A personal account by Degtyarov
They say time flies when you’re having fun, but looking back on my attendance of this year’s Roadburn, I still can’t quite fathom how I was able to make my way through that maelstrom of music, beer and appropriately questionable food in a mere four days. By the time this recap is published, more time will have passed since leaving Roadburn than I have actually spent there. Yet my mind still floats around somewhere in the centre of Tilburg, where this celebration of all things weird, lurid and fantastique took place.
Because we at Black Ivory Tower like to operate by the USMC principle of no man left behind, I will attempt to evacuate my soul from the cozy, Catholic south so that once more I may dedicate myself fully to corporate slavery. And seeing as any good therapist or quack will tell you that processing an experience by writing it down is a good idea, I can hereby welcome you to my stream-of-consciousness retelling of what I was up to between April 20 and 23 other than blazing it and celebrating birthdays.
As much as I hate to preface an article with a disclaimer (a tool preferred by cowards, lawyers and other future inhabitants of hell), I should note that it is impossible to ‘review’ Roadburn as a whole. There are simply so many bands to see and things to do that one’s individual experience may differ greatly depending on one’s priorities. To be more concrete, that my experience included funky dance moves to tribal beats while I was wearing shades indoors does not mean that you got up to similar activities or looked as cool while doing so. At the same time, the Roadburn vibe is as universal as it is remarkable, and pleasant to a point where you won’t care about using words like ‘vibe’ to describe its unique, congenial atmosphere.
Day 1 – The arrival, Rome’s pick, Deafheaven sparklefingers and Batushka
Superstitious that I am, I believe in patterns, hence I saw a perfect and pleasant trip to Tilburg as an indication that the next days, too, would give us much joy and few problems. I say ‘us’ in this otherwise deliciously first-person narrative because the Black Ivory Tower delegation to Roadburn did not just consist of Dear Leader. Travelling with me was our very own Tenebrous Kate, who had long since put Roadburn on her bucket list.
After dropping off our bags off at a hotel that was just far enough from the venue to keep people from asking “hey bro can I crash at your place?”, we ascended towards the centre to pick up our festival bracelets, naturally crafted from that type of cheap fabric that immediately gives you a rash, but it was a metal and neofolk festival so who’s going to complain about a slight lack of comfort?
First up were Ash Borer, whose grating black metal immediately justified the ear plugs we had on us during the entire festival–as all true black metal should. Their music was obscure enough that it was difficult to get into without knowing any of their songs, as is usually the case with black metal, reducing Ash Borer to a taste of what was to come.
After getting a taste of this Apéritif Black Metal, Kate and myself dragged our well-rested asses to the first main course of the day: Rome. While I would not consider myself the greatest Rome fan who ever lived, I have still taken a great interest in the band’s activities ever since Maximus properly introduced me to their work in his magnificent review. Apart from A passage to Rhodesia being a titanic effort and a perpetual mainstay in my playlist, Jerome Reuter is simply an admirable artist whose vision and intelligence shine through in music and interview alike.
Rome’s one-hour set was to take place in Het Patronaat, the church that is one of Roadburn’s five stages. We initially settled on the venue’s balcony overlooking the main floor and stage, but we rapidly realised that, though pleasant, the birdseye view would remove us too far from the concert’s inevitable intimacy, we made our way to the very front of the stage, giant beers in hand. I could already catch a glimpse of their set list, which to my great joy included my beloved “One fire”. ‘Oh Rhodesia, I’ve given you my all!’ Jerome and his band (consisting of himself, a guitarist and a percussionist) set up their gear fairly quickly and commenced to play their set at 6 o’ clock sharp.
As Jerome & co. went through old and new material over the course of a small hour, the aforementioned adage of time flying while having fun held true, except that ‘fun’ might be too derogatory a term for the authenticity and passion that radiated from this excellent performance. Jerome’s backing band was sharp and professional, and the man himself proved that he is not one of those neofolk artists who barely knows how to sing as soon as he leaves the comfort of the studio and all its arcane technology. Time flew by as Rome played hits from A passage and Flowers from Exile, as well as old, rearranged songs and even the brand-new track “Blighters”. That Jerome graciously awarded our presence with his pick at the end of his show was but a small palliative for stopping his magic all too soon.
