The second day in the desert and I wake without a hangover and convinced my beard is longer already. I am told it isn’t so I decide I must have a spirit beard and after breakfast allow myself to be taken to the Brew Dog pub for ‘orientation purposes’. A bit of chilled personal catching up means I miss the highly recommended Roadsaw and the first band I meet at the Underworld are the excellent Dutch stoners Sungrazer. You couldn’t wish for a warmer sounding band. They lay down layer upon layer of fuzzy, Kyuss tinged riffs that just kind of settled in my soul and made itself right at home. They have that perfect languid style that always flows so naturally that I am gently blown away before I know it and part of the waves of nodding heads. That’s another CD then. And I wasn’t alone in my reaction judging by the total scrum around their merchandise table.
Now I was thinking of moving but frankly when you are confronted by Valient Thorr for the first time you are kind of frozen in your tracks. With a look that is kind of Captain Caveman meets metal-as-fuck and a manic approach that is heavy metal with the DT s and waaaay too much caffeine they just kind of blast the place apart. The only stone are the rocks they bang together and they are fun and catchy as hell. Now I’m not saying I want to be trapped in a log cabin with them but the Underworld? Hell, yeah. With songs about wrestling and 1980s girlfriends, they up the energy levels of the place and are just great metal entertainment.
Which then brings us to the first of the big three for the day. If I had to count the most common logo on day one about Camdenit was Truck Fighters. They were also on my ‘check them out list’ kindly suggested by the guy at thesludgelord.blogspot.co.uk. Playing to an already converted crowd the trio hit the ground running. And jumping. And anything else they could fit into their space. More energy than Usain Bolt on a sugar rush but I’m weirdly unmoved. Beside three guys physically going for it with total belief the music leaves me rooted to the spot. No hooks to pull me in and with most of the underworld seemingly knowing every lyric and lapping up the moves I go and replenish beer before the rush as I am plainly surplus to requirements.
The efficiency of both the change-overs and the timetable means the lack of movement on stage next is kind of worrying. So too do the hard gestures being swapped between various stage staff. Judging by the absence of a merchandise stall and the hurried passing out of wristbands I figure Church Of Misery are late arriving.
When they do finally get set up, well, on a day of eccentrics at the Underworld they slot right in. Their style is a psychopathic twist on some brutal stoner doom with of course the lyrics to match. Hitting us straight with Voodoo Drug Lord they just get on with the brutality. Huge great walls of riffage and synth squawk and the manic figure of the singer twisting and contorting like a mad cult leader. No communicating with the crowd, they just make sure they jam in as much sonic abuse as they can into their slightly shortened set. Born To Raise Hell seems a mission statement more than a track and they get those heads banging with its glorious sore throat refrain. By the time they get to I, Motherfucker I’m wrecking my neck and throat. Short, violent and compelling.
“How do the home town heroes follow that?” I wonder slightly dazed.
They do it by just being Orange Goblin. Kicking off their Eulogy For The Damned tour at Desertfest is a hell of an opening and led by the ever present giant shadow of Ben Ward, rabble-rouser extraordinaire and human bear of a vocalist the guys just batter right in with Some You Win, Some You Lose. This is not so much a gig as a celebratory cleansing through fire and “Heavy fucking metal!” as Mr Ward puts it more than once. The crowd goes nuts, the band responds with huge grins and play all the harder. They are obviously pleased as punch to be there, dedicate Stand For Something to the organizers and the fans and storm and stomp us through some vital versions off new stuff like The Filthy And The Few and the sinister The Fog, add in a slice of Time Travelling Blues and kick me out into the street one slightly drunk half blind but happy little goblin.
My spirit beard tugs me towards more beer, urging me to ignore the ‘only one contact lens’ issue and I find myself at the Purple Turtle (say it in a Brummie accent and you’ll get how I sounded). Inside Slabdragger are just starting so I pick a safe spot to take in some leaden sludge. Maybe it’s too sudden a change of pace but at first I think it is kinda ok but nothing special but like an insidious presence it really grows on me. Their intensity sucks me in and the howling vocals really add character. Yeah they got me good.
Unfortunately by this point my other contact lens has had to be removed and so with the world pretty much plunged into blurry shapes beyond three feet I call it a fine night and make my thankfully simple way home whilst the rest party on.
An excellent day all in all.