By Noel Oxford
Perhaps there was a bad moon over this festival. Perhaps weed really is the devil’s secret ingredient, and God was punishing us all for our shitty taste in music. Or perhaps the volcano belched in sympathy at the brutality which was to be visited upon Tilburg. What could be more metal than a volcanic eruption – in Iceland?! Awesome!
The volcano put paid to a lot of Saturday’s bands. Candlemass got snuffed, Shrinebuilder went on strike, etc. It was all a bit up in the air, much unlike the planes that were not yeah good one.
I headed first for Fatso Jetson (Green Room, 013), who looked a bit like a random collection of dads playing the world’s sweatiest wedding reception. They made a heck of a saucy racket, though. Frontman Mario Lalli gurned his way through a set of heavy desert riffs, backed by honking saxophone and harmonica.
Woodwind was something of a novelty at Roadburn, admittedly, but I smiled when Lalli proudly announced that they were the only band at the festival with a sax; a claim that was countermanded by the crowd in short order, because apparently Shining (No) had one too. Poor Mario. They were still great though.
Nachtmystium were next (Main Hall, 013). They were quite good; loud, dark and proggy – and they seemed to have filled the venue up nicely, but they weren’t what I was looking for right about then. I took off, instead, in search of Brant Bjork, only to be confronted by a ridiculous queue at the Midi Theatre. So I settled back in the Main Hall with a pita bread full of some sort of vegan balls and tomatoes, until Witchcraft (replacing Shrinebuilder) got up to play.
Witchcraft tick every box I’ve got, with all their 1970s fetishising, their silly bouncing riffs and their vintage amps, yet for some reason, they’ve just never grabbed me on record, and the same was true in concert. It was nice enough, and the crowd were along for the ride, but I just didn’t get caught up in it, a disappointment after anticipating Shrinebuilder so long. Perhaps the extruded tofu fungus soya paste was diluting the presence of other intoxicants in my system, making me disrespect the legitimate tastes of others because I happen to disagree with them, and sneering at everything I didn’t like, just like a real vegan.
I wandered back through to the Green Room, catching a band called Mother Unit (filling in for The Gates of Slumber), who appeared to be comprised of at least one member from 35007 and were billed as being similar to Motorpsycho. They came on and made some psychy, waily guitar noise for a bit, but it didn’t really seem like it was going anywhere. I made tracks for the Main Hall again, resolving to come back and see if they got any more interesting. Sadly, Garcia Plays Kyuss proved far more riveting, and I never quite made it.
The main hall was packed for John Garcia, and you got the sense that for many people, this was what Roadburn 2010 was all about. Despite his tubbiness, Garcia commanded the stage with understated authority, and in a venue packed full of stinking hippies, was undoubtedly the smoothest man in the room. From the shimmering opening strains of Thumb to the bouncing groove of Demon Cleaner, the trademark desert ambience of Kyuss seemed to be back where it belonged, the way it was written, and not before time.
It was only when Garcia left the stage for the instrumental break of Asteroid that the wheels got a little bit wobbly, and the flaw at the heart of this conceit became glaringly, abruptly apparent. Essentially, we were now watching a Kyuss tribute band, and while they were very good, it was hard to overcome the fact that three nameless chancers were playing some stuff we knew. I was waiting for the next tune with vocals, just so it would be Kyuss again. The same thing happened during all the long instrumental breaks. Perhaps, on this evidence, it’s come time for Josh Homme to stop pricking around with his various dadrock projects and hark back to a time when he still had some credibility.
Irrespective, Supa Scoopa and the Mighty Scoop and One Inch Man were a bloody triumph, and made every bit of stress and effort expended in getting here worthwhile.
I finished up Roadburn with a second portion of Karma to Burn, taking the Green Room stage in place of Yakuza. By that point, I was shattered, and really in no condition for anything but sleep. When the pounding tom runs of Nineteen rumbled up, however, there was nothing for it but to grab a last dance. Garcia might have been excellent, but these guys were unquestionably my favourite of the weekend.
So, there you have it, folks. A complete account of the most stressful and awful birthday of my life, punctuated by some of the most astonishing gigs I’ve ever seen, and a ton of memories I’ll treasure. Roadburn was every bit as good as I had anticipated, and it would be hard to imagine a better weekend (volcanoes aside) or a better place to hold it. Tilburg is a wonderfully beautiful town, in a brilliant country, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to come back next year.
This review should have gone up on Saturday, but googlemail lied to me again. Sorry -N