With one of the best line-ups this year, Fuzztival fought against all odds and delivered a great festival
Words by Mr. Stone
Pics by Mrs. Rifffox & Mr. Denpafuzz
This year sucks. One of the main reasons is that the music scene is hit pretty hard by the global situation since the beginning of the year. Almost all the shows and festivals were canceled and it leaves us a bit hopeless to those wonderful moments we all love, the excitement and intensity of live music, the atmosphere and loudness of a good gig in a cool venue, the passion of fellow music-lovers enjoying, dancing, headbanging, yelling their enthusiasm…
I was already looking forward to Fuzztival in the original pre-covid version, which seemed awesome. Then we got this virus and all the cancellations, etc… I must say I was amazed by the determination of the organizers, maintaining and rescheduling, adjusting, and making everything possible so Fuzztival could happen in safe conditions. (read more in my interview here).
So Fuzztival was THE festival I was looking forward to in the past few months, and not only because it’s one of the few surviving festivals, but the line-up, even in these conditions, stayed amazing. I couldn’t express how good it felt to actually go to a festival again, to meet some friends and get those precious moments I was mentioning again…
Sadly in the very few days before the fest, Rotor and Vokonis canceled their appearance in Esbjerg, replaced super fast by respectively Uffe Lorenzen, frontman of the excellent Baby Woodrose and Spids Nøgenhat, kind of the godfather of the Danish Psychedelic Scene, and Bogwife, an up and coming Danish Stoner/Doom band.
Just three and a half hours away from Hamburg, the road trip to Esbjerg didn’t take long and since the fest was set to kick off in the early afternoon, we decided to arrive a day before, to fully enjoy this festival weekend.
Day 1: Friday
Conveniently based 10min away from the great Tobakken Spillested Theater, we were welcomed by Fuzztival volunteers, who explained to us how things were gonna happen with the current circumstances. The 200 attendees crowd was to be split into 6 groups, each of which was assigned a color code (green for people coming from Germany, blue for Sweden, and 4 other colors splitting the territory of Denmark). The wristbands we were wearing would determine (with assorted color balloons) where we were allowed to sit, inside the venue during the gigs, and outside, in 6 dedicated “Chill Zones”. Obviously, everyone was supposed to wear a mask at any time, except when seated in the color zones, inside or outside.
The venue being the 2nd biggest in Denmark, the room was really impressive! With three floors inside, it seemed perfect for this kind of event, especially in those conditions, splitting the crowd already. Chairs were spread over three areas on the ground, two others on the first floor, and the last one on top. The merch stand was also on the first floor and some kickass analog lighting equipment just behind the huge soundboard was already setting the mood for the first band to start.
Vestjysk Ørken is a power trio from Esbjerg, Denmark, the locals of this edition, with the organizers of the festival wielding the axe and behind the drums. So you could definitely expect them to put their festival in orbit properly!
Their spacey desertic stoner vibes were indeed perfect for that task! Setting progressively the mood before going on some more spaced out jams or desertic thrust, eventually climaxing while mixing the two.
You could also really feel they were having some good fun jamming on stage, enjoying the vibe, and giving their best to it. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? I guess it was also a well-deserved reward after all these months struggling to make this happen. This was one of my best discoveries this year and my favorite show on the first day!
Just enough time to try one of the two Festival Beers brewed especially for the occasion by Ugly Duck, the tasty Callista Moon pilsner and we were back inside for the second band. The Swedish power trio Stew brought us back from the stars with a pure old school hard rock energy.
Their kickass riffs, soli, thundering, and howls were resonating perfectly in the acoustic of Tobakken’s great hall under the amazing visuals projected behind them. The Swedes rocked their asses off to put a great atmosphere, our feet stamping in rhythm, aching for dancing.
The overflowing groove and impressive dexterity of these Retro Rockers were more than efficient and brought us back to the 70s for a (too short) little while!
The third band of the day already, the Danish quatuor of De Forbandede was not in Esbjerg for the first time. They were already there 2 years ago, headlining the very first edition of Fuzztival.
I was quite impressed by their peculiar Doom infused Heavy Prog when preparing the playlist for the fest. I was curious about how it would turn out to be on stage, and their energy was indeed pretty good, with suiting visuals to help, once again. The Danish lyrics and heavy prog vibes melting together to result in a sort of occult folk-rock that the crowd seemed to really enjoy.
Sadly the sound where I sat was not so good, we could barely hear the guitar despite Peter being far from idle on stage. We were on the bass player’s side and he was really loud on his amp, as opposed to the guitar player. It’s only for the last song when I finally decided to leave my seat to check the merch that I could hear it properly, upstairs next to the soundboard, where the sound was perfect.
