On this second report Marco Manzi gives us a detailed overview of the second day of the festival, that took place on Friday the 21st of April 2023.
Not having slept too much, and after failing to adjust to the dutch weather (not even close to the temperatures and sunny days of the last edition), Friday started in a more relaxed way, getting somewhat lost in the streets while trying to find our restaurant of choice for some proper pre-festival food and craft beer. That part of the plan worked more or less successfully, and so at 13:00 I was punctually waiting for Ad Nauseam to start playing inside of The Engine Room.
Not knowing the band beforehand aside from a few of their songs, I was impressed by the vocalist and by the overall quality and skills of the Italian band. With their experimental blackened death metal this was a very strong start for a long day to come, and the hall was already pretty full.
After Ad Nauseam – I really must say I appreciate how the early afternoon shows had less overlapping so that people could gradually ease themselves into each day without too much running around – it was time to head back once again to 013.
First stop: the smaller stage for the Sangre de Muerdago / Judasz & Nahimana collaboration (of which now I had even higher expectations after the previous day). On their second performance as artist in residence, Sangre de Muerdago had paired with the duo to create four original pieces, or “cantigas”, in a collaboration that started during the pandemic years. These exquisite musical pieces offer a combination of traditional instruments and sounds melting into the melancholic vocals. Aided by the visuals in the back screen they managed to create an immersive experience for the audience, to the point it felt almost a pity to miss the last few minutes, but Bell Witch was about to start on the bigger stage.
Sangre de Muerdago / Judasz & Nahimana
Their show wasn’t announced until the earlier week, for the excitement of the Roadburn crowd – or a good part of it – who now got to witness the duo playing live their new “Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate” in it’s entirety. It’s an EP? It’s an album? It doesn’t really matter because it really is just one 83-minutes long track, and exactly what one could expect from them. The audience was transfixed (and the hall was packed) during the gig. Which made it even more imposing by performing on the bigger stage, which could sometimes feel almost cold or impersonal when there is so much free space, but was instead very fitting for this particular show.
As Impressive as Bell Witch was, duty (and some degree of FOMO) called, as I really didn’t want to miss entirely Ashenspire. I am glad I could catch the final bits of their show. The saxophone for a brief moment vaguely made the Norwegian Shining come to mind, but at the same time their music does not have much to do with that due to their more typical UK influences but also Norwegian as, for instance, some Vulture Industries vibes creep in. The Scots had fun and entertain their crowd with passion and their avant-garde raw aggressiveness, focused in large part on their latest “Hostile Architecture” album.
Another act that positively impressed me was Oiseaux Tempete. From the abundant half hour of their show which I managed to witness, I immediately understood why they had been given the role of artist in residence. This experimental collective started the performance with their core trio, later being joined by other musicians while celebrating their 10th anniversary with a retrospective on their eclectic work (starting from their debut “Ütopiya?”). It’s hard to encapsulate their music into a particular genre, and there is not necessarily a need to. These kind of artists incarnate the idea of what direction Roadburn has been taking and I for one am really looking forward to the path ahead.
Wolves In The Throne Room was perhaps one of the most popular names in this year’s lineup, and they definitely stood up to their reputation with this special show. The visuals were created specifically for this occasion and to thematically fit the set played here at Roadburn, adding an extra dimension to the live aspect.
Wolves In The Throne Room
But truth be told, I was completely in the mood for discovering new bands and my quest for different sounds eventually made me slipped once again into the nearby Next Stage venue for Maud The Moth. The ethereal, yet somewhat oppressive melodies filling the venue made for a nice change of pace. The Spanish-born pianist’s tormented music was certainly something you don’t get to hear every day, and the audience was quietly listening almost as if in reverence.
Maud The Moth
At this point the foolish attempt to check out Nordmann at Paradox ended in a near complete failure: not only I found myself outside during a quick rain shower – including hail and lightning striking all around town – but due to the capacity of Paradox it was not possible to get inside till 40 minutes into the show, allowing just a glimpse of a song – not nearly enough to judge the show – but only to breathe in the “jazziness” of it. This is something that I will need to explore more at the next opportunity, but now the main stage and Brutus were calling, so it was time for another power-walk in the rain.
Brutus is perhaps one of the few (if not the only) band of the weekend of which I had the impression that the music sounded better on record than live. Nonetheless, the dummer/singer Stefanie Mannaert’s enthusiasm easily drew the crowd into the gig, where the trio had the opportunity to showcase their latest effort “Unison Life”. Overall, the atmosphere turned out to be quite enjoyable, with their songs being perhaps amongst the catchiest of today – so it was hard after all not to thump your feet at their rhythm.