After pulling ourselves together with beer and surprisingly non-disgusting Asian food, we moved on to the main stage for a quick fix of Wolves in the Throne Room, who play a type of inoffensive black metal that sticks to singing about the weather. Hey, so it wasn’t completely up my alley, but I did not come to this festival for Feuer, Krieg und totale Vernichtung. If Asgardsrei taught me anything, it’s that misanthropic black metal made by people who might murder you should not be spread out over four days, as it may just start affecting your mood.
Tenebrous Kate: The crazy thing about Wolves in the Throne Room is how beautifully their music adapted to the main stage at 013. It’s an enormous space that holds something like 2,000 attendees, and the band managed to fill the space with sound. Last time I caught this band live, it was in a venue with a capacity of about 300 people, so it was interesting to see how their performance adapted so seamlessly to the gigantic space.
Next up on the main stage were Coven. This occult rock band belongs to the same generation of Black Sabbath, but any lukewarm expectations about their form in the Year of Our Lord 2017 were quickly blown away by the energetic performance of Jinx Dawson, whose abstinence from biting bats and starring in reality TV shows had obviously done her good. Dawson’s voice was still beautiful, and the visible enjoyment she derived from the limelight immediately infected the entire audience. Extra credit goes out to Coven’s talented lead guitarist, who looked young enough to be Dawson’s grandson but still managed to convince any remaining skeptics in the audience that this wasn’t just some lazy reboot for nostalgia’s sake. His prominent contribution to the gig’s success fit into a larger picture of inter-generational collaboration between living legends and youthful talent.
Tenebrous Kate: As someone who’s been listening to Coven’s 1969 album Witchcraft destroys minds and reaps souls for over 25 years, it was absolutely mind-blowing to see this band live. I’m quite suspicious of reunion tours, which tend to be lazy cash grabs filled with dire old people reliving their dubiously rose-tinted glory days (unlike yours truly, who imagines herself to be a rather spry old person with limited delusions of glamours past). In spite of my cautious attitude towards Coven’s set, I was quickly won over by the energy and overall excellence of the performance. Also, it was a blast to sing along to groovy-ass songs like “Coven in charing cross” with a couple of thousand fellow Satanic pilgrims.
The end of Coven’s set meant a small dinner break, after which we decided to further soil our reputation as viciously underground naysayers by sticking to the main stage. Although in this case it was for shits and giggles more than anything else.
Speaking purely for myself for a moment, I caught the first few songs of the Deafheaven© concert mostly to see what it would be like to see the band behind the Rayban commercial. As a self-confessed… not-fan of Deafheaven™, it took courage or perhaps wilful stupidity to stay in the main stage while surrounded by music I clearly would not enjoy, but it was worth it. When their square-jawed frontman George Clarke–who is clearly a vampire who somehow absorbed all of his bandmates’ testosterone–stormed the stage like a golden retriever on the beach and cried out “HEY TILBURG HOWYADOIN TONIGHT”, crickets could be heard, and I’m sure I saw a tumbleweed or two. It was a beautiful clash of cultures: plastic and premature American enthusiasm versus frigid Dutch sobriety. As Australian comedian Steve Hughes put it, if a Dutch audience doesn’t like you, they will stare at you until you fucking cry. For all I know, San Francisco’s finest won over this skeptical audience, though judging by the fruity hand gestures Clarke employed to guide the ambient interludes, I doubt their performative enthusiasm sparkled with the majority of this hilariously Calvinist audience. In any case, I cried laughing against an ocean of light.
Tenebrous Kate: I’m sorry about Americans. We can be a bit like over-enthusiastic puppies from time to time, which isn’t an especially flattering look in the black-metal-adjacent world.
