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Published: January 8th 2016
Enveloped in the darkness, and flying in this metal contraption at thirty thousand feet, I couldn't help but feel a sense of relief. Looking back at this past year, I realized how tired I felt. Though I've learned much, I've also had to deal with a lot more stress than is probably healthy. Any excuse to escape from this twisted rat race of society, even for a short while, is very welcome. Here I was heading to Roadburn festival 2014! I've longed to experience European festival culture, and at last I finally would. The Roadburn festival began more than ten years ago in Tilburg, a city in the south of the Netherlands. It consists of bands specializing in heavy metal, doom, black, progressive, experimental and psychedelic genres. One of my favourite bands of all time, Opeth, would be performing and this would be icing on the cake for me. The red eye flight soared over the vastness of the Atlantic. I tried to find sleep but was eluded repeatedly. I read, watched some in flight entertainment, wrote my thoughts. As I age, the perception of time appears so differently An hour in my youth seemed eternal and now it is but
a flash of light in the cosmic universe. A saddening reality emerges, life really is so very short, better enjoy the hell out of it while we have the time. And what better way then a metal concert!
The plane descends in Heathrow for a short two hour layover. I make my way to my next flight. The forty five minute flight to Amsterdam is but another drop in the bucket of time. Arriving in Schipol I grab my things and head to the nearby train station. I book a high speed train to Breda, which is close to Tilburg. It's amazing how close everything in Europe really is and a good thing too because I need to get to roadburn! I enjoyed my first scenes in this country as the train passed from city to city. The sounds of the Dutch language surrounded me. Once the train arrived in Breda, I then transfered to the Tilburg line. While waiting, I encountered a young Dutch girl sitting next to me and we began talking. I asked many questions about her country and her language. At first she appeared very shy and seemed embarrassed about her English but I reassured
her that it was actually quite good. She was on her way home to Tilburg too. Once we arrived, she helped me get my bearings and find the right bus to the Bekse Bergen campsite, where I'd be sleeping for the duration of my time at the festival. My first impressions of Tilburg were good. The bus swept around the ringroad as I experienced the city centre. The iconic Dutch architecture and cramped sidestreets greeted me, and seemingly everyone was riding bicycles throughout. Soon enough we left the confines of the city, and forests emerged. The bus left me at the Bekse Bergen safari area, some sort of zoo I imagined, but this left me confused. Where were all the camp grounds? I entered the main desk and it was clear based on my appearance (crazy volumous hair, goatee, Black Sabbath T-shirt) and before I'd even spoken a word, that I was here for Roadburn. They asked me to wait outside and an SUV came to take me to the nearby campsite. When I arrived there, a little wheeled train was working its way through the grounds and the driver, an old graying man, sat expressionless as he drove the
lumbering vehicle in the same circular path endlessly, or at least that's what I imagined. I probably could have walked faster then this train, but ultimately, with all my gear in hand, I decided against it. The weather was warm, at least eight degrees, and I no longer needed my warm winter jacket I was lugging around. Finally the driver asked me to disembark and pointed me out the "reception". As I walked towards it, something didn't feel right. This reception area was closed and I realized this was just another safari reception building. I angrily banged on the door and finally one of the staff members walked out and explained to me that I would have to backtrack an hour walk away. Shit. Apart from having to carry my gear around, I got to experience a walking tour of the campground, saw and listened to nature, as countless birds and ducks made this their home. People rowed canoes along the riverBikers flew by me on the road. And all the while the sun was shining bright. It turned out to be a great walk.
Finally I made my way to the actual campsite and was met by a
tall, long grey haired middle aged man named Karthout. His friendly smile was instantly endearing and trustworthy. In the corner of my eye I noticed what looked like an actual NYC cab and when he noticed my gaze, he proudly explained that he had indeed imported the vehicle from there. A cab driver by trade, he had invariably built a cab empire in the region and after 28 years that empire had become strong. He operated all the shuttle buses to and from the campground operation for the festival, and many others. He welcomed me to Roadburn and kindly gave me a lift to get my campsite bracelet before letting me know that I'd only have about twenty minutes before the last shuttle bus left to the venue. He left me off at the site and reminded me Ièd have only twenty minutes to get that shuttle. I hastily found a good site, cleared the ground of acorns and branches and set my tent up. I threw my belongings in and then ran back to the shuttle area. Along the way I realized I probably stinked to high hell from my flight and subsequent walks, but I didn't care, this
I arrived at the shuttle bus area and realized there were no buses. A German couple had just arrived as well. I thought maybe we had just missed it. I talked to the German guy for a little while about music and travel until Korthout arrived in his NYC taxi cab and told us he'd give us the lift, the final one of the night. We hopped in and he asked me about Canada. He talked to me about himself, his country and other random things. We arrived at the venue, near the centre of town, and I got my ticket validated. Metal heads and music lovers all, from Europe and other parts of the planet, had made the pilgrimage to Roadburn, walked through the crowded lane of the 013 venue. Four stages within the area were reserved for the festival. I saw a few unknown bands for a while, and soaked in the vibe. Then, feeling the undeniable torture of hunger, I seeked out some food in the downtown Tilburg area. Although late now, restaurants and pubs were crammed full of people. And while the temperature had dipped significantly once the sun had
retired for the night, the countless terraces were packed as people drank, smoked, and laughed the night away. I decided to splurge a little and my stomach would have it no other way. I sat at a terrace and ordered a beef sandwhich and chips. The chips or french fries as we call them were specialties in this land and were served in a cone shaped wrapping with mayo. I sampled a Juliper Pilsner beer, the first of many I was sure. After I was done eating, I just starred off, watching countless people walking past in either direction, and I felt calm and enlightened.
