04.25.13 — 11:35PM GMT — Thursday — Holiday Inn, Camden
This was it. The official start of London Desertfest 2013. Well, okay, maybe not. That’s tomorrow, but tonight had the banner up and that’s something. The Black Heart hosted what was billed as the “Official Desertfest Pre-Show” with Greek stoner heavies 1000mods and UK rockers Enos and Blasted. Three bands to ease the way into what’s destined to be a landmark weekend of riffs and fuzz. Their task was laid out before them, but if any of the acts was feeling the pressure, the sweat was lost in that from the raging performances. It was a varied bill, with Blasted showcasing punkish roots and Enos hinting at heavier space rock while the headliners basked in European fuzz, but all three were met with a decidedly positive reception.
Since this is the start of the Desertfest 2013 coverage, I’m going to present the show like I will the fest as a whole. Hope you dig it. Let’s get started.
I guess if you had to pick one, Blasted would be the standout act on the bill, less riff-minded than either of the other two and they didn’t get through their soundcheck without shrapnel flying from one of drummer Tommy Randhawa‘s sticks, but it seems to not really matter which end of heavy a band comes from over here to make a good bill, and I like that. I was early to the show, but Blasted got going soon enough and sprinted through a set of speed rock with thoroughly punkish overtones and aggression. Guitarist/vocalist Ben Perrier used to be in Winnebago Deal, but Blasted is by and large faster and meaner, bassist James Phung answering back in call-and-response choruses to “This Place is Nothing” and “Living Nightmare,” both highlights of their set for being catchy as well as blazing. They were crisp and efficient in getting from point-A to punch-you-in-your-kidneys, but not without locking in the occasional heavy groove along the way, as though to portend what would come for the rest of the night.
Despite having some warning of what Enos got up to when I received and added their late-2012 All too Human album and added the tracks to The Obelisk Radio, when the Brighton four-piece actually got to work on stage, they immediately surpassed my expectation. There are a lot of bands who blend heavy psych and stoner riffing to one degree or another, but Enos blur the lines well with a wash of echo and cymbals that nonetheless come underscored by a near-constant forward motion. They had an open sensibility, and with the two guitars of Sean Cox and Chris Rizzanski, there was plenty of room for exploration while bassist George Cobbold and drummer Sparky Rogers held down thick and dense grooves, but Rizzanski‘s vocals also had a throaty, motor rock delivery that grounded the songs well (when he wasn’t using a second mic setup for a talk box, that is). The crowd was obviously more familiar with their breadth than I was, though even with a regular sprawl of effects on Rizzanski‘s guitar, it was easy to dig into Enos‘ gripping material, the band tossing in a hook riff more than often enough to hold attention for the duration. They were a pleasant surprise, and I picked up a copy of All too Human on CD for further investigation. They were also selling glow-in-the-dark shirts, which are always fun, but I didn’t dare.
With riff-worship culled from early Dozer and stoner rock’s alleged ’90s glory days (I happen to think the glory days are going on now, particularly in Europe), 1000mods came up to Camden Town from Greece en route to the Desertfest in Berlin this weekend, and I’m glad they did. Their 2011 full-length debut, Super Van Vacation (review here) took cues from some of modern heavy psych’s laid back atmospheres, but it was the more powerful, rocking moments that stood out live. They got going with a cut listed as “Zamataz” that didn’t appear on the album — maybe new? — and just as they were kicking into The. Big. Groove., the power went out of Giannis and George‘s guitar. Like, gone. No coincidence I’m sure that they were rocking at full throttle. A couple minutes of lost momentum didn’t help — bassist/vocalist Dani (his instrument slung low in the tradition of Church of Misery) and drummer Lab did the best they could to fill the time — but by the time they were into their third song, it was more or less forgotten. They resumed their rush and continued on unabated. Highlights from Super Van Vacation included “7 Flies,” “Set You Free” and “Navy in Alice,” but the best came later into the set, with the sweet guitar interplay of “Vidage” and the sing-along-ready hook of “El Rollito,” The Black Heart crowd fist-pumping and shouting along to the chorus ending with the memorable, “…Nothing can save my soul.” They ended with the opener and closer of Super Van Vacation in that order, and both “Road to Burn” and “Super Van Vacation” locked in rolling riffs that drew likewise vehement response from the audience, duly sauced. They went a few minutes past the 11PM curfew, but fortunately no one seemed to register a complaint, and when it was over, there was as much a sense of something having begun as having ended.
At the downstairs bar, which is awesome, the Desertfest crew were holding an after party DJ’ed by none other than Rich from the The Day After the Sabbath, which, man, if you haven’t checked out his podcasts, you should. Certainly the guy for the job — I don’t think I’ve ever been to London and not heard Leaf Hound‘s “Freelance Fiend” at one point or another — he was holding it down for sure, but I needed to get back to the hotel and write and so didn’t linger as I otherwise might have. Many did, though, and it seemed like Desertfest was getting its due for an opening night pregame.
Tomorrow starts early and runs late, is my busiest day of the festival. I won’t have time to check in during the day, but will report in afterwards with words and pics on the proceedings. I was feeling beat going into today, but after tonight, I’m more geared up and excited for what’s to come over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s going to be a blast, I can tell already.
More pics after the jump.