Notes From Desertfest New York 2022: Night 1 at the Knockdown Center

desertfest new york 2022 friday

Doors are in about half an hour. From the cursory reconnaissance I’ve done at this point, it’s easy to think the Knockdown Center could become a multi-year home for Desertfest New York. It’s big, which certainly helps, and there’s more space than is being used right now. The second stage room is tiny — the sense I get is that by the time Sasquatch go on that will be an issue, but no one’s here yet except for bands and I’ve got basically a warehouse room to myself to write this.

Got in last night at 1AM, woke up around 7AM, so not the worst night of sleep ever. I was destroyed last night by the end of that show. Utterly bludgeoned. But I made it home and I expect I’ll do the same tonight. Hydrate. Advil. Who wants to hear my litany of old man complaints about my plannar fasciitis in my right foot? Nobody, I know. But it’s there. A presence in my life.

Sasquatch are here, and Mothership, John Garcia and the Band of Gold are soundchecking. Geezer and Howling Giant and various others, some I know and some I don’t. It looks like a show. I still have no idea how I’ll cover it but I’ll write when I can while bouncing back and forth between stages and see as much as I can see. That’s pretty much always the plan anyway. With the support of the egg and cheese on chaffle sandwich The Patient Mrs. made me this morning and the bit of pecan butter I finished up on the ride in, I should buy myself a couple hours of go. After that, will need coffee.

But alas, one crisis at a time.

Leather Lung

Leather Lung 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They had some new songs and asked if there were sleazy motherfuckers in here or not. If not, I think the general humidity in this room should provide some before the night’s out. Leather Lung were one of the last bands I saw before lockdown, and their heavy swinging sludge-rock-plus-extreme-this-and-that remains as nasty as I remembered. They’ve filled the room and heads are nodding, more and more coming in. I can feel the rumbling of the low end in the concrete floor, so take from that what you will. The start of a fest like this is always nerve-racking. You have to find the groove of the place, the groove of the crowd, the groove of the timing and the groove of your own mindset. Fortunately, Leather Lung have plenty of groove to spare to aid that process, and their taking stage isn’t so much a wading into the river of riffs — the riffver??? — as a full-on crazy old-timey Southern church baptismal dunk. Who says you can’t have aggro songs about getting fucked up?

Black Tusk

Black Tusk 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this band before, but I’m also pretty sure it’s been at least a decade, if not longer. They’ve had their ups and some real-life tragedies along the way — like everybody — but they’re a pro-shop metal band and they play like it. First act on the big stage and similar to Leather Lung, The intent seems to have been to roll out with something meaner rather than a languid style. Hey man, mean works. They’re piping them outside to where the food trucks are through a separate P.A., and I guess if you want furious riffs with your souvlaki, that’s a go. I will abscond momentarily to the smaller room again for Howling Giant, whom I’ve only seen at Psycho Las Vegas, but whose shenanigans are already legion in my brain. I’ve been looking forward to it, as I’ve been looking forward to all of this. Black Tusk though, digging that ferocity. Pummeling. And very much in that way of bands who’ve spent forever touring that they could just plug in wherever and make that happen.

Howling Giant

Howling Giant 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

These guys are a riot. A lot of bands can goof off and visibly have fun while playing their songs. Howling Giant can do that, play at a humbling level, and base it around killer material. They might be the only even vaguely prog-leaning heavy band out there who balance that against not taking themselves too seriously, and they absolutely refuse to leave their audience behind. Yeah, it was pretty god damned packed in that little room — they call it the Texas Stage, which is a little ironic considering the proportions — but my reason for walking out before Howling Giant were done had less to do ultimately with the heat and humidity and more with the sudden, very powerful urge I felt to buy a Howling Giant t-shirt. So I did that. Then, because there was no getting in whatsoever as the space was slammed with hoo-mans, I scootched over to the main stage again and chatted to some folks about this and that. Trying to remember to do that. There’s something like 1,400 people here this weekend. I feel like everybody’s everybody’s friend. That’s easier to think while Howling Giant play.


