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. Fuzz & Mr. Stone
Mr. Fuzz – There’s no better way than to start a fresh new day with some fuzz-filled riffs from Komatsu! It’s always hard to be the first band playing on a stage during a festival, but these fellas managed to directly put us in the mood for a good headbanging session 👊
Their energetic Stoner Rock is also portrayed on stage with their smiling faces and good communication with the audience, and as you can see in our pictures, they even invited people to come up on stage at the end of the set, fun times!
Mr. Witchfinder – Dopelord returned to Antwerp after the last edition in 2019 but this time opening the Desert Stage of the second day of the festival. Having seen the guys around already the day before, I knew they were enjoying themselves and feeling at home taking the time to check out the whole of the festival instead of just popping in for a gig and fleeing the grounds.
When it comes to the actual gig, it took off with some technical difficulties as Piotr’s pedal board malfunctioned but it was swiftly taken care of and the ritual could finally commence. Playing a selection of tracks primarily covering their newest LP and EP releases, Dopelord gathered a faithful crowd of doomsters that swayed their heads to the unholy rhythms and the scent of burning herbs.
As with other gigs on the main stage, the band had a solid visual support in the form of eerie clips and bits from old horror movies that have perhaps truly become an inherent component of classic stoner doom imagery now. All in all, the band did a good job lighting the day up and easing the Desertfest people into the doom mood. Hail Satan!
Mr. Fuzz – Owwww man. My favorite gig of the day. And it’s another duo. One I didn’t know before. And you know how I love the raw power of duos. Well, I’m glad I followed my guts to discover a new band because Tankzilla totally RAWKED the place out!
“Satan fucked a Panzer and the offshoot is TankZilla.“, that’s their FB description, me likey. Their approach is very riff-based, a lot of them. With Peter van Elderen (ex-Peter Pan Speedrock), the guitarist/singer playing uber nasty riffs and some nice gritty vocals, while Marcin Hurkmans (ex-Wolfskop) smashes his drums with force, accuracy, and groove.
If you missed them, I recommend you to check them out, of course, live is best if you like breaking your neck with heavy riffs!
Mr. Witchfinder – Continuing with the celebration was Mohama Saz, a Spanish quartet that combines psychedelic rock with hints of jazz and Latin music. A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one!
As soon as the first sounds poured down the speakers the band started gently navigating their way through a plethora of mellow and adventurous soundscapes. The warm-colored light plays combined with occasional fog and the intimate setup of the stage made for a complete, joyful yet quite introspective experience. It really felt good closing my eyes and vibing along with the enchanting melodies and occasional Spanish vocals of Mohama Saz. At times there were perhaps some moments where the pace of the songs felt monotonous but then it was usually part of a larger composition that saw itself gradually growing and heading towards a more dynamic direction.
Generally, what made this concert stand out and resonate at the same time was that it offered this mystical, oriental-like, and meditative dimension to which one could tap and indulge. It wasn’t your typical heavy, amp-worshipping ritual but rather a festivity blending musical genres and relaxing the mind and soul.
Mr. Witchfinder – Storming the Desert Stage was Conan who were already well acquainted with the halls of Desertfest as they played there back in 2017. 4 years had passed, the band grew and so did their sound which I couldn’t wait to hear live again.
Igniting their rigs of doom and therefore means of complete sonic obliteration, the band took off with ‘Krull’, the opening track of their iconic Horseback Battle Hammer album from 2014. The madness knew no limits as the size of the main stage greatly boosted Conan’s monumental image and impact on one’s mind. On top of that, visuals spanning the whole background behind the band helped to portray their performance as a surreal adventure in a comic-style hack and slash game rather than just a gig.
Conan know their doom game and deliver no matter the setting and place. Riffs were brutally sharp and drums threatened to collapse the entire building should they have been allowed to be blasted for just a little longer. Not to mention the shrieking vocals of Jon who have never sounded more evil than what I witnessed down in Antwerp recently. Sometimes I can still hear them ringing in my mind. A curse or a blessing?
Mr. Stone – This was one of my most awaited gigs of the weekend, especially after seeing and interviewing them at Down The Hill a month and a half earlier (report here). I was curious how they would have evolved with their new drummer, and how it would show live. It seems the rest of the Desertfest crowd was also pretty hyped since it was already getting packed in front of the stage during their line check, warming up the room to their trippy jams.
They came back a few minutes later and started to unravel their mesmerizing and complex new tracks to an avid audience, with the Vulture Stage fuller than ever. The show went on blissfully, going up and down with the flow of those four wizards. Their groove and riffs took us all away and all around me I could only see satisfaction and happiness on the faces of my neighbors, oscillating with the vibe in a moment that seemed suspended in time. Though their Down The Hill performance was already great, you could feel even more the unity of the band, and the fact that it was in a packed small and dark room probably also helped make this one even better.
I often have trouble finding the right words to describe how it feels to experience a Temple Fang concert, as it is truly a personal feeling. They have a way of making energy flow between them, and with the audience, with surgical riffs and melodies, always groovy and spacey, finding the right balance between instinctive jamming and prog-like elaborate composition, giving it all a sense of epicness without ever crossing the line to overdoing it. They confirmed once more that they are one of the most authentic and interesting bands out there, and, as expected, my favorite gig of the weekend.
