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Desertfest 2017 – Preview


If losing your mind in a headspinning torrent of sledgehammer riffs, gargantuan grooves and bruising beats is approaching your idea of heaven then it’s almost time for ‘Camden Calling’ and Desertfest 2017. This year is the sixth renewal of this acclaimed pageant that gathers more than 50 bands to perform across four distinct platforms in the thriving north London metropolis over three heady days from April 28-30.

This year’s line-up is a stellar gathering once again with Slo Burn and Turbonegro among the headline acts. But throughout each day a staggering array of talent is brought together, some to play at intimate Camden haunts such as The Devonshire Arms and The Black Heart with more established names taking over at The Underworld and The Electric Ballroom. On the Sunday focus flicks to the iconic Roundhouse where doom titans Sleep will bring the curtain down on what promises to be three incredible days.

So if you’re planning on making the trip who should you make a beeline to see? Well it’s all down to personal preference and while some would walk barefoot over hot coals to experience Samsara Blues Experiment others would rather scratch their own eyeballs out than countenance missing Bongzilla.

So as a general overview of Desertfest 2017, Paul Castles turns the spotlight on just some of the names heading to Camden at the end of April.

Friday 28 April

Slo Burn headline The Electric Ballroom on the opening day where they will be following the likes of 1000 Mods, Stoned Jesus and Lowrider. John Garcia put Slo Burn together following the demise of Kyuss only to pull the plug a year later with just one memorable EP, Amusing the Amazing, to their name. Now a decade down the line, Garcia has reassembled the South Virginia virtuosos for the renaissance that stoner serpents have been waiting for.

Lowrider played Desertfest four years’ ago laying down railtrack riffs from their only album, 2001 release Ode to lo. While no doubt we’ll hear some of those favourites again also expect to catch some equally immense sounds from this year’s eagerly anticipated follow-up as The Electric Ballroom succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome.

Away from the big stages, Grave Lines kick off Desertfest 2017 just after lunchtime at The Underworld where a little later Death Alley will add a psychedelic flourish to the stoner mix.  Anyone looking to make a real meal of the opening day can feast on beefy Londoners’ Steak at The Underworld or indulge in a slice of Terminal Cheesecake at The Black Heart. Either option will leave you feeling full to the brim.

The intriguingly named 1000 Mods don’t look anything like Paul Weller. These Greek desert rock renegades made a major impression last year with the release of their album Repeated Exposure To…. Although undertaking an extensive Euro tour, Desertfest is the only place in the UK you’ll get to see them perform.

One more name for the opening day, try Stoned Jesus who follow 1000 Mods onto The Electric Ballroom stage. The enigmatic Ukrainian trio will be performing their acclaimed 2012 album Seven Thunders Roar in its entirety.

Saturday 29 April

Anyone who parties a little too hard on the Friday and needs bringing to their senses on Desertfest Day 2 should steer towards the monolithic Monolithian who will be first up at The Underworld where the Falmouth duo will clear out your passageways with their seismic downtuned ballistic doom.

The irascible Black Spiders will get the crowd moving later in The Electric Ballroom with their high octane raucous revelry although if that sounds dangerously like fun then head to The Underworld instead where the picture will be distinctively bleaker thanks to Inter Arma. The Richmond rebels’ figured prominently in many end of year polls a few months ago on the back of their merciless album Paradise Gallows.

The mood will scarcely be any lighter at The Black Heart where the Welsh wonders Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard will be holding court, regrettably one of the few bands at this year’s Desertfest to feature a female vocalist, in Jessica Ball. MWWB’s ethereal edge sees them bring something a little different to the party although make no mistake the riffs still land like a ten ton hammer.

For the second successive evening The Electric Ballroom will host John Garcia, although this time performing with his own ensemble, the John Garcia Band. At The Underworld the stupendous Scissorfight will be cutting things to pieces. While the New Hampshire outfit started out in the mid-90s this is really something of a new dawn for the band with the formidable Doug ‘my own grave’ Aubin now leading the attack.

If the metal punk mix of outrageous Electric Ballroom headliner’s Turbonegro doesn’t do it for you then Bongzilla around the corner at The Underworld just might with reefer riffs hairier than a silverback gorilla.

Sunday 30 April

On the final day of Desertfest some of the real heavy hitters – and that is meant as literally as it is figuratively – will perform at The Roundhouse. The likes of LA legends Saint Vitus and Candlemass are little short of doom deity and either band could probably fill the famous old venue on their own.

Sandwiched in between are American ambient black metal outfit Wolves in the Throne Room, led by brothers grim, Aaron and Nathan Weaver. Sleep recorded two incredible doom albums in the early 90s in Holy Mountain and the hallucinogenic haze of Dopesmoker. After a decade in the wilderness the seminal doom trio reformed in 2009 since when their smokin’ riff overload has been acclaimed at stoner and doom festivals across the planet.

While it looks pretty hard to tare yourself away from The Roundhouse, on what Sky Sports would label ‘Super Sunday,’ that though would be a shame as there are plenty of outstanding performers to be discovered at both The Black Heart and The Underworld. The former hosts the likes of Houston heavy-hitters Venomous Maximus and Wigan warriors Boss Keloid.

The inspirationally named Geordie boys Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs can be relied on to go the whole hog roast at The Underworld. They will be followed on stage by the spaced out Yuri Gagarin with the cosmic theme likely to intensify further when psychedelic headliners Samsara Blues Experiment take the stage.

If you’re the kind of person for whom music isn’t just a part of your life – it’s the very oxygen that keeps your heart pumping – then Desertfest 2017 promises to provide you with three unforgettable days.

  • For all the very latest on Desertfest 2017 click here.




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