Two years ago I had to sell my ticket for Desertfest due to my student loan coming in late, when I sold it I thought I had missed my only chance to go to this event. But fast forward two years later and I was attending Desertfest and was determined to make the most of it.
I couldn’t think of a better band to open the festival than Grave Lines. The ominous bass introduction lead to some mighty, earth-shattering sludge and some truly terrifying vocals from vocalist Jake Harding giving us the wake up we needed. Grave Lines shook The Underworld and brought the heavy; spine-chilling, monstrous and just excellent, Grave Lines were the perfect start to the day.
Pontiak, the first band on at the Electric Ballroom, were completely different to Grave Lines. Their psychedelic grooves ranged from chilled out to rapid as they brought the desert to Camden. The three brothers’ vocal harmonies soared in the ballroom and their music was engaging throughout. Trippy, hauntingly beautiful and positive, Pontiak were a great start to the festival’s main stage.
But it was 1000mods who truly kicked the day off. The high energy riffs came out thick and fast as the crowd went ballistic for the band. I didn’t realise how loved the band was until I saw their set, the crowd loved them. Halfway through the set I decided to go take a look from upstairs, I saw the entire front section of the crowd nodding their heads in unison. ‘Electric Carve’ was a highlight of the day with the high octane vibe power of the riff causing one of the first pits of the day. 1000mods were a joy to watch, full on stoner metal bliss.
Stoned Jesus unfortunately had to cancel their appearance due to personal reasons, but luckily Glowsun were drafted in as a last minute replacement. Glowsun were a genuine pleasure to watch, a tour de force in mystique and space rock. The astral riffs reminded me of My Sleeping Karma and Ufomammut at their best, taking the audience on a journey through parts unknown. I didn’t catch the latter half of their set, but Glowsun left a serious impression.
I had been a huge fan of Steak since discovering Slab City a few years ago, I had missed every chance to see them until Desertfest and I loved every second of it. Opening with classic tune ‘Acid Dave’ before following up with new song ‘Living Like A Rat’ from their upcoming album No God To Save. But it was ‘Liquid Gold’ and ‘Pisser’ from Slab City that got the best reaction, even though John Garcia didn’t appear on Pisser as many speculated, the songs oozed with sonic gold. “I don’t know where he is, but shoutout to the guy who runs Desertfest” joked vocalist Kippa, in reference to guitarist Reece Tee who was also the organiser for Desertfest. Ending with ‘Overthrow,’ from their split with Greenleaf, Steak were an absolute thrill and proof that the stoner scene is alive and well in London.
Lowrider’s set at Desertfest 2013 is considered one of the best in the festival’s history and so understandably the Ballroom was packed for their set this year. There were fans there who saw the band at The Underworld with Dozer in the year 2000, a testament to the fan’s loyalty saw the front rows packed with enthusiastic fans. Opening with the one two of ‘Caravan’ and ‘Dust Settlin’, Lowrider were really cool but the set was not all about the past. Songs from the seventeen year old Ode to Io dominated the set, but the band also played a lot of new material from their upcoming album. The new material sounded extremely promising and the band were certainly making up for lost time. “Our album is for sale and we made it ourselves as no label would repress it, so buy it if you want to support the band,” stated from bassist Peder Bergstrand. Lowrider received a heroes welcome, but it was clear they would be welcomed back.
Slo Burn played their first set in twenty years tonight, the John Garcia lead group had remained popular in desert/stoner circles and their music was kept alive by fans. However, as soon as they got into the swing of things it was like they never went away. The original line-up was playing together and while they’ve aged and got families now, the band still played like they did twenty years ago (at least it felt like it). Garcia was on fine form as usual, his voice intact while many of his contemporaries would struggle to reach those highs. Garcia had the swagger of a legendary outlaw as he strutted around the stage. I could not fault Slo Burn, it was so enjoyable and too much fun. The final two songs of ‘July’ and encore ‘Pilot the Dune’ caused the Ballroom to detonate and it was the perfect end to the day, no band could have followed that. When Garcia introduced the band, he concluded “God damn my name is John Garcia and I’m here for you”. Since the start of his career, Garcia has given it all for the fans and he shows no signs of changing his ways, and that’s why we love him.
Day one was an absolute success and I could not wait to return to see what the next day had in stock for me.