way and certainly not in the F-16 flyovers at baseball games kind of thing but something more—along the lines of an old story that has traveled through time and generations and has gained regional accents and slight revisions and updates but has arrived fully formed in the present. So Petty’s songs are the core experiences, the time-stamped memories and the place-in-time dynamics that solidify your place in the world. Your sound compass, your life soundtrack.
It’s like you know the trail started somewhere but you’re not exactly sure how far back it goes but you know it’ll be there way after you’ll be anywhere.
So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
Love Is a Long Road
I Won’t Back Down
Fooled Again (I Don’t Like It)
Cabin Down Below
Good Enough
(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone
A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)
Billy The Kid
Tweeter and the Monkey Man
To Find A Friend
Angel Dream (No. 2)
I Should Have Known It
Runnin’ Down a Dream
You Wreck Me
American Girl
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Good Night, Tom Petty

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Good Night, Grant Hart

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Blunt Force Trauma, 2016

Brussels, Belgium
October 6, 2016
It’s all about the earplugs.
I make my way to the front of the stage at Botanique cause that’s the best way to experience Swans live. The guy to my right is looking at his newly bought 3 Euro earplugs as if to say I think I’ll wait and see if I need these so I do him a solid and lean in and say Oh yeah, you’re gonna need those and he looks at me and realizes I’m probably right so he quickly rips open the plastic bag, so I feel good about saving that dude’s hearing. And then I notice a woman to my left who has her earplugs hanging in her cleavage and I realize this ain’t her first rodeo and I appreciate the professionalism. I realize it’s all about the earplugs so I’m looking around obsessing about ear safety and tinnitus and wondering how many people here tonight will go home with a certain level of hearing loss. (This other guy next to me doesn’t have plugs and ends up covering his ears for the entire show).
So Michael Gira finally makes his way to the stage and I notice to my amazement that he’s not wearing earplugs and this strikes me as rather insane because, well, this is Swans live.
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Sucking In The Seventies

Aja (1977) was my intro to Steely Dan. Musta heard it in the early 80s. It was everywhere back then. Sold like a billion copies. Super-slick jazz-rock. Or something. Never could tell where Steely Dan fit. Which was part of the draw. I went backward from there, the records getting weirder, gnarlier. Their early sound was rougher but still catchy, complex, absurd.
At some point, it was uncool to like Steely Dan. Maybe they became too commercial, too soft, too weird. Who knew? But you certainly weren’t advised to blurt out your affinity at a kegger. Might get you punched, or dumped.
The Dan picked up some punk cred when Minutemen covered “Doctor Wu” on their masterpiece Double Nickels on the Dime (1984). So that was cool. But then, Steely Dan were punks. Becker and Fagan had to have New York sized balls to drop Aja right in the middle of ‘77, punk rock’s Year Zero.
They didn’t care, and they didn’t fit in.
How punk.
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