All photos by Angelique Le Marchand.
One of the many great features of Desertfest is bands being able to play in front of packed venues. This must be an absolute god send for smaller bands to reach out to a wider audience. It does mean the odd disappointment not getting in to see a band (in my case Iron Witch), but lesson learned and if you have a must-see band on your list then it is a simple case of making sure you arrive early, and build up your anticipation and excitement by watching them sound check.
However, after experiencing being stuck in traffic on a bus replacement train service to arrive too late to witness legendary bluesy progressive rockers, The Groundhogs, spirits soon pick up. As it does allow time to take in one of the other festival’s key pluses which make it so special, and that is the friendly laidback vibe.
Then, head over to the Electric Ballroom to see a band sadly calling last orders before they undertake a hiatus. This is the Black Spiders last London gig on their ‘Fuck off Black Spiders’ farewell tour. Well, a band might as well go out shooting all their bullets and that is what the Spiders indeed do in a fun fuelled riffy classic hard rock showdown.
Displaying bags of irony their every cliché rock guitar posing is nothing but good honest fun. They set about getting the crowd involved whether it is handclapping, encouraging audience sing-a-longs, with their mix of Kiss with grit anthems and Saxon’s denim and leather hearts, but the best is left to last. They fittingly end with a perfect blast of rock ‘n’ roll humour when they encourage the crowd to participate in some middle finger salutes in the air. Pete ‘Spider’ Spiby is generously flexible as he doesn’t mind the traditional two stiff fingers if one wishes. He even demonstrates how to join in for those holding pint glasses. Then, as the tour’s blunt title affirms he gets everybody to yell back ‘Fuck off Black Spiders’. They then depart, in the meantime, we raise our glasses, say thanks to Black Spiders and wish them well in any upcoming endeavours.
Arrive early at the Our Black Heart pub to ensure entry to see heavy as fuck, doom, sludge progressive architects Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard is a wise move as it quickly fills to capacity. Aided by Jessica Ball’s otherworldly Moog twiddlings and heavily reverbed wailing culminates, one imagines, like a gargantuan spaceship landing. The one pace bouncy rhythm sets in motion unified doomsters heads nodding under one weighty groove.
Then, disaster strikes, as a guitar amp dies, no doubt setting panic attacks on stage. Jessica chats to the crowd through a mass of echo so sounds like one of the aliens from the derailed spaceship. Five minutes or so later a new amp is in place, later told it has half the power of broken amp, but it has no bearing on the volume and density Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard create. As they resume once again with their unique brand of crunch and grind, but unearthly sounding, doom heaviosity. It is immense. One and half songs in a 40/45 minutes set begs the question will they take this longevity onto their next record?
After a ten years’ hiatus Scissorfight are back boasting a new vocalist Doug Aubin in their ranks. No sign of nerves as they steam roll through their set. Their brand of groove infested crusty punk/stoner rock vibes are lapped up by the crowd. And this crowd reaction seems to confirm Doug is indeed a triumphant recruitment. He commands the stage with grinning enjoyment even fetching and waving an enormous flag over the audience. Scissorfight are back, ready for action.
Stubb also find themselves opening-up to a packed Our Black Heart pub. Fuzzy stoner rock but with a nod to the feel and tone of Jimi Hendrix solos and atmospherics. While they mix stoner rock groovers and big riffers with slower tempo hazy guitar soundscapes, their sound is more of a slow burner compared to previous bands experienced today.
As the evening progresses the festival’s friendly vibe just grows as it gears up for the after-show party. This reviewer’s ears were merrily buzzing away on the speedier journey home reflecting on an enjoyable day, and in anticipation of the excitement Sunday’s offerings will bring.