Last up were Batushka, who were crammed into Het Patronaat, presumably because a black metal band that derives its imagery from Orthodox Christianity can’t NOT play in a church venue when one is available. Fitting though this image may have been, there was a lot more interest in this band than this relatively small venue could handle. The metal church was already packed minutes after the previous band, Dälek, had stopped playing [TK: shout out to my fellow New Jersey-ites in Dälek!]. We stayed on the balcony this time around, cherishing the false hope that we might see more of the gig to come, but that dream ended when I literally had to pull up a Gadsden Flag on my phone to stop people from treading on me.
After a soundcheck that seemed to last forever, Batushka took the small stage with a whopping eight performers, and played songs from its 2015 surprise hit album Litourgiya. Their stage performance was as theatrical as their music suggests: all band members were dressed as Orthodox monks, and their singer looked as if he was delivering a sermon rather than vocals for a black metal band.
While Batushka did add some much-needed fierceness to our Thursday experience, their performance was marred by a far from perfect sound. There were parts during the concert where I could only hear drums, and the vocals lacked the power and prominence they had enjoyed on the album, which was especially disappointing when you consider that there were no less than four vocalists performing.
After Batushka, the walk back to the hotel provided us with some much-needed refreshment. We were exhausted, but we also knew that Roadburn 2017 was only just getting started.
Day 2 – True Widow buffet, secret entrances, Oathbreaker and the first altercation
Looking at the schedule before the festival, we had already determined that Friday would be the closest thing to our “day off”, and so it played out.
Swiss black metal band Schammasch looked like it might have been an interesting start to the day, but the prospect of a 2-hour set(!) in the claustrophobic Patronaat stage was enough to deflect our attention to an extended lunch, followed by a beer-soaked stroll across the festival terrain.
At half past 4, the day did get off to a bit of a false start with Magma, whom we respectively declined as “not my cup of tea” (Kate) and “bloody horrendous please get me out of here” (me). Now, my visceral knee-jerk direction should definitely be taken with a grain of salt, given that it is not a stance that emerged from a foundation of meticulous musical analysis, but rather the product of my vitriolic, some might say insane hatred of jazz; a sensation of deep-felt contempt that only grows stronger when, in the case of Magma, its neurotic, uprooted melodies are accompanied by a made-up language. So when I say that they should’ve stayed inside the tour bus just like magma should stay inside a volcano, attribute it to my bias and my inability to resist a creative turn-of-phrase.
Joking aside, we immediately left the main stage to take up residence in the adjacent Green Room, the second-biggest stage of the festival. True Widow were playing their mix of sludge, doom and alternative rock, adorned with a variation of psychedelic frills. The Texas trio played a tight set full of dark riffs that immediately washed away the bad taste left by the Magma experience. Speaking of taste, True Widow was where we definitely decided upon treating the festival as a buffet, whereby we preferred to pop our heads in at different bands to get a taste of what they sound/play like without necessarily forcing ourselves to witness the entire concert. After all, there is nothing you will learn about True Widow in 60 minutes that you can’t also learn in 30.
As such, we left early to settle ourselves at the main stage once more. In order secure ourselves some nice spots, we used the entrance to the left of the main stage to position ourselves some 10 metres from the podium. Seeing as this entrance required a few seconds of extra walking effort when coming in from the lobby, it remained one of the best-kept secrets for the duration of the festival; a secret that we exploited to the fullest in order to plonk our obnoxious mugs directly in front of whichever artist we felt like seeing.
Next up was Oathbreaker, a Belgian band that lands somewhere between black metal and the post-hardcore sound. Noteworthy was singer Caro Tanghe’s ability to switch between clean and harsh vocals seemingly without effort. The band kept alternating between quiet, more melodic segments and outbursts of black metal. Despite the efforts of Tanghe, the black metal sections did reveal themselves to be the weak point of Oathbreaker’s songwriting, merely conveying a sense of brutality without adding anything meaningful to the composition as a whole. Complaints aside, Oathbreaker put on a solid performance that was accompanied by a beautiful light show, the combination of which fully justified their main stage slot.
