Words by Mr. Sputnick & pictures by Mrs. Freaksandgigs
Snuff’est, one and a half day of brilliant stoner, psych and doom, held in two neighbouring venues in the centre of Bristol. On the 16th and the 17th of September a small but dedicated crowd came-out from all corners of the country to check out their favourite bands from the underground hard rock scene. Everyone seemed to have an excellent time, and because of the intimate setting, beer, food and music talk where widely shared between strangers.
The venues were perfectly suited for the festival. The Stag & Hounds, a beautiful 18th-century pub, with a tiny stage in the front, where you could stand directly next to the musicians playing, significantly contributed to the vibe. The Exchange, the next door venue, topped off The Stag by providing a more serious stage and live music atmosphere.
Now let’s talk music. Snuff’est was small and intimate, but the bill was everything but. 18 bands, both national and international, where spread out over Fridays pre-party and Saturdays all-day festival. Kindly scheduled alternately so you’d never have to choose between two of your favourite bands. With headliners Radar Men from the Moon (NLD), Belzebong (POL) and Asteroid (SWE) there was enough to look out for, but also a feast of new bands to discover. Let’s dig into the line-up.
For the real hard rock enthusiasts, there was the chance to catch the pre-party held in The Stag the night before Saturday’s all-day festival. Since I found myself in Bristol the night before, I decided I was one of those people and swung by to get an early taste of the atmosphere. Halfway through the line-up, I was just in time to catch two of the four bands scheduled on Friday.
Gurt had the honour to loosen up my eardrums, and hell that’s what they did. Demonic vocals and down-tuned riffs got the neck muscles warmed up for everyone in the crowd. Normally not directly up my street, but these guys gave off a performance and vibe that was hard to reject.
The headliner of the pre-party. No nonsense stoner rock, tight riffs and great vocals got the crowd grooving till the very end. With a stage that could barely hold their energy and a crowd that was just over five times the size of the band, they put up an amazing show anyway and successfully closed the night. Snuff’est was off to a great start.
With a hangover that felt worse than I expected, prove that the pre-party was a great success, I dragged myself towards The Stag and The Exchange around noon to catch the first band.
Some festivals decide to start the day slow, peaceful and calm, to comfort the sleepy (and hungover) and make the transition from your bed to the busy venues a little easier. Snuff’est isn’t such a festival. After introducing themselves with a demonic gong intro that reminded of Black Sabbaths classic church bell, Hogslayer drenched the crowd in heavy doom and sludge metal. Covered in black hoodies with their faces pointed towards the ground, they gave off a vibe that fitted well with their fierce riffs and lung-shredding vocals. The vocalist, pumped with energy, put up a performance in which he managed to get the somewhat startled crowd to headbanging early in the afternoon.
Again, Snuff’est isn’t for the weak at heart. Introduced by an epic battle cry, Oak blasts off in an epic storm of high paced riffs and people quickly come inside. While at first, Oak seems to be just another band that fires off an endless burst of high energy riffs, they show that they’re dynamically more interesting than that and lay down some great groovy bass licks, trippy guitar solos and atmospheric soundscapes. While already shirtless at an alarming early time in the day, the singer deeply growls and grunts, yet shows he’s a great singer with cleaner vocal parts.
An organised chaos, is something that first came to mind at ANTAs show. Great instrumental prog rock, edged towards heavy doom and stoner rock. An unpredictable chaos with synths, organs, proggish guitar melodies and thundering doom riffs. From dissonant sounding chord progressions to beautiful harmonies between the organ, bass and guitar. An interesting playing technique by the bass player catches the eye, using his left hand on the opposite side of the neck to play the bass like a piano. While it seems unusual and highly uncomfortable, the bass player mastered the technique and is able to lay down some unique riffs. Fits the band and the sound perfectly.
