It’s here. Again. We all know it, we all love it but we’re also fully aware that mine and the Shaman Lee’s life for the next four days is going to be as frantic as it is unforgettable.
Desertfest has proudly hit its fifth straight year of tearing up central Camden with more beards, more beers and more riffs than is frankly natural for three to four small and intimate live music venues to be able to, in theory, manage. From being a collection of bands playing across a few venues to now having grown into a Europe-wide (or even world famous?) live celebration of heavy music, ridiculous levels of drinking and smoking and most importantly the rekindling of some incredibly tight friendships, Desertfest is fast becoming a pilgrimage rather than an optional maybe on the ever-growing roster of metal festivals for so many of its oh-so faithful attendees.
My Desertfest begins sooner than I had initially intended. After settling into our accommodation and acquiring some additional stomach lining, it’s time to venture out to The Black Heart for the first and inevitably nowhere near the last time. Tonight is the now traditional pre-festival party featuring live sets from Wychhound, Bad Meat and everyone’s favourite dawn-crushing Croydon-based sludge mob Slabdragger. En route to said venue I’m accosted by Sam and Yusuf of the ‘Draggers themselves and we spend an hour catching up in the Camden Brewdog instead! As we shoot the shit on everything from Sam’s progress in the building of the brand new Cro’s Nest Studio to arguing over what’s truly the best Star Wars movie (it’s definitely Empire, right?), I’m brought back to the glorious reality of just how good it is to be back amongst such great friends and some hugely talented musicians.
Fast forward to a few pints later and we all eventually make it to The Black Heart. Bad Meat are my first port of call and they bounce their “street doom and power metal” assault around the Blackened Blood-Pump’s intimate upstairs stage for a good forty minutes. Rocking a stage vibe like they’re some kinda hardcore-plus-hip-hop-hybrid doom band, they’re super heavy yet surprisingly original in their bouncing rhythms as they lay their slab of molten riffage at their audience’s door and wait for us all to interpret it. Imagine if Oozing Wound forgot that they were a thrash band and went to the pub to get lashed instead and you’d be about on the money.
We’ve quaffed a few ales by this point but so too have tonight’s headliners as Slabdragger launch into Mercenary Blues and Evacuate! to an impressively-sized pre-fest audience after announcing they are in fact the Wu Tang Clan. It’s possibly not the finest Slabbies performance I’ve seen, but it’s a loud, venomous onslaught of crunching force from a band that had left me scratching my head as to why they weren’t on the Desertfest bill to begin with after releasing their album-of-the-year contender in Rise Of The Dawncrusher. As they barrel-roll to tonight’s end with a rowdy cover of Frank Zappa’s Muffin Man, Slabdragger certainly make for a strong start to our favourite annual booze cruise in the capital. Come the ‘morrow, this shrine of debauchery is about to get truly started!
Scribed by: Pete Green