Black Math Horseman: From Roadburn To The City of Devils

Back from Paris and just about back on local time.  The Professor has the Big Four assignment today.  I get to stay home and attend the show we present tonight at Three Clubs featuring BLACK MATH HORSEMAN with support from LANTVRN, San Francisco's NERO ORDER and the live debut of TAIGA (the one man side project of Bryant Clifford Meyer from ISIS/RED SPAROWES).  No complaints here.  Last weekend I took a break from the museums, churches, and cemetaries of The City of Light to seek out a bit of darkness in the small Dutch city of Tilburg.  Three and a half hours after leaving Gare Nord, I found myself in a smoke-filled coffeeshop with a sea of bearded men in black t-shirts.  It felt like home. We were all there for Roadburn, the annual music fest that brings together the greatest examples of doom, sludge, psych, noise, and black metal under two roofs.  This is not your typical festival - it is held indoors with a maximum total capacity of around just 2000, and a well-deserved reputation that ensures it sells out each year in less than 30 minutes.  Only the faithful shall apply.  For me and many others in attendance, it was the closet approximation to the Pilgrimage to Mecca we'll ever experience.   

I was lucky to even be there.  I planned my European vacation well after tickets and press passes had all been accounted for, but at one Heavy Tuesday earlier this year, Sera Timms of BLACK MATH HORSEMAN offered me a spot on their guestlist.  This was the second consecutive year the band had been invited to perform at Roadburn, last year's opportunity slipping away on the LAX tarmac when an Icelandic volcano spewed its innards across the continent.  I ran into Sera backstage just before the band kicked the day off with their 4 PM set time.  She was fatigued but absolutely content after a two week run through central Europe leading up to the festival, which was not only their first tour overseas, but their first tour ever.  I soon understood why she was so pleased with the state of the band.  I had never heard them play so well.  The relatively tranquil images projected in the background contrasted beautifully with the ferocity displayed on stage, broken only by the need to replace Sasha Popovic's snare mid-set.  It was a call to arms for the crowd, many of whom were just waking up on this third and final day of the festival.  The room quickly filled to beyond capacity, spilling out into the vegan foodcourt, women using whatever charms at their disposal to make way through the masses.  I was one of the many that found themselves expelled by the surge, the result of greedily postponing my arrival to take in 15 minutes of CANDLEMASS, leaving me with a obstructed view that included guitarist Bryan Tulao and half the drum set.  

Knowing tonight was just a week away, I eventually moved on to allow those behind me to catch a glimpse, and to experience Johan Längqvist's first appearance with CANDLEMASS in 25 years as they performed the classic Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in its entirety. With little wear on the chords over the last quarter century, his voice was as strong as ever.  Thoroughly amped up and in need of a hash cigarette, I looked down to see it was only 5:30.  The day had just begun.  Next up was the swirling psychedelia of WHITE HILLS and the unparalled brilliance of LUDICRA, Dekker/Cobbett & Co. giving me everything I wanted plus more even while I was being whipped repeatedly by the headbanging dreadheads that surrounded me.  Over at the other venue, I caught the second half of PHAROAH OVERLORD's extremely tight take on metallic krautrock, and ran into NIGHT HORSE's Sam James Velde who had performed with the Finns the night before and told me they had opened this set with a devastating cover of SPACEMEN 3's "Revolution".  That highlighted the biggest flaw of this festival: you want to be at a least 3 of the 4 shows going on at any particular moment.  I tagged along with Sam for as long as I could to meet the band and hear the end of IMAAD WASIF, who depite being jetlagged brought his A game and made LA proud.  I then bounced around hitting RAMESSES and DRAGONTEARS along the way, before settling in for all of UFOMAMMUT, whose blend of Italian psychedelic doom attracted so many the doors had to be closed 15 minutes before their set began.  The support so overwhelmed the band the drummer took the uncharacteristic steps--at least for an underground band--of tossing his sticks and taking photos of the crowd repeatedly throughout the show.  The SWANS finished off the festival with their unique brand of heaviness.  With still thee hours until my train was to depart at 4 AM, I drank what I could over at the "Metal Disco", a DJ deal which brought things to a close with mass singalongs to "For Those About To Rock" and "Tuesday's Gone".  Finally kicked out to the streets and bars of Tilburg, the Roadburn crowd came face to face with the normal inhabitants of the city's nightspots, drunk college kids looking to dance and get laid.  That was my signal to head to the station.  An unforgettable 18 hours in the Netherlands.

See you tonight.  BLACK MATH HORSEMAN is on at midnight.