DESERTFEST BERLIN celebrated its 10th anniversary with an insane 4-day lineup of fuzzy madness. From core stoner rock to psych, doom, sludge, post-hardcore, crazy rock’n’roll or punk grunge, this year’s bill got literally everyone excited. There was something for every fuzz lover out there. At the end of May, as I arrived on site, I understood what I signed for. A celebration for true worshippers, a return to the roots in Berlin in all its beauty and craziness. A big party, a family reunion. (PHOTOS: Anders Oddsberg)
Thursday 26th May 2022.
It’s time to see familiar faces, hang out with our French Lords of the Valley, meet some old Hamburg friends and salute a few long-lost Turbojugend pals. With their 70s rock adorned with a psych and prog flare, Vug take some more modern paths as they venture into Torche or Baroness territory in a classy fashion. Then come the post-metal vibes of Polymoon in front of a crowd that is probably too sober to enjoy it fully.
On the main stage, Samavayo allow us to live in the moment. We are at mothafuckin’ DesertFest, goddammit! Finally, we all start to levitate, we enjoy ourselves on riffs that are way too heavy for our own good. The party has properly started and we know it’s going to be beautiful. A touch of sweetness follows with Los Bitchos‘ psychedelic surf rock. A fun set but it is again too early to switch the mood that drastically.
Time for elevation. My Sleeping Karma hit the main stage in front of at least 99,9% of the ticket holders. Despite some sound issues, the German bring us into their oddly specific musical trance. What a delight. Maidavale are next but it’s dinner time… Their set definitely win over a rather big crowd though. Witchcraft are one of today’s headliners and I’m left with rather mixed feelings, mostly due to a very unsettling setlist and technical issues forcing the guitarist to entertain the audience in between songs. While the songs have their moments, the band does not seem to belong to that main stage (at least, anymore).
We wrap up that first day with the bosses, the locals, the godfathers: Kadavar. First surprise, their drummer shaved his head. It makes my bald self quite proud: talent cannot be measured by the length of your hair anymore! For one hour and a half, the band delivers all the classics as well as a few deep cuts such as “The Old Man”. Sole bad point on the horizon, the sound on the main stage is far from correct for such a show. Lupus’ vocals are barely audible and drums are so loud and reverb-laden that it drowns everything else as soon as it starts hitting. Let’s hope that we’ll get these issues sorted out tomorrow.
Friday 27th May 2022.
Love Machine. I had no expectations but even if I had, I would have been wrong. Imagine your weird uncle, the one that is so uncool that he turns out to be cool? Now picture him with an 80s haircut, bleached jeans that screams “I just repainted the hall”, and some illegally thin sunglasses. Now let’s say that dude is going for a karaoke session to pretend he’s a crooner while covering 70s rock hits. Somewhere between genius and a massacre: Love Machine. A UFO (Unknown Fuzzing Object) that many early birds enjoyed to kick off the day.
I already witness today’s good surprise with the psychedelic space rock of Tokyo’s Dhidalah. They might not reinvent the wheel but they still kill it on the main stage! We keep rolling in the same vibe with Temple Fang‘s experiment space rock, although I found it a tad less inspired. Right after that, Spirit Adrift deliver a needed dose of metal, a tribute to the NWOBHM just as much as to the American post-sludge scene. The band nailed it despite some sound issues (too much power for an already blown-out PA).
24/7 Diva Heaven come to slap us in the face with their riot grrrl revival, which is super catchy yet a tiny bit predictable and “safe” compared to their elders. Suddenly, we can hear the crowd beg for bagpipes. You guessed it, Villagers of Ioannina City are on the main stage. A well-crafted set, far more enjoyable than the one they delivered last fall in Antwerp. Definitely not my style but I can’t argue how well it’s delivered.
In a totally different fashion, Dvne offer us a top-notch performance. Amongst all the Mastodon-related bands of the past decade, they managed to catch our attention with their personal sonic identity and it definitely calls for heavy headbanging.
While most Yob fans are already waiting by the main stage, we’ll have to wait a bit more to see Mike Scheidt and its crew as they struggle through the sound check. Once again, the main stage sound isn’t good. Each and every time a band is too heavy, too loud or too bass-focused, the PA system dies. When the set finally starts, it’s pretty much all our organs that prolapse. We’ll have to wait for the handfed last tracks to be able to hear the nuances of their sophisticated heavy. Even a memorable rendition of “Adrift in the Ocean” won’t save the show. Kudos to the band who kept going full on despite these terrible sound conditions.
