Desertfest

Dates: May 4, 2018– May 6, 2018

The annual weekend when rockers and metalheads gather in North London’s Camden for Desertfest has arrived. And this year’s proceedings open with a Friday billing which quite frankly leaves you spoilt for choice and, therefore, many tricky decisions had to be made. A fantastic position to be in – both in terms of being richly spoiled for great listening pleasure but also proof that the scene is very much in good current health. But, an easy decision to make for this reviewer was to catch Black Moth at the Underworld.

With their Astronomical Venus album now released into the wider world a few months back, Black Moth proceed to showcase a set packed full of the said album selections, safe in the knowledge that they will be fully familiar to the Mothlings out in force at the Underworld. From the opening intro of ‘Istra’, Harriet Hyde emerges and her “Aphroditeeee” wail splits the air. She confidently commands the stage, flashing big smiles, while either side Jim and Frederica trade duelling. intricate riffage and twin guitar melodies. ‘Moonbow’, ‘Severed Grace’, a blistering ‘Sisters of the Stone’ and ‘Screen Queen’ are fine blasts of their metal-esque direction.

Fitting comfortably into the set are the grungy ‘Tumbleweave’, and the bouncy doom of ‘Honey Lung’ to represent their earlier back-catalogue. The middle set tempo-breather sees Grave Lines frontman Jake Harding enter from the wings clutching a quarter-bottle full (or, more appropriately, should that be three-quarters empty?) of wine before dispatching the remains in one gulp; “classy!” quips Harriet humorously. They duet ‘Tourmaline’. which works better live than on the record, before the huge swaggering groove from the rhythm section kicks in. Following a previously used set-closer ‘Honey Lung’ is ‘Pig man’, where grunge and sludge collide in a hog roast (sorry!) of sizzling squalling feedback. It ends a 45-minute set of very fine fiery riffage and top grungy metal tunage.

Also at the Underworld, a bit later-on,  power-trio Radio Moscow glide through a set of their early 1970s’ bluesy rock-inspired grooves. Fuzz-infused jams are never far away or in short supply, and this is when they are in their element. So much so that these do, at times, overshadow the songs themselves, which isn’t a harsh criticism when wah-wah flurries of Hendrix, and Groundhogs inspired rock-outs are indeed the real pleasure of their game. And the crowd duly lap it up and respond accordingly.

Keeping with that bluesy retro-vibe is Koko’s headliners Graveyard. A band whose whole song catalogue this reviewer could easily sort into two categories: dig it with a pleasurable thumbs-up… or instead provoke a shrug of the shoulders, don’t-really-go-anywhere reaction. So, the outcome is really going to depend on which kind of set-list they are going to hand-pick and reveal.

What they do show is they are a band who follow their own muse, and if that includes buckling the common trend of starting a set with a few bangers before any slower ballads are aired, then that is, quite rightly, their decision to make. And that is exactly what they do, starting with a ballad that goes straight into my latter list. Then it ping-pongs back and forth between both lists and varying song tempos, which makes the opening half-hour witnessed very uneven. On the plus side, the packed crowd seemed to be enjoying it, while the new songs so far revealed from their forthcoming album, Peace, do sound promising.

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