As is now the custom at Desertfest, the final day of the weekend brings in the Roundhouse to also host proceedings alongside consistent regulars the Underworld, Our Black Heart, and the Devonshire Arms. Last year’s Roundhouse line-up was particularly astounding with the co-headline of Monster Magnet and Hawkwind. This year is also a bit of a coup for the Desertfest organisers, as legendary stoner rock crusaders Fu Manchu are bringing their fuzzily charged, wah-wah assault to the festival for the first time. Their appearance here comes on the back of last year’s reassuringly good Clone of the Universe album, which reaffirmed Fu Manchu’s stoner-rock pioneer credentials but also coincided with their most far-reaching exercise yet: the 18-minutes plus ‘Il Mostro Atomico’, that came with a guest contribution from guitarist and star fan, Alex Lifeson – he indeed of Rush. It is another tailor-made Desertfest headline addition.
Also on at the Roundhouse will be the quality heavy psychedelic-blues of Nashville’s All Them Witches, a band who in the last eight years have rapidly evolved to form a most mesmerising idiosyncratic sound. Another band who have seen a steady rise, and can take pride in having their own distinctive reputation, is San Diego’s Earthless. Their explosive free-firing stoner-blues jams will be sure to devastate and awe.
And it wouldn’t be Desertfest without the organisers showcasing their amazing ability to bring long-split bands back together, or in this case out of a long hibernation, with the return of Vermont’s Witch. They contain Dinosaur Jr’s grunge-godfather guitar-hero J Mascis, but in Witch, he takes his place behind the drum-kit to set the pace for their stoner Sabbath-infused, garage punk.
Elsewhere, there are many different layers of heaviness to follow your muse and moods: there are stoner-blues riffs to be had with Norway’s The Devil and the Almighty Blues, in conjunction with the recent release of their seductive, smoky, tune-in-and-drop-out Tre album; for dreamy, drifty space rock there is Naxatras; and for your retro occult-doom fix there’s Sabbath Assembly. Sticking with the Birmingham legends connection are the worshippers at the Tony Iommi altar, High Reeper, headlining at the Our Black Heart pub. Notching up the heaviness even further, The Secret play their first UK show in five years, while Surya complete Sunday’s extreme noise/metal representatives. And in a midnight start-slot, closing the festival over at the Underworld are former Kyuss and QotSA bassist Nick Oliveri’s Mondo Generator.
Desertfest have never been strangers to throw a curve ball or two in the past – the prog rock stage at the Jazz Café venue springs to mind. This year, the Devonshire Arms hosts a stage sponsored by Black Deer – the new Americana and Roots festival, which takes place in June and has a Desertfest stage with Brant Bjork as one of the headliners. This role reversal sees The Outlaw Orchestra, The Southern Company, The Fargo Railrod Co, and headliners The Vanguards bring some Southern country rock and bluegrass vibes to the event.
As of writing this preview, Desertfest announced they were down into their last 100 weekend tickets left. So, you know what to do…