Desertfest

Dates: May 4, 2018– May 6, 2018

While the sun continued to put the SUN in Sunday, inside the Roundhouse the day’s mouth-watering line-up saw one of the finest current purveyors of Doom open up proceedings. Releasing their acclaimed Rust album last year, Sweden’s Monolord pounded out their heavy Doom stompers in an impassioned display – Mika Hikki flings his bass around in such unashamed enthusiasm to transcend it from being a mere musical instrument into a potential lethal weapon. They seem to be not only relishing playing the said venue but enjoying the freedom of which a larger stage brings.

On the initial opening power chords of ‘Where death meets the sea’ the guitar sounds like it was being released from a mono transmitter radio, thankfully, it quickly got sorted out to turn it into the appropriate deep, huge, heavy sound to match the ferocious energy the trio are applying and delivering on stage. By the time they deliver the epic ‘Red Empress Rising’ the slow pounding groove is monstrous and being able to observe a sea of synchronized head-banging around the venue is a glorious sight to behold. Monolord easily surpass their last very good Desertfest appearance at the Koko in 2016 to kick off the day in grand style.

It may have still have been a surprise for some to see Hawkwind being added to the bill even though their influence on this festival’s s scene, while not as neon-lighted obvious as Black Sabbath or Kyuss, is still very significant.

The checklist ticking box exercise for packing the Hawkwind truck must be quite an eye-brows raising list: along with the customary rock group musical equipment goes in a loudspeaker, space-rock pedals, nob-twiddling sound effects machines, head-spinning pysch effects and projector, a variety of loud shirts and costumes, and an assortment of props for the dancer. Not only do the band win the award for best light show and mesmerising backdrop of the festival award (if there was one) but also Dave Brock is in contention for sporting the best shirt award, although the Graveyard boys provide some serious competition.

Even without the eye-catching shirt Dave Brock is still a legendary presence; but his experiencing of a few technical problems seemed to leave him and his guitar tech rather baffled, and unfortunately it did impair the band from getting out of 1st gear for the opening 15–20 minutes. But once those hitches were dealt with, and the band hit their head-absorbing, spaceriding grooves, alongside the mash of trippy backdrop projector, occasional centre-stage streamer-twirling dancer, and a younger bass player clearly enjoying giving a gutsy fully committed performance in a similar four string-playing style to the late, great Lemmy, it all amounted to a glorious journey of sound that ended far too early.

Then the baton was passed over to the Dave Wyndorf led Monster Magnet to bang out their classics in a fine festival-ending style. While I also was equally satisfied to hand over scribbling duties to the safe pair of hands of fellow Echoes’ writer Chris Ball for the Monster Magnet review (see accompanying review plus other of the day’s highlights).

A massive thanks to the Desertfest producers and staff for another immensely organised and very enjoyable weekend. Can’t wait to see what will be install for next year’s shindig.

 

 

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