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Saturday, 12 May 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Desertfest 2018 - Friday (Live Review By Paul S)

Desertfest 2018 - Friday, Camden, London

I should start this review with a confession. When I went to Desertfest, I wasn’t aware that I was going to be writing a review of the day. I was asked to review it whilst watching Napalm Death (My bad - Ed). If I’d known I was going to be reviewing Friday at Desertfest, I would have made notes, planned to see as many bands as possible and been aware of who I was watching. So, as doing a proper professional sounding review isn’t really an option, I’m going to try and do a Hunter S Thompson gonzo style review of my day (although without the drug and alcohol fuelled lunacy, bit skint this month) .

My Friday started early with a bus to London. I could only afford a one day ticket to Desertfest (bit skint this month), so I chose the Friday as there were 4 bands I really wanted to see, one of which I considered to be essential. Once I’d got to Camden and turned my ticket into a wrist band, I popped into the Underworld to see Old Man Lizard (7). They played a nice set of relaxed, groovy stoner doom to an appreciative audience. It was a nice start, but I left a little early so I could get over to The Electric Ballroom to see Winterfylleth (one of the 4 bands I was down there to see).

Winterfylleth had had to move their early evening slot to the opening slot, so they could get a ferry to France for another festival. The Electric Ballroom was packed, considering it was 3 O’clock on a Friday afternoon. Winterfylleth (9) played a storming set of their brand of melancholy atmospheric black metal. The setlist was culled from their entire career, but without anything from their new acoustic album The Hallowing Of Heirdom. For obvious reasons they avoided that material as they were doing an electric set, but using one of the tracks as an intro track was a nice move. They played a great set, and seemed genuinely moved that so many people had come out to see them.

Next, I went back to the Underworld to see Black Moth (8). A lot of other people had also had the same idea, and the Underworld was rammed. It was one of those situations where no matter where you stand you are constantly in someones way. The 3 songs I saw were great. Tuneful, melodic doom with great vocals. The audience really enjoyed what I saw of the set, however the heat in the venue, combined with the fact that I hadn’t eaten since I left home combined to make me feel quite lightheaded, so I left to get some air and some food.

After sorting myself out with a Beanburger meal, I had a look at what was going on at The Black Heart. I saw a band playing instrumental stoner doom. I’d love to tell you who they were, but I don’t know. I stayed for about 10 minutes before being driven out by the heat. Whilst cooling down on a flight of steps near the Black Heart, I spent about 30 minutes talking to a Camden resident, who wanted to know what was going on. She described herself as an old punk, so was looking for information, rather than complaining. Had a pleasant break from hot venues, talking about music.

Next I went back to The Electric Ballroom, as the rest of the bands I’d bought the ticket for were playing at that venue. It was lucky that I did that as I managed to catch the second half of Five The Hierophant’s set. Five The Hierophant (8) are a name I’ve been aware of for several years, but have never heard. They played a set of heavy, groovy instrumental doom, where a saxophone took the place of lead vocals (which worked really well). The band were in monks robes, with a video of Fire being played behind them, giving their set a real feeling of a ritual, or religious ceremony. I really enjoyed their set, and am now keen to check out some of their albums. Love discovering new bands at festivals, and Five The Hierophants are a great discovery.

Next up, were Eyehategod (9), another of the 4 bands I was at the festival to see. I was there early, so I got a place right up against the crowd control barriers. By the time Eyehategod exploded onto the stage, The Electric Ballroom was pretty much full, and the audience went nuts. The set was incredibly chaotic and intense. A huge moshpit erupted as soon as the first song started, and I was crushed into the barriers. Unfortunately for me I was next to a check shirt and trucker cap wearing moron, who wanted to occupy my space as well as the space he already had. Once I started to get the urge to elbow him in the throat, I decided to move back and to the side, as I didn’t want to get into a fight with a dickhead (if you allow yourself to be goaded into fight by a dickhead, you have automatically lost). I watched the second half of the set from further back, and really enjoyed it. The band were on form, Mike (who was looking really healthy) had lots of banter with the audience, and they sounded huge. I had such a great time, I bought a T-shirt! (Truly been there and done that then - Ed)

Before Warning (10), this was the band I considered essential, I popped out to the Burger Bar next door for a nice, and considering it was London, quite cheap (bit skint this month) veggie burger. I went straight back in so I could get a spot up the front for Warning and saw their sound check. Warning’s set was their seminal 2006 album Watching From A Distance. The album has been incredibly influential, and is one of my favourite albums. It’s an album that tends to have an effect on people, I’ve never met anyone who thought it was OK, you either love it, or don’t get it. There was a decent number of people in the audience, and the love they had for Warning was palpable. I sang every word of the album back at the band, and I think just most of the other people in the audience did the same.

This is the second to last performance Warning will be doing (one more set at Hellfest, then they are calling it a day), and you could feel that this was something special, in particular Bridges was sublime, not a dry eye in the place. We made so much noise at the end of each song, the band seemed to be taken aback at the reaction they received. No other metal band are loved the way Warning are loved. At the end of their set the crowd stayed in front of the stage, rather than heading off to see other bands (as had happened at the end of all the other bands I saw), we didn’t want it to end, no-one left until the band had all left the stage. Although, Warning's set was beautiful and emotionally charged, although I enjoyed it immensely, I felt like crying as I knew I would never see them live again. The only consolation, is that we still have 40 Watt Sun, and can continue to hear Patrick Walker’s amazing, beautiful songs. I’m so glad I made the effort to see this band, one of the best live sets I have ever seen. 

Next up were the last the band I’d gone down to see; Napalm Death (9). I’ve seen Napalm Death many times before, and I’ve never seen them do a bad set. Friday at Desertfest was no different. They blew the roof off The Electric Ballroom. Savage, blistering grindcore played by a band that are in their element live. Barney was in great form, joking about finding slow songs to fit in with the Desertfest ethos “a little tricky”. Their set was culled from all over their 30 year plus career. Several tracks from their new rarities compilation Coded Smears And More Uncommon Slurs, 3 tracks from their fist album Scum, and even an Anti Cimex cover.

The band had an immense amount of energy, which in turn energised the audience into forming a massive pit. Really loved this set, I think it was the best set I’ve seen Napalm Death play. An absolutely perfect end to the day. After Napalm Death, I caught the tube to Victoria, for my 4 and a half hour bus journey (couldn’t afford the train, bit skint this month) back to Cardiff (the battery on my iPod lasted all the way home as well!). I had a great time at the Friday at Desertfest. Hopefully I’ll get to go for the whole weekend next year.

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