Day 1 - Thursday - Settling In
My trip to Desertfest Berlin started with the necessary complications. Due to the train strike in Germany, my buddies and I were forced onto a night bus from Amsterdam to Germany’s mesmerizing capital city. Within minutes of getting on the bus, I had spilled a beer over the only pair of pants I had brought with me, which was apparently an invitation for the guy sitting in front of me to make contact. We chatted about the problems he had dealing with explosive personalities, and somewhere between that and wanting to rip the feather dangling from his ear, he offered his services to me. So needless to say, when we pulled in to Berlin at 9:30am I was in dire need of a cup of coffee, even if it came out of a machine that stood proudly in a puddle of dog piss. I wondered, is this the kind of stuff that touring bands voluntarily put themselves through?
Anyway, we made a quick trip to the hostel to drop off our bags and were promptly put in the wrong room. No big deal; the hostel apologized and provided us with shots of Jägermeister for the inconvenience. If this is the stuff touring bands voluntarily put themselves through, then I say bring on the bloodshed!
On our way down to the festival we stopped in at our favorite Curry Wurst vendor to chase the booze. So with beer-stained pants, curry on my breath, and a head full of Jägermeister, we finally hit the festival. The first band up was Riff Fist, which was a ridiculously good time and in some respects the best band of the festival. The drunk Australian threesome ploughed through songs about God knows what (potatoes?), but it was their vibe that struck home. They were having the best time of their lives – their words, not mine – and in a way, so were we. It’s amazing what music can do.
The next band we checked was one of a different caliber. Baby Woodrose was their name and psych-rock was their game. They had no problem breaking in the main stage and even though they weren’t particularly a stand-out act, I did go hunting for their record with “Born to Lose” on it, because that was one helluva way to close out the set. So off to the Hippy Market it was, where vinyl, CDs, t-shirts, and posters were on sale. The weather was clever, so we skipped a few bands in favor of cold beers in the hot sun, fueling up for the next band, which ended up being The Picturebooks. They played a set that, for me, was split right down the middle; the first half was monstrous and the exact flavor of dirty blues that I like – and the second half was more of the same. Perhaps actually having known their songs would have enhanced the experience, but it is what it is.
By the time The Picturebooks’ set was coming to a close, the small hall was packed full of grungy 30-somethings waiting for the curtains to the main hall to open. This provided a larger audience for The Picturebooks, but I knew why most of us were really there: Orange Goblin was about to finish things off on the main stage in style by playing “The Big Black” from front to back. And holy Hell, did they do a fine job of it! The rumbling intro of “Scorpionica” was an invitation to join in on a 45 minute endurance test for necks. “My God rises at daybreak, my goddess goes down on me at dawn,” sang Ben as he directed the band and the crowd through this stoner classic. The light show was intense, beer was flying through the air, the bar was making the best turnover of the day, and the cult film playing on the backdrop tied everything together beautifully. The guys over at Desertfest made a good move scheduling Orange Goblin as the Thursday headliner. And to think, Friday had the potential to be even better. More on that later
Words by: Victor van Ommen