The “cruelty” of having too many good and interesting artists all at once made so that I had to sacrifice Jerusalem In My Heart and later also Portrayal of Guilt. On the other hand, this allowed me to both sit down and try out some food at one of the many stalls in the Pit Stop area where I also could focus on the simultaneous show of the Rotterdam-based duo Vulva. This time not regretting the decision one bit, because these two angry-sounding ladies dressed in white wedding dresses didn’t really take long to capture the audience with their in-your-face noise punk.
And as a side note, when a show starts with a disclaimer on the screen, it can only be good (hopefully they also got the message across). This is the kind of gig that would have been working perfectly in the skatepark (which sadly this year was not available), but the hall of fame also worked well and people really seemed to appreciate the effort of these dutch ladies.
At this point, as mentioned previously, the conscious decision was to focus mostly on the smaller and least expected, or even to the more experimental side of the festival, “ignoring” the bigger sets on the main stage.
Went to check out J. Zunz, who came here at Roadburn as part of the 25th anniversary showcase of Rocket Recordings. The trio lead by Lorena Quintanilla brings the crowd into an hypnotic trance with their synths and repetitive yet almost whispered sound and vocals.
A trance only interrupted when duty calls again, so about halfway through it was time for a good run towards Paradox – this time reserving enough time to still be able to enter the venue before the show – for what was personally one of the most anticipated shows, ever since their cancellation at last year’s edition: the PoiL / Ueda collaboration.
Mixing traditional Japanese singing and instruments with the prog rock of the French act, this truly captivating show was one of the gems one could find at Roadburn 2023, quite far from my traditional listening and musical “comfort zone”, yet without doubt one of the top performances in my personal festival run. Junko Ueda has also been introducing the songs explaining their lyrical themes to the audience, adding some context to the layered music infused with feudal Japanese myth and tradition. Also how often do you get the chance to see someone play the satsuma-biwa outside of Japan?
There was still time to taste more music, so I ventured on a quick escapade first to The Engine Room for Elizabeth Colour Wheel – which in only a few minutes impressed me to the extend that I just had to put them higher in my priorities for Sunday (when they had their commissioned collaboration project with Ethan Lee McCarthy).
Elizabeth Colour Wheel
For me, Elizabeth Colour Wheel was the cherry on top of an incredibly rich and varied second day. The freshness of their sound, the eclectic take on a variety of genres they masterfully combine, and the pure energy they unleash on stage, unsurprisingly kept people glued to the stage. Afterwards, I really wished I also had time to check out the solo project Otay:onii (that woman sure has an impressive range!).
Needless to say their latest “Nocebo” has been in my regular playlist since, and I am looking forward to its follow-up.
Holy Scum concluded this second day. As strangely catchy as it was nearly anxiety-inducing with the oppressive sound, this band born from the casual collaboration between members of Gnod, Dälek and Shuck brings together their musical baggage to give life to this creature that sounds exactly how one would expect from their influences. If you are familiar with their music, you can easily imagine the rest. It was well-worth dragging yourself to this live show from the Koepelhal.
The night was still (relatively) young, so a mandatory visit to the Weirdo Canyon for some adult beverages followed suit, allowing to forget the fatigue, and to sit down just enough to recover for some more night cycling (this time drier but also colder).
Many people were still going to follow Sierra’s DJ set – replacing Boy Harsher’s. As unfortunately, the latter duo couldn’t make it in time to town – but knowing I would see Sierra on the following day (and after witnessing her talent as support act for Carpenter Brut’s in their last European tour), I felt like I could cash in on adding a couple more hours of sleep instead.
Which was a very wise decision, considering the abundance of bands to see on Saturday.
On a final note of the day:
Apparently there was a Have a Nice Life secret show, so secret that it was not even available on the mobile app. I liked how hints were apparently dropped here and there around the festival for the fans to notice – personally I was too busy in my own music crusade to pay enough attention. Also Chat Pile did a secret-not-so-secret show in the Hall of Fame in the evening. I have been saying all the weekend how they would have been working so nicely in a smaller stage/venue, and the Hall of Fame was the next best thing to what I had in mind (fun fact we had an encounter with the guys in the press room earlier in the day when they found their way there looking around really confused while waiting for an interview, so while everyone else has had their take on the “WHY”-jokes, I had my own “no, I am not James” story to tell).
This year felt actually quite hard to find the way towards any of these special sets popping out during the weekend as there was just so much to see and choices had to be made.
Favorite shows of today (again not necessarily in this order): PoiL Ueda, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Vulva, Bell Witch