Saturday 16 May 2015

Live Review: Desertfest Berlin, 25/4/2015

Day 3 - Saturday - Touch Down

The other night, it occurred to me that I have been going to festivals and concerts for more than half of my life. This trips me out a little; I’m only 30, but this three-day festival is already giving me a run for my money. From the moment that the jack ass’s alarm went off in the morning, I knew day three would be a bit of a challenge to get through. With sleep still in my eyes, I fished around in my backpack for the day’s running order and was pleasantly surprised to see that the scheduled bands were primarily laid back and psychedelic. Thumbs up to the programmer for that.

Mother Engine

Tau broke in the day with their meditative grooves and head-in-the-clouds lyrics. I didn’t know much about the band before their set, which makes sense because as it turns out Desertfest was their first show. They may have a few kinks to work out - some things worked, others didn’t - so I’d be curious to check back in with them a few years down the road. Then it was time for Mother Engine in the main hall, a local band that borrows as much from Colour Haze as they do from clichés, but they make it work. They’re mostly instrumental, with the exception of two songs that featured guest singers, and they rocked. At one point, the guitarist’s amp blew out, turning the band into a two piece, but rather than crumbling in front of a crowd of a couple hundred, the bass and drums kept on rocking as the guitarist scrambled around looking for a new amp. Very professional, to say the least, and it showed that these guys were a tight knit unit. During this setback they were able to communicate without words, just music. That’s damn commendable!


When Mother Engine finished their set most people went outside to bask in the sun but I opted to hang out in front of the left speaker in the small hall. Cigale was about to go on, which is a band that has won me over as a fan in their short time together. This was a show I didn’t want to miss. Cigale is a spinoff of Sungrazer, though when I interviewed them later in the day, that band’s name never came up in conversation. Either I didn’t ask the right questions or they wanted to leave their history for what it is. Cigale is musically far removed from Sungrazer, actually, by means of their soft, delicate touch. The band is psychedelic but in their own way; no blistering guitar solos, just a blanket of warm tones and lush vocal melodies. Granted, Cigale is probably pretty light for the average Sludgelord reader, but if you aren’t scared to loosen the reigns every once in a while then give these Dutchies a listen.

Dopethrone was next but I had to skip their show to interview Cigale. Missing Dopethrone was kind of a bummer, but the life of a cutthroat journalist like myself is tough, man. Just a second, let me put my tongue deep into my cheek. Ok, there we go, let’s carry on.

The Atomic Bitchwax

The Atomic Bitchwax are awesome and were a welcome shot of ass-kickery. They broke the day’s laid back psychedelic swaying in style, busting down doors and taking names as they ran through half of their new album, “Gravitron,” and filled the rest of their set with some classics. “Shitkicker,” as expected, was gnarly and it was cool to see Bob Pantella of Monster Magnet fame let loose with his hometown buddies Chris and Finn. Upbeat, psychedelic, freakout space rock from beginning to end – the perfect recipe for good times all around. I had a sit down with Chris after the show, but more on that when we publish the interview.

After interviewing Chris I was pretty much done with my journalistic duties. I had no more interviews scheduled, which I took as an invitation to start knocking back cold ones. I bought a round of beers for my friends and we dove back into the cave that was Astra Kultuurhaus for My Sleeping Karma, whose set really mellowed the mood again. No complaints there, especially since I was really in the mood for laid back grooves when I woke up in the morning, but My Sleeping Karma didn’t exactly keep the party atmosphere alive, and at this point, that's what I was looking for. Instead they provided a good opportunity for the festival goers to recharge their batteries for Red Fang.

Red Fang
I skipped out on Toner Low because I was still looking for a party, so I filled up on more sausage and beer. You might think that by this point I had enough of that but that wasn’t the case. We ran into Hans from Cigale, chatted with him a bit before making our way back to the bar where we had an incredibly entertaining conversation with some Germans, making social commentary and the like. So the vibe was right again and Red Fang was about to hit the stage so back inside we went. Red Fang had also been partying, like they always do, I imagine, and they translated their enthusiasm into a rollicking set of the band’s classics – “Wires” and stuff like that –even throwing in two or three new ones. They plowed through their set with ease, handing the festival its collective ass on a silver platter before sending us on our way.

So that was it. Three days of loud rock music, beer and sausage. It was hard to believe that it had come to an end. We ended up having a bit of an after party with some street musicians in front of our hostel, but once they started vomiting violently and then busted out their vodka from a plastic bottle, we realized our weekend had definitively come to a close.

Desertfest, thanks again for the good times. Thank you Sylvain and Anna from Sound of Liberation for hooking me up with a photo pass and bringing me back to meet the bands. Thank you Mona from Napalm Records for setting up an interview with Brant Bjork, and of course, thank you Brant Bjork, Cigale, and The Atomic Bitchwax for taking the time out of your busy schedules to sit down with some dude and answer a couple of questions. Aaron Pickford gets thanks here, too. This was all his idea and he put me in contact with all these folks. Thanks for that. I’ll be back next year.

Words by: Victor Van Ommen