Let’s be blunt, with the array of artists lined up for 2019’s Desertfest across all three days, it screams: buy a weekend ticket! Friday’s bill, with the new addition of the Riding Easy stage is mouth-watering enough by itself, with a few bands from the United States over for the first time. But Saturday is no filler, catering for many tastes and styles, as debutants, returnees and an anniversary celebration lie in wait.
So, let’s take-a-look at the Electric Ballroom venue and its healthy supply of heavy, absorbing atmospherics on offer. The sublime, lowdown heavy but soulful stoner blues of the excellent Elephant Tree sees them opening-up proceedings after switching their original Sunday slot with Naxatras, and the word is out they come bearing gifts. with a batch of new songs for our listening pleasure. Be sure to get there early and check them out. Elephant Tree’s recent touring buddies and fellow heavy bluesy-tuned stoner-rockers, Stoned Jesus, make the trip from Ukraine to showcase why last year’s Pilgrims is arguably their best offering to date.
Also from Europe, Switzerland’s Monkey 3 make a return to the festival and the same stage hey first played in 2014. Since then, they released Astra Symmetry, an album so trippy that psych-induced post-rock swirling melodic soundscapes should be on the cards. Germany’s Kadavar not only turned up the fuzzy dense heaviness with 2017’s Rough Times album, but it felt like they bloomed with a strengthening of their own sound and identity. They are sure to rock hard before twentieth-anniversary headliners, Amenra, bring expansive, doomy, crushing post-rock intensity to surely send everyone dizzily home.
Over at the Underworld is the Human_Disease_Promo/When Planets Collide stage, where they host a huge range of diverse acts including an interesting and most welcome appearance from Norway’s Grammy winners, Arabrot, who should provide alluring weirdness. An uncompromising deranged blend of post-punk experimentation, alternative strangeness, and Goth punk darkness – which still falls rather short in just how to describe them.
Maintaining the craziness, but putting the foot down on the tempo accelerator with some howlin’ mad, speed punk, party riff ‘n’ roll is Scottish duo Acid Cannibals. Then slowing it all down with thunderous classy old-skool Doom is The Skull, featuring former doom pioneers Trouble’s vocalist, Eric Wagner. Last year’s sophomore album, The Endless Road Turns Dark is an epic slice of classic melodic doom of the highest quality, keeping the spirit of Black Sabbath well and truly alive. And to finish us off (probably quite literally), is Black Tusk’s bruising, pummelling, metal. Phew!
And it doesn’t stop there – two more venues to go. At the wonderful festival hangout, Our Black Heart pub, the intimate upstairs venue will provide plenty of retro-esque, riffy hard rock to shake out your dandruff to. High Fighter, Zed, Salem’s Bend and Gimme Radio DJ John Brookhouse’s band Worshipper will let rip along their fretboards before the bill-topping Canadian robust hard-rock stoners, We Hunt Buffalo. While over at the Devonshire Arms are the brutal Coilguns, psych-proggers Mother’s Cake, and headliners, Wrong.