After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast it’s time to head down to Tilburg again for the next instalment of Roadburn 2017. As most people know, there’s an excellent side-program at the festival. Today there’s a nice panel about the state of live music. Some real experts at work is always a pleasure for music fans.
Then again, it seems like all of Tilburg has gone out of its way to please the Roadburners. Every café seems to have a special menu just for the festival. It says a lot about how accommodating the metropolis is and the way it has embraced the yearly fest of weirdo’s strolling through their city.
After the panel I head straight to the Green Room for the horror entity Gnaw Their Tongues. Mories is not playing alone today, but has a lady assisting on the electronics, while he plays blood curdling riffs in over the harrowing sounds. Gnaw Their Tongues is still one of the most uncomfortable bands to listen to, which is no bad thing as describing the sound is like trying to define a shapeless horror entity, because you can’t quite grasp it. That makes a show like this so good.
The racing heart can calm down a little in front of the Main Stage though, where the French proggy jazzers Magma are doing their thing. The casual jam feels like an endless repetition to just sink away in. The multi layered ensemble uses minimum sound for maximum effect and the crowd just sits in awe gawking at them.
Het Patronaat appears to be too small for Icelandic black metallers Zhrine. Dressed in fine attire, the group performs in front of a full church. Noteworthy is the use of a stand-up bass, forcing a more heavy bass sound from the speakers and giving the band a slightly less conventional sound. The group released their debut Unortheta last year and sadly weren’t part of the first Icelandic invasion but we’re more than happy to have them here now. Sonically, the band can be bombastic and grand, but also manage to play gentle, meandering passages of particular beauty. An early highlight on this day, but it would seem all will pale compared to the act on the Main Stage.
Oathbreaker have built a reputation of a phenomenal live act over the recent period and with their album Rheia out, they’ve managed to captivate their own, eclectic sound. The delivery is near perfect and the sound ultra-tight by the young band from the Belgian Gent. The vocals of Caro Tanghe are the focal point for the bands sound. From high-pitched screams to gentle, breakable passages, but there’s always a tormented, pained side to her singing. The best comparison I can come up with is Björk for the amount of feeling and contained force she musters. The band really funnels that voice, strengthens it then guides it into one of the most touching and stunning sets of the day, with blast beats one minute and the next just eerie, folky vocals. Beauty in the storm I’d say.
In the meantime, the 013 is bristling with eager festival goers as Chelsea Wolfe is setting up on the Main Stage. The charming vocalist was on Roadburn last year as part of the special Blood Moon performance as well as in 2012 for a solo set. Today’s set is mainly taken from the album Abbys and in a live environment, the songs appear slightly heavier with a bit more distortion, allowing the tones to drift like a thick fog. Her voice, with that typical twist of melancholy, pierces right through into people’s hearts. Dressed in a wavy gown, everything about the set is shrouded in mystery, which is the strength of her sound. Noteworthy is just how the sound is manipulated slightly for the occasion, everything a bit heavier and stretched out it. Well done!
Of course we have to catch a bit of the subdued SubRosa set, where the ladies (and gents) have taken place on the stage over at Het Patronaat. The band is seated and playing semi-acoustically, bringing out the sweet and folky part of their sound. Because the band is seated, it’s pretty hard to actually watch them play. That leads to some banter in the back, which is a shame. This setting however really lets the strings come out and shows the fragile side of the band, which is so easily shattered. It’s a joy to hear the songs laid bare that are normally coated with a thick layer of guitar and distortion. It’s a brilliant way to really let the song writing shine on its own.
Colin H Van Eeckhout has been walking around with a walking stick today. The vocalist of Amenra has broken his foot, but right now he’s standing there, on the stage, delivering in full fury and passion. It’s as if he somehow channels the pain into his performance, which feels so vital and wrought with a pain that can’t be acted out. Though the set is no different from last year, the exceptional level of tortured expressiveness definitely is an aspect that can’t be denied. The black and white footage projected to the back, the continuous surge of sound, it sucks the listener away into the world of Amenra. Like a torrent the set surges on, a ritual of purification through pain. During the song Nowena we suddenly see two extra figures on stage. It’s John Baizley and Scott Kelly jamming along, giving the song just a bit more of that elemental fury. It doesn’t feel very fitting, to have guests during an Amenra set, to me the intimacy of their performance doesn’t allow for it. That’s why it’s done in style as there’s no announcement, no waving, Baizley and Kelly just show up, play and depart when darkness falls. Probably again one of the best sets this year, a journey through purgatory that you come out of fresh and clean.
Over in the Green Room the band Whores is getting it on. The band simply sound like they want to destroy everything, anything and they want it now. The over-energetic grandchildren of Iggy Pop play through everything, even a broken amp is no problem for the Americans. Their sound is a thick slab of noise-rock that’s going so hard you see it cracking up and it might just fall apart at any time. Their live show is a pure act of survival (and controlling your own urges to SMASH). In that sense, there’s a catharsis to their show similar to Amenra’s, but more direct and urgent. More defiled and furious, but oh so good!
Icelandic black metal band Naðra played Roadburn in 2016 in the intimate venue that is the Extase. This time though they play Het Patronaat. The group contains 4 members of Misþyrming, but contrary to that groups fire and brimstone, the sound of Naðra is more filled with mystery it seems. Through the blast beats and waves of guitar riffs, there’s hidden melodies and calmer parts. Naðra have a rich sound and a performance that flourishes in the special environment of the Church that’s packed to the rafters for this fantastic performance and the fact that mainliner Baroness are about to start does little to diminish that.
Over on the Main Stage Baroness start playing to a pretty packed venue, but that gradually empties out bit by bit during the set. The reason is probably due to Baroness being an active touring bad, so catching them live is not so much a problem. However, Baroness has something special lined up for today, a set filled with tunes from their back catalogue, like stand out track Tower Falls from the First EP is delivered in a punky, energetic manner. There’s a bit of an edge to the way the band plays in general, a bit more spicy and aggressive it seems. During the 90 mins, The band plays a solid, strong set with visible pleasure as they move to more recent work, closing the night with Isak and Take My Bones Away. It’s the thank you to the fans and organisation that sees all the rock’n’roll bravado melt away, showing us a band that loves playing and loves music. In a first attempt Peter Adams tries to thank everyone, but keeps repeating himself, cursing and just doesn’t seem to get the right words out. John Baizley takes over and changes into the same stumbling fan, so grateful for being here that the words seem to elude him. The band finally decides to play the last songs of the set, but it shows us for a moment how beautiful a moment Roadburn is for everyone who is part of it.
In the meantime GNOD is playing their second set of the festival. In the Green Room this time and a completely different performance from the previous night. They start off with the hooky, heavy deliveries from their album Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine. The music of GNOD this evening is simply dazzling with its brimming, buzzing energy that seems to have really hit the mark with their audience. In a world gone mad, GNOD thrives, even offers wisdom which is what they demonstrate tonight. By the time we get halfway through the set, we’ve ended up in what is best described as a post-apocalyptic, electric tribal dance. Pulsating rhythms, strange dances and a crowd that is going bonkers. GNOD delivers, again.
On our way home after a long day, we check out how Harsh Toke stumbles and wrestles through a set of Roky Erickson classics. In the typical no-nonsense take of the band, the singer complains: “These songs are just too damn fast to sing!” Sure, the performance sounds chaotic and rambling, but that’s exactly what makes it so much fun to witness this band play that set. While over on the Main Stage hardcore legends Integrity are kicking up a fuss, but lacking the intensity of a direct crowd interaction as they would have had on a smaller stage so it remains a bit of a laid back experience.
Day 2 of Roadburn was long, but full of gems. Resting time, for tomorrow we do it all over again.
Gnaw Their Tongues
Scribed by: Guido Segers
Photos by: Lee Edwards
Video by: super208productions