Mothership 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Doesn’t matter who you think of from that infinite set of list ’70s heavy rock bands, Mothership do it better. Texas trio, trip on the ship, all that. Just a great time. I guess they’ve been off tour for a while — who hasn’t? — but they made the big stage feel small with just the three of them and a vitality that few in whichever microgenre can match, and that energy is infectious, particularly from Kelley Juett on guitar, who is the classic wildman on stage. I have seen them three times now, at Maryland Doom Fest, in Boston with C.O.C., and here, and in this big room and that small one, they filled the space with sound and a genuine feeling of celebrating rock and roll. Kyle Juett on bass and vocals is more subdued, and drummer Judge Smith sits back there like he’s about to start laughing his ass off any minute. And then he does. Even better. You gotta be doing something right when Orange Goblin are on this stage next and people are asking for one more song.


Geezer 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Seems silly because I’ve seen them a bunch of times over their years — not much recently, duh — but I was really looking forward to Geezer’s set. It’s okay to like a band, right? I feel like I know their new album, Stoned Blues Machine, pretty well, since I was there when most of the basics were recorded and don’t tell anyone but I’m streaming it this coming Wednesday, but it was nothing but a pleasure to hear those songs come to life on stage. “Cold Black Heart,” “Atomic Moronic,” “Logan’s Run.” That’s a good-ass time. And they seemed in high spirits, no implication intended as to lucidity. Kind of a release show for them, since the record’s out next week, but I still haven’t seen any merch from them around. So it goes. The smaller room — I’ve heard a few complaints; it is what it is; be earlier — has a kind of raised floor along stage left and I went up there for a bit and watched. They’re not quite hometown heroes in NYC, but they draw a good crowd and deliver to them. That made it a little extra satisfying to watch them kill as they did.

Orange Goblin

Orange Goblin 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Orange Goblin. I mean, what do you say about a band like that? This was my first time seeing them with Harry Armstrong — apparently also his first time in New York, as was declared from the stage — but come on, was there any way it was going to be anything less than stellar? My real question is whether Ben Ward will come out for a guest spot with John Garcia later. But I’ve been seeing this band live for well over a decade and a half and I’ve not once been underwhelmed. I’ve seen them here, in London, elsewhere, and all they do is rock and roll. I feel like there are so many other bands I don’t need to see because I’ve seen Orange Goblin, and that’s not a slag on anybody, but god damn. You never know when they’re not gonna come back (to take the living), so I feel like every set should be treasured, and this one certainly will be. That sounds corny as shit, but I mean it. I read they’ve got new material in the works too. How hard will they tour? How feasible is it? I don’t think it’s a question of how much they have in the tank, because watching them play, the answer is plenty, but with all they’ve done, the influence they’ve had, they still get on stage and bring it like a hungry band. They’re one of a kind, much to the chagrin of the many pretenders out there.

Holy Death Trio

Holy Death Trio 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It certainly did get dark in that little room. And I guess not so much with turning lights on. Okay, you make do. Holy Death Trio came up from Texas to play this show, and they played like a next-generation act, like they’ve got it together, have a plan when they go on stage and have put in the work to make their presentation as engaging as possible. One assumes it would’ve been even more so with lights on, but you know, sometimes it can be like a secret. Hey this band is super-cool but shh. Their record came out through Ripple last year in the label’s Blasko-curated splurge and if they’re going to tour for real life, it seems like they’re the kind of act where people are going to ask if you’ve seen them yet. I have now, and I’ll hope to again. They’ve got a party atmosphere — if you want to keep it to Austin bands, they’re like a less frenetic Amplified Heat — but they’re all the more exciting since they seem to be finding and still developing their approach. And make no mistake, asses were kicked. All I’m saying is that if they keep on the way they’re going, more will be in the years to come.

John Garcia and the Band of Gold

John Garcia and the Band of Gold 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

A good mix of John Garcia solo stuff and the requisite Kyuss tunes. “July” from Slo Burn. How could you fit everything from such a career? He said from the stage that they hadn’t done anything in two and a half years. Me neither, dude, one YOB show and a couple outdoor Sun Voyager gigs notwithstanding. Perhaps the weekend’s most brutal conflict is John Garcia on the same time as Sasquatch. That’s a hard one to live through, though not like there’s a wrong answer, except leaving. “Whitewater” felt duly like a watershed moment, the band by then totally warmed up and killing it. I guess you’d say Garcia’s stage presence is quiet. He has his moves but doesn’t go nuts or anything. He thanked the crowd and the Desertfest crew though respectfully and even when Sasquatch went on in the smaller room it was packed. Less all-charge than Orange Goblin, because that’s the music they play, but they tore up that jam in “Whitewater” and earned that whole Band of Gold moniker, even before they kicked into an uptempo take on “Green Machine” to close out. I saw Vista Chino play that song. That was cool too. This is a drunk crowd. Maybe I’m not the only one for whom this is pandemic-breakout, which inevitably is more fun than an outbreak, also happening but let’s not talk about it.


