Being a first-time roadburner I had only heard the stories and overwhelmingly positive feedback from fellow music enthusiasts who have been there previously. So when I finally had the occasion to reserve time in Spring to set out towards the Netherlands and be on my way to Tilburg, I left home with quite high expectations and a proper dose of excitement, which grew more and more as the festival started approaching and I began prepping for the event: listening to all the unfamiliar bands (I admit there were quite a few of those on the bill, which is also the beauty of such a festival, right?), planning and constantly re-adjusting the schedule based on “must-see”, “want to see”, “I would love to see if there is time”. All of this despite knowing that everything could change as soon as “that one very special secret show starting in one hour at this stage” would show up on the TimeSquare app, loyal companion throughout these 4 days. Yes four, because I unfortunately could not make it for the warm-up day on Wednesday, but still found my way into town well in time before the first band began on Thursday inside of the Koepelhal.
I also did some preliminary scouting of the premises and locations and got initially a bit lost, but immediately got the hang of it, and headed to the weirdo canyon to grab some food. And I have to say, it took me less than 10 minutes to feel like I belonged!
So in high spirits, still good energy and enthusiasm, on the first day of this festival adventure I managed to see at least in part or catch a glimpse of various bands (in order): Big Brave, Forndom, Messa, Cloud Rat, Maggot Heart, 40 Watt Sun, Authark III, Sólstafir. Thou, and last but not least, Russian Circles (a bit more on these shows to follow).
The first thing that captured my attention after spending a few hours in this festival was the friendly atmosphere, and the overall craving for live music, togetherness of the people in this event, everyone seemingly enjoying themselves while being generally respectful and nice to each other, knowing we were all there for the same thing and shared this big passion. Over the course of the festival I had some very pleasant conversations with people I had never met before (festival goers, fellow media reps, volunteers and even security workers), as well as with friends who also joined in this Roadburn experience.
This is something you don’t really see often in most festivals or other regular events. It takes something very special to achieve this sense of community, and Roadburn definitely has it.
So coming back to the actual live music:
Big Brave was a fitting start. The band has grown quite a bit in the past few years – noticeable in their newly released music – which worked very nicely for a chilled early afternoon session.
Forndom followed suit with his folk viking melodies. This is probably what could happen if Wardruna and Falkenbach had a child, and both bands are close to my heart for one reason or another.
After (regrettably) missing Year of No Light due their show overlapping with my check-in schedule, Messa was one of my personal highlights. And not just of the day, but definitely up there with the best of these four days. The band is riding on the moment thanks to the positive reviews of their most recent work from critics and fans alike (kudos once again to Svart Records in their scouting for talent). As soon as they began performing, they immediately set up the atmosphere inside of 013, guiding the audience by hand into their own (doomy) world and the new songs from “Close”.
Only the curiosity to see Cloud Rat abruptly woke me up from this and lead me again to Koepelhal, this time in the Engine Room side. The American band immediately surprised me as, while expecting something more “extreme” I found myself witnessing their electronic set, which only added to the interest around them (and I hope to catch them again in the near future as I completely missed their other set during Roadburn).
It was time for my first experience at one of these much-talked about “secret shows”, which I already knew about as I had seen Maggot Heart just a couple of weeks before in their tour. Of course that did not stop me from wanting to check them out again, as the raw energy emanating from the trio lead by Linnéa Olsson, as well as their in-your-face rock attitude, can be pretty contagious. So, obviously, I was not disappointed in this regard during their performance at the skatepark.
I couldn’t see much of 40 Watt Sun, but enough to once again appreciate the artistic talent of Patrick Walker (and his vocals), and catch a glimpse of that magical atmosphere typical of their shows.
This is because I was running to catch a spot in the new venue, Paradox, for the Autarkh III acoustic show. A decision that was well-worth taking, as seeing this local trio of musicians perform their own music under a completely different light of ambient music – In a setting such as this seated jazz venue – was absolutely incredible. I was waiting for this since their Roadburn Redux debut.
After this, or most likely because of this, the following Sólstafir show seems a bit underwhelming. Nothing really wrong per se, and “Svartir Sandar” is among my favourite records from the Icelandic band (probably after “Köld” and “Ótta”), but on the big stage it was hard to really get into the same atmosphere, especially after such an intimate experience as the previous one.
It was time for a change of pace, and newfound energy came from another surprise show when Thou was announced at the Skatepark. The venue was totally packed and still there was the longest queue of this day for people to try to get in and catch even just a few moments of this show. But luckily for most, there was plenty of Thou during the festival (the jokes about it haven’t gotten old yet) – lots of nice surprises and guest appearances. Nonetheless this was a highly entertaining set, and just what one needed to gather adrenaline for the rest of the night.
A night that personally ended not too much later, namely with Russian Circles return to this festival ground. With a new album in the making, this post-metal institution was a welcome cherry on top of a hectic as much as satisfying first day. Discouraged by the sheer amount of people trying to get to the Next Stage to check out The Bug, I gave up on that in order to gain a little bit more sleep and thus also a fresh start for the following, equally if not even more intense festival day.