The night’s sleep was much better, I didn’t dream about much, or in fact anything at all, unless the endless depths of complete black count for something. But at least I didn’t keep waking up during the night constantly. I’d decided to wake up earlier today, in hope of actually trying to get to Camden to catch the majority of bands I wanted to watch today. Today of all days was full of bands that I had heard of and actually listened to music by. However, if you know me by any stretch of the imagination, early isn’t a word in my vocabulary. So naturally, I left when I left. Later than I fully intended to. The last two days had exactly the same time schedule so I arrived at the train station expecting to pick up the train to Waterloo, fast enough so I could wave at the elderly and the bemused as I shot by at 80mph. Not today. On a day with a real haul of fantastic bands, South West Trains had decided to make the fastest train the slowest one, leaving me no other option than to sit and stop at every station and see the elderly and the bemused wave back to me, if I wanted to see most of them. Why today of all days South West Trains you bastards?
I would like to point out that although it was entirely an option to wake up earlier and it is completely my fault, I am not willing to accept that kind of blame for the purpose of this story.
So after sulking the whole way yet secretly knowing we can get there and not miss the first band, gallivanting back through Waterloo, and emerging from Camden tube station one last time, as a matter of urgency I went straight to the Black Heart. As hoped, I’d just caught the tail end of London’s own Bright Curse, although by just being the last fifteen minutes of their set, made me kick myself for what I’d already probably missed. They sounded like a jam based Led Zeppelin, if Robert Plant focused more on channelling warnings about the impending apocalypse. I’d listened to them previously, maybe more asleep than I realised the first time, but they were incredible and made the small room holding 100 people, sound like a foreboding cavern, miles underground from civilisation. Their dark psychedelia was true bliss, one that I sincerely hoped I could’ve seen more of.
Please tell me I’m not the only one that can hear shades of Layla too in the beginning of this tune.
As a kind of additional dagger to my heart, staying to watch the culmination of Bright Curse’s set meant that I had to sacrifice time with another band I was familiar with. The good news though, I’d already seen them live before and knew the kind of live set they were capable of. A bloody good one. Upon wandering back to the Ballroom, I took to the upstairs balcony to get a good view of Oslo’s Lonely Kamel, the band whom I’d seen supporting The Sword and took to the stage of the Underworld to rapturous applause on that occasion. And I’m not surprised. They were excellent. Despite again only being around for the final 15 minutes of their set, their loving detail and care for the roadhouse blues spirit went down fantastically, in addition to some speeding-down-100-miles-of-tarmac-on-a-chopper-bike bursts too. They were as wonderful as I remember them being the first time and long may they continue to be.
Good quality live versions make me smile a lot. This song brings out more of their clear stoner influence, but their more bluesy stuff is also amazing.
After they’d finished, I had to visit the gentlemen’s bathroom once again, and encounter the now-standard issue toilet black gentleman once again. As soon as I got in to have a piss though, he started bitching about personal hygiene and not washing hands, me knowing full well that rant was a clear dig at me for not washing my hands every time I’d been in there. Listen here, I’ve washed my hands at every other place I’d been to over this weekend, you ever think that I don’t wash my hands here because I don’t want to talk to you?
Not particularly bothered about either of the two bands on after Lonely Kamel, I was getting kinda hungry so I went to a courtyard by Camden Arts and Crafts Market that has a world fast food market or bazaar, or whatever the fuck its called. I perused at first, and came across the exotic game burger stand, advertising the prospect of a crocodile burger. However, I had hoped that the sign was upside down because he was celebrating Topsy-Turvy Day, and not because he’d ran out of crocodile. Quite disappointed, he affirmed to me that he would have some next time I visited after describing the texture and taste of crocodile (fish, but like chicken apparently, who’d have thought?), I wandered on and finally settled on an Argentine steak stand. I found somewhere to sit down after a short wait for a steak sandwich, and settled for under a stairwell by the lock, in case it started raining all of the sudden. Now, you know that ancient tradition of anything that has little weight will blow away in the wind, so nail it down with whatever you have lying around? I forgot that tradition, and the plate I was eating on, dropped to the ground after a moderate gust. Luckily I still had serviettes, but I was going to make a last ditch attempt to grab the plate before it blew any further away. I made my move. I stood up, walked a little distance, but the inevitable happened. It blew away before I could reach it and landed on top of the Lock and floated away into the distance. Being made of card, it’d probably absorb the water eventually and sink to the depths of the Thames estuary never to be seen again. On a more important note however, this sandwich was incredible. Sure, it may have been a little pricey for a fiver, but bloody hell, if this wonderful meal of a medium steak with a little salt, balanced between delicious chipotle sauce, mayonnaise, non-bitter salad leaves and tomatoes, on grilled ciabatta was any indication of how good Argentinean cooking was, I may consider the expense of Cau one day. Ladies I hope you like steak.
