The independent London newspaper

Desertfest: sand & deliver!

Celebration of doom, stoner rock and pych, set to take place across four Camden venues

30 January, 2020 — By Róisín Gadelrab

Veteran Londoners Orange Goblin are on the line-up for this year’s Desertfest

WHILE it has been accused of having lost its edge from time to time, the truth about Camden’s music scene is that it is able to move with the times while remaining a safe haven for the many tribes and genres, subcultures, up-and-comers, established old hands, solo acoustic musicians and the incomprehensible and unforgettable.

We have Camden Rocks for the lovers of punk, rock, guitar music of all types, while across the borough you will find grime, so many incarnations of metal, acoustic, electronic, hardcore and everything in between.

Some say the cool culture has moved on elsewhere – to east London and beyond – but Camden has a space for it all. The Camden Assembly can comfortably compete with the most hipster of line-ups, while the Underworld will give those many bands with deathly names and their cult of fans a welcoming home.

The Roundhouse can offer space to the biggest acts in the world at the same time as supporting rising artists with its year-round programme, while the Devonshire Arms, with its hobgoblins, spider webs and truly alternative clientele, lives comfortably in this microcosm alongside the mainstream bastion of MTV Studios across the road.

We talk about the famous festivals – in Hyde Park, Finsbury Park, Victoria Park and elsewhere – but what about Desertfest?

It may not be quite as well known but, now in its ninth year in London, this celebration of doom, stoner rock and pych, with an arguably smaller line-up playing across just four Camden venues – Electric Ballroom, the Underworld, Black Heart and the Devonshire Arms – can command ticket prices of similar clout, with a three-day pass starting at £110 and accommodation packages nearing £300.

This year’s event, which takes place between May 1 and 3, will feature the likes of Masters of Reality making their first UK appearance in five years, North Carolina’s Corrosion of Conformity, London doom/death metal band Orange Goblin, California’s Brant Bjork (former drummer with Kyuss and Fu Manchu) and primal blues-rock duo The Picturebooks.

Veteran Londoners Orange Goblin mark a colossal anniversary for their headline appearance. Frontman Ben Ward said: “As Orange Goblin celebrates 25 years as a band, we can think of no better place to start the celebrations than at Desertfest London, in our hometown.

“Having played the first ever Desertfest back in 2012, and having watched it grow into the monster it has now become, it is a huge honour for us to be a part of the 2020 line-up. We will be touching on all eras of the band’s career for a set that defines Orange Goblin and the special rapport that we share with our London fans.”

And there’s a treat from heavy doom connoisseurs Conan, who will be playing their celebrated 2012 album, Monnos, in full.

One thing is clear, Desertfest encapsulates a variety of almost poetic sub-genres. Masters of Reality, one of the most influential bands in desert rock history, combine hard-rock blues with an experimental progressive tinge. From their inception in 1981, signing to Def Jam Records in 1986, their alternating line-ups have welcomed Ginger Baker, Josh Homme, Mark Lanegan and Dave Catching over the years.

London’s Green Lung bring a touch of psychedelic occult doom, while The Brothers Keg describe themselves as hyper-lysergic space sludge. There’s Possessor for horror fanatics looking for a mash-up of thrash, punk and fuzz, and a switch in tempo with a more melodic element introduced by the ethereal vocals of Black Orchids frontwoman Kay Elizabeth.

You’ll also find Swedish doom legend Witchcraft, sludge-punk from Pissed Jeans, more sludge from Raging Speedhorn, Greek psychedelic grooves from Naxatras, an unlikely combo of doom metal and Americana from Huntsmen and some stoner fuzz and 90s grunge from Fire Down Below. Other names on the line-up include: Swedish hard-rock exports Graveyard, and fellow countrymen Lowrider, who play a rare live performance returning with their first record in almost two decades, and two-man powerhouse Big Business, the creation of former Melvin’s bassist Jarred Warren and former Murder City Devils drummer Coady Willis.

Also, Somali Yacht Club, Khemmis, Maidavale, Hexis, Firebreather, The Hazytones, Opium Lord, King Witch, Gurt, Alunah, Tides of Sulfur, Doomicidal, Under, A Gazillion Angry Mexicans and Dunes.

Visit for the full line-up and tickets.


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