Tenebrous Kate: I was impressed with both True Widow and Oathbreaker, due to my affinity for doom-inflected metal. True Widow more than satisfied my need to nod along to a steady groove, bringing a welcome bit of Southern Gothic flavor to their music. As to Oathbreaker, Tanghe’s performance was an interesting counterpoint to Deafheaven vocalist Clarke’s. Though both were certainly theatrical, Tanghe’s affectation of covering her face with her hair and obscuring her body under a heavily draped cloak was a seamless fit with the emotional starkness of her delivery. The performance was a haunting one, whereas Clarke’s energetic rock star posturing felt–to this witness, at any rate–a bit too over the top. Yes, this will be the first and only time that I characterize something as “over the top” in a non-complimentary fashion, particularly considering that I squealed in delight at Jinx Dawson emerging from a coffin and may have punched Dear Leader in the arm with a great deal of vigor in my happiness at seeing Batushka’s hulking faux-monk vocalist.
With the next two acts taking place on the main stage as well, we killed some time by poisoning our bodies some more with festival food, as well as catching up with our Russian buddies who had come en masse to this ultimate musical dark ride. Their presence was one of the many indications of the international significance of Roadburn. A quick walk through the festival terrain would expose you to a dozen languages, ranging from Spanish to English; from Russian to Portuguese. American, Scottish and British accents could be distinguished, and even my native Dutch came in various regional forms, whether it was the Northwestern standard, the local Brabant accent, or several, borderline unintelligible Flemish dialects. You could see representatives of outlets such as Black Metal & Brews, Echoes & Dust, Noisey, Heathen Harvest, Metal-Injection, and God knows who else. The Calvinist spirit of us Dutch folks often prevents us from taking pride in things, but it was obvious from the murmur on both the festival and social media that this was the place to be for metal and neofolk fans globally. Not only was the hype there; from what I understand the organisation was superior to that of American festivals, as the security guards didn’t make a big fuss about people bringing their own drinks, or walking from venue A to venue B with a fresh beer in hand. They say the devil is in the detail, and letting people do what they want as long as it didn’t harm anyone was no doubt a huge factor in the positive, friendly and laid-back atmosphere that you could sense wherever you went.
Tenebrous Kate: The atmosphere was almost frighteningly chill. I kept a count of things that would have gotten me reprimanded in New York City, and quickly gave up when I reached double-digits in my first two hours at the fest. Huge thanks are due to both the organizers of Roadburn and its thousands of wonderful attendees for creating an environment that is welcoming, laid back, AND organized.
After pondering the organisational superiority of the Dutch (we are related to the Germans, after all), we went back to the main stage to add two more bands to our Friday buffet. First up were Amenra, who played a blend of sludge/doom metal, and Chelsea Wolfe, who performed with a full band and added some much-needed spice to her older material.
Initially we had one concert left for the day, which was Zeal & Ardor, who mix extreme metal with slave spirituals. The only problem was that it took place in the by now dreaded Patronaat, which was perpetually difficult to get into and frequently had lines of up to 30 metres to separate us fine folk from the entrance. Reluctantly we entered the queue–after all, this was a lot of effort for a novelty act–but with the line moving as fast as it did, we got in after about 5-10 minutes of waiting.
With over half an hour left before Zeal & Ardor were scheduled to play, we positioned ourselves next to the soundboard, hoping that it would limit the amount of pushing and shoving we would have to endure until the gig started. Our precautions were in vain, as the organisation kept feeding people into the venue and I soon became entangled in a web of tired, sweaty, pushy people trying to make their way to the front of the stage. As my lukewarm enthusiasm for this set had already made me irritable, I quickly reached a boiling point and told a random American woman (because of course) to stuff it when she was trying to push herself through, inventing space that wasn’t there. This led to a short confrontation in which I might have told her to fuck off. After that pleasant interaction, we noticed that the organisation was still allowing people to further flood the place, and finally reached the conclusion that the hype wasn’t worth all this claustrophobia, and we bailed the fuck out of there.