Also I got ripped off for a belt. Normally you so much as stop in Camden to look at something, your personal airspace will be invaded by several dodgy market dealers wanting to crawl inside your lungs and taste your fragrant carbon dioxide. I however knew what I wanted and he didn’t fight me about it because he was guaranteed a sale whatever. Don’t ask how much it cost, but it has piano keys on it, I’ve always wanted one and it’s an absolute dream to wear unlike my other belts. BECAUSE IT ACTUALLY FUCKING WORKS.
After I’d eaten, and by default, I went back to the Ballroom for Radio Moscow, who probably took a time machine from the 70s to play this festival, as their sound was so immaculate to the likes of Hendrix and Deep Purple, even down to the trippy ass waistcoats. They too were brilliant, the exhibitionism in guitar solos not too flashy, but with wonderful riffs flowing effortlessly too. However, whilst they were playing, I was somewhat distracted by the three admittedly pretty girls in front of me, and the arrival of an overly friendly Spanish pair of gentlemen in front of them. The one with caterpillars for eyebrows and in glasses, who for this purpose I will name Manuel, was getting towards twice these ladies’ age, but still seemed like he was going to try his luck by introducing himself and just talking to them. He introduced himself to one girl dressed in black, but once this first girl introduced her other friend in black, he focused his attention purely on her. I was standing behind, but I could already see that they were uncomfortable and just humouring him. Him and his friend did look like they were having a good time, but every glance Manuel took backwards was towards the two ladies to my right, dressed in black. The overly friendly nature seemed to make him a bit touchy-feely. He wasn’t even looking at me, but he gave me the creeps too, like insects writhing inside my skin. I could feel centipedes wriggling their way up to my shoulders. Every time he talked to them, his self-believed silver tongue waggling near their ears, bellows underneath a fire pressed down, getting closer to a blaze, urging me to interject and tell him to stop. But once Radio Moscow stopped playing, he left before they did. Sure, he seemed like he wanted them to come with him, but he couldn’t have been that interested to not pursue them. If I wasn’t so much of an introvert, or just generally afraid of talking to complete strangers, I would’ve said, ‘Sorry about him, I too wanted to kick him in the balls.’ I’ve probably made a big deal out of nothing, but a lot of men are repulsive creatures and I feel embarrassed to be male at times, because of specimens such as Manuel.
Fuck you Manuel, the ghost of Hendrix I hope frowns upon you forever.
That episode over and dealt with, had now left me with a decision to wander to either the Underworld or the Black Heart, in which today was the only day that allowed me to do so. My choice was somewhat easy for me personally so I went and sated my curiosity of the band named after the city Hull. I’d thought they actually were from Hull. But no. They were from Brooklyn. Sad smiley face. However this quirky little disappointment of mine was the most short-lived thing that’d ever happened to me. My favourite way of describing this band is the basic equivalent of a sludge walrus. A behemoth of a large, hairy mass of men, belching black tar into the crowd, with unfathomable heaviness. Oh, and riffs. My goodness so, so many riffs. They also had a few thrash influences, a sure fire way to win me over when bands play hard and fast. Quite simply, this band was jaw-dropping and may well be my favourite band of the entire weekend.
If the phrase ‘sludge walrus’ isn’t legitimately trademarked, I may consider doing so.
That incredible experience now over, and not particularly enthralled by the possibility of 45 minutes of doom metal at the Ballroom, I thought I’d try my luck again with my mysterious benefactor. Somewhat sceptical at this point, with time rapidly running out to catch him, it was either now or never.
And somebody had hit the now button.
