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I recently returned from Roadburn 2012, and much like last year’s edition (which I also covered for IO), I needed a bit of time to digest what I had just experienced.

Rewind to April 2011. I had little to no idea what Roadburn was going to be like. Afterwards, my perception of metal festivals was forever altered, and I had an even greater appreciation for noisy/stonery/dark/ambient/random/magical metal. I learned what it was like to roam and live with an intelligent and diverse group of humans who shared the same love and fascination for all things heavy. It blew my expectations away, in all facets. So essentially, the 2012 edition of Roadburn sure had a lot to live up to.

I spent a lot of time last year in a bit of shock and awe of my surroundings, how a relatively small European town could be transformed to a heavy metal amusement park. This year the excitement stemmed from knowing the ropes, knowing the layout . . . excitement about maximizing our participation and time.

Roadburn Take Two

My traveling companion again was my pal John, and this time around, we were fully prepared. Last year, we dealt with lodging way late in the game, and ended up staying in a suburb of Tilburg, with a 30 or so minute cab ride each way in to the venue, which was suboptimal for several obvious reasons. I took no chances for 2012 and, almost a year ago, booked the hotel closest to the venue.

Rather than spend time fantasizing about what the festival would be like, we spent the train ride from Amsterdam planning our attack on the city. We knew how Roadburn and Tilburg operated, we thought we knew what worked and didn’t work, what was smart (stocking the fridge at the hotel with beer) versus what was dumb (eating too much late-night falafel, which will not make your stomach feel great the next day).

The running order was in hand. All the bands were great. Scheduling our food and drink breaks was going to be tough:

Me: “I think we can hop out and get a Roadburn burger between amazing band #1
John: “But amazing band #2 is playing at the Het Patronaat, so we only have 10 minutes.”
Me: “I guess we can’t eat.”

We quickly realized that any form of planning was going to result in utter failure. All we knew were the blatantly obvious: gotta see Sleep and Voivod, gotta see as many of the Justin Broadrick shows as possible, gotta show some love to American bands. But we knew the real gems and epiphanies would be had by stumbling upon a band we had no idea about, so we decided to wing it.

Sleep (when I die)

While this was only my second Roadburn, and I can’t speak for previous years’ fests, this year had a vibe of everything being in order, timing was perfect, everything just flowed so well. Maybe it was the fact that we were more familiar, but an already well-oiled machine had seemed to get even better. From a bird’s eye view, I imagine it looked like a veteran colony of metal ants, all working together to raise a bunch of metal from the ground.

An interesting change up for Roadburn 2012 was the replacement of the Midi Theatre with the Het Patronaat as the fourth stage. The venue was great, a mixture of heavy metal church (pretty great glass windows) with an upper level lounge, basement of relaxation and booze . . . a community center for metalheads, really.

Being able to stumble out of our hotel directly into the thick of things was such a welcome change. It was a ceremonial walk through a sea of black that had descended upon the strip of bars and restaurants in Tilburg, which was juxtaposed by the electronic music and college students blasting from bars in between, but no one seemed to care or notice. The city thrived off of Roadburn and appreciated each other.

I could do metal, beers, burgers, metal, beers, metal, metal, metal, falafel every day of my life.

A dark sea of sound

In my opinion, Day 1 was the perfect introduction to this heavy party. Agalloch set an eerie and atmospheric mood, Red Fang got the fists pumping and energy running, Lord Vicar stunned us with their intensity and power, while Black Tusk burned the small room to the ground. This was a day to get your feet wet, get a vibe for the crowd, and ready yourself for 3 days of nonstop music (we sadly couldn’t hang around for the Afterburner). Oh and by the way we ended our night with an insane Justin Broadrick dance party, dancing our way down the streets of Tilburg afterwards to partake in the surreal nightlife and sea of denim and patches.

Day 2 made me want to buy a convertible, hire a driver, grab some friends, several bottles of whiskey and cruise around a desert non-stop listening to all the incredibly rocking bands I just saw. Just reading the names Black Breath, Witch, Yob, Dopethrone, Valient Thorr together in one sentence made my head start banging furiously and caused me to shotgun a beer.

Day 3 was the perfect exit. Saviours ripped it, Pelican was the best I had ever seen them, Necro Deathmort blew us away, and then we stumbled in to Sleep, and had our faces shredded. Oh and by the way, Necros Christos is incredible and caused me to have some of the most evil (and awesome dreams) ever as we ended by seeing them.

I could spend pages on every band I saw. Roadburn (and Voivod) did such a great job gathering an interesting and diverse set of bands, there was truly something for everyone, and yet again I came away with dozens of new top tier bands in my back pocket.

All good things

Don’t come to end, they just get resurrected a year later. While sitting in our hotel, we went ahead and booked our hotel rooms for 2013’s edition. I’m thoroughly looking forward to waking up around 3 a.m. next November to hit refresh on the browser and buy tickets.

— Tommy Young

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