As we crossed the water while walking back to our hotel, we heard the clock strike 11, when Zeal & Ardor’s set was finally supposed to kick off. It did not bother us, as by that time the silence of the night sang more beautifully than what any band could have come up with: our tired bodies had had enough.
Later it even turned out that Zeal & Ardor’s set was cut short because the PA system blew up twice, so it was–as they say–much ado about nothing.
Day 3 – Laster, DOLCH, Youth Code dance club and a ration o’ AHAB
Fatigue first started to kick in for me around the third day, which was a bit unfortunate seeing as this day got off to a noticeably earlier start than the one before.
My countrymen of Laster were scheduled to play first in the Cul de Sac bar, which is the smallest of all venues at Roadburn. Laster had been recommended to me by Johan of Terzij de Horde, and seeing as I had not yet witnessed a huge amount of black metal at Roadburn, I figured it would do me good to enjoy an early afternoon dose of my favourite style of music.
Upon entering the venue, we saw that we weren’t the only ones who had that idea, as this deep but narrow venue was packed to the brim with fellow Roadburners. What caused this was the lack of concurrent bands playing at the time: for the first 45 minutes of its hour-long set, Laster were the only band you could see at the festival, which had naturally led to a sardines in a can experience.
Witnessing the first few songs from the back of the crowd and therefore unable catch even the slightest glimpse of the performers, we had to focus exclusively on the music, and that was certainly no punishment. Laster’s breed is rare in that they employ many so-called ‘progressive’ elements (influences from post-rock and other non-metal styles), but refuse to thrive solely on the ‘atmospheric’ wall of sound tends to arise from such fusion. Laster’s compositions were lengthy, diverse and technical, and each composition incorporated a wide range of moods to actually help establish a story arch. In short, it revealed itself to be a band that does not forget to write actual riffs in its fixation on creating atmosphere.
As I finally managed to fight my way to the stage, I was shocked to see only three performers: a singer/guitarist, a bass player and a drummer. Moments before, the range and richness of their sound had motivated me to imagine at least five musicians on stage. The number did briefly rise to five when Johan did guest vocals (and some sensual dancing) for their track “Helemaal naar huis”, which was accompanied by a saxophone. As my hatred of saxophones is by now well documented, it should suffice to say that the presence of said instrument disappointed me. Regardless, Laster played a tremendous set that I found was, musically, one of the highlights of now just today, but of the entire festival.
Shortly after the show, news emerged that Misþyrming was to play a surprise set at Cul de Sac, but seeing as not me nor Kate are fans of Icelandic black metal, we gave that particular gig a miss in order to settle ourselves at the only venue we had not yet attended: “Extase”.
Extase, which offers a bar and a small stage separated by a narrow corridor, was to host DOLCH, a project neither me nor Kate knew anything about. However, judging by their affiliation with Ván Records (of Urfaust and King Dude fame) and their martial-looking logo, the odds of us liking them certainly weren’t against us. Indeed, in the 25-minute taste we got of the band, it was exactly the type of rugged yet slightly camp doomish delight that we had come there for. We had to leave halfway the set, however, to catch a glimpse of Oranssi Pazuzu, who were performing on the main stage.
Tenebrous Kate: Oranssi Pazuzu is a band that, by all rights, I should not like. Any doubts as to the likelihood that black metal and progressive compositions can work together are absolutely obliterated by this Finnish powerhouse. I’ve enjoyed watching their bizarre brand of cosmic chaos evolve over the years and their 2016 epic Värähtelijä was one of my top records of that year. Watching them weave their musical sorcery on the main stage was bliss: disorienting lights and wall-to-wall sound transported the audience to remote and dangerous corners of the universe.
After our buffet sample of Oranssi Pazuzu, I was dragged along to Youth Code, whom I had never heard of before. It was to be an electronic set, and in spite of my genetic affinity for hardstyle, I had lukewarm expectations of the hour that lay ahead of me.
