The second day of Desertfest had an excellent balanced line-up, and one thing was for certain: Camden was ready to party to some all-time classic tunes.
Opening the Underworld was ‘Sonic Electric Delta Fuzz Blues’ act Sonic Gypsy. A throwback to music of a time gone by, they were really good to blow the hangover away. Heavily inspired by 60s music and acts such as Hawkwind and John Lee Hooker, Sonic Gypsy had enjoyable sounds and rhythm that was a fine start to the day.
Playing some material that was written in the 60s, Ken Pustelnik’s Groundhogs were a great addition to the Desertfest line-up. Despite being 71, Ken played with the speed of a drummer half his age, while the rest of the boys could teach the younger members on the line-up a thing or two. A throwback to a time long passed, The Groundhogs played material that had came out in 1970 while the four members on stage played with the energy of their younger selves; dancing around the stage and shredding away. As someone who owns five Groundhogs albums, I was chuffed I got to take the trip back in time and see them.
Hailing from San Francisco, Brume ramped up the psychedelic riffs and brought the doom. The Underworld was rammed for Brume and it was impossible to get into the lower stage area for them. Standing on tiptoes to see them, their sonic assault was stunning and hypnotic. A lot like Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, the band’s siren call vocals were entrancing and the ability to craft an ensnaring doom epic deserves a standing ovation. I regret not buying a T-shirt, they were a class act who deserve high fives all around.
After getting a heavenly halloumi and falafel wrap from Woody’s opposite the venue, I went down to watch Celeste pack the Underworld. I heard of Celeste but never the band’s music, and from the get go I was blown away. The stage was shrouded in darkness with red lights on their foreheads, strobes and the audience members’ phones which was the only light source in the room. Their dark post-metal assault had an overbearing grim atmosphere that was so captivating I nearly missed the start of Black Spiders’ set. With a sound that was apocalyptic in its onslaught, Celeste were excellent viewing and judging by the queue around the block to get in, I felt lucky to have witnessed this sermon.
Playing their final London show, Black Spiders were here to party. Opening with fun anthem ‘KISS Tried to Kill Me,’ the three guitar assault of Black Spiders did not relent until the time they sadly had to leave. I absolutely loved Black Spiders’ funny, engaging and energetic show. All the hits were there and the crowd were keen to sing the words back, especially for ‘St Peter’, ‘Balls’ and finale ‘Stay Down’, which were all an absolute riot. Getting the entire crowd to yell “fuck off Black Spiders” as the band left the stage was a weirdly satisfying end to the set.
No matter what room he walks into, John Garcia is the coolest man in it. He could be in the same room as Lionel Richie, Sir Michael Caine and Ed Miliband and stand a shoulder above the rest. Watching Garcia perform, it is obvious that he still has it, and never lost it. He’s still the King of the Desert and one of the coolest cats around. Opening with Kyuss classic ‘Tangy Zizzle’, from the moment the first note hit and the crowd realised what was being played, everyone’s arms were in the air. Mr Garcia played a wide range of hits from his “hundreds of bands”, and his solo material. But it was the Kyuss material that caused everyone to go ape. ‘One Inch Man’, ‘Gardenia’ and ‘Thumb’ transported us to a party in a desert dune from the 90s.
In a touching moment before ‘El Rodeo’, Garcia dedicated the song to his supportive wife, his drummer and bassist’s wife, and his guitarist Ehren’s cats for their support. Garcia also thanks the fans for allowing him to play music for over 20 years. When Garcia asked the crowd what we wanted to hear, hundreds of different songs were yelled back at him, including Kyuss’ ‘Green Machine’. “I think I heard Green Machine!” announced Garcia who launched straight into the Kyuss classic as the pit appropriately expanded. Garcia’s set was one of the best of the weekend, I hope this man performs for another 20.
Playing their first London show in five years, Turbonegro brought the party. The band’s fan club the Turbojugend were out in full force, with members of chapters from across the UK, as well as as far as Norway, the US and Australia. Opening with ‘Hot for Nietzsche’, it was clear they had not lost their edge. I forgot how many Turbo songs I knew as the band partied on stage in all their costumed glory. ‘You Give Me Worms’, ‘Don’t Say Mother Fucker Mother Fucker’, and the Jackass hit ‘All My Friends Are Dead’, caused mayhem and the Ballroom was rammed with people who – like Andrew W.K would have wanted – were partying hard.
“Camden is a hell hole,” joked frontman Tony Sylvester, it is the ‘City of Satan’, which led into a sing-a-long of ‘City of Satan’. The band of course finished with the classic ‘I Got Erection’. Before the band started the song, they parted the crowd for a wall of death with people who smoked weed on one side, and the other who took Class A drugs. Hearing a 1000 strong crowd sing ‘I Got Erection’, while engaging in a “wall of deathpunk” was a surreal but oddly perfect end to the day. It was also brilliant hearing people change the words to “snap election” and “I love John Weston”, Camden really brings out the best in people. The heroes’ welcome the band receive was well earned and the crowd was still yelling ‘I Got Erection’ in the streets of Camden well after their set finished.
Turbonegro ended another fantastic day at Desertfest, but the best was to come on Sunday.