We have all the reasons to be scared when Electric Wizard hit the main stage. We couldn’t be wronger. They simply smash every single soul left on the battlefield with a gigantic sound and a perfectly mastered set. Stoner doom at its very best. Like it or you don’t but their legendary status is clearly well deserved.
Saturday 28th May 2022.
Enigma Experience has such a fitting name after all. This band has the weirdest stage outfit, name and artwork but clearly, they kill it on stage. In their robes, Dango and his peers prepare us for the upcoming marathon with a sound that is trippier, heavier and more adventurous than the guys who fight trucks.
Time for Black Rainbows on the main stage. Let’s be clear, there is just as much positive energy on stage as in the crowd. Quite a few new songs get played and even though the sound is once again a problem, the Italian unit keeps their status of stoner godfathers intact after this solid set. Time for a short break while I listen to Velvet Two Stripes‘ classic rock’n’roll from afar. Super well executed, super powerful, it helps me recharge my batteries for the next few busy hours!
There we are. The band everyone has been waiting for today… and the entire beginning of the 21st century. The band that conquered the stoner rock throne with only two albums in 20 years. The legendary Lowrider. A masterclass in 50 minutes. Just think about it, these guys come on stage in sweatpants and polo shirts yet you won’t find ONE single Desertfester that hasn’t ranked them as the best show of the weekend. Unbeatable and unstoppable, Lowrider set the new standards even with their thanking speech. Absolute class.
1000Mods kick off on the main stage. More and more accustomed to bigger audiences with their relentless touring, the band lost in spontaneity what they gained in control but it remains highly enjoyable. Londoners Steak took over the side stage with their Kyuss-inspired blend of alternative metal and grunge rock. Their set is delicate and well thought out. In between two mastodon acts, it could have been the death of them but they manage to convince an ever-growing audience as the set goes on!
This is the second set of the day for Dango, this time with Truckfighters who compensate their sound issues with their trademark energy and power. In his boxer outfit, Dango goes for his usual tricks while his two bandmates are also on a very good day. They’re having fun, they play oldies, and this makes everyone is happy.
We’re already knackered when Orange Goblin gets on the main stage. Yet again another massive band, we can say that it’s been a good night by the river Spree! Orange Goblin shows no mercy for the survivors. Taking as much from Black Sabbath as they do from Motörhead, they embody five decades of UK rock’n’roll science. It’s powerful, and perfectly executed and even for those that are not fans, it’s almost impossible to resist their pure rock energy. Here we are, completely full after treating ourselves too well for three days… but there’s still one last day to go!
Day 4: Sunday 29th May 2022
For this final day, we are welcomed by Sâver, with the heaviest set of the weekend, blending post hardcore, noise, sludge in such a violent mix. Yet’s it’s definitely a good way to let off steam. Just the time for us to stretch our muscles and Slomosa is on the main stage. While the vocals are not always perfectly hitting the right notes, they have such a positive vibe and bring so much joy to everyone that we can only fall in love. Nick Oliveri will even drop by for the last song of the last set of their tour together.
Time has come for me to interview a super secret band (you’ll hear about that soon) but I still managed to catch the end of Kaleidobolt quite a lot heavier than on record. It’s already time Stöner and it looks like everyone was waiting for them. Heavy, fuzzy, groovy, it’s the american school of stoner in front of us. Despite the sound issues inherent from the main stage, the crowd went absolutely bananas on the Kyuss covers « Gardenia » and « Green Machine ». Unbelievable.
It is probably my favorite band of the past years so it’s safe to say that the excitement was high when Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs on the side stage that they absolutely smashed. A masterclass in energy, humor, heaviness, power and psychedelia. Everything I love, time 7. Ufomammut spit their guts on the main stage with one of the loudest sets of the weekend. I must confess I was too tired to fully enjoy it. On the other side, Rotor gave the audience a great kick in the face with their groovy prog stoner.
That’s it, the final chapter of the Desertfest Berlin 2022. Elder and Baroness will hit the main stage back to back. Elder decided to attack on the heavy side to slowly guide us to their most atmospheric side. One hour of pure joy to end this weekend.
I’m a big fan of Baroness so my expectations were high, especially since I did not manage to catch them live since the Purple tour. And the least I can say is that I was in for a treat. All the colors were visited. A bit of Yellow and green to kick things off, some red, some blue and this insane run with « Chlorine and Wine », « If I have to wake up », « Fugue », a delight. Just like Kadavar two days prior, Baroness has the whole package and knows perfectly how to entertain the audience and occupy the stage. Gina gave us the show of our lives and John