After eating a great burger our stomachs were ready to take in the heaviest band of the day, which was bringing some extra grease and fat. I always enjoy seeing bands that try to take a different path, so I was really looking forward to this Berlin-based duo. The drums were set on the side of the stage for this show, allowing the two musicians to face each other. The bass player had a wonderful pink dress on, which was pretty much the only element of color we had for the next hour. The drummer was pounding relentlessly the kit, but also handling some samples and singing!
Their music was going full drone-sludge, as a sort of despaired mantra echoing from a massive fog of sound, testing the walls’ and our bodies’ integrity with this thickness and vibrations. This sound and setting made me think of the Canadian duo Zaum, only meaner and nastier. The samples and light show were leaving no room for hope, setting up perfectly the atmosphere for the duo to crush us and everything. In trance from the beginning until the end, Sabine Oberg’s was wavering with the riff. Her hypnotizing energy and unflinching rumbling basslines could definitely not leave you unaffected. The pachydermic drumming of Jan Oberg was so intense and yet he kept tirelessly hammering while reciting his tormented chants, implacable and merciless.
I don’t know if many people in the audience knew what we would go through here, but I think everyone was blown away by the end of this show. Grin took us on a mesmerizing wretched meditation, leaving us in awe of what just happened.
After such an intense and dense experience, the last-minute-announced Bogwife did not have an easy task! I was not too worried though, having listened to their debut album released last month, ranked #2 in the August Doom Charts, no less! Special thanks to Mr. Denpafuzz for his cool pictures of this gig.
The quatuor delivered killer grooves and riffs to an audience that was asking for it. While the atmosphere stayed in the same desperate realms as Grin, the Danes brought haunted grunge vocals and Heavy-Psych build-ups. Their blend of Stoner/Doom can seem blunt at first but is quite sophisticated, dwelling into dark psychedelia, with heavy riffs and good energy to keep us in the right mood. Going back and forth from one to another, they kept us hanging in this trippy slow riffing state and it felt exactly right. Perfect timing for this show, kind of summing up the different ambiances from the previous bands of this first day in Esbjerg.
It was quite an intense day overall, and for once, the headlining act is coming to soothe us gently of all these emotions. Uffe Lorenzen, an unmissable figure of the Danish psychedelic scene is arriving on stage alone with his twelve-strings guitar and outstanding charisma. While focusing on his solo career lately, with a band on his last record, we could behold his talent in the purest form of singer-songwriter.
Throughout the last hour and a half of music, he took us on an emotional journey, with this gritty deep voice backed by the ethereal ringing of his guitar. For once this day, being seated felt right. Even if for this kind of show, a smaller and intimate room would have been better, the light show of Peter Petersen surely helped to set the atmosphere, as it did during all the festival. It was also quite majestic to see this character, alone on such a big stage, fill this huge room so easily and stunningly.
Day 2: Saturday
Sadly the first band of this second day, the danish sludgers of Slowjoint canceled their coming at the last minute, therefore unable to be replaced. So we got a bit extra time to drink a few beers and get in the mood for this promising day.
I discovered Sleepwulf thanks to the raging meme war between Merlin and Wizzerd in which they became involved at some point and dug their great debut S/T from February a lot.
As for Stew the first day, they’re from Sweden and into Retro Rock, you feel it from the very first notes and that unmistakable tone and sound. A bit heavier this time, so think more of a Sabbath worship, but they also have some lighter and groovier sides that remind me more of Bang!. The solid rhythmic section holds the fort all along, with special mention to the bass lines keeping the groove flowing splendidly. The guitar went from groovy riffs to top-notch soli in the most impeccable way, leaving the melodious voice of the singer (recalling Witchcraft‘s style at times) to achieve the magic of this spotless proto-doom picture.
The quatuor delivered a really qualitative set of these good old vibes that we all love. We could only enjoy those great tunes, nodding and stomping our feet, with the occasional pinching of lips, eyes half-closed, in approval in a great sounding melody or riff. With a relaxed and humble attitude, they put this second day on the right track in a perfect manner.
The Whims of The Great Magnet
After that crazy energy, it seemed a bit strange to come back to a second acoustic set, cooling things off a bit, which was sadly fitting to the rainy weather of this Saturday. This show featured another known figure of our scene, the former Sungrazer bass player Sander Haggmans.
At first, supposed to have a band with him, he told us he recently fired them but that he could perform solo in acoustic. It was quite different than Uffe Lorenzen, not having 12 string, but using effects and loops instead to build more of a dreamy atmosphere. He had a way to build up nice melodies to loop with each other to sing over. There were a few times where he even left his guitar to play a bit with his pedals, tuning and amp to modulate the sound, just going with the flow of the loops.
His set was mostly from his new project but he also granted us a few Sungrazer tracks. Somewhere in between gentle grunge and dreamy psych-pop, Sander took us in a melancholic reverie.
The last band to be added to the bill, just one week before the fest, Electric Hydra took over the stage with their Southern-style Stoner Metal. With women on the mic and on the bass, the quintet was the band with the most members on stage and brought some girl-power to the festival.
The Swedes’ energy and attitude were rocking the place all over, with heavy riffs and groove, and kickass attitude. The singer and one of the guitar players moving constantly from side to side, owning the stage and kind of playing with the audience could almost make us forget we were seated.
The Danish instrumental aerial Heavy-Psych power trio was one of the gigs I was looking the most forward to. It’s been 4 years since I saw them the last time (at the Reverence Valada Festival) and they’ve released some amazing records in between. They didn’t disappoint at all, and I think this was my favorite gig of the whole festival!
Their sound is so characteristic, always melting fuzzy groove and ethereal psych melodies into lengthy jams. Somewhere between Psychedelic-Stoner and Post-Rock, without never being exactly one of those. Featuring Jazz influences flirting with Krautrock vibes, their inspiration seems without boundaries. The bass and drums swirling to form a groovy and stable base for Niklas Sorensen‘s relaxed virtuosity.
Backed up by the amazing visuals of Peter Petersen, the Danes took us on a delightful journey through time and space. This gig was one of the moments that made us completely forget where we were, leaving us astonished by the peaceful beauty of it, for a time that seemed way too short.
Surprisingly scheduled in between Papir and Causa Sui, this Doom Metal band from Sweden was the heaviest peak of this second day. They even brought Mika Hakki from Monolord to wield the bass on this occasion. As with Grin the day before, their thick wall of sound set a desperate atmosphere, as usual perfectly enhanced by the visuals and lights.
Strongly influenced by High On Fire, the Swedes came at the crowd with nasty riffs, massive and over-fuzzed sound, melting together with the mammoth drums. The violence and harshness of this set, pouring like molten lava in the Tobakken hall contrasted deeply with the serenity that was floating in the room less than an hour before. Yet we were asking for it, headbanging on our chairs more than ever and giving the rest of our energy to this fat and mean heaviness.
They left us totally drained from any energy we had left after this intense weekend, which would have been a perfect ending… Except an even more perfect closure was coming, with the amazing Causa Sui!
One last breath and beer outside helped us get back into a more relaxed mood for the grand finale of this amazing Fuzztival 2020. The Danish Psychedelic veterans of Causa Sui were the perfect fit for such a task. I was especially excited about this one, finally catching them live for the very first time! That’s a bit tired and nervous that I entered the room, only to be soothed quickly by their blissful warm trippy jams.
The bass and drums set up a solid and groovy scenery to help us nestle in these comfy fuzzy vibes. The synths layers subtly envelopping us even more to give more space and atmosphere to the whole. Meanwhile, the brilliant Jonas Munk was wandering exquisitely along the neck of his guitar, dropping notes like a nectar to our ears. Drifting away in his classic sublime melodies, he would eventually join the riff, the whole band synchronizing to bring the song to a next level. The refinement and precision of the drumming was so superly stunning, always taking the groove, and us with it, a bit higher.
The way these guys play with the pace of their songs is so stunning, slowing down to keep us hanging on the groove, awaiting for the next burst into their beatific melodious explorations.
They blew us away in such a delightful manner, toying smoothly and gently with our emotions for more than an hour and songs from their whole catalog. It was as if time itself stopped to sit in the big hall of Tobakken, and enjoy this extraordinary moment with us. Sadly it wasn’t the case and we were suddenly left off wondering what just happened while they left the stage. For a short time only, coming back to help us come down with their old classic “El Paraiso” as a goodbye gift.
As mentionned above, these two days were pretty intense, and completely fulfilled any expectations we could have. Fuzztival displayed a good span of the different sides of our lovely scene, to take us through a rollercoaster of Fuzz, riffs, groove and emotions.
I talked about it a few times already, but I want to especially praise the astonishing analog visual and light show of Ute & Peter Petersen. With two Gobopro projectors using homemade oil discs for the lights and 3 slide projectors for the visuals, they amazingly ambianced the whole festival. Thanks a lot to you and I hope we’ll see your lights more and more in the future, for it admirably improves the experience of this kind of psychedelic gatherings. We all came here for the music and this was a wonderful icing on the cake!
Special thanks and congrats also to the ever helpful, attentive and welcoming organizers of Fuzztival, Bo & Thomas and their team. They showed with an unflinching determination that it was possible to host a super cool festival in these dreadful times, in complete safety. We’ll definitely come back next year, and advise you fuzzers to join us too 😀
Thanks to Mrs. Rifffox for her amazing pictures that depict really well the overall atmosphere of these two blissful days. Thanks also to Mr. Denpafuzz for his fantastic energy and cool pictures and to all the friendly fellow fuzzers that made this weekend such a great time.