Still, I went into their gig at Het Patronaat with an open mind, and that was certainly rewarded. From the first second to the last, the duo rocked the place, with Ryan George delivering harsh 4/4 beats and his partner-in-noise Sara Taylor screaming frantically throughout the entire set. Enjoyment was had, and some dancing may have occurred. Youth Code were definitely one of the biggest (pleasant) surprises of the festival.
Our last band of the day was Ahab, who played in the pleasantly spacious Green Room venue. They played the entirety of what is perhaps their most famous album: The call of the wretched sea. The venue proved perfect for thumping doom metal, with each growl and drum beat alike thundering through our bodies with unrelenting power.
There were several other performances after Ahab, but we decided to call it an early night in order to prepare ourselves for the final day, which would prove to be the most intense of all.
DAY 4 – Les Discrets, David Tibet, and Ulver’s satanic disco
For me, the fourth and final day of Roadburn got off to a bad start. I am traditionally gloomy on Sunday, let alone when it’s the final day of Roadburn, and the end to the stream of great live shows and quality time with friends is already tangible. As a result, my small forays into the venues of Temple ov BBV (sidenote: having ‘ov’ in your band, album or song name in the Current Year is the same as still calling things ‘epic’), Faal, Author & Punisher and Pallbearer were all regrettable. Not necessarily because their music was bad, but rather because their music, through its dark and chaotic sentiments, failed to make this Sunday any less grating to my state of mind.
Tenebrous Kate: I quite enjoyed Author & Punisher and stayed for more of his set than I’d anticipated. I have an arm’s-length relationship with most power noise, but something in this set resonated with me on exactly the right frequency. Perhaps there was a bit more song structure, perhaps I was intrigued by the rig that Tristan Shone was working (which included both programmed elements as well as electronic elements that appeared to be manually triggered), or maybe I’m just positively disposed to visuals involving nuns as well as Isabelle Adjani’s sublime subway breakdown in the transgressive film Possession. Whatever it was, I left that set quite satisfied indeed.
Real change only started occurring when we headed to the main stage to catch Les Discrets. The band of Fursy Teyssier of Amesoeurs fame has been around for over a decade, and I still remember it from when it was Fursy’s bedroom project whose only public material consisted of a few home-made demos on MySpace. I had not followed the project since that time, so it was a special experience to behold Les Discrets as a four-piece band at Roadburn’s biggest stage.
For those who are unfamiliar with Les Discrets, they are comparable to Alcest (the project of Neige, who was–not coincidentally–also in Amesoeurs). Fursy Teyssier’s band offers a similar concoction of shoegaze, post-rock, and some traces of black metal, but with the advantage that it does not feature Neige’s fruity vocals.
Les Discrets played a tight set of a little under an hour, with Fursy Teyssier handling vocals and guitars, and Audrey Hadorn on keyboards and backing vocals. Two session members completed the live line-up on drums and lead guitars respectively. A pleasant surprise was how Audrey Hadorn aptly handled the basslines on her keyboard in the style of Ray Manzarek. This was just one of her three tasks next to the piano and backing vocals, and it was a delight to see such versatile talent at work.
A weak point throughout the show was the vocal department. The singing was off on multiple occasions, which became especially apparent during the harmonies between Teyssier and Hadorn. It was a shame, too, because the instrumentation was consistently professional otherwise.
Complaints aside, Les Discrets managed to impress me a lot, and that they played one of the old songs I still knew from their MySpace era–“Song for mountains”–at the very end of their set only made me realise that I had been missing out all these years by not staying on track with their activities. Les Discrets delivered my first real redemption from Sunday gloom, and seeing as I was still toying with the goofy idea of having a “band of the day” for this report, I figured they’d fill the Sunday slot.
Tenebrous Kate: At this point, I popped into the Green Room for Valborg, the German martial-tinged metal band. German metal is a goddamn delight, due in no small part to delightful stage banter. Show me the man who doesn’t crack a smile when a scowling, bass-wielding giant screams “WE ARE HERE FOR METAL PARTY!!!” and I will show you a man made of stone.
