It’s always difficult to decide which acts to catch at a multi-stage or even multi-venue festival, what with the dreaded time clashes, logistical difficulties and last train worries. But never fear, fellow Desertfest-er, I’m here with my Top 10 acts for Saturday! I’ve split it up under venues for reasons I can’t quite fathom, and we’ll start with the biggies and work our way down into the more “intimate” spaces (which means tiny and probably rammed).
Headlining the Electric Ballroom on Saturday, are North Carolina’s crossover kings, Corrosion of Conformity. The band were supposed to play one year Covid shut the show down, so they are sure to be greeted like the much-missed underground icons they are. Nowadays their punk / metal roots don’t show so much and they ply a mean Southern rock meets sludgy grunge sound, with long time vocalist Pepper Keenan one of metal’s most underrated vocalists.
Swedish quartet Dozer, one of the first wave of “Euro stoner” acts, returned after a 10-year hiatus with Drifting In The Endless Void to great reviews and their mixture of sci-fi fixated psych, stoner swing and proto-metal power is sure to get your ribs rattling.
LA’s granddaddies of desert rock, Fatso Jetson, have unimpeachable stoner credentials, as brothers Mario and Larry Lalli, like sand in your trunks, have gotten just about everywhere and played with everyone on the scene. These guys don’t sit on their laurels though and like to mix it up with plenty of punk and surf stylings, which should make for an interesting live experience. I hope they bought their boards as there’s bound to be surfing down the front.
Over at The Underworld we have London’s avant-garde doom lords, Grave Lines, who continue to evolve, as latest LP Communion saw them further incorporate electronica and folk into their crushing, misery-soaked, fury. Jake Harding’s incredible supple voice and Oliver Irongiant’s mad-eyed riffery are always sure to enrapture live.
Also operating at the heavier end of the line-up are Wren. The South East based band have two full albums to their name, dealing in a sound part arty-post-metal and part coldly bleak-noise-rock. First on at The Underworld, they will be my choice to blow the cobwebs away on Saturday lunchtime.
Headlining the Powerhaus are an act like no other at the festival, and possibly like no other anywhere! Church of The Cosmic Skull are a seven-piece cult-come-melodic-rock behemoths. Bill Fisher’s white clad troupe are the most entertaining thing to come out of Nottingham since Brian Clough’s tv interviews. Expect sonic and spiritual uplift – just don’t drink the Kool Aid.
Iowan duo Telekinetic Yeti manage to make almost as much of a racket as their masked nine-piece neighbours. Playing a sprightly, but super-fuzzy variant of stoner doom, full of surprising tempo changes and interesting melodies, the band will be a reliable middle-of-the-day watch.
French occult doom classicists, The Necromancers have previously played The Devonshire Arms during the festival, and they deservedly take the step up to a bigger stage after producing three albums of quality doom with a NWOBHM feel and a modern attack. Their songwriting is very accomplished, so expect to be singing along, in between the headbanging!
No weekend at Desertfest is complete without a session (musical and liquid-based) at the ultra-intense sweatbox that is Our Black Heart, and my tip for Saturday is High Desert Queen, who despite a random-stoner-band-generated name have stood out enough to get signed by the always savvy Ripple Music. This Austin, Texas bunch are aiming for Queens of the Stone Age levels of melodicism and dynamism, and more often than not, hit the spot.
Getting into The Devonshire Arms to see any act over the weekend can be tricky, but do your damnedest to catch London trio, Lowen. The description, progressive doom metal, doesn’t really do them justice to the sonic worlds the band create. Lowen can pull you into alternate universes, or even back in time, with their epic soundtracks to unmade Dune sequels. Nina Saeidi’s vocals are a thing of timeless wonder and elemental power – you’ll probably be able to hear them from Camden tube station!
Well, those are my top tips, I hope this helps in some way to cut a path through the bewildering forest of riffs! Enjoy, and see you at the merch table!