I had to take a moment when Desertfest New York was announced. I only had gotten to experience a real European Festival once in the last few years of my life and it was a game changer. Yet, I had yet to enjoy a Desertfest yet. The excitement I felt getting have this festival come practically to my backyard, and into two clubs I visit with regularity was just icing on the cake. If you love Stoner, Doom, and Psychedelic music, this festival is your true north and now we have a fest of our own like this in the USA.
Friday night was jam-packed for the pre-party at Saint Vitus Bar in Greenpoint. It was great seeing many friends in the scene, many industry types, and of course all the bands. Heavy Temple opened up with their new lineup, sounding strong as ever! High Tone Son of Bitch was a revelation live. I had been a fan of their music for some time, but it was killer to “fee” their power live. Plus, I never knew how cool it would feel to see twin frontmen, who both kind of looked like me (aka this genre’s demographic). Most people were hugely impressed.
Here Lies Man put on a great show, but got off to a poor start. They took what seemed like nearly an hour to sound check and set up. I respect these guys tremendously, but at a venue when the changeovers are lighting fast, this was weak. Their fans were out in force and they were stellar performers, but honestly, I had lost all interest halfway throughout their set and went to mingle. Black Cobra, by contrast, hit the stage in under fifteen minutes and straight up destroyed the place. It was madness. Series moshing, and even some crowd-surfing at a venue that doesn’t often see it. Sick, sick show.
Saturday moved over to Williamsburg’s The Well for the rest of the weekend. The huge sprawling club with a tiny indoor stage and a newly created for the fest pop up stage under a tarp outside was great. The small room is the second stage meant if you had your heart set on seeing someone, you had to get in there early. The plus side was the venue seems to encourage meeting new people, eating great food and drinking great beers. Great for the most part.
The unseasonably cold weather, even for April in New York could not dampen our spirits. Saturday’s opener was Electric Citizen who was positively incredible. They put on a headline type set early in the afternoon. The other early day highlights included a strong set by Tower, and a ripping display of shredding from Danava really set the bar high for the rest of the day.
One of the cool thing about Desertfest was the team that puts on Desertfest. They put their attention on the festival in the same manner that they do in Europe. It was really heartening to see the quality and price they take in everything they do building an unforgettable time for all to enjoy.
Other main stage bands included a supremely great set by The Skull and the anything but dull Weedeater! Weedeater coming on stage to the theme song from Golden Girls is burned into my brain now! Finally closing the outdoor stage was Windhand, who overcame some technical issues early to put on a stellar performance, really one of the finest of their career to my weather-beaten ears. Dorotea Cotrell’s incredible singing carried the day, but the entire band was on their “A” game. It seems improbable, but they keep getting better.
Two other killer sets I saw in the small room included Worshipper, pulling out a few new jams, and Steak who energized the entire little room with a wild performance more in line with Motorhead or The MC5 in their prime. They were so great that it kind of defied words. There was a guy next to me who just broke out crying into my shoulder as I held him. He was that ecstatic from joy. Or you know, drugs and booze. I’m a gid guy, so if you see me at a show, feel free to cry on my shoulder, get snot on my SLEEP patch on my vest, and yell unintelligible shit in my ear about Steak.
Day two was also at the well. The night before already a drunken blur for most when we arrived at the venue. Unearthly Trance, a last minute substitution for Fatso Jetson were incredible. I felt really proud that the turn out early was strong for them, and they said little and grooved hard. With a little weight in my steps, I kept drinking the free Stumptown Coffee in a can given out free by the DFNYC sponsor. It was pretty strong for when I needed to run to and from the small stage all day. Sun Voyer and Ruby The Hatchet also had very powerful early showings.
ASG was one of the main bands I came out to see the entire weekend. Criminally underrated and not often a visitor to Brooklyn, I got up front and proceeded to lose my damn mind to them. They were tight, looked like they had fun and sounded so great. Definitely in my top sets of the weekend.
Super shout out to the small merch team, who handled the entire DF merch of bands and the fests own gear. They slung shirts, answered questions and were generally supercool the entire time. It was neat to see everyone in the metal best vests and other garb festooned with random patches and pins from all over the world. Speaking of all over the world DFNYC pulled in fans from across America and across the world. It was great comparing notes and making new friends for all three days. Definitely a highlight!
As the main stage area filled with fans for the last few bands of the weekend, Monolord just killed it. So good at building atmosphere and drama with just a few riffs in each song, the place went nuts for them. Elder then brought us down and helped us space out and lose out minds.
Overall it was a helluva weekend. I can see this becoming a major American destination metal festival the way Maryland Deathfest has grown. Can’t wait for next year!
WORDS BY KEITH CHACHKES
PHOTOS BY DANTE TORRIERI OF USELESS REBEL IMAGING