The return of the DesertFest Antwerp, the favorite gathering of the European Fuzzers!
Like most festivals, DF Antwerp didn’t happen last year, and even though a few fests happened here and there since August, the return of this mighty festival was probably the most anticipated moment of all the European Fuzzy scene. This kind of return to life after two years down in the hole was a three-day weekend full of Fuzz, good vibes, friends, and all sorts of fun.
We were a few members of your fuzzy team to attend, and we brought you some nice memories of it, to bring you back there, as it’s already been a month, or to help you picture what kind of wholesome it was if you missed it. We decided to split it into three articles, so you can expect the two others to come in the next few days.
Words by Mr. Fuzz, Mr. Momo, Mr. Stone & Mr. Witchfinder
Pics by Mr. Witchfinder & Mr. Fuzz
Videos by Mr. Stone
Mr. Witchfinder – So it begins! Right after walking through the doors of Trix, I headed towards the Vulture Stage to check out the first band of the festival which happened to be Detrvire, a punk/black metal band hailing from Brussels.
It felt like a powerful kick in the guts as the drum blasts and growling vocals were relentlessly cutting through the air and carrying song after song. The stage was already pretty packed with people which meant that soon after the band began, the crowd started boiling and moshing around to this raw and blackened take on punk that Detrvire delivered. And while perhaps the core of their performance revolved around being fast-paced and brutal, there were also slower, more ballad-like passages that evoked a tangible Black Sabbath touch.
All in all, Desertfest took off with a total blast putting Dertvire as the opening act and set the stage for all the madness that would still enfold that day.
Mr. Stone – I arrived at Trix when these guys were starting to play, so I missed a bit the beginning, but not so much, as they were on my list of bands that piqued my interest.
It was a pretty good way to start the weekend, the Belgians launched the Canyon Stage on orbit, with a multi-faceted and very interesting sound. Throwing in their mix some post-punk with acid vibes, a bit of noise, cold wave, and garage, to make a dynamic and hypnotic psychedelic brew. Their sound is resolutely grounded in the 90s, but with some touches of 70s and more modern vibes, resulting in a very groovy and appealing blend, that can at the same time captivate or make you dance, and why not both?
I think I might have gotten even more into it a bit later in the evening, but with such a lineup, choices must be made. Fake Indians still managed to make us drift away, launching the day on the right tracks.
Mr. Witchfinder – Continuing with the first band of the Desert Stage lineup, Dool who originate from The Netherlands and play a mix of occult and heavy metal with some obscure goth and doom elements. Fronted by the charismatic Ryanne van Dorst, the band went on to preach their take on all things heavy with a special focus on tracks from the 2020 LP, Summerland.
Dool’s dark and somber melodies interwoven with blistering guitar solos and clean vocals sounded truly epic live and certainly lived up to my expectations. What’s more, the lighting complemented the music rather well and the band was visibly comfortable and put all the possible energy into the performance with guitars repeatedly swinging around and sweat pouring on the ground. And while personally, I prefer the rabid and heavier dimensions of their music, I appreciated the slower and almost dream-like tones that Dool also presented as it allowed for gradual build-ups to be swiftly brought down and generally made for the gig being entertaining across the board.
Mr. Fuzz – This Belgian trio couldn’t choose their name better, Motorik is the term used to describe that classic krautrock beat, which they indeed use heavily during their songs. Each of them usually starts with Joeri Dobbeleir, one of the two guitarists launching an endless electronica loop on a small pre-configured pad, and there you go, the motor is unstoppable for at least the next 10 minutes or so, until it starts again…
The two guitarists complement well each other, with Joeri on one side often playing with a delay a more rhythmic part, and on the other side Dirk Ivens who has a more melodic approach. Drummer Dries D’Hollander holds the whole thing and definitely lives the Motorik beat!
As a psych and kraut fan, I deeply enjoyed this gig, Motor!k puts you in a kind of a trance state with their very repetitive patterns. It was a perfect way to put you in a good mood for the rest of the day 🙂
Mr. Stone – Sadly Manngold started to play around half the set of Motor!k, and being a kraut fan too, I couldn’t snap out of it. I regretted it a bit but tried not to linger on that and get into what was left of their set.
Musically, it was in the continuity of the previous band, which helped, with trippy tunes based on a strong rhythm induced by the two drummers and the groovy basslines. The two guitar players and the synth-and-effects wizard feeling free to explore space and time around it. The sound was overpowering, with catchy abrasive melodies enveloped in spacey sounds, going up and down without ever letting you really go. They craft a blend of kraut and noise, with even hints of surf rock (not so surprising coming from a member of Fifty Foot Combo) and somehow an almost punk attitude. The result was such a super-efficient trippy dance party in which I dove headfirst, enjoying it fully with a wicked smile on my face.
