Desertfest Belgium is one of those names that in the European stoner/doom scene has developed a reputation for a good party, a place to see your favorite bands and meet friends from around the world. In Belgium this festival just had its second run, and that means this big name festival still has the small intimate atmosphere so much revered by the scene they cater to. This weekend we are promised a feast of heavy with the occasional pallet cleanser of psych and as is wont at these sort of fests, it turned out the smallest room often held the biggest treasures.
On Friday, I arrive at the venue just able to catch the last notes of Planet of Zeus, having gotten stuck in the traffic nightmare that envelops Antwerp every Friday afternoon. Exploring the labyrinthine venue of Trix took some doing, but after getting out bearings, finding the food and drink stands outside and a look around the merch stands it is nearly time for Monolord to open the main stage. This Swedish riff lovers are mentioned next to some of the heavyweights of low and slow riffing, like Yob and Sleep, and while they are excellent in their own rights, they somehow miss a bit of the magic that makes those two bands special for me. Maybe it is something this relatively young band will develop with time, having only started in 2013.
After Monolord, I decide to see some Belgian talent in the form of The Heavy Crown. These 70s stoner inspired rockers, with a surprisingly smooth vocals are intriguing enough to keep me away from the Machine’s set for almost its full running time, and the organ parts really cut nicely through the riffs. Next up is Moon Duo, making their hypnotic trance like psychadelica on the Desert Stage.. Somehow these guys make excellent psych but do nothing special for me. A really static visual show with some sort of tripped out projections don’t add much either. Wucan are by far the most interesting band in the 60s and 70s inspired folk prog rock, feeling like they stepped right out of the era. Flutes, synths, theatrical book reading and even a Theremin are toted out during the set. No wonder it’s nearly too busy to get to the front and snap a few photos. These guys are one of those undiscovered gems you got to a festival like Desertfest for.
By the time they’re finished and people have milled out of the room, I realize I’ve missed Stoned Jesus, and move to the Desert stage to get a decent spot for Dozer. The vocals are strangely light and thin when you hear the beefyness of the rest of the music, but it’s obvious these guys come from the same tradition as Kyuss. They have that big American “desert rock” sound; that somehow can only be acquired by leaving your band to mature and dry out in the heat and the sand.