This year I went to Roadburn for the second time. Only the second? Yes, goddammit, only the second time. I also reviewed the festival for the second time, but this time as press. There’s a lot you can say about a festival in your review, but I need some space for something more personal.
For me it feels like home, feels like sitting down in a warm bath. There is a calm coming over me when I walk into the weirdo canyon, the small street on which 013’s entrance is. I let go of all my other concerns, because the next four days I will be immersing myself in music. Only music. I look around to see who else is here, but I don’t know that many people to be honest. Still, I’m home and everyone here is a potential friend.
I take a moment before jumping into the fray by watching my first band. Taking a moment to take it all in, to embrace my environment and bask in it for a moment. I know that when I enter a venue to see a band, I’ll be on a roll for the rest of the day. I check out some art in the hall ways, make mental notes on coin machines and food trucks, so I’m ready for my stampede.
Then I find myself checking band after band after band. I take short breaks to talk to friends and fellow music writers. There’s a gleam in their eyes as well, in which I see reflected my own. If music is a drug, we’re all high as kites these days. We’ve all come home to a place were music reigns.
Open minds, open hearts
It’s a strange thing, that Roadburn experience. In a normal situation I’m a critical listener. I can see a band and judge the book by its cover, like most people who’ve seen and heard a lot of music. We’re judgemental and we need to be convinced that your band is going to be an experiental addition to our lives. It sound sour, but for people who review around 200 albums a year it makes sense. Some music is just not very good…
You wouldn’t eat shitty junkfood by choice for days in a row either, would you? It’s slightly different on Roadburn. I feel my mind completely open up to any band on the bill. Why? Because you sort of know that whatever is playing, was picked with great care. It was picked for its uniqueness, for its quality or simply because you need to see it. As a visitor of Roadburn, you completely surrender your pre-judgement to the organisers, you submit to them and just accept what they throw at you. It’s strangely liberating and with an open mind, you let the music into your heart.
Magic on stage
This effect works both ways, it seems like bands realize the kind of crowd they are getting and the way the crowd is experiencing them. No band plays a bad show at Roadburn, because they all try that little bit harder. It might also be the pink glasses that everyone is wearing during the festival. That open mind and hunger for more music, does make everything sound a bit sweeter, doesn’t it.
To me it feels that way though, that every band is just giving it their all. You see bands doing things, they’ve not done live before ever. See the Úlfsmessa this year, by some Icelandic black metal bands or the great Skúggsja performance by Wardruna and Enslaved. Or that haunting Blood Moon session by Converge? Bands reunite for the festival, old arguments are buried for Roadburn and creative fires rekindles. It has to be something else than something weird in the water, no?
More than anything, Roadburn feels like a tribe. Going there makes you a member, pretty much automatically it seems. We gather once a year, to feel happy for a few days. To immerse ourselves in that which we love and cherish. It’s like a bond, that runs deeper than you’d think. Through out the year, we nod to the people wearing the shirts or caps they could only have gotten at the festival. A knowing smile is all it takes.
For a few days I feel less lonely than I normally do. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. That’s my Roadburn experience.