Villagers of Ioannina City
Mr. Momo – Greek bands were put forward during this Desertfest with the presence of 1000 mods and Villagers Of Ioannina City. With their folk approach and the presence of a bagpipe on stage, their sound is quite distinctive. But even if I was very entertained by their first album Riza (out back in 2014), I found that for Age of Aquarius they put a lot of water in their Ouzo, many songs lacked punch.
So how was it on stage? Well, not bad, but not great either. To be honest, I didn’t stay the whole concert. There was nothing inherently bad about it, and of course, it’s a welcome diversity from just heavy riffs, but it didn’t click with me. Maybe on a smaller stage? I’ll have to see them again to be able to tell you.
Mr. Stone – I was really looking forward to the performance of this Italian power trio, as I only saw them at Freak Valley before, in the middle of the afternoon, and I knew a darker atmosphere suits their music better. Their blend might not be the most original, a super groovy and riff-laden stoner with gritty vocals, they master it perfectly and make the best of it.
As a sucker for groove, I can tell you I enjoyed every second of it, banging my head like crazy most of the time while enjoying the breaks of the more contemplative or hazy passages. That is also one of the strengths of the trio, and something that makes them stand out from the crowd of bands in this genre, they know when to melt your face with burning riffs and when to drift away, using wisely every nuance in between, playing with tension, before eventually breaking you down with a gnarly slow heavy riff coming back from the dead.
The Italians took the Vulture Stage on a high octane trip under the starry sky of the Alps, efficient as hell, and with quite a responsive crowd, the show seemed to go way too fast, but there was little time to reflect on that as Colour Haze already started rocking the Desert Stage.
Mr. Momo – The first concert for me with the new bassist (we love you Philip!), a long-time collaborator of the band, and it went very well. I was just in front of the guitarist and singer’s amps because I wanted to hear him clearly and avoid that bass sound problem (that happened quite often on the Desert Stage during the weekend), so I have no idea how it sounded in the rest of the stage, but from there, it sounded great!
I found that the keyboard was much better integrated into the music, not just doubling on the guitar as it used to but really a separate instrument adding to the ambient dreamfullness. As usual, Colour Haze took me on a trip like no other. Once you get embedded in the music, time just flies by, and it ends too soon.
Mr. Stone – The Belgian trio really didn’t have it easy with the running order this year, stuck between Colour Haze and Sunnata, and even though I love both of those bands, I also wanted to see what Atomic Vulture was capable of these days, as I was always drawn to their killer instrumental stoner vibes, and really liked what their new album presaged.
I wasn’t disappointed at all, the guys delivered the goods, with a killer groove and stunning riffs, along with a nifty sense of timing and chiseled proggish songcrafting. They took over the Vulture stage (whose name was never so fitting aha) for the greatest pleasure of a packed and enthusiastic crowd, returning us the pleasure of showing what a blast they were having to be here. Their sound was pretty massive, and the execution flawless, with killer hooks, crushing breakdowns, and dynamic melodies, unraveling a story with each song. They took the Vulture Stage on a trip through the cosmos, from which we couldn’t hold back, as sucked in a hyperspace wormhole, which is why I only realized just before the end that I forgot to share a track with you guys. (as you can see below, with the very last minute of their show)
Mr. Momo – About time we had Sunnata at DesertFest! The Polish had earlier this year published a new album (heavily inspired by Dune) which delighted me, with its unique blend of heavy stoner doom and religious chanting.
On stage, the raw power is incredible. There is no escape from the heaviness. I found myself deeply headbanging without being sure why.
Oh, and God Emperor of Dune is even better live than on the album. What a song!
Mr. Fuzz – This will be short, as short as the new haircut of Lupus 😆. Why? Because I stopped counting the number of times I saw Kadavar, and because EVERY damn show they play is killer. You might have your own opinion on their studio work, but you can’t deny they are beasts on stage, and they only seem to get better and better.
The only downside, I wish I’d see them again on a small stage like the Vulture stage… But these times are behind us, and Kadavar is now one of the top acts of the scene, period.
Also can’t wait to hear their new collaboration with Elder, Eldovar, the 2 first tracks available sound really interesting. Let’s hope they’ll tour with this new formation, that would be sick!
Mr. Stone – After the thick fog of Sunnata, I didn’t feel so much in a Kadavar mood, so I ended the run of the previous bands and went to the courtyard for a delicious Caïpirinha and finally some food. I still kept an eye on my watch to be sure not to miss Peuk, a grunge band in a stoner festival is always a way to refresh your mind and clear the haze a bit.
I barely listened to them beforehand as I wanted to keep the surprise for the live, and I’m glad I did. The flemish trio didn’t look like much on stage, not sure if it was some timidity, grunge attitude, or feeling a bit out of place, but they sure seemed to have some fun as the show went, loosening a bit the mood. Song after song, they kept on delivering their raging noise-infused grunge, with quite a punk energy, and a few moments of fuzzy heaviness. The curious ones that came to the Vulture Stage went along with the nineties vibes and bouncy tracks of Peuk, throwing off their last remains of energy in a frenzy before the end of this glorious day.
Mr. Momo – As The Great Machine had to cancel at the last minute, the organization found a replacement with Haeser, a Dutch band playing more traditional metal.
It was the last concert of the day, so it is a bit hazy in my memory, but it was loud, it was furious, though with calmer moments and sometimes a feminine voice. A real headbanger.