Event: DesertFest 2012
Venue: Various,Camden, London
Date: 6/7/8th April 2012
Desertfest is an emerging beacon of the stoner rock scene; across three days when most people were eating chocolate eggs or sitting down to roasts with the family, hundreds of metalheads gathered in three venues across Camden to get up close and personal with some of the greatest bands of the genre – whilst downing a hearty amount of beer and Jagermeister in the process. Make no mistake, this festival has made itself an essential part of the genre with its maiden voyage – and we have all the tobacco-tinged details.
Stoner metal is a niche genre to say the least but it’s crammed full of wacky innovation and courageous experimentation. It’s a brave move to launch a specialist festival in a year when some of the bigger festivals can’t pull it off (Rest in peace, Sonisphere 2012). Yet Desertfest almost sold out, and as the first day of the weekend launched, it was easy to see why people from across the country and overseas flocked to be a part of it.
The Underworld was the place to be. Acting as the festival’s main stage, this is where the headliners dominated, where the crowds swelled and gigantic bass amps near enough blew out my eardrums. This is where instrumental legends Karma To Burn, Sabbathian stoners Orange Goblin, and ruinous power Corrosion of Conformity all converged to make this festival a once in a lifetime event. The headliners performed with all the power and awesome distortion they’ve maintained for years and each night the crowd disappeared beneath a haze of excitement and other such substances.
The bands were flawless, even on Friday’s predominantly instrumental set at the main stage, the crowd were frenzied by the time Karma To Burn hit the stage. Almost four hours worth of pent-up moshing was unleashed and the relatively small Underworld floor was consumed by a furiously churning crowd headbanging to a setlist with more enigmatic numbers than your average season of Lost.
The weekend marked the UK return of several stoner legends, Orange Goblin chief among them. Each headliner performed a full and satisfying set, but Karma To Burn definitely managed the most comprehensive performance, winning a faithful audience with confidence and sheer instrumental skill. Monster made a gonzo appearance as one of the festival’s many sponsors, sending some of the supposedly famous Monster Girl models to the streets of Camden to hand out free cans of energy drink. This was pretty badly misplaced, however , as handing out anything for free in London is going to attract a huge crowd, and thus very few festival-goers actually ended up benefiting from Monster’s sponsorship. This is one tiny flaw with one excellent weekend, though, and doesn’t reflect on the gigantic success that was Desertfest 2012.
The bands were excellent, and the venues were superior examples of London’s many rock clubs. The Underworld, The Black Heart, and Purple Turtle are all grimy, sticky-floored old-fashioned venues with good beer on tap and intimate stages. The entire weekend was brilliantly organised and there was some obvious band camaraderie at play – Church of Misery turning up for their slot half an hour late but allowed to play their full set by Orange Goblin, who were apparently in a good mood! It was a great chance to see both well-known bands and lesser known space-rock upstarts like Sons of Alpha Centauri and LA outfit Ancestors. It was indeed a legendary weekend, and you can only hope that it becomes just as much of an institution as Bloodstock or Download if you missed out on this bass wrenching, amp-stomping legend this time around.
Reviewer: Laurie Braddow