Getting back to the festival, I experienced a few more bands but my eyes were beginning to fight me. I hadn't slept in about 36 hours now. As the night winded down and the first shuttle bus was to venture back to the campsite, I made my way to find it. I ran into a Finnish guy, also looking for the shuttle, and we eventually found the stop where many others had congregated. Once the bus had arrived back to the campsite, in the darkness, I tried to discover where exactly my tent was.
It took a while but finally I was "home". I had a disturbed sleep that night, despite my haste, should of made sure all those damn acorns had been cleared from under where my tent stood...
This would be the pinnacle for me. After having breakfast and relaxing a bit in the tent, I made my way to the frequent shuttles heading to the festival. On my walk there I passed an exceedingly drunk who had fallen to the side of the path and lay in the dirt. His friend, a guy named Karsten who stood at 6'5 and had a massive beard and long hair, drunkenly approached me and stated that it was his good buddies birthday and they had gotten started early. These guys were hilarious and reminded me of a German version of Terry and Dean from the movie Fubar. Also ran into a Dutch guy named Emil, who offered me a Belgian Pilsner and we had a pretty in depth discussion about some of the bands at the festival. Once on the shuttle, the German guys were rowdy and somehow got the driver to blast some classical music on the
way. It was awesome. Once we got there we all went to one of the venue bars and ordered beer. Emil often passed me his flask which contained "smokey" whiskey and got me rocked. First up we checked out Comus, whom greatly inspired Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt in their folk rock ways. They were incredible live and a great appetizer for things to come. After that I separated from the guys and saw Correction's House, Yob, Goblin. I was greatly impressed. I then went to a nearby McDonald's to leach off their free wifi on my phone. After eating and then returning to the venue Candlemass was up. They played their entire 'Ancient Dreams' album and blew my fucking mind!
After getting some more beer into me, Opeth was up. I had begun listening to Opeth back in 2003 and musically they were an overwhelming influence to me for all things progressive metal. I made sure I was right at the front row. They began the show with Ghost of Perdition, then Hope Leaves, then tore things up with While Cluster from the concept album Still Life. Heir Apparent was next, followed by Devil's Orchard. Then, in a roadburn special,
they performed an incredible version of Atonement with a midway segue-way into a psychodelic keyboard and then guitar solo! It blew everyone's brains to shit! I was front row but slightly to the left and had a full view of guitarist Fredrik Akesson shredding through the songs! Mikael was spot on as usual and always hilarious in his interaction with the crowd. Deliverance hit and the crowd lost it once again. I headbanged so hard I began wondering how my head was staying attached to my neck! Next was The Lines in my Hand, although not anywhere near my favourite of their material, it was performed beautifully. Finally Mikael announced that the "encore" would be up next but he and the band were feeling lazy and it was of course way past their bedtime. He wanted the crowd to pretend that they had all gone off stage and to cheer them "back on". The crowd went wild. Finally, the song I had practiced so much on my acoustic guitar, Blackwater Park as the encore, began. I screamed until my vocal cords perforated. It was perfect. As the song neared its end, Akesson made direct eye contact with me, and with
a slight grin on his otherwise serious face he flicked his guitar pick at me. I grabbed it out of the air and then gratefully bowed in appreciation and admiration. My whole body shook in disbelief. On the shuttle bus to the campsite, the back of the bus began a chorus of "crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women" from the famous Arnold movie Conan the Barbarian but perhaps even better known for the Arnold musical remake floating around on the internet. I had an unmovable smile.
Knowing it would be damn near impossible to out due what I had experienced the day before, I nevertheless dove into roadburn with eager glee. Circle, Loop, Harsh toke, encore by Yob were seen. Of course much more beer was drunk.
Afterburner - the final day of the festival arrived. Today would be emphasized by a lot more psychedelic rock. Avatarium blew my mind, then while sipping some beer outside, I started talking to a Norwegian guy and smoke a joint with him. While smoking we discussed some crazy topics such as existence, life, biology and of course music. Then an Aussie approached us and after asking if we had a light, began to explain his PhD topic called the future of the rock show, interesting stuff to say the least. The festival continued and Tryptikon came on and annihilated the crowd. Finally the night and roadburn, came to an en. Once back in my tent, I fell asleep for the final time at the campground, exceedingly happy that I'd made it out for this event.
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