03/09/2013 12:37 EST | Updated 05/15/2013 10:27 EDT

The Music Festival for Heavy Music Lovers

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WACKEN, GERMANY - AUGUST 03: Festival goers enjoy the Wacken Open Air heavy metal music fest on August 3, 2012 in Wacken, Germany. Approximately 75,000 heavy metal fans from all over the world have descended on the north German village of 1,800 residents for the annual three-day fest. (Photo by Patrick Lux/Getty Images)

There are two kinds of people in this world -- people who listen to music and people who don't. They think they listen to music, but they really don't. These are people who listen to what's spoon-fed to them by a variety of cursory sources i.e. car radio, magazine cover, iTunes banner, billboard, movie theme song, etc. Some people will obsessively listen to one record or one band or one music genre over and over again and consider themselves music lovers. They're only music listeners in the same way someone who travels to Disneyland every summer calls themselves a world traveler.

These desultory listeners need to have this reality clarified for them because real music listeners are music lovers and they truly are a special breed. There are several tiers to this distinction. For example, when placed beside someone like Damian Abraham, singer of Fucked Up, I pale in comparison because I don't think I'd spend $1,800 on a Negative Approach single like he did. So some are more fervent than others. But at its core real music listener has a compulsion to listen to as much "good" music as possible before one dies, regardless of genre.

To me, there are only two types of music in the world -- good and bad. I like to listen to the good kind. Music is surely relative, but when one looks at the music that gets continually lauded over, be it critically or at a mainstream level, there's usually a complete dismissal of anything remotely hard or heavy. Reason being is that, to most, the brashness of heavy music is seen as vulgar and uncouth, and that's not even counting its lyrics.

I've always been stupefied by this generally accepted idea. Nobody on either side of the fence even bothers an attempt to rectify heavy music's perception as unsophisticated. Meanwhile, bands like Cult Of Luna, Shining, Sons Of Otis and dozens of others proffer servings of beautiful cacophony that are on par with any recognized and critically accepted music act.

For years I've been a very outspoken booster for all things hard and heavy while I quietly listened to music acts like The Dears, Stereolab, Broken Social Scene, Smog and Bedhead. It wasn't out of embarrassment or shame, but rather out of a futile attempt to even up what I saw as uneven attention going to softer musics. I still stand behind the notion that A Sun That Never Sets by Neurosis is just as, if not more, beautiful and rapturous as Elliot Smith's XO album, but most people haven't even heard Neurosis so it loses that debate on the ignorance vote.

There is for people like me, however, an oasis called The Roadburn Festival that represents everything that I've vaunted for years. Roadburn's a four-day annual event in Tilburg, Holland (April 18 to 21, 2013) catering to heavy music lying outside of agreed upon music boundaries. From its early beginnings as a website dedicated to stoner rock and doom in the late-'90s to evolving into an internationally attended festival of renown, Roadburn harnesses a new list of underground bands each year with little stature, but rabid followings and collectively stuffs them into the 013, a venue that can hold just over 2,000 people. Each passing year the festival sells out months in advance without fail, proving there is an audience for this music.

Unlike other esteemed festivals like Coachella, Roadburn refuses to kowtow to commercial acts, sticking to their mandate of "... creat(ing) an adventurous festival we would want to attend as music lovers," as said by co-founder and artistic director, Walter Hoeijmakers. He further reiterates, "We want Roadburn to be this festival as a tribute to the open-mindedness of the music lover."

Any sense of musical adventure would be lost if forced to crowbar triple-A acts like Red Hot Chilli Peppers or Kanye West and thankfully Roadburn knows this.

What's probably the most endearing part of the festival is their curated line-ups overseen in the past by such highly respected bands like Electric Wizard, Triptykon, Voivod and Sunn O))). It's this curating angle, as well as their clever underground band choices that earns Roadburn the cred other more commercial festivals fail to capitalize on -- the marked interest in bands as fans themselves.

Although my band is probably looked upon as too commercial by most Roadburn attendees, I'm still throwing my hat in the ring as potential curator. I love the running orders and regardless of what music I play, it doesn't stop me from listening to this music, too -- music meant to push, elate, explore, bludgeon and deafen.

If I could hold Roadburn in rapture for one night it might go like this:

Moving Sidewalks (HEADLINER)

Diamanda Galas (HEADLINER)


Zeitkratzer (Plays Metal Machine Music) OR

Zeitkratzer with Keiji Haino



Grand Magus

Brant Bjork & The Bros

Ben Frost

Yamantaka Eye

Church Of Misery

Shining (Norge)


Gentleman's Pistols


The Doomriders

Colin Stetson

Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth

Sons Of Otis

Burning Love




Evil United

Danko Jones would like to watch this: