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Desertfest 2017

London
28-30 April 2017

Friday

Vodun at Desertfest 2017

GP: It’s the one date on my calendar that I look forward to each year. Three days of having my ears pummelled by some of the heaviest bands around and a chance to see some artists perform in the UK for the first time, this is Desertfest. Across five venues in three days, Desertfest takes over Camden Town with heavy guitars and an audience with more long hair and beards than you would see in an average Viking film.

Every year the event seems to get larger and attract more and more people; this year the large cavernous space of The Roundhouse is one of the venues. Each time, the organization that goes into hosting the event gets better, even though it gets bigger. It is the coming together for the doom/stoner/psychedelic/out there music community, a pagan rite that gets held near Beltane in which these people can worship at the altar of the Orange amplifier.

With so many great bands performances overlapping this year, it was difficult to know who to see, so I tried to prioritise bands that I had not yet seen live or were playing for the first time in the UK. To start with, I managed to see about twenty minutes of Blown Out at the tiny sweat box venue of The Black Heart. The band launched into a massive squeal of big, psychedelic riffery that kicked off my festival in monster style. Their elongated workouts send you into an almost trance-like state while the sound slowly hammers at your brain. I was, however, keeping an eye on the time as I knew that I had to get to the Underworld and hopefully get as close to the stage as possible for The Well.

The Well at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Gary Parsons

Its The Well’s first UK gig and they were on my must-see list. The place was packed as the band took to the stage and kicked off into their first number, the classic “Mortal Bones”. Lisa Alley’s soaring bass and vocals chimed in unison with Ian Graham’s guitar and vocals to give their sound an unearthly feel. Jason Sullivan’s drumming added another dimension to their songs. Tonight we were treated to classics from their first album like “Trespass”, as well as songs from their latest release Pagan Science. The bass and guitar interplayed wonderfully with each other as the tracks moved between occult strangeness and total psychedelic bliss-out. For me the band were one of the highlights of the festival and I hope they return to the UK soon.

Seeing as Death Alley, one of the bands I wanted to see, had pulled from the event, I had a short break to catch my thoughts before heading over to see 1000 Mods. They were not a band that I had really heard much of before, so I wasn’t really aware of their back catalogue of songs as most of the audience seemed to be. They gave an energetic performance that gave a distinct feeling of a road trip into oblivion as their tracks hurtled along the highway of massive riffs. Again; though I was keeping an eye on the time so I could rush back to the Underworld to catch Vodun.

Vodun at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

The stage was already set up like a psychedelic cavern by the time I got there and already the crowd was beginning to get larger as I edged my way nearer the front. I’d not seen this London three-piece live before, so had no idea what to expect. Their sound is a mixture of stoner riffs, African rhythms and sweet soul singing. I have to point out the amazing drumming of Ogoun here, who certainly was one of the finest percussionists I witnessed all weekend.

Their set was something more akin to a live (space) ritual as the songs moved between heavy drones to wild pagan percussion, all held together by the sweet vocals of Oya. Tracks like “Bloodstones” and “Divinity” from their album Possession came across with such verve and excitement it was hard not to be intoxicated by the band — and setting fire to the cymbals at the end of your set is always a good move in my opinion.

Glowsun at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

By the time I got into the Electric Ballroom, Glowsun were already into their set. They had replaced another act I wanted to see at the last minute (Stoned Jesus), but were already wowing the crowd over. Their sound is slightly more bluesy than the other bands I’d seen so far and they had a warm, psychedelic hue to their music as the riffs took off. Glowsun’s strength lies in the pure melody of their tracks and the way the music crashes over you like a wave.

It’d been five hours of music now, so I walked down to the canal to grab some food and to sit down for the first time that day. With so many great bands on. it was hard to know when to do this, but eventually my stomach won the argument over hearing more music. By the time I got back to The Black Heart, Terminal Cheesecake were already into their aural assault and some people were already backing out of the door because of it. Their sound is certainly an ear-valanch of noise, which they played with energy and conviction and left no prisoners among the audience.

Zombi at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

I was advised to stake my claim near the front of the stage for Zombi as they would only be up against one other band so the audience would be split and seeing as The Black Heart is small, I took this as sound reasoning. Zombi were another of my must-see bands of the festival as it had been several years since they had played a headlining show in the UK. It was a different pace of music than the rest of the day’s sounds, with Steve Moore stood behind a few synths while AE Pattera sat studiously at his drum kit. Zombi’s sound is full of lush synthesizers and spiralling sequencers, all kept firmly in check by Pattera’s incredible drum patterns. Tracks like the amazing “Digitalis” sweep majestically around you and create new landscapes for the mind. It has an almost sci-fi beauty about it, like Vangelis’s Blade Runner meets the darkness of Goblin or John Carpenter.

Featuring tracks from their new album Shape Shift, the band sounded magnificent. Moore even took to his bass guitar for a couple of tracks and added a certain prog rock element to proceedings. The band created new worlds that wouldn’t seem out of place if the music was wrapped around with some Roger Dean artwork. Moore’s lead synth lines were agile and melodic, but also created atmospheres. Again, the wonder of an event like Desertfest is that it will put on a great band like Zombi who sound so different than most other things at the festival. Their music was a great way to end the day, and its soundtrack-like quality sent me home imagining vistas of towering skyscrapers with small spacecraft hovering around it, all lit by neon lights. Not a bad way to spend a Friday.

*

Terminal Cheesecake at Desertfest 2017

Photo: Dave Pettit

DP: Never having been to The Black Heart for a gig before, it was a good time to start with Terminal Cheesecake playing a rare London show as part of Desertfest 2017. Having already been blown away by Glowsun at the Electric Ballroom and their Gallic brand of head-frying aural pyrotechnics, I was interested to see how much further the Cheesecake could take me on my psychonautical adventure.

Regular current vocalist Neil Francis was away with Gnod, so singing duties for most of the gig were carried out by Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs mentalist Matt Baty and a sterling job he did too. It was pretty crowded in the tiny shoebox that is the venue when the band started and it got further packed when they launched their insane psych assault on the rapt crowd. But the noise, my god, the noise, the volume, the intensity, was something else. I’ve been to a few loud gigs recently: SunnO))), Mayhem, Earth vs Bug among them, and they have all been very loud, but nothing like the volume that Terminal Cheesecake unleashed in the tiny bunker of The Black Heart, even with my silicon earplugs wedged tight in my ears.

And it wasn’t the heavy, air-moving bass of SunnO))) or Earth either that got you, but the brain-shredding, screaming riffs and breaks of the guitars and Baty’s raving howls. It was bleeding awesome. The droning, pulsing rhythm section underpinned all the above and provided the focal point for all the nodding heads (in every sense) in attendance. This was only intensified later in the final song when Horseloaf Horseloafson‘s guitar broke, blew up, melted, (who knows?) and the rhythm guitarist, bassist and drummer maintained the journey by themselves, like a deranged NEU!

Incredible, violent and lovely all at the same time. Wonderful.

Terminal Cheesecake at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

*

Saturday

Bongzilla at Deserfest 2017

Photo: Dave Pettit

JF: So. It’s Saturday on the last weekend in April, and like literally everyone else except people without internet and assholes (as opposed to people without internet OR assholes, for whom I feel terribly sorry, I’ve been laughing my ass off at the Ballardian hell for the rich and beautiful that appears to have been the Fyre Festival. Knowing I’m about to go to a reasonably-priced festival with full amenities, awesome bands and a whole shitload fewer assholes just makes the schadenfreude sweeter, really.

Still, the Lord, Dark or otherwise, hates a smug fucker, so even before arriving I’ve managed to rack up my share of bad omens. Takes me a full three tries to leave the house, because I keep having to go back to get shit I’ve forgotten. It’s only when I get on the bus that I realise two of these things are a book to write in at the festival and a book to read on the way. No problem on the first, but the second? Being on public transport without reading material drives me fucking CRAZY. So there I am, biting my nails like a machine, and then BAM, that’s a front tooth snapped off. I really don’t know my own strength sometimes. Still, I am about to see some awesome bands, so that’s a thing I can cope with. And there is £4.20 remaining on my Oyster card, which seems appropriate.

RIGHT. I am in Camden. I have bought a notebook. I have got my pass. I have got my programme (which is a thing of beauty, as every year — two quid. Any other festival you’d pay a tenner for that, and it’d be rubbish). I sit in The Black Heart, have a pint, and survey my options.

First of which is Avon at The Electric Ballroom. And as soon as I’m actually in front of a band playing loud music, all my troubles fade away. At the lighter end of the Desertfest spectrum, they’re pumping out some dark-tinged but essentially goodtime rock’n’roll in the vein of someone like Queens Of The Stone Age or Eagles Of Death Metal, with a healthy does of what we used to call grunge back in the dim and distant past of the late twentieth century.

The crowd at Desertfest 2017 -1 Photo: Dave Pettit

(I have to write all of this down when I am in the Black Heart again, of course, because being A FUCKING IDIOT I left my notebook there the first time and had to go and buy another one. I mean, I scribbled some notes on the programme, but that felt like a shame, because that’s like defacing a souvenir before you’ve even experienced the thing it’s a souvenir of, and also wasn’t very practical because there aren’t many white spaces in it that would make writing of any kind particularly legible.)

Anyway, next it’s back to The Black Heart, to see a band who intrigue me due to the mention of Blacks both Flag and Sabbath as well as Neil Young in their programme writeup: Backwoods Payback. They’re not QUITE that, but yeah, you can totally see that from here. And here is a wonderful place to be. Somewhere between West Coast hardcore, doom metal and Southern/country rock there is a terrifying and exhilarating place where this music exists. An angry trucker on vocals and guitar, a blonde woman in a sparkly dress on super-hefty bass and Animal off The Muppet Show on drums — if you’re ever bundled into a van by a bunch of acid-heads with ill intent, and if a movie is ever made of your plight by like Rob Zombie or someone, then I can guarantee the best song on that movie’s soundtrack will be by Backwoods Payback.

Amps at Deserfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

And then to the band who (there’s one every year) I have chosen to watch based on name alone. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. I was like, “I don’t need to hear these guys first. I know what they’re called. I can guess what they sound like and I love them already.” Which is almost true… I mean, I do love them and I ALMOST guessed what they sounded like, but for the fact that they have as much Hawkwind in their DNA as they do Sabbath, and due to assumptions made based on the unfortunately-skewed traditions of the scene, I expected a dude on vocals.

The part where I love them, though, as I believe I may have mentioned, is over 9,000 percent true. When their sheer cosmic force blows an amp, I take the opportunity to pop out for a quick wee, only to be confronted by an entire staircase full of people waiting patiently to see them, but in the meantime more than happy to just stand there speechless and listen to their transdimensional headfuck FROM UP SOME STAIRS. If that’s not testimony to how great they are, then I don’t know what is.

Zombi at Desertfest 2017

Photo: Dave Pettit

And then it’s back to The Underworld. And if Backwoods Payback are the soundtrack to your abduction and terrible end at the hands of a van full of evil acid-heads, Scissorfight will be doing the song that accompanies the massive monster truck battle at the end of the movie. Far less psychedelic, but with far bigger wheels, they roll right the fuck over the crowd with their aggressive-as-hell punk onslaught. I almost go back in to buy a t-shirt afterwards, but I remember two things — turning back into The Underworld generally ends badly according to the classics, and I still need beer money.

And so to The Ballroom. Turbonegro are a band I’ve never really checked out, despite having friends who are huge fans and a nagging suspicion that I’d probably love them. There’s something a little intimidating about a band who you’ve totally missed, who have a long history and who have a devoted and massive cult following. And since about five this afternoon, Camden has been flooded with Turbojugend. As I wait for them to come on, “Just A Little Boy” by Swans is playing on the PA. This brings me comfort.

And then they’re on. And fuck me are they fun. Turns out what “deathpunk” is is basically super-fun. Like, say, Laibach or Rammstein, they bring out the essentially gay and totalitarian sub-currents that have always been poorly-hidden within metal, only instead of bombast they go glam. They go punk and thrash. They go EVERYWHERE, really. As they themselves admit, they’re an odd choice of band to headline Desertfest, what with being the complete other end of theatrical and not really that weed-friendly, but BY GEORGE IT WORKS.

Bongzilla at Desertfest 2017

I leave about half-way through to catch Bongzilla at The Underworld, but the queue’s around the block, and I’m like… “you know what? Why wait in the cold for a band I may never see, when I could just go back in and carry on having the time of my life with Turbonegro?” They may or may not be the actual best band to play this year, but they are definitely the most fun. And you can take that shit to the bank.

And then home.

*

Sunday

Sleep at Desertfest 2017

Photo: Dave Pettit

DP: Having walked quickly from The Roundhouse, where I’d caught doom veterans Saint Vitus, to The Underworld, I arrived already hot and sweaty for Geordie noise lunatics Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. Best place to be when already hot and sweaty was probably not a packed, hot and sweaty subterranean venue like The Underworld, but I had a feeling this was going to be worth it and I wasn’t wrong.

After a last-minute bit of soundchecking from singer Matt Baty, the band launched into forty-five minutes of ear-blistering chaos. Sometimes with “super-groups” (members of the band are also in Ommadon, Blown Out and Khunnt) the music can sometimes lack a little direction, but no problem here. PIGSx7 delivered a relentless barrage of twisted, pile-driving, sludgy, super-heavy noise rock, with Baty contorting, bawling, screaming and howling at the centre like a crazed, half-naked imp. It didn’t take the crowd long to form a moshpit, not a bad effort for Desertfest where the crowd are normally a little too ‘relaxed’ for that kind of thing.

Matt was joined in almost equally demented style by guitarist Sam Grant, whose psychotic riffing provided the main engine propulsion for the psycho-lysergic launch into orbit myself and the rest of the crowd were experiencing. Though don’t let that sound like the rest of the band were not having an impact; the whole group together provided a wonderful kraut racket n’ roll, channelled like a jet engine in the confined space of The Underworld, peaking with probably their most well-known track, “Sweet Relief”. Oh, and they managed to smuggle their Buckfast in. Fucking great band, fucking great performance.

Pigs x7 at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

I hadn’t seen Bongzilla before, but I was a fan of their stuff and so was looking forward to their set. Having headlined The Underworld the night before and opening The Roundhouse today, almost like Desertfest’s 2017 house band I guess, you could have forgiven them for being a little the worse for wear. As they wandered on stage, mesh back baseball caps pulled low over their eyes, not looking massively different to the roadies — at least until they strapped on their instruments — vocalist and guitarist Mike Makela yelled out to the crowd “Y’ALL HIGH YET?”

This got the predicted positive response, “hope not too much, you got Sleep later!” And with that they lurched into their down-home brand of mega-heavy sludgy stoner doom. The first couple of tracks kinda meandered a little, there were some problems with the high hats, and maybe things were suffering a little from the night before. “Sorry we’re high, we’re gonna play an old one, we can’t remember how to play the new ones!” — from then on in it was relentless — bongy, swampy, crunching sludge metal you just cannot fail to groove to.

Bongzilla at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

One of the things I’ve always thought is true when it comes to the doom/sludge genre – the best bands have always understood that they are playing a form of rock n’ roll, the roots are in the blues, and the groove is the core. And Bongzilla don’t just know this, they could have written the bloody manual (Doom For Dopeheads?), they are serious groovy bastards. And they throw great axe shapes as well. Several times Mike, fellow guitarist Jeff Shultz and bassist Cooter Brown were leaning so far back they must have been breaking several laws of physics. The highlight was probably the performance of “Grim Reefer”, with Mike’s screaming vocals roaring out over the crowd. All too soon their time was up: forty-five minutes of fucking awesome sludge. A perfect start to the day, high or not.

*

Saint Vitus at Desertfest 2017JF: Sunday is another day, and I decide to spend it in Chalk Farm, at The Roundhouse, the legendary venue now colonised by Desertfest’s onward creep. Due to an incredibly arcane ticketing system as well as some kind of mix-up with wristbands, it turns out I’m only allowed to sit upstairs. At first this causes no small amount of disappointment, but as I take my seat just before Saint Vitus take the stage, it occurs to me that I am nursing a Saturday-at-Desertfest-sized hangover, and the prospect of sitting in a reasonably comfy seat with ready access to copious amounts of hair of the dog and watching some awesomely heavy bands might just be a delightful way to spend a Sunday.

Saint Vitus come on with room-shaking bass, and their ultra-heavy riffing is exactly what one should expect from such pioneers and legends of the scene. Their dark-hearted rock and roll evokes that semi-hallucinatory feeling of psychedelia gone sour, as chronicled by the likes of Blue Öyster Cult and later, and with more relevance, Black Sabbath (of course). Theirs was the generation that grew up with Sabbath already a fixture in the metal firmament, and which saw in Tony Iommi‘s raw, Satanic riffs a path to follow to see what lay beyond. They’re enjoying the shit out of it, too, even plugging a soundtrack appearance on Netflix movie Small Crimes. I can already smell weed.

Saint Vitus at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

And then it’s the mighty Wolves In The Throne Room, who don’t really SOUND like they’re having fun, but it’s hard to tell because they’re playing in near darkness. And sounding like TOTAL darkness. Put it this way, they’re not playing Celestite– this is WITTR in full-on assault mode.The lights are low, the stage festooned with martial-looking WITTR banners, and three heads are down and banging over their guitars. And for the next hour we are treated to an object lesson in what black metal can do when it lets itself get experimental.

The blastbeats are there, for sure, as are the scything guitars and soul-scraping screeches, but the dynamics they give to their epic paeans to the sacred Earth (in particular a terrifying rendition of “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among The Rocks And Stones”) put them more in the realms of Nachtmystium or The Fall Of Efrafa than Mayhem, even though they rock just as hard and nasty. For an hour we’re lost in a forest, listening to the ancient gods as they remake reality. Needless to say, it’s all fairly intense, and I think in hindsight they may have won Desertfest this year, despite being one of the fastest bands on a bill whose main joy comes from the slow and the sludgy.

Candlemass, like their generational contemporaries Saint Vitus, mark a fascinating point on the ever-downward trajectory of doom. Whereas Sabbath came from a traditional rock background, Candlemass came from a Sabbath background, and were part of a wave of bands who had already learned that the riff isn’t just there to accompany the song, but is the key part. But this was a time when vocal histrionics still held sway over metal, and there’s plenty of that on show this evening. As well as, of course, those crushing riffs and epic grinds — this is proto-doom that has yet to forget its rock and roll roots, and it’s magnificent.

Sleep at Deserfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

And then it’s time for Sleep, a band about whom everyone is so excited that the merch stall’s been completely denuded since about four o’clock this afternoon. And rightly so. Desertfest, of course, gives them a hero’s welcome. Because after a weekend of rocking out, the only way to realistically finish it is to rock out even more to some songs about dragons. And space. And weed. And dragons in space. Smoking weed.

Matt Pike’s transformation into the bastard son of Obelix and Lemmy is almost complete, and Al Cisneros, behind the beard that’s bigger than his actual head, seems marginally less stoned than last time they headlined Desertfest — leastways, his eyes are open this time. And they don’t disappoint. The Roundhouse reeks of weed as the crowd surge ever so slowly forwards and backwards, a moshpit trapped in amber. When the opening riff to “Dragonaut” rings out across the sea of leather and denim, everyone goes as crazy as it’s possible to go when you’re completely off your box. “The Clarity“, the song they released for the Adult Swim Singles Club, already feels like it’s a well-established part of their set, and by the time they leave the stage, everyone has been to space with them and been delivered safely back to Camden.

Sleep at Deserfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

And then it’s time for some actual sleep. Goodbye Desertfest, you’re the most fun one can have in London these days. Can’t fucking wait for next year.

*

Saint Vitus at Desertfest 2017

GP: By the time I arrive on Sunday to see some of the first bands play that day, the atmosphere is already different to Friday due to the fact that there seems to be twice as many people there. Smaller venues like The Black Heart and The Underworld get packed to capacity as festival-goers head to find the holy grail of riffs.

Even though I’m at the venue earl, there is already a sizeable crowd gathered to see Elephant Tree, including a large contingent of what seem like hardcore followers. Having recently purchased their début album, they are another one of the bands on my must-see list. The trio seem in good humour and high spirits as they take the stage and blast into their first number. One thing that hits me immediately about them is the power of their songs, and to be honest just how anthemic and tuneful they are.

Tracks like “Aphotic Blues” or the lengthy “Echoes” touch upon an early ’70s Groundhogs vibe while delivering power and delicacy at the same time. Jack Townley’s guitar lines sweep from heavy to subtle, while Peter Holland’s bass keeps things grounded — that’s as long as his trousers stay up for the full set. “Spore” is sonically amazing and the band pile-drive through their set, which even includes a couple of guest stars. The audience chant along to the songs and the whole feeling is of proceedings that put you in a good vibe. As they crash in to their final song, you can’t help feeling that they are a band that’s going to start getting bigger.

Saint Vitus at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

Even though most of the bands I am covering today are in The Underworld and The Black Heart, I have to stroll up to The Roundhouse to catch some of doom stoner legends Saint Vitus’s set. I’m pleased I did, as they filled the large venue with all the amazing, laid-back psych doom vibe of indulging in a large bong and heading off to the desert.

I head back to The Black Heart to catch some ancient wizard doom from Mammoth Storm. The heat is already rising in the venue as the band take to the stage. With tracks like “Augurs Echo” that could easily come from the soundtrack of some barbarian film, they merge seamlessly into music for fantasy role-playing games. Its big, it’s heavy and it’s blissful, conjuring up images of swords and sorcery and distant worlds. The sound is thick and heavy, but still manages moments of beauty and eeriness among its barrage of sound. Their music becomes a relentless march towards a Hyperborian battlefield and by the time Mammoth Storm finish their set you feel almost breathless.

Wucan at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Gary Parsons

I hang around for my next must-see band of the festival. This will be Wucan’s first appearance in Britain and there is already a bit of a buzz about them. From their first number they set the bar high, an exotic blend of heavy rock/psychedelia and folk rock that gets the audience moving and heads nodding. Singer Francis Tobolsky alternates between her tambourine, guitar, flute and Theremin throughout their set and looks like she’s loving every minute of playing to the London crowd — even if the venue is like an oven at this point (“Wow, its hot in here”, she says to me before the band have even taken to the stage and most of the audience has arrived).

There’s a touch of Blues Pills meets Jethro Tull about their sound, but the songs are strong enough to make their own mark — so comparing them to other artists becomes futile, really. Song such as “Owl Eyes” and “Franis Vikarma” are wonderful exercises in tight musicianship that have a real feel for the sound of the Sixties and Seventies, and seem uplifting because of it. The real powerhouse of their set is the fifteen-minute epic “Wandersmann” that takes you through pastoral scenes before hitting you full throttle with a psychedelic wig out. A wonderful set and the band deserved the massive cheer they got at the end. For me though I have to rush to another venue to see my other must see band of the day.

Yuri Gagarin at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

I’ve been a massive fan of Yuri Gagarin since I bought the first album when it came out. This will also be their first gig in the UK, though the rest of Europe have been enjoying their sonic attack for the past couple of years. So I’m straight down the front to catch the band in all their glory. Yuri Gagarin are one of the top space rock bands to come out of Europe, alongside Electric Moon and Spaceslug. Their sound is full of swirling synths, motorik beats and out-there psychedelic guitars. Riffs push ahead and out in to the cosmos as the band take full flight onstage.

Tracks like “Sea Of Dust” and “Oblivion” are played with the same kind of powerhouse style that Hawkwind used to have in the early Seventies. Big synth pads open up the portal to cosmic consciousness as the band hurtle through their set, carried along by the heavy rhythm section. At times, the music drifts like a spacecraft in the endless void of the universe and at other moments it’s full throttle, preparing for take off. “Cluster Of Minds” stretches out beyond the planetary aether and sounds wonderful. The band were definitely one of my highlights of the whole festival and it was wonderful to finally see them perform live.

Sleep at Desertfest 2017 Photo: Dave Pettit

Once Yuri Gagarin had finished there was only one place to go and that was to The Roundhouse to see Sleep as there were no other bands on while the mighty three-piece were playing. By the time I get inside the venue, the band are just starting “Sonic Titan” and the sound is loud and reverberating around the walls of the massive building. The band sound great as they make their way through their trance-like rock numbers. “The Clarity” and “Dragonaut” are particularly well received by an audience who are almost bursting the venue at the seams. Matt Pike is mercurial on guitar and the whole vibe of the band takes you the landscapes where the Weedian walk. By the time they hit into “Cultivator” there are no unbelievers in the audience and many will be heading up the holy mountain.

I head back to catch some of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s set at The Underworld. Another of my favourite live bands, unfortunately this time I couldn’t stay to see all their set as it was Sunday and my last train was in London transport hell. Tracks such as “Army Of Ignorance” and “Double Freedom” are amazing live. Tonight the band seemed to lean on some of their eastern influences more, touching on the sound of their new album One With The Universe. Their sound is a beautiful cross-pollination of late Sixties psych meets Seventies heavy rock, with a head full of mysticism and a wonderful melody to match. It’s a shame I couldn’t enjoy all of their set this time. I kick myself as I run for my last train that I live so far out.

Epilogue

On the Monday I had my Desertfest hangover; I wanted to see and hear more bands, I wanted my ears to be assaulted by more heavy guitars. I wanted the feeling of camaraderie that the festival has, of being there with like-minded spirits enjoying some of the best music and bands around, and the fact that for a couple of days this tribe of fans takes over one of the busiest areas of London. I suppose I will just have to wait until next year to get my fix again; I will be counting down the days.

-Words: Justin Farrington, Gary Parsons, Dave Pettit-
-Pictures: Gary Parsons, Dave Pettit-

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