Roadburn Festival 2015 – Afterburner Review By Pete Green
It’s Sunday. It’s the Afterburner. D’uh. As the traditional name of the final night of the festival rightly suggests, all I can smell in the air are reefers being lit, sunshine being enjoyed, hangovers being drunken right back out and of course the air of anticipation for the fourth solid day of annual madness that is Roadburn itself.
Is there a better band in the world to soothe our tired minds and aching bodies than White Hills? Methinks not as Dave W and Ego Sensation cavort across the 013 main stage in their usual brand of shiny, leather-clad chemistry. It says a lot that drummer Nick Name sits somewhat alone on stage right almost as an afterthought to Dave and Ego’s gyrations and cosmic enchantment in the centre of the room. Ever the entertainers, the New York trio treat us to blend after blend of cosmic-psyche-kraut-post-whatever, using an intricate mixture of electronic instrumentation plus their regular guitar-bass-drums mainstays to create a wash of stunningly layered bliss. There’s a surprising amount of their darker, newer material on show, rather than a wealth of the classic robot-rock thump of their bigger anthems, but it’s so entertaining I can barely imagine what being on acid right now must feel like. This band makes me feel like sex, full stop.
After a lovely chat (as ever!) with Walter, I pop in to the Green Room for a few minutes to see Pennsylvania riffsters Argus. Their somewhat trad-metal approach sounds a bit too much like an overly simplistic version of Down with a wanna-be Dio on vocals to me. Not the best band I’ve ever seen but who can argue with a packed crowd and so many banging heads?
Anyone who’s read pretty much anything I’ve ever written will know that Bongripper can do no wrong in my eyes. So with the Chicago foursome’s second set in four days going down on the 013 main stage, I’m in positive rapture at the DIY boys’ expansive take on instrumental doom. Playing Satan and Worship, the two most dynamic cuts from Satan Worshipping Doom, alongside a ten-minute excerpt from The Great Barrier Reefer and Conan-fighter Zero Talent, this is practically a “greatest hits” set as far as Pleckham-Petzke-O’Connor-Dellacroce are concerned. All in attendance receive the tantric neck exercise from hell in the face of the blistering tones, beats, riffage and lightshow and with new material in the whispered pipeline, “Wow” is pretty much all I can say as to where they could possibly go next. As the slip from Satan into Worship hits with all the subtlety of a clenched left fist to the gut, it feels like this is no longer music, this is a weight that’s been bestowed on each and every person in the room. A very heavy weight indeed.
“What else ya gunna do on a Sunday afternoon? Start having a wank?!” Over in the Green Room, the most Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell are shaking rumps and exploding minds across the stage and beyond. Their music is simple, classic ’70s rock and their image is practically Starskey and Hutch, but their ability to create a fucking good time for all is unparalleled for a band of their stature. Jonny Gorilla and the Hastings’ three-piece certainly know how to whip up a crowd like its 1971; even in between songs their mullets and Cockney swagger culminates in Jonny announcing that yet again Walter and co have done a “fucking marvellous job” with the line-up this year. As to whether I’d rather be “entertaining” myself, I couldn’t possibly comment, but with the quintessentially British trio riffin’ n a spliffin’ as well as they do, it’s hard to think about much else to be fair.
Roadburn Cinema Club? Yes please! After a quick dash off for a bite to eat, it’s time to settle down in front of Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin again for their take on the Suspiria soundtrack, as the entire film screens on the main stage in the background. Without wanting to ruin any surprises for those who haven’t seen this 1977 classic, it begins as some bizarre ballet dancing academy initiation, but wait, everything is not as it seems… I can’t describe the feeling of several thousand people being gathered in one huge auditorium to watch a film with a live soundtrack together, like in the vintage days of silent flicks, but let’s just say that it’s slightly different to the regular cinema experience down at your local Odeon. The Italian maestros conjure up all sorts of intrigue and suspense as the wintry, rainy madness cackles away in the background, to the point where the band themselves are almost difficult to visualise without the film’s sequences, such is the perfection of their synchronicity to the ’70s action itself. The old-school cheesiness of Suspiria makes many chuckle, but there can be no doubt that once a Dario Argento classic, this was always going to remain a classic.
Over in the Green Room, Lo-Pan are blasting the fuck out of their gear to a pretty packed house. The unique stage set-up with singer Jeff Martin stood behind the drumkit for his vocal set is not something I’ve seen at this fest or indeed for a while in general, but man, it creates a dynamic atmosphere. Mysteriously ending 15 minutes before time, the crowd shrugs and heads off in search of more beer or more live-soundtracked film.
