Roadburn Festival describe themselves as “Europe’s leading underground festival for psychedelic, avant-garde, doom or any other variation of leftfield sonic pleasures that push the boundaries of music.” It’s that offering that brought Rob McAuslan over the sea and back to the festival for his third consecutive visit – this year featuring line-up choices and a day of curation from one Mikael Åkerfeldt.
Six Things We Learned At Roadburn 2014:
1) Roadburners are perfectly fine with more variety than you might think.
This year’s bill included some pretty off-the wall stuff, even for a festival that’s long been held up as an example of eclecticism. The way that the artist-in-residence picks a full day’s lineup is a bit of a gamble, and Mikael Åkerfeldt’s Friday raised a few eyebrows before the event – how exactly would Magma’s uniqueness translate to a crowd more used to waves of pounding doom? (They were incredible by the way!)
I spoke briefly with Roadburn’s promoter, Walter Hoeijmakers, on the Saturday night after the bands were done for the day, and he was more shocked and pleased than anyone at the reception for Åkerfeldt’s wild proggy selections – as he said to me “It opens up new avenues for Roadburn in the future.” Broadening the bill to include even more esoteric acts should ensure the festival continues to be a vital destination for me and many others. It’s testament to Hoeijmakers and his crew that while every Roadburn has been very different in terms of line-up, it always has the same atmosphere – a relaxed friendliness to the whole thing that combines with generally excellent sound in some superb venues to make Roadburn an essential pilgrimage for so many fans of heavy music every year.
2) 103dB limits aren’t the end of the world.
Hardly a new thing, but it seems to have been a worry for some non-Europeans that were unaware of the EC ruling back in 2006. 103dB is still REALLY FUCKING LOUD. Yob’s set on the main stage in the 013 was seriously one of the most transcendently noisy things I’ve been anywhere near. If anything, it removes the temptation from sound engineers to just push the volume in place of making sure everything sounds good. Only one band I saw had anything close to poor sound all weekend, and even they were bloody loud (sorry, Tribulation).
3) Opeth are one of the greatest live bands in the world. Still.
I’ve seen them play tighter, I’ve seen them both louder and quieter, I’ve seen them indoors and outdoors – they’re always great. I’ve never seen them apparently enjoying themselves so much, and it made a huge difference. The setlist from Mikael Åkerfeldt and co. was just about perfection too:
‘The Devil’s Orchard’
‘Ghost of Perdition’
‘The Lines in My Hand’
Chuck in ‘Nectar’ from Morningrise, and that’d be me satisfied for the rest of time. A festival highlight, for sure.
4) Make sure you see the stuff on the smaller stages wherever possible.
This is where the very soul of Roadburn lies. Yes, Stage01 can be hard (impossible, even) to get into if you mess up your timings, but it’s consistently the scene for so, so many fantastic surprises. A personal highlight for me on that very stage this year was Lord Dying’s humongous tea-time riff assault. 11Paranoias in Het Patronaat was another revelation. You could have a perfectly brilliant time just hanging out in the main room of the 013, but why limit your experience to just the big bands?
5) Always, always have a plan for the day.
This kind of leads on from the previous point. Yes, I missed Inter Arma, and I feel like a total div.
6) Don’t worry about seeing everything.
You just can’t without exhausting yourself. Enjoy what you do get to witness, be zen about the rest – so much of what happens here is unique, your Roadburn will differ from other peoples’ anyway. Last year I saw Robert Hampson appearing with Godflesh, this year was Nemtheanga singing with Candlemass, next year – who knows? I’ll be in Tilburg again next April ready for more surprises, that’s for sure.
Roadburn 2015 is taking place on 09-12 April next year – tickets will be on sale sometime in the Autumn (usually October-ish) and if you want to go you’ll need to be on your toes as tickets sell out fast. Your best bet is to follow them on Twitter to find out exactly when (and how) you can get your hands on tickets for next year’s event.