Wednesday 18 October 2017

Desertfest Belgium 2017 Saturday

I like music with good grooves and most music I listen to has exactly that. It doesn't have to be rock music, but can be all types music. I do like rock music a lot which is obvious and stoner rock is exactly the kind that features heavy grooves. Desertfest is a festival in London, Berlin and Antwerp focusing on stoner rock, doom, psych and sludge. Since the Antwerp edition is pretty close and featured Graveyard, we decided to pay it a visit.

Desertfest Belgium 2017 Saturday at Trix Antwerp, October 14 2017

Although not all bands are playing stoner rock and I'm not really into doom and sludge, there are many interesting acts on the bill. We arrive at the venue early and catch the last 10 minutes of A Supernaut. I didn't get a good change to see what they were all about so let's head to the next one.

Hidden Trails

Belgian band Hidden Trails are one of the less heavier bands today and play psychedelic prog rock music, focusing on long compositions that build on atmosphere. Singer Jo Neyskens has a pleasant clear voice and it reminds me of Steven Wilson now and then, especially in the more quiet songs. The trio are playing very focused and I like their sound. The songs have plenty of depth and sound layered. Traces of Pink Floyd and the psychedelic side of Motorpsycho can be heard. A good way to start the day.

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The Vintage Caravan

Somehow it seems Iceland doesn't have a lot to offer to me musical wise, since famous Icelandic acts like Björk, Sigur Rós, Of Monsters and Men really don't appeal to me. Fortunately there are also bands that can please me a lot better. The Vintage Caravan play no-nonsense classic rock complete with hair flipping and the rock poses that go with it. This sounds like they are going through all the clichés which is actually true, but the band are having so much fun with it and add just enough tongue of cheek that it doesn't get too ridiculous or cheesy. It also helps they have a bunch of good songs, play well and singer Óskar Logi Ágústsson's voice has improved from the last time I saw them. It may not be very original, but sometimes you don't need a lot more.

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King Hiss

The live reputation of Belgian band King Hiss is pretty big by now after tearing down stages at several festivals this summer. I was expecting a fuller house because of that, but I guess most people were getting ready for Stoned Jesus who are playing the main stage later on. It doesn't get this band down at all. Nor do the technical problems at the beginning. Once all amps and effects are fired up, there's no stopping in King Hiss. A mind splitting mix of stoner, smudge and heavy metal rocks the stage and makes the venue tremble. "The bastard child of Mastodon and Kyuss" they call themselves and that is a good way of describing their music. Add to that the incredible voice and charismatic stage appearance of Jan Coudron and it's clear this band is onto something. Coudron is all over the stage, has a few incredible moves and is constantly in touch with the crowd, energizing them with his enthusiasm. What an incredible show!

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Stoned Jesus

Many people apparently did skip King Hiss to get a good spot for Stoned Jesus since the main hall is quite full. For a good reason it turns out, since the band from Ukraine are playing a convincing show. Coming from a stoner doom solo project by Igor Sidorenko their music now has more psychedelic melodies that make their music lighter and brings more variation. Live it sounds pretty tight and the band is having fun on stage. This energizes the crowd who get what they came for, which is a lot.

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Noise rockers Unsane have been around for almost thirty years and the current line-up has been together for most of that period. The band took a break from 2000 until 2003 after founding member and singer Chris Spencer got seriously injured when he was attacked during a concert. The threesome's performance is loud and heavy with Spencer mostly screaming his lyrics. It is definitely intense and you can see these guys have been together for a long time, playing like a well-oiled machine. However they are constantly playing at the highest noise level, without leaving much breathing room. After half an hour we're completely numb from the pounding noise. It would have been better if they could mix in some of their lighter songs here and there.

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Troubled Horse

Swedish band Troubled Horse are touring with Graveyard as a support act which explains their name on the bill. Singer Martin Heppich's face is painted black which gives a gloomy effect on this dark stage. Music wise there's a lot going on in their garage sound, too much actually. All guitars and drums are trying to play as much and loud as possible and it makes their songs really messy. This band is simply overdoing it in many ways and it makes their performance far from convincing. We decide to take a look at the merch stands instead.

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When you're listening to Beastmaker's music it's hard to deny they sound like Black Sabbath. It is clear they draw inspiration from old heavy metal and classic hardrock. The band does a good job recreating that music but they look so serious on stage. Also I find there's not a lot of variation in their music, as if they are playing the same chords, riffs, grooves and fills in every song. In the end it even gets a bit boring.

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Another big name on the bill is doom metal band Windhand and the main hall has filled up again for them. Doom metal is definitely not my kind of music but maybe they'll surprise me. The slow heavy grooves and gloomy visuals create a dark and sinister atmosphere. Singer Dorthia Cottrell has a good voice but she's far from charismatic or active on stage. When she's singing she isn't exactly a ball of energy and during the long solo's she's just simply standing there waiting her turn. This definitely isn't for me.

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Headliner Graveyard on the other hand are definitely something for me. From the moment I saw the Swedes for the first time they have grabbed me and never let go. They were supposed to play over here last year but then the group disbanded to my disappointment. Fortunately it didn't take long for them to reform and now they have come to make up for lost time. Deeply grounded in the blues their music can be heavy with big grooves and a big sound. Other times they go back to those blues roots and play a heartfelt ballad with crying guitars. And of course there is singer Joakim Nilsson with his amazing sandpaper voice that cuts through the music with incredible howls and deep lows. Together with the laid back approach of their music it is why I really love their sound. Tonight again they are showing what makes them such a good band with a focused performance and their best music. I'm really happy they are back and hopefully we can expect some new music in the near future.

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We don't want to go home yet and decide to check out the last band of the day. German duo DŸSE know how to end this day on a high with crazy noise rock music that seems to go in every direction. But the two make sure it never ends in a mess but know exactly what they are doing and play very tight. Who said Germans lack a sense of humour? These two guys have great jokes and don't look too serious while at the same time their skills are superb with great control over their instrument. The duo has a lot of fun themselves on stage and I can see only smiling faces around me. A great way to end this long day.

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This has been a wonderful day at the Desertfest festival. I did notice that many bands are not exactly playing my kind of music but when they have a few bands in the line-up that are appealing enough like today I will definitely be back some time.

All Pictures

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