Bast have been around the London doom scene for some time now, but it was only the Black Bow Records’ release of their debut album Spectres that garnered them any form of wider recognition. That the trio are now rewarded with an 8pm slot at Roadburn is a worthy appreciation of just how damn good that record is. With little in the way of seriously heavy music at the Afterburner (Bongripper exempted), theirs is a prime slot for the leather-clad hordes and Craig Bryant (guitar/vocals), Gavin Thomas (bass) and Jon Lee (drums/vocals) lap it up with the type of ferocity that Wolves In The Throne Room possessed when they could really be arsed. Airing virtually all of Spectres tonight in front of a packed out crowd proves how far this innovative trio are taking Neurosis or Yob’s teachings and twisting and shaping output into something blackened, doomed to shit and formidably dynamic. Riffs out, hats off.
If there’s ever a band to best juxtapose darkened gloom with an uplifting stage presence, it’s tonight’s headliners Anathema. Showcasing songs from their entire back catalogue of albums, the Cavanagh brothers and their perfectly harmonised band play to a packed house at the 013, bolstered by a record number of day ticket sales. Their rousing, semi-spiritual and tombstone-heavy gospels lift and sink the main stage in oscillating waves over the course of two hours. A celebrated founder member of the Peaceville Three, they’re also the only band I’ve ever heard say “put your hands in the air, Roadburn!” and get a pretty damn decent response!
Anticipation grows throughout the set towards the last twenty minutes as original vocalist Darren White joins the five-piece on stage for a guttural stomp through the classic heavy-as-lead period of Anathema‘s much-celebrated past including the chunky doom of My Kingdom, Under A Veil Of Black Lace, Mine Is Yours To Drown In, Lovelorn Rhapsody and the track everyone was waiting for, Crestfallen, to close. Minds are frozen in time, ears bleed and most importantly, the one-dayers enjoy the time of their lives, many having travelled over to The Netherlands simply for this landmark performance. Frankly, I haven’t seen a band mean so much to so many people all weekend, or perhaps ever.
As mad as a box of eggs, Terminal Cheesecake slither onto the Green Room stage with their legendary brand of who-the-fuck-knows-what’s-going-on-cos-we-sure-don’t-prog. They successfully blast through jam after jam of deafening krautcore and swirling hypnotism without me really being able to pin down what on Earth they’re actually doing. Mentally loud, yet without a rulebook in sight, theirs is an acid trip too far for many but on a chill-out day like the Afterburner, they’re thoroughly hilarious and enthralling all at the same time. Sitting in front of the lava lamp projections behind Neil Francis‘s garbled vocals, drummer Johnnyjbeat‘s sinister thump is as mesmeric as it is piercingly loud. I even spot Dave W and Ego Sensation from White Hills slipping in the back door to sample a slice of the sublime ‘Cheesecake in action!
There’s no doubt about it, everyone’s pretty wasted by this point, including Tweak Bird who step up as the last band of the weekend over in the Cul de Sac. The brothers Caleb and Ashton Bird banter with the audience before staggering through 45 minutes of their groovy brand of hippy psyche-sludge in a semi-coherent manner. They bring a saxophonist with them, but yet bizarrely scarcely use his talents as the likes of The Future, Bunch O’ Brains and Shivers blast out from the PA to a rabid mob of crowdsurfers and moshers. I don’t like to say it, as I usually love these guys’ output, but Tweak Bird are sloppy tonight and it’s a weird way to end the evening with so much carnage and destruction in front of a generally more serene act. But hey! Who am I to be a killjoy when it’s been such a fun, enlightening and riff-tacular weekend!!
And so ends it. The big 2-0 is up for Roadburn, and the big 2 up for me. It’s been a blast and I can only do my utmost to extend my thanks to the great Walter and Jurgen from Roadburn for their warmth and hospitality each and every day, not to mention putting together one beast of a bill yet again. To all the festival staff for their “family” atmosphere at every moment, Shaman Lee for the kickass photos and company, Erik and Bridgit and their team at the Stadscamping and to Paul Robertson for all the snoring; thank you all so much again for making this one of the world’s premier musical celebrations. Until next time, it’s time to burn my final road home. See you on the other side.
Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell
Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin
The Osiris Club
Scribed by: Pete Green
Photos by: Lee Edwards
Video by: super208productions