Desertfest London 2019 – Day 3 @ Camden, London

Spread the metal:
5th May 2019
Review by: Ryan Whitwell
Photography by: Ryan Whitwell (Shotison.com)

With weary legs, fuzzy head, and everything else running on fumes, I hopped on a delayed Overground train to Camden once again for the third and final day of Desertfest London 2019.

First up for me would be London-based Wren at The Black Heart.

Huge sound to wake me up a bit. Plenty of sludgy tones, massive room-filling bass and equally big vocals the bassist and guitarist taking on vocal roles. There was a shitload of dark and dread-filled drone energy from these guys too, which I loved. It’s what you expect from a band that self-described their last release, ‘Thrall’, as “radiating in diverse gradients between drone-based omens and astringent, inharmonious collisions”.

The Dev would today host the Black Deer Festival stage (Desertscene will have their own stage this year at Black Deer), and I managed to catch Outlaw Orchestra for something a little different than the usual Desert rock and stoner.

The gator-head topped double bass was quite a sight and the rockabilly style of the band was quite refreshing after so many heavy, doomy acts the past couple of days. My knowledge of the genre is limited, the only band I know that are of a similar style might be Reverend Horton Heat, and I enjoyed these guys. Lively, toe-tapping stuff but a touch of a heavier tone to toughen the sound up a bit. It worked great, and I was gutted I couldn’t stay for more than a couple of numbers.

Next for me was the long walk towards Chalk Farm to catch Earthless at The Roundhouse.

At this point, I was incredibly tired already, so the thought of walking all the way back to Camden Town wasn’t giving me much joy. So, I saved my legs and stuck around for the whole set. It’s hard to pin them down, the free-flowing riffs and rhythms melding into one continuous set filled with music that offers little in the way of structure. It is quite an experience to have a set like that with only one part featuring vocals. You really have to throw yourself into it and just let it happen.

The band as a whole were less about stage presence and more about the music, so the flying hair and brilliant ability of the drummer seemed to draw the attention of my eyes as well as my ears. With my eyes constantly wanting to watch the drummer, I fell in love with just how nuanced and technical he seemed to be. The band had a solid and professional feel, but there was a looseness that made much of the near continuous set seem more improvisational.

After a sit down outside it was time for a band I was really looking forward to today: Witch at The Roundhouse.

They were a big hit with the people I knew at the festival. They don’t have much in terms of recorded and released music (their second of two albums was released in 2008) but the set today was still varied, mixing the fuzzed-out stoner influences of Black Sabbath with some harder stuff in the vein of Black Flag. I love their fuzzy heavy psych tones, with those raw, crunchy riffs sounding strong in The Roundhouse today.

Another band I have enjoyed for a while but never seen is All Them Witches, who were at The Roundhouse today.

The Nashville band brought their vintage heavy psych sound to The Roundhouse as part of their 2019 tour. These guys were a real highlight today, a great mix of loose and laid back bluesy rhythms with some hot and heavy fuzz. The guys on stage seemed pretty relaxed, apart from possibly the drummer, getting into some extended solos and smooth grooves. The crowd seemed to be in a similar mood, felling the vibe and getting into a set that didn’t have a dull moment.

A walk back to Camden Town to see The Secret play The Underworld.

A buddy of mine recommended these guys to me, as I hadn’t recognised the name, and I’m glad he suggested them. The big, heavy sound certainly woke me up. Massive distortion and aggression from the Italian metalers, hitting all the right beats with a black/death metal tone. Furious and destructive energy was in abundance with lead vocalist Marco Coslovich spending much of his time leaning over the monitors to get up in the faces of the crowd.

High Reeper were next to blast my ears at The Black Heart

The Philidelphia band managed to pack out The Black Heart. I didn’t know much about them before seeing them, maybe heard a couple of songs online, but I know I’m a fan now! Infectious sound that is impossible to resist headbanging too, the steady grooves and tricky little bass flourishes from Shane Trimble worked great at the bass-heavy Black Heart (they really love to ramp up those lower frequencies!).

After a long and fantastic weekend, my last band today would be Fu Manchu headlining The Roundhouse.

Scott Hill has been rocking hard and blowing eardrums longer than I’ve been alive, but shows no signs of slowing down. Opening with “Squash That Fly”, they hit the ground running and continued to play a set full of big hitters like “Evil Eye”, “Mongoose” and “Saturn III”.

Fu Manchu – The Roundhouse

Fu Manchu – The Roundhouse

Every opening riff seemed to get a big response from the crowd in the packed Roundhouse and the extended noodling and rhythms went down really well. Pits and crowd surfers got plenty action going for the livelier numbers. For the encore we were treated to their cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla”, a number that was a great way to cap off the weekend for me! (It’s a pretty good version if you haven’t heard it)

I was in desperate need of a sit-down and a pint, so I popped in to The Dev, where I found DJs She’s So Heavy spinning some bangers for an after party (you might recognise Black Moth’s, Harriet Hyde).

I also had the chance to catch up with a few buddies I had neglected today and give Desertfest a solid send-off before heading home to try and sleep the weekend off! It was an absolute blast of a weekend once again, my third Desertfest (2 London, 1 Antwerp) and, as always, the organisers and venues all smashed it! See you next year!