Breakfasting on Icelandic beer (well it was one o’clock in the afternoon) I kind of plan on spending most of the day with the smaller sets upstairs at the Black Heart, starting with Pig Iron.
My spirit beard had other ideas however, and when Pig Iron failed to appear and Ellie Mathews pleasant and relaxing set of guitar loops and jams hit a few technical issues I took it as a sign to catch the back end of Leeds band Wiht (that’s pronounced White…) at the Underworld and was very glad I did. Their kind of Pelican andIsis influenced fuzzed out instrumental songscapes were just the ticket. Excellent musicianship and a real playing chemistry means they are definitely ones to watch.
Back at the Black Heart I found The Death Letter setting up. A two piece acoustic band of singer and guitarist proceed to seriously entertain a nice crowd with a collection of covers and originals with a downbeat, devil and death mix that has a bit of Swans andNickCave, some near acoustic string work and some really soulful vocals.
A brief but pleasant exchange with a guy from New Zealand directs me to my next port of call as he points out the two guys on stage are two fifths of the band he drums for, Dead Existence who are next up at the Turtle.
Well the singer did warn us that if we didn’t fancy staying to chill out at the Black Heart we could go and get our face smashed in. Dead Existence are a huge great percussive slab of sludge. Jake Harding, the guy who had just entertained us with his mournful side, now turns into a demonic shaman, wielding the mic stand like a tribal spear as his cohorts nail down the violent, doomed songs. There’s melody dying behind this great wall of darkness and bile, a hint only, and the pounding rhythm section just grips you and makes you watch. Their set doesn’t so much end as groan and die as one by one the band leave their gasping instruments to fade alone. Epic and superb, just short on cash so the CD will have to come later.
Back at the Underworld, Gentlemen’s Pistols entertain seemingly everyone but me and go down a storm. Maybe I’m missing something. No time to worry though as Zoroaster are next. Everyone I know was telling me I should give them a go so I’m pretty intrigued.
The Georgian trioare the first band I see that opt to set up their own drum kit. This curious turn of events turns out to have a solid reason behind it when at the end of a superb song of sludgy space rock gone Crowbar, guitarist Will Fiore is heard to say “Uh oh the drummer’s breaking things again.”
One quick little jam as the bass drum is replaced and once more we set controls for the heart of a very dark sun. It’s a compelling show; just great, emotional music utterly nailed down by some terrific drumming. I love it. I just kind of fell into the gaping hole their riffs dug.
They took every last drop of my energy reserves and head buzzing, clutching a bit of vinyl, I shuffle home with three days of new music crammed into my tiny brain.
Twelve hours later I wake up. Said I was knackered.
Desertfest was a blast. I won’t pick highlights because it was just such fun as a whole. It was a superbly friendly international atmosphere and so packed to the gills with talent across the board that you couldn’t buy a pint without spilling it on some. For me, a badly educated soul in things stoner, it was a crash course for sure but a great one as my stash of CDs attests. I am sure that there will be things that are queried, like venue sizes, but to a simple punter like me it was a finely organized event. Timings apart from the Black Heart were pretty spot on, numbers permitting it was possible to see two of the three headliners on any night and security was pretty unobtrusive.
But, mostly, it was just darned fun.
Ben Ward said “At last this country has its own Roadburn.” Well time will be the last word on that but for the first of what might hopefully be a firm fixture it rocked like a motherfucker and gave me a great bear hug of a welcome.
Thank youCamden, thank you Desertfest.