Desertfest London 2018, Day 2
@ Various venues, Camden Town, London
5th May 2018
Review by Gabor Csete
Photography by Ryan Whitwell / Shotison
The second day of Desertfest was even hotter than the previous one. Around two’o’clock Greenland Place was already rammed with fans of heavy music. People were drinking beers, some even smoked the devil’s lettuce (this is a stoner fest at the end), having chats, etc… It has a really nice summer festival vibe to it.
There weren’t any gigs in Koko on Saturday, so there were “only” 4 stages (Electric Ballroom, The Underworld, The Dev, Black Heart) with the furthest venues only 3 minutes walk away from each other – but that 3 minutes were kind of torture as it was hard to fight through the massive amounts of tourist who came to get their London skyline tattoos or buy unofficial merch at the market.
At The Electric Ballroom, The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell were opening the stage. Their fuzzed out tones and vintage psych rock vibe was a great way to start the day. They had a very strong following too, as plenty of people were displaying Sir Cloudesley patches and t-shirts throughout the day.
Back at the Black Heart, Trevor’s Head were playing to a packed and dimly lit room of music fans.
Their brand of uptempo tracks went down well, with people responding with plenty of cheering at the end of each track. And they were certainly popular as people queued on the stairs to see the trio.
When I got to the Electric Ballroom, London’s famous progressive metallers Akercocke was ready to play. After 4 years of hiatus they came back with an EP last year (Renaissance in Extremis) and they were full of energy.
Sadly the sound wasn’t that good and the atmospheric parts did not work that well due to the lack of keyboard sounds. The venue was half full, the audience enjoyed the show and cheered and banged their head although the band wanted a bit more… And later some started moshing, but this isn’t a suprise: Akercocke’s riffs make you move.
The Underworld was already full at 5’o’clock and it was damn hot inside. Cattle from Leeds was on the stage, and they destroyed it.
Cattle is not a typical band, as they write about themselves: “One drums, another one drums, bass, vocals, tootle pipe and sound rod.” So there aren’t any guitars but it’s not missing from their music which isn’t typical either.
They’re fucking amazing! The audience in The Underworld moved as one and after each song cheered the same way. Cattle is a band I would make compulsory to see at least once.
Back in the Electric Ballroom was absolutely full house: one in, one out.
No wonder it was like this this early (5.30 pm): Japanese doom masters Church Of Misery was on the stage and who wouldn’t want to hear Black Sabbath-style metal with lyrics about serial killers and mass murderers?!
Even the bar staff were headbanging to the rhythm of the apocalyptic sounds: seriously there wasn’t a person who did not enjoy Tatsu Mikami’s music.
Meanwhile, upstairs at that dark little venue named The Black Heart, Mountains were bringing some prog infused brilliance.
Annoyingly, I couldn’t stay long, but there were some brilliant riffs and very nice fuzz filled tones.
I didn’t know much about them beforehand, but I will be checking out their debut album that came out early last year.
Bournemouth-based Dead Witches, the band of Mark Greening (of Electric Wizard fame) was on the stage in The Underworld.
The venue was nearly full but this time I could only focus on the band, because vocalist Soozi Chameleone‘s voice was truly hypnotizing.
The whole band is amazing but the frontwoman is truly outstanding.
Listening and seeing them reminded me the classic lyrics: “…witches at black masses.” Soozi asked the audience if they were excited and they were. Hopefully they will come to London again soon.
There were only a handful of people in the Dev during the set of the Belgian noise rockers Crowd Of Chairs. Although the sound on the vocals wasn’t the best, the guys played a really good set. It’s weird why the somewhat grungy power trio only pulled in a few people – they deserve a bigger audience.
It is not a suprise that Black Heart was nearly full for the gig of the Hull-based hardcore/sludge outfit. Mastiff bit hard for sure. They’re masters of changing tempos between the sludge parts, when you want to bang your head to the slow rhythm, and the fast hardcore parts (this made them one of the fastest bands in Desertfest) when you want to be in crowd killer mode. During the show – which sounded amazing – more and more people came to the venue. It shouldn’t be easy for a band to play with Mastiff, they’re heavy. Really heavy.
Back in the Underworld Italian stoners Black Rainbows took over the stage. The venue wasn’t totally full but still a massive amount of people enjoyed the ’70s psychedelia-infused songs.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stay longer as I wanted to check out Weedeater in the Electric Ballroom.
I’ve never seen Weedeater in such a big venue but they were amazing as always. On top of that, frontman Dave “Dixie” Collins is a showman.
They way he moves on stage and his facial expressions are hilarious, not to mention the way he loves his bourbon.
I doubt there was anyone who wouldn’t enjoy their performance which is the perfect example that stoner can be really energetic and not just, you know, stoned…
After 30 minutes break it was time for the main band of Saturday: High On Fire.
Electric Ballroom was full; again the one in one out rule, but it really meant that if you’d just got to the place you could only make it to the bar, where fortunately you could still hear everything perfectly.
When shirtless (as usual) Matt Pike came on stage people started to cheer and as soon as they started two things were for sure: HOF sounds amazing (that 9-string guitar does its job) and everybody was there to enjoy the gig.
People were headbanging, singing alone, shouting… It’s not a suprise that people were having fun in a High on Fire gig ’cause their music is amazing and the band delivers it live even in a more awesome way. High on Fire is always good, it wasn’t any different this time either.
Back in the Underworld Belgian band Steak Number Eight played. Their music is something I would call post-sludge. Super heavy and not happy at all.
Unfortunately for them they played in the same time slot as High on Fire, so the venue wasn’t full, but the people who chose tham that night did it for a reason.
Darkher was the final act on at The Dev. The solo guitarist/vocalist makes the most of reverb guitar effects and haunting tones the created a down beat atmosphere and captivated the audience in attendance. Quite the shift after a day of hard and heavy stoner rock.
After all the gigs there was an afterparty in the Black Heart. The place was absolutely full: that one in, one out malarkey again. Lots and lots of people waited to get in to the venue for the DJs playing metal anthems all night long and a well-deserved ice cold beverage.