Sasquatch 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I know it’s been a long day because I had to look up whether Sasquatch’s new album, Fever Fantasy, had been announced yet and I’m the one who wrote the announcement. You want rock and roll? There it is. That band. Keith Gibbs, Jason Casanova, Craig Riggs. Holy shit. They are the American heavy rock ideal, unstoppable in their momentum until they pull the rug out from under and lock in another killer groove. They opened with “Just Couldn’t Stand the Weather.” I fucking love “Just Couldn’t Stand the Weather!” How did they know? And I kind of feel like people holding up their cellphone flashlights when the band asked for more light on the stage was as close as the universe was going to come to doing me personal favors tonight, beyond simply being here. But Sasquatch have already been back on tour and they’ve got more in the works as I understand it, but god damn, just go see them. Just go. How many bands pass 20 years since they started and still deliver like that? There are a couple on the bill tonight, actually, but outside this building it’s far rarer. It was packed in the room 15 minutes before they went on, and the lights were low again, but whatever, it’s fucking Sasquatch. Bullshit need not apply.

Corrosion of Conformity

Corrosion of Conformity 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

They went on 15 minutes late, which, you know, so it goes when there’s no one else playing behind you. Plenty of Judas Priest to listen to in the meantime. By the time they were through the jammmy take on “Paranoid Opioid” that opened the set, Mike Dean starting it off quiet on bass — fucking rad — time didn’t matter. Plenty of the standards in the set, including “Vote with a Bullet,” which I wondered if they’d break out (Pepper Keenan said something about it on stage but I didn’t catch what), but I guess it’s been a year since there was an insurrection on the Capitol Hill, so, fair game. Highlight for me might’ve been “Born Again for the Last Time,” which will be stuck in my head forever and that’s just fine, but there was plenty of competition there, and I was just really, really happy to see them again. I wonder if they’ll do another record. That’d be interesting. They probably don’t need to yet, really — I don’t think there was anything from the latest album in the set — but I’d be curious what they came up with after a few quiet years and the road time they put in before and apparently after the covid era, such as it is. Bottom line though is new album or not, I’ve been listening to this band since before I hit puberty and every chance I get to watch them play I’m happy to do it. More so as time goes on.

Other Random Observations:

– Dude in the Ween shirt wins shirts. In general there’s a bit of deviance from the black-shirt-blue-jeans norm. I support that.

– I have good friends here, new and old. It’s important to remember that. I have been and continue to be pretty isolated in regular life.

– Lot of couples attending.

– Knockdown Center could have four stages going, easy, and that’s before you put anything outside other than the food trucks.

– I have hugged and been hugged more this evening than in the last two and a half years.

– I’m still not 100 percent sure if I’m in Brooklyn or Queens. Life, huh?

– Still feels a little weird being out, but I brought a mask and I haven’t felt compelled to wear it as yet, so that’s… progress?

– Thanks for reading.

More pics after the jump.

Leather Lung

Black Tusk

Howling Giant



Orange Goblin

Holy Death Trio

John Garcia and the Band of Gold


Corrosion of Conformity

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3 Responses to “Notes From Desertfest New York 2022: Night 1 at the Knockdown Center”

  1. Obvious & Odious says:

    Thanks for the reviews and venue recon! Looks like that JG & BOG setlist was like 60% Kyuss. Dang. Saw Sasquatch last year and they bring it. The only time I’ve ever seen Mike Dean was with….Vista Chino (connection!)

    I broke my leg at this show 3 years ago (clumsiness). Today I will take my revenge. That revenge will come in the form of:

    1. Big Business
    2. Telekinetic Yeti (i guess i’ll need to be early…not my style)
    3. Not breaking my leg

    Maybe I’ll bust out my Obelisk t-shirt instead of the usual flannel…but it’s black, and I do appreciate a little color…

    Leaving from South Jersey in 2 hours….:)

  2. J Low says:

    Good to know that Tom changing one of the “Go go Godzillas” to “Go Buy A T-Shirt” worked!

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