Whilst many were trying to shake off their hangovers from the Friday, the bizarre and frankly insane Sly And The Family Drone (11/13) were putting on a show which to be honest transcended the idea of a live performance. Setting up in the middle of The Underworld floor, within a circle of amps, it was almost priceless seeing the expression on the faces of people walking down the steps to the floor. The start of the set did have a bit of a subdued feel as people were generally just trying to work out what on earth was going on, but by the end the band had turned it around, getting multiple people actually involved in the performance to create this psychotic tribal feel. It looked like what you might imagine a band’s performance would be on an acid trip, with a neurotic amalgamation of sounds to create a show which genuinely draws you in. Stunning levels of bizarre which needs to be seen to be believed.
After having your mind sufficiently blown by a space age tribe, walking across to The Electric Ballroom to catch the dazzling The Vintage Caravan (11/13) proved to be a remedy somewhat as we returned to a far more normal, average, band set up. As a live performance though this young three piece from Iceland were anything but normal or average. To command the stage in the manner in which they do is astounding - there are bands around with several years worth more experience that pale in comparison. Front man and guitarist, Oskar, was entertaining throughout, engaging brilliantly with the crowd and giving a real over the top Rock-star style show. Tracks from the popular Voyager album gained the biggest reaction but some of the songs given a run through from the new record actually sounded even bigger so we’re very excited for the release of that one.
Looking for a bit of a change of pace, we next stumbled over to a new addition to the Desertfest bill this year and the Prog Stage in the Jazz Cafe. On stage were Messenger (10/13) who were, well, very proggy! They had a smallish crowd, but worked it well, and were very appreciative of the feedback they were getting as they played through atmospheric heavy tunes. The drummer in particular impressed, to be honest being a bad drummer in a prog band just isn’t a thing that exists, and he certainly backed this idea up. The small stage felt packed with all of their gear and it actually led the drums being side on at the side of the stage, which gave a perfect view for those perched at the bar. Good band, definitely one to keep your eye on.
Going back across to the day’s main stage and we were greeted by one of THE kings of the Stoner scene in Brant Bjork and The Low Desert Punk Band (11/13). Arguably this whole festival wouldn’t be what it is, without the contributions of Brant Bjork throughout his career and the reception he got as he walked out on stage with his Low Desert Punk band made this very clear. Some of the tracks from the album released last year sounded a lot bigger live, with a real sense of ingenuity and improvisation added in abundance to make it sound like one of the best sounding ‘live jam sessions’ around. A clear marker of an excellent live set is a feeling that it flies by in a flash. This was opposite to his show at The Garage late last year which was frankly lacklustre in comparison to tonight’s gig. Truly, with the size of the crowd he attracted and the level of performance, they should have been headlining.
Following on from this came headliners, and NOLA legends, Eyehategod (10/13) whose heavy, snarling attitude reigned supreme as soon as they hit the stage. Some sections of the Ballroom suffered with a bad sound mix, which was unfortunate, but it was thankfully only a short-lived issue. Their performance lacked the kind of energy Red Fang had presented the previous evening but it was still as heavy as you’d expect with Eyehategod. There was a lot of hype behind their addition to the bill, but sandwiched in between Red Fang on the Friday and Sleep on Sunday it perhaps didn’t hit the same heights.
Sunday became affectionately known as Sleep day. Not the activity obviously, although there was definitely a hangover cloud looming over Camden Town, but of course for the legendary Doom masters. Everything shifted slightly, moving from a hub around The Electric Ballroom, to the KOKO and Purple Turtle. The KOKO has a good reputation as far as sound quality live is concerned and that was quickly backed up by the first performance of the day from My Sleeping Karma (10/13). The largely instrumental unit cascaded through riff after riff, and seemed genuinely overwhelmed and overjoyed by the reception they were given.
Following on from them, we had a bit more karma in the shape of Karma To Burn (11/13) whose set was almost definitely the loudest of the weekend, as in the show was LOUD. This solely instrumental three piece can be classed as veterans in the scene now, packing out the venue completely. With them being instrumental it was entertaining to hear the riffs being sung along to with such fervour.
A few bands down the line, we had the eclectic Ufomammut (10/13) who were hampered quite severely with sound issues at the start of their set. Never mind the fact that their set up took forever, when they finally did start the band were not happy at all and we ended up with a lengthy pause, and for such a delay it was just awkward to have no level of communication with the crowd. By the time everything finally kicked in to gear the band were able to display why exactly they were so high up on the bill as they created an absolutely awesome sound considering there are only three in the band. For the kind of reaction they got from the crowd at the end of the set, it proved to be quite a brilliant turnaround.
Next up then we had our final headliners, and the legendary Sleep (11/13) who entered the KOKO to an absolutely astounding reception. They’re a band of few words, instead letting their ability do all of the talking, and wow was it loud. Whilst Karma To Burn probably still take the title of the loudest set, Matt Pike’s riffs were earth shattering whilst the combination between the telepathically linked Al Cisneros and Jason Roeder honestly made the floor vibrate. They are the masters of the riff, and the masters of turning a four minute track into a much lengthier jam without even a hint of discontent from those watching. As you looked across the floor, there was a genuine trance like feel with the odd burst of applause and cheers for some of the more popular tracks like Dragonaut. An excellent performance by one of the greatest in the game.