Friday 8 May 2015

Live Review: Desertfest Berlin, Day Two. 25/4/2015

Day 2, Friday, 24/4/2015 - The Take Off

My favorite day of the week is Friday. It’s a day with meaning and purpose, and I always feel like I’ve earned it. I can’t think of the last Friday I had that I didn’t enjoy. Day two of Desertfest Berlin was a Friday and it lived up to all the hype. Aside from the excitement I had in me to get out for another day of stoner rock goodness, this would be the day that I’d have the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Brant Bjork himself. But first, more music.

Considering Lo-Pan closed out the small hall Thursday night at just shy of 2am, and my friends and I were still riding the wave of tinnitus, chances were slim that we would witness anything of Friday morning. Of course, there’s always that guy in the group who sets his alarm so he won’t miss breakfast (sorry guys), so I got to see Friday morning after all. That said, it was a slow start and coffee was involved. Also, the hostel served apple pie at breakfast, how could I pass that up? Nonetheless, it was still a challenge to get my own ass in gear, let alone that of the midnight tokers I was partying with, so it was a remarkable feat that we made it to the festival at all on Friday.

The first band we saw was Moaning Cities, a little up-and-coming band from Belgium. I had been tipped on to these guys by some folks who had seen them play at Roadburn and it seemed like the band was right up my alley. The singer had a stoned, uncaring delivery that matched the wash of fuzzy guitars and mid-tempo grooves well. The set’s highlight was “Witches and Dames.” As the band rocked on, the all-female rhythm section took hold, with the drummer Melissa Morales laying down an infectious rhythm as bassist Juliette Meunier slinked her way across the stage popping a sexy bass line. They hit the spot for an afternoon show and are a band I’ll be keeping my ears perked up for.

Moaning Cities left such an impression on me that I wasn’t really feeling the next couple of bands. I was also about to do an interview for the first time ever, with Brant Bjork. I won’t lie, I was a little nervous so my mind was elsewhere. For some distraction, I hit the Hippy Market again and scored a copy of the new Kings of Frog Island– a find that supported my thoughts about Fridays.

Because of the interview with Brant, I missed essentially all of Acid King. A bummer, for sure, but I got to interview Brant Bjork so that softened the blow. After a quick bratwurst and the last half liter of Weihenstephaner beer that the bar had in stock, we were off to the mighty Ufomammut. Now, my familiarity with Ufomammut is limited to their album “Eve,” but it is an album that keeps giving, so I keep going back to it. I saw Ufomammut two or three years ago, also at Desertfest, and they played a set that I still talk about to this day. I think things will change now, though, because their set on April 24th was a mindfuck. I didn’t recognize any of the tunes but they blew my head clear off. I can’t put into words what it is about Ufomammut that gives them the x-factor, but they are all kinds of cool and bring their dark, powerful, heavy, psychedelic doom with an aura of justified arrogance. Hands down, they put on the best show of Desertfest so far. I even began having doubts if Brant Bjork would be able to top it with his Low Desert Punk Band as Friday’s headliners.

Aw, c’mon, who am I kidding? Brant Bjork brought the rock. He and The Low Desert Punk Band – this time switching out Tony Tornay for Ryan GÜt – played a set that was locked in from the word go. In true Brant Bjork fashion, the show kicked off with “Lazy Bones” and “Automatic Fantastic,” which have become staples of his live set. Güt, who looked really young from where I was standing, earned his stripes with the way he captured that ‘Jalamanta’ feeling and when he switched his playing style on a dime for “Stokely Up Now,” it was apparent that Brant and company had found themselves someone special to take care of beating out a rhythm on the skins. Their set flew by, as expected, but was luckily all killer and no filler. The night’s rendition of “Freaks of Nature” was impeccable, “73” was delivered with more funk than I have ever heard from Brant, and the encore of “I Miss My Chick,” with its accompanying jam, showed us all in Berlin exactly why Brant Bjork is renowned as the Godfather of the Desert Scene. His sets never get old.

After Brant showed Desertfest how to put on a rock show, Conan played us off in the small hall. I left the venue before their first song ended though, as I just wasn’t in the mood for more heavy doom after Brant’s set. Sometimes that’s just the way things work out. So it was off to the hotel for a strangely wild nightcap before we all passed out in our chairs. And to think, Saturday’s festivities were just a few hours away.  

Words by: Victor Van Ommen