Seated on an empty beer crate, this duo, which consists of a drummer and a bass player, give off a calm, serious and professional image. They put down an incredibly tight show, operating in a machine like way. The duo seems to be barely communicating but manages to know exactly what their other half is up to. Halfway through the show, the empty beer crate on which the bass player and vocalist is seated seems to barely hold the weight of the heaviness of the riffs. With the minimal instrumental occupation of just bass and drums, the sound of the band isn’t short of anything. The bass player is able to put down guitar like melodies and has altered his playing to a more melodious style. Definitely one of the most impressive bands of the day for me.
OK, I wasn’t prepared for this. Lured in by droning sounds and weird sound effects, I found three men, seated at a table with tons of pedals, wires, knobs and buttons. Perfectly described by one of my newly met friends as ‘a very tense family dinner’, the three men where barely moving, carefully twitching and turning the array of pedals and wires in a zen like concentration to create experimental drone music. The only instrument used was a guitar, laid flat on a table, tortured by undefinable objects that I wouldn’t suggest using on your six stringed buddy, producing sounds that weren’t even closely recognisable as a guitar. I decided to seat myself together with a significant portion of the crowd on the ground and let it soak into my brain. I sat through the show and left feeling somewhere in between completely zen and mentally confused. Definitely an interesting experience to widen my musical taste.
Hazed and confused, I arrived at Enos. Straight back into my comfort zone; these guys played a mix of fuzzy guitar riffs and psychedelic soundscapes. Vocals altered by a range of trippy effects and sweet guitar solos topped it off and made Enos an enjoyable and easy listening experience (compared to the madness I experienced prior to their gig). Trippy and heavy, perfectly dosed into a 45-minute set.
After seeing Gnod I wouldn’t have guessed my second confrontation with drone would come so soon. This time in a more traditional way, in the form of a three-piece band consisting out of a guitarist, bass player and a drummer. The three produced a ground shaking wall of sound built around a few monotonous notes. Using a violin bow on his guitar, the guitarist managed to create a thick droning sound, and together with the deep bass notes and carefully laid down drums the three managed to get the crowd seated on the floor again, with their eyes closed, ready to travel to the far edges of their mind. The band itself seemed to be in a similar state of mind.
Radar Men From the Moon
The evening had fallen, and a very necessary break had been taken to recharge and get ready for the remaining three headliners of the day. First up was Radar Men From the Moon, delivering a very satisfying set of instrumental psych rock, which was highly appreciated after a day with lots of heavy doom, sludge and drone. Too large and too much gear to fit the stage, the band positioned themselves between the crowd and delivered a dance-able mix of psychedelic rock and electronic drumbeats. Equipped with a huge range of effects, synths and drum pads the band was able to create a lot of different sounds. Based around a stomping bass and drum, the synth and guitar created droning psychedelic sounds to close your eyes and swing to.
Hair, FUZZ and weed. These guys definitely delivered the fattest, fuzziest and heaviest sound of the day, and I didn’t expect it to be any different. The band? Occupied with intense headbanging and hair-swinging. The crowd? Exactly the same. The members only took a pause to look up when they lit up the joint, took two hits and passed it to the crowd, which continued the fashion and managed two share the spliff with almost everyone in the room (including a very happy More Fuzz reporter). Definitely one of the greatest experiences of the day.
Last up, the legendary Swedish rockers, Asteroid. Delivering a set of straight up brilliant stoner rock, floating somewhere in the area between classic dessert rock and heavy psych. Already after midnight, the room was still filled with the most dedicated rockers. It was a great way to experience these guys in such an intimate setting. The trio delivered us a fair amount of new material from their upcoming album III, which sounded absolutely great. After a short pause in which some necessary string changing had to be done (broke according to the guitarist because “IT’S SO HEAVY!”) the band continued till late and put down an amazing set, in which they showed incredible musicality, vocals and fat and groovy riffs.
Overall, Snuff’est had been one of the best festival experiences so far. Great music, great location, awesome people, well organised and fairly priced. For the first time in Bristol, but definitely not the last time (I hope). If you missed this year’s edition, be sure to keep an eye out. Follow Snufflane, The Stag & Hounds and The Exchange, cause these guys host some great music, and see you next year.