It was so good that I stayed until the end, missing the beginning of My Sleeping Karma. I don’t even have regrets, as Manngold was probably my favorite discovery of the whole weekend.
My Sleeping Karma
Mr. Momo – I had not seen My Sleeping Karma on stage since their performance in June 2019. The health problems of their drummer back in 2019, then the pandemic, had kept me away from one of my favorite live bands. So needless to say I was pretty ecstatic to see them again.
I just needed to hear the first notes of their entrance on Aphrodite’s Child “The Four Horsemen” to be like a kid in front of a candy store. Then, their traditional hug, and we were good to go. Starting with a classic among classics, Brahama, we were quickly floating on MSK’s so unique music. But it was my first concert on the Desert Stage and I quickly noticed something weird with the sound: the further you were from the stage, the more bass (and I mean the frequencies, not the instrument) you heard. Close enough, it was OK, but at the back of the room it was horrible, you could hear feedback loops. Not sure what was the problem but it was unfortunately the case for many bands this weekend…
Nevertheless, what a pleasure to see MSK back on stage! And as always, they also looked very very pleased to be there, playing again at Desertfest. They even played the full hour, when their concerts tend to last no more than 45 minutes most of the time. They also announced a new album coming in 2022 and they played a song from said album, which you can listen to here (recorded by Martin Sandvitchus).
The concert went by like a dream, even if for some reason (but I think the sound problem was a big chunk of it) I could not enjoy them as much as the last time I saw them. Well, I’ll catch up next time.
Mr. Momo – I nearly had to run after My Sleeping Karma to catch 30 minutes of Bismut’s “Death Boogie”. I had not seen them since the release of their latest album, Retrocausality (reviewed here).
They’re still so very lively on stage, it’s a real party. The very dynamic, very groovy rhythmic lines result in an overheated atmosphere, people moving, jumping, dancing, you wouldn’t think you are in front of a “metal” band despite the heavy guitar parts.
It can sound a bit dry on the album, but it’s an absolute party live, with never-ending back-breaking rhythms. A shame I couldn’t see the full set.
Cult of Occult
Mr. Witchfinder – Being well into the night and having my head all buzzing with riffs, I made my way upstairs to see Cult of Occult play. Having no idea what to expect whatsoever, I tried coming up as close to the stage as possible to get some snaps and witness the ritual upfront.
The band was all hooded and dressed in black and there was barely any light which perhaps hinted to nothing in particular but I liked the vibe. Speaking of the actual music, I had mixed feelings honestly. The separate tracks all sounded painfully similar to each other and were at times so minimalistic and repetitive that it felt as if I’d heard it a few times before. However, the unholy tones that the sound technician conjured and vocalist’s growls powerful enough to crack concrete foundations, commanded respect and were a pleasure to surrender to.
If summed up, Cult of Occult’s gig felt like being tortured to death while it showcased some admirable sonic nihilism walking a thin line between minimalism and boredom.
Mr. Fuzz – One of my most awaited concerts of the day was for sure for the Norwegian legends of Motorpsycho. They had the largest set of the whole festival, 2 hours of amazingly crafted proggish and psychedelic rock! And sorry but I’m not as much a Motorpsycho worshipper as Mr. Stone, so I couldn’t tell you the setlist, but just know I got totally mindblown.
The talent these 3 musicians have is god-level if you want my opinion. Playing for 2 hours, without barely any pauses, and with that level of excellence places them at the same level as some legendary bands of the 70’s. And though I can understand their music can be hard to apprehend (and I saw it with the room half-empty at the end of the show), you can only recognize the talent when you see/hear it if you are a music nerd like I am. Special mention for Tomas Järmyr, the drummer, I’ve never seen such a beast behind a set, playing stuff complex af and never being out of rhythm. Damn.
When their show was over, I was in total awe, wondering what just happened and how I got sucked into their beautiful and intricate world. And looking around at the other people who stayed until the end, I surely wasn’t the only one with the mouth wide open and both arms in the air.
Somali Yacht Club
Mr. Stone – As Mr. Fuzz mentioned, I couldn’t consider missing any minute of Motorpsycho, but as a big Somali Yacht Club aficionado too, I barely took the time to gather my jaw on the ground of the Desert Stage before running upstairs to catch the end of their set. Sadly, they only had one song left, which you can check out below in the live stream I shot, so I didn’t really have the proper time to dive into it.
Anyway, the Ukrainian trio seemed to have already worked their magic on the crowd of this late night at Trix, and the atmosphere was boiling properly, as is usually the case on the Canyon Stage at this time. Their stoner infused with post-rock makes the best of both worlds, delivering a thick fuzzy sound to a thirsty audience while taking time and height here and there with more aerial parts to let the pressure come down, only to bring it back up. The contrast in their songs is always a delight, building tension and releasing it, like blissful waves washing you from sorrow.
It was a pretty good way to finish this first day, quite efficient, but not too crazy, as we still had two other days to