To my surprise he was around, savouring a meal from McDonalds (although who in their right minds would do that?) in what must have been the rarest of breaks. He asked me where I was and said he would come to meet me after he’d finished his plastic burger, of which I sat outside The World’s End, the pub on top of the Underworld, for 5 or so minutes to wait for him. Tell a lie, I had to piss before I met him, of which we were confused about each other’s whereabouts, despite standing directly 20 feet away from one another, after I’d went back outside. We wandered inside and he kindly bought me a beer, despite my fairly strict no beer at gigs without friends policy. I just don’t like that risk of not being familiar with my surroundings or having to walk anywhere in a compromised position. I don’t need alcohol to have a good time anyway, I’m only a social drinker. So he wanted to know more about me and what I was doing right now, and what I planned to do after university. I’d said that I was thinking of going into promotions myself, as one option of what I genuinely would like to do with my life, but only if I can get the financial backing for it. He then mentioned that it is a tough business, and that he had actually lost money on this year’s festival. As someone who had waltzed in for free, that did make me feel bad. In fact, I had said to him as we walked in, I was starting to feel bad that if I didn’t get to meet him, I’d taken advantage of his generous hospitality. He laughed it off, and said not to be silly. We in turn talked about life and music, clearly what unites so many of us here at this festival, and on this planet. The subject did eventually arise, that he told me he couldn’t give me any work, where it previously was available, but he would be on the lookout for something if anything came up with any other promoters or companies, for work experience sake. Throughout this meeting however, a dilemma had occurred in which more staff was needed to man the merch stall and he was wracking his brains to try and solve the problem. It was actually painful to watch. I said to him to take his time so he could concentrate, then thinking how I’d been in a similar situation as a promoter several months ago. I never found out if he did solve the problem. I did think to volunteer myself, but I felt I really would be taking advantage if I did. Opportunist, maybe, but my conscience said it was wrong to do it. We talked for a little bit longer, Jake saying that he wanted to stay in touch but he had matters he needed to attend to. We finished our beers, shook hands and he shot off. I told him to take care, hopefully he got the rest he deserved. A genuinely nice guy, ridiculously overworked bless him, but he’s organised a cracking weekend of music here, so massive kudos to him for doing what he has done. Long may Desertscene continue.
Before I left the World’s End for the next band, a message caught my eye. Dotted around the bar where myself and Jake were seated were several pots, each displaying the same message on paper. It stated:
‘Every time you leave a tip, Justin Bieber dies a little.’
I smirked. How could you not? The sheer cheek and concept of a voodoo tip jar to harm Justin Bieber was pure brilliance. I’m probably a terrible tipper, but I dropped a 50 pence piece in the pot for the laugh I got. If that’s enough to inflict a gash on his arm or something, that works for me.
Walking through one set of doors more or less directly back into the Black Heart, I got a good spot for Kansas’ The Midnight Ghost Train. Although one minor detail I’d forgotten about. That beer had kicked in almost immediately. I AM NOT A LIGHTWEIGHT. JUST ON A NEAR EMPTY STOMACH. So… as you can imagine, I moved the most violently I did all weekend, but the harsh southern country demeanour of the riffs output over this three quarters of an hour were fantastic and so difficult not to enjoy, I had to. No mosh pits, but I was close to full on headbanging at points. I also have to make a special mention for the end of their set. Hands down, they won the award for best (read: only) mostly acapella gospel sing-along, also sung at a father’s funeral. Some people like to share. Sharing is caring.
Their singer reminded me of someone I know so much. I don’t believe he was American, or could play guitar. But I accidentally headbutted him once in the face and gave him a black eye. Sorry Steve.
As much as The Midnight Ghost Train were good, and boy were they good, I wouldn’t have also minded seeing North Carolina’s Sourvein, because of dat name. I think they made these clashes deliberate. But anyway, back to the Ballroom for Japanese Sabbath worshippers Church of Misery. I was told by Jake that they were a fun band. I had done a little research and watching them, they were indeed a fun band, and although doom is their profession, it wasn’t overbearing, let alone depressing. They do sing a lot about serial killers though. Because. I enjoyed their set, despite propping my head on the ledge I had on the balcony, perched on the tiniest bar stool to hand. The alcohol had worn off at this rate, just so you know. Several passers by I think were concerned that I had that look where I was about to die, but really I was just uncomfortable. Serves me right for putting my head on the ledge really. Towards the end of their set though, I received a phone call from my brother, which no day seems complete without, about a potential business proposition, which for this story, I’m not going to disclose the details of, for nothing has actually happened, but were anything to, you will hear about it at a later date, maybe…
Utterly, utterly delicious riffs and such respect for its source material too. Church Of Misery have more groove than a llama in royal vestments at a disco.