But then came Ulver.
Although their new album, The assassination of Julius Ceasar, was already obtainable before this weekend, Ulver’s Roadburn performance was intended as an album presentation of sorts. Now I’ve been into Ulver ever since I discovered Bergtatt as a teeny bopper, and I was on board for their ever-unpredictable career moves until the Blood inside era. Even if many of their electronic exploits were always on the border of self-absorbed wankiness, releases such as Teachings in silence and Perdition city still pop up in my playlists from time to time, and I can respect that they have made valid contributions towards multiple genres of music, even if it came at the cost of a few missteps here and there.
Still, my expectations for this Roadburn performance were tamed by the reality that things could really go either way: would it be brilliant or pretentious? It’s a finer line than many might think.
Any doubts about Ulver’s performance soon faded, as they put on a spectacular show that saw their goth-tinged synthpop coated in a truly spectacular lightshow that effectively provided each song with its own, custom music video. Lengthy instrumental interludes (which are, according to our sources, not featured on the album proper) saw the three percussionists deliver insanely catchy tribal beats. With neon lights, synths and old-school beats, Ulver infused the whole so-called ‘synthwave’ hype with some much-needed artistic creativity. In this neo-satanic disco, my Russian friend Alexey and I saw no option but to put on our shades and display our dance moves in an accordingly obnoxious fashion. Surely, this was the best that Sunday at Roadburn would have to offer?
Last up for the day and, with that, the entire festival, was Hypnopazūzu. Hypnopazūzu is a collaboration between David Tibet and Killing Joke, a band that can be classified in the postpunk genre. As it was to be the last concert of the day and we were still recovering from Ulver’s 80-minute set, we returned to the main stage with the idea that we’d get one last buffet taste before heading back to the hotel and get some much-needed rest for our impending travel day. Just a small bite of Tibet’s latest exploit would be enough, right?
Except we couldn’t bear to leave for even one second during this 70-minute set. Playing songs from their Create Christ, sailor boy album, the band was absolutely mesmerising in the truest, realest sense of the world. David Tibet, who came on stage in a white suit with no shoes, carrying a tote bag with wine bottles, sang with such passion, such conviction that we were no less than spellbound. For 70 minutes, we could not focus on anything else than David Tibet’s idiosyncratic voice and the magical tones of the half a dozen musicians who guided it.
It was an appropriate end to the day. Had my gloom been driven away by a bundle of light? No, but it had gained a halo of radiant beauty that made it much easier to channel. This was due in large part to Tibet’s soul-piercing performance. As I take seriously the command to not use the Lord’s name in vain, I am not talking in metaphors when I say this was a religious experience of some order. Tibet’s final words, “God bless you”, were ever so appropriate. Just speaking for myself, I did feel blessed.
Away we went. Early in the morning, sharing a cab with the woman who I’m convinced I had the altercation with. Let’s just call it a Roadburn miracle. One of many. It had been a magical but also exhausting experience. We were both coming down with a cold, so it was a sign that a fifth day in Tilburg would have been a bad idea anyway. Reflecting on the Roadburn weekend, it had been near perfect. Sure, some bands should’ve been booked in bigger venues, but even then I would say one altercation in four full days of festival is a respectable talley that would have been much less favourable at just about any other weekend event.
The bands were great, the security wasn’t anal about bringing drinks into venues, and the mid-town location couldn’t have been more perfect. Often I thought back to my experience at Graspop 2006, where I spent three or four days on a field of mud and waste with no running water. More black metal perhaps, but if I have one weakness it is sleep deprevation, followed closely by not being able to shower and having snot that is coloured black because the atmosphere is filled with sand, dust and literal shit.
A train took us to the airport, from where Kate flew back to NYC, and I travelled on until I reached my hometown. And so everyone went their separate ways, until, sometime in the future, we will meet again for the purpose of experiencing the arcane and making magic happen.
Text and photos by Degtyarov.
Illustrations, interjections and additional photos by Tenebrous Kate.