With a humid drizzle hanging in the air, Day Two at Desertfest feels more like the start of the rainy season. Still, Greenland Place is warming up nicely as burgers are munched, new black t-shirts are acquired and the beer avalanche begins to flow.
First stop is over to the Jazz Cafe for Landskap, a newish entity featuring members of Fen, Dead Existence and SerpentCult. Jake Harding, one often forgets, is a sublime singer as well as a gore-mongering screamer and his whisky-soaked hymns resonate throughout the Prog Magazine-sponsored prog stage at this world famous emporium of jazz. Drummer Paul Westwood resembles an angry spider behind the kit, pounding the five-piece forward with a spindly menace into the upper consciousness and beyond. Like a Kadavar-ed up King Crimson, Landskap‘s Hammond organ-backed boogie is a roaring success.
It may still be early but it makes no difference to The Vintage Caravan who open up the Electric Ballroom and hammer straight into Midnight Meditation without a care in the world. The Icelanders may still be young and making a name for themselves but to many fans these Nuclear Blasters really do represent the new generation and with Óskar Logi Ágústsson and Alexander Örn having played together since the age of 12, performance-wise they’re as experienced as several of the veteran acts of the scene. Thrilled to be here and full of energy, they bounce around the stage like Mr Blobby on a trampoline through material both new and slightly less new in front of a gathering legion of new fans. Watch out world, The Vintage Caravan have set out their tents and with album number two Arrival on the horizon, they won’t be pegging off anytime soon. How long until these guys graduate high school with the likes of new soulful anthems like Shaken Beliefs, Babylon and Last Day Of Light is only up to them. As good as Alex and new drummer Stefán Ari Stefánsson are, it’s Óskar who’s the undisputed star of the show; note-perfect in every respect he still manages to rock out using every stage move in the book and then some more. Rarely has psychedelic heavy rock sounded so fresh.
Flat caps, beer bellies, gigantosaurous riffs – it’s all going on back at the Electric Ballroom for Black Pyramid. The doomy trio may have had somewhat of a turbulent history but both their volume and volume of music speak for themselves as their doom-laden jams treat the main stage to some genuinely giant grooves. Ending on the modern classic Visions Of Gehenna, Darryl Shepherd and co leave a respectably sized crowd chock fulla rock.
Ohio’s Lo-Pan are a relatively new prospect to stoner audiences across the pond in the UK and it’s a somewhat sparse crowd that greets their brand of sand-dune-infested jams over at the Electric Ballroom. Vocalist Jeff Martin sure packs a meaty punch behind the mic flanked by Adrian Zambrano and Skot Thompson‘s Kyuss-edged grooves, but the overall impression for me is that their show is a tad lukewarm after the outlandish slam of The Vintage Caravan and the authentic darkness of Black Pyramid. Lo-Pan definitely fit the Desertfest checklist to a tee but there’s just something that doesn’t quite resonate with their Unida-by-way-of-Dozer drive. There’s a dynamism and a hunger hiding in there that I wish they’d break out with and really go for it but unfortunately in a crowded market today I feel that they fail to stand out from the pack despite their bass tone being fatter than a Devonshire cow.
Is there anyone cooler, more authentic or more chill-tha-fuck-axed in this world than Brant Bjork? Errr, no. Sorry but if you disagree at this stage then you can leave the hall with you pretentious spliffs and wanky craft beer right now. My only wish for the man who once drummed for both Kyuss and Fu Manchu is that he spends the majority of his days sitting on a private beach surrounded by piles of dollar bills and scantily clad women, before a smartly dressed waiter brings him a telegram from reception: “Mr Bjork, would you be so kind as to grace us with your presence at Desertfest London?”
Anyhow… here we are in front of those timeless riffs, that loose bandana, and the vintage croon of a bona fide legend. Who cares if these new Low Desert Punk Band tunes are actually just Brant’s re-hashed older material? This is the sound of the desert, so drink up, smoke down and groove to the cactus beat. With Brant Bjork ably assisted by Dave Dinsmore (bass) and Bubba DuPree (guitar), Fatso Jetson’s Tony Tornay is sorely missed on drums with Ryan Gut looking a little untested behind the tubs. Nonetheless, with Brant Bjork‘s vintage boogie in the back of the van it barely matters that this performance is perhaps a tad under par from a fluidity point of view. It’s Bjant Bjork: get low, down, desert and punk in his presence.
If you run a business venture which sells alcoholic beverages, then I’d suggest that booking New Orleans, Louisiana’s EyeHateGod to play your establishment will be a sure-fire way to boost your sales figures. At 8.30pm, it’s still early when the sludge legends hit the Electric Ballroom, but most people are already pretty loaded. Beginning with a wall of feedback, the Southern fivesome shift and lurch through the gears of their misery and hatred for a good 75 minutes and have frankly never sounded better.
30$ Bag, Agitation! Propoganda!, Dixie Whiskey, Take As Needed For Pain – all the hits blast from the giant PA with all the energy of a collapsing star. Mike IX Williams commands both band and pit simultaneously, whipping up a doom storm of filth-laden proportions with his unmistakable snarl. Pints fly, bodies violently connect, horns are thrown and riffs are churned. Weallloveeyehategod and I think in their awkward, festering way, they love us all too.
Well that was all a bit good! Nearly time for Day Three, but in the meantime… pint?
The Vintage Caravan
Shit & Shine
Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band
Scribed by: Pete Green
Photos by: Lee Edwards