By the end of the phone call, Church of Misery had finished and my bladder senses were tingling once more. I couldn’t go back downstairs to the toilet, just so the toilet attendant could belittle my apparent lack of hygiene again. So it was a toss-up between pissing in a puddle or pissing in a puddle. I chose the first puddle, only because there was plenty of band stickers and things to read adorning the walls of the Underworld gents’ lavatory. I’d found an awesome clothing brand called Octomuffin by perusing the day before. Let me repeat that. Octo. Muffin. Their logo is a muffin with tentacles. It’s fucking adorable. Off topic, ahem.
I couldn’t resist. I had to show you.
Being that there was a band on at the time, it only then seemed polite that I stayed to listen to them for a while. They were Utah’s Eagle Twin and again, there was two of them, playing some kind of doom/sludge hybrid, maybe with a little a post rock influence here and there too. I’m curious about this whole power duo thing, for reals, I want to know why this is a more common thing than I realised. I didn’t empathically enjoy them but they weren’t not too bad, I only caught the tail end of their set because of Church of Misery and phonecalls. They had more riffs than The Body did, but at times verged into their borderline unlistenable noise torture. Again, maybe for another time, but I can only seem to stand growling when it’s done in the right context, and here, it only worked 50-50. They didn’t want to end either. I stood waiting, looking at the clock, tapping my foot impatiently for them to stop, giving them the common courtesy to finish and they kept going. Considering I wasn’t that enthralled anyway, I left like a lot of people for what would be my final trip to the Ballroom of the weekend.
Well this is dark. In a sort of, I need a flashlight because I’m fairly unnerved at what the hell I’m hearing kind of way. Still enjoyable though.
So to the final headliner of the festival, Boris. The other prominent Japanese band at this festival. I did some research prior, mind you only one song interplaying between some kind of pop song and heavy ass riffs, and I wanted to hear more of that. It was either that or Kongh a little while later, in which a pure Swedish post-rock band really did appeal to me. I’ve always thought there was crossover between the stoner and post-rock scene anyways. But what Boris delivered blew me away. Holy shit they were amazing. The Japanese don’t do anything conventional anyways, hell, their drummer wouldn’t stop wooping in songs, but the sheer amount of influences and sounds thrown into their set was awe-inspiring, deeply and truthfully. The band are real experimentalists, simply impossible to pigeonhole. But one song they played, lengthy, that went from ambient into post-rock, was what I considered the perfect ending for this festival. It wasn’t their last song no, but it was devastatingly emotive. I almost cried, and I have only ever cried to four songs in my whole life. It made my soul shiver, in the best way possible. It was almost a pity then I decided to leave early so I could catch a train at 11 again. Because I could’ve watched the rest of their set without the worry of missing the train thanks to South West Trains deciding to dick around with the train times AGAIN on a Sunday, so I had to endure every bloody train station back home AGAIN.
The Boris song in question. There is no studio version of this as of right now… WHY?!?!?! It’s phenomenal!
Never mind that shit anyway. This was a true experience in every sense of the word, one I’m glad I had the chance to participate in. Sure it would’ve been nice to have a couple of friends to talk to and enjoy this with, but for what I got to discover and see for myself was worth it every step of the way, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. OK, I didn’t get any work from it, but I have a link in Jake, something that could end up being valuable in the long term, and from what this whole, if you can call it a business meeting, industry treasures in order to get anywhere nowadays. So I am grateful. So, so grateful that I was given this opportunity and for just the price of coming back and forth each day. Maybe I’ll come back next year, and next time, I’ll pay for it. Anyone who does anything off their own back needs our support. And I care so much about that.
Much love and thanks for reading if you got this far xx
The plate floated into the North Atlantic Ocean, sank an oil rig and now resides in a beach hut in Jamaica.