I've lost track of how many festivals I’ve been to in my lifetime, but after countless experiences with all the different formats – be it touring or destination, in the desert or on the ocean – there is one festival in particular that has continuously proven to take an entirely personal approach in the quest to enrich our lives with the gift of music.
I’m talking about Roadburn Festival, of course. The four-day-long underdog that turns the metal genre on its side and makes career warriors out of musicians. As I write this still on a high from this year's amazing 20th anniversary experience, I’ll do my best to explain why Roadburn is one of heavy metal’s greatest festivals you can attend in your lifetime.
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Music Discovery Is The Aim Of The Festival
Roadburn is a hand-crafted buffet of high caliber musicianship that will help you fall in love with music all over again. While most festivals look towards booking the biggest names they can afford to secure a guaranteed attendance, Roadburn actively and passionately breaks the mold, striving to curate the most unique experience for their attendees while providing an opportunity for young bands to become future stars.
The festival organizer, Walter Hoeijmakers, along with a new guest curator each year, work tirelessly to fill their roster with a line up that represents the heart of Roadburn. Bands you have never had the opportunity to see, bands you have never heard of, and bands you will champion before the rest of the world finds out how great they are.
In an industry where breaking young bands to a wider audience is one of the most crucial accomplishments we work towards, it makes Roadburn one of the most unique festivals in the world, and incredibly important to our genre as a whole.
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Every Set Is Something Special
Aside from the up and comers that will blow your mind, the line up is rounded out with heavyweights that look to use this festival as a way to flex their creativity even further. Whether it’s an iconic band like Converge playing an album in its entirety for possibly the first and last time, or artists like Thou and Emma Ruth Rundle collaborating on a set, or Triptykon debuting new music with an entire orchestra on stage – what you're left with is four continuous days of live sets you do not want to miss, because you’ll probably never see it anywhere else!
One exciting addition to the fest has been the commissioned music portion, where Roadburn plays a hand in organizing a band to create new music to be exclusively debuted at the fest. Roadburn is THE place where legendary stories about bands are born. It's where music history is made!
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You Are Surrounded By Like-Minded People
If you're anything like me, you spend hours in the middle of the night going down Bandcamp rabbit holes to look for a new artist that will fill your heart in some way. There is no greater feeling than falling in love, and at least the love you have for music can last a lifetime. Now imagine there are 4000 other people just like you in the world, who invade Tilburg, Netherlands for 4 days straight.
Together, with a common feeling towards the arts, "the burners" show appreciation for an act we know is deserving of far bigger stages. In turn, the bands reciprocate the excitement by performing the best they ever have on stages that sound amazing for a festival that is a well-oiled machine.
It’s a festival filled with the most extreme music lovers who not only come together and nerd out about the bands playing, but meet, swap and learn about each other's favorite personal discoveries each year as well. In this sense, Roadburn is more than just a festival, but a community of taste making driven by its attendees who come from all around the world, equipped with new bands to talk about.
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All For The Love And Not The Money
One of the first things you notice at Roadburn fest is the lack of sponsor signage, anywhere on site or in the programs. A lot of this has to do with Walter Hoeijmakers' stance on keeping the festival influence-free from corporate sponsors, and not wanting it to grow any bigger than it stands today in an effort to strive for quality over quantity. They are a company with the fans' and the bands' best interest at heart, and never about the cash grab.
This allows the Roadburn crew to put more time and energy on what matters to them: the bands, the special guests, the panels, and the visual art section. It equates to a festival that pours their heart and soul into every aspect, without devaluing its mission with heavy branding. Any outside company they do work with, share the same values and understanding for Roadburn, and appears to be more of a relationship than sponsorship.
Not that there is anything wrong at all with corporate sponsors, especially when they're cool enough to put their money into the metal community. It just simply doesn't have a place at Roadburn given the nature of what the festival is, and I feel the fact they keep it that way deserves some merit, because who wouldn't like more money for what they do?
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It Takes Place In Tilburg, Netherlands
If you've never had the pleasure of visiting the Netherlands then you're really missing out on one of the most picturesque, laid back places on the planet. The price is right, the people are incredibly warm and friendly, and you can find anything your heart desires all while being tucked away in a country filled with European tradition and charm.
It's simply one of the best places you can get away and visit, which makes this a great festival to not only attend, but stick around before or after to see the rest of the beautiful surroundings. If you're a weed smoker, then you may already have a reason to visit, as its the pot capital of the world. If you're a beer drinker, then you might be overwhelmed by the brews available in the surrounding streets.
More importantly, the city of Tilburg doesn't just tolerate a metal festival in its city center, it downright cherishes it. Almost no where else will you find city officials and government taking an interest in a metal festival that has the streets lined with heshers from around the world, and rightfully applaud the work of Walter Hoeijmakers and Becky Laverty to create a unique experience each year. When a city truly loves metal heads visiting, it creates a very different vibe than you might have ever experienced before, and well worth the trip.
These are just five of many more reasons to see this "you had to be there" experience. Be sure to check out our photo gallery and stay tuned as we unroll some more coverage from Roadburn 2019 through the week!
In the meantime, here is a video report I filed last year, from the 2018 event with the help of Converge's Jacob Bannon.