Like last year, and probably next year as well, the Trix stages were dubbed 'Vulture Stage', 'Canyon Stage' and 'Desert Stage', a bit to the confusion of some regular Trix visitors who just call them 'café', 'upstairs' or 'the big hall'. Next to the Vulture Stage was a place where people could get some cash, only to spend it all at the merchandise area or at the food trucks outside. About those food-trucks, these were great again but looking at the smoothies-guy's face, his fruit probably was kinda sour. No wonder he wasn't there anymore on Sunday.
But, rest assured. That was the only person with a sad/angry/bittered face on the whole festival. Everyone else's emotions ranged from 'quite happy to be here' to 'fuck yeah, Desert-fucking-fest'. Even the 'sanitary catering' people (yes, that's what was printed on their t-shirts) were smiling, hard working and very friendly. Besides, because drinks are now €2.40 at Trix, they decided to compensate by no longer asking money to pee or poo. So no piss-pass this year.
Although there were less people than last year, there was still a cozy chaos in and around the venue. People walking from stage to stage, journalists interviewing artists, security people who were having a good time, instruments being dragged everywhere... From the sky it must have looked like a very busy ant-colony. In a way it was fun to observe all those different characters move around in their own way, minding their own business.
In the midst of it all, there seemed to be one central plant in this Desert. I think many people should have been happy that there's was no police around. But what can you expect from a 'Stoner-rock' festival with names like 'Stoned Jesus', 'Belzebong' or 'Bongzilla' in the line-up? On Saturday I overheard two people who found each other because of a joint one of them was smoking talking about starting a band. Who knows, maybe we'll see them at Desertfest next year.
Right, on to the music then.
Friday (I'm in fuzz)
The first thing I noticed about all the bands so far, including The Machine, were the vocals. Either there was a problem with the PA or the vocalists were tired. Musically, everything was perfectly fine but there was always something with the voices. When I spoke to a friend, he agreed, something was wrong. Of course, that didn't apply to Moon Duo who became highlight number two with their brilliant immersive kraut-space-rock. At this point I suddenly came to a conclusion: stoner girls dance sexier than goth girls.
Downstairs, Dozer headlined this day and did quite good but, like many people, I was still heavily impressed with what I had witnessed upstairs so I didn't really get into it. Of course, Dozer is a highly experienced band who have been around for quite some time now and they certainly entertained the audience. Yet, no musical orgasms anymore on Friday. Others? Maybe, but I'm not going into that. In stead, I took my raging speed monster back home for a good sleep.
But then Belzebong appeared on stage and really kicked off the day. Instrumental stoner doom, dedicated to the most beloved plant in the world, can't be bad, can it? Nope, this was massively crushing and so delightfully intense. They opened by raising their guitars up in the air, showing the words 'Smoke', 'Weed' and 'Now'. For once, the audience was very obedient and smoke started appearing everywhere. The security watched the whole thing with a smile on their faces and so did I. It seemed like this quartet was currently leading the ranks.
I enjoyed Monomyth sitting down, floating along with the brilliant sounds that this Dutch band created. I remember mentioning 'instrumental rock from Holland' as an absolute pro in my review for their album a while ago and here it was no different. Monomyth is awesome and entranced the entire Desert Stage, both with their music and with their visuals. And yes, those sexy stoner girls were dancing again. Another highlight.
By now I had seen so many bands killing it on stage that Greenleaf became as mildly entertaining as Dozer was the day before. Again, decent set but nothing memorable at this time. It seems that some bands just fall victim to the vast amount of quality bands on other stages. Even though I really wanted to see every single band (I deliberately didn't schedule any interviews in order to focus on the performances), I still missed a few. I did have some nice conversations with people, so nothing's lost.
Yes, Orange Goblin was great as Orange Goblin is always great. These stoner rockers have been around for years and they still deliver. Yet, for some reason I have never been a big fan. In fact, for me the band has always had the 'nice festival band' reputation. I always watch them when they're at a festival where I am and they're always good but for some reason they're never the best. Yet, you don't have to be the best to entertain a large audience. 'Very good' is good enough, right?
The final band I went to see was the mighty Earth, and yes, they were mighty. Just like Moon Duo a day earlier, I enjoyed most of the show sitting down, eyes closed and drifting away with the masterful psychedelic drones. This was a perfect closer for what turned out to be the top-day of Desertfest Belgium. Once again, and still with the sound of Earth stuck in my head, I drove back home.
Sunday (Hazy Sunday)
Yet, soon after, I experienced a little dip. As a result Crystal Head, FeverDog and Tangled Horns quickly faded away in my memory. I do recall decent sets but very vaguely. It couldn't have been the alcohol since I was still completely sober. Maybe that was the problem, being too sober. I do remember seeing a great set from Glowsun. Instrumental stoner rock with hints of psychedelica is always welcome here so I decided to stick around for a while.
Both Maudlin and Papir came up with great sets. For Maudlin it had been a long time and it was the first time I saw Papir. I can't say that I'm nows a big fan of both bands but I do feel like they both have something special going on, each in their own way. Maudlin eventually won the battle between the two and I was glad to be able to listen to some decent post-rock related music for a change.
Back in the club, 3rd Ear Experience surprised me in a similar way as Wucan did earlier. They once again provided a save, original and soothing haven in the middle of this loud, chaotic and quite crowded day. I didn't see the entire set but I really like what I saw and heard. So I decided to put my ass down and enjoy this psychedelic trip for a while. However, suddenly I found myself in the middle of an animated conversation again with someone I have no idea who he is and with some friends.
After that, I went to see Child for a few minutes, decided to see what Fatso Jetson was doing upstairs, only to end back downstairs, being completely amazed by the fuzzy blues rock of Child. Where I wasn't really into their music in the first few minutes, by the end of their set I was become a fan. Well-played, great raw vocals and a very strong atmosphere made Child another great surprise on this already packed festival. And Fatso Jetson? Well, I know they're the godfathers of stoner rock as we know it but I wasn't really into it.
However, in all, this was an excellent trip with some amazing highlights and little to no disappointments. As usual, the whole was very well organised and everyone had a great time. I have to say that the 2014 edition was slightly better but you can't always win I guess. The exclusivity-contract that Incubate had with Melvins, surely damaged the line-up a bit but King Buzzo and company will probably show up next year and the rest of the bands made up for a great weekend anyway.
Finally: my Top-10 of the festival
4. Stoned Jesus
6. Vandal X
9. Moon Duo
p.s. Sorry about the bad photos. I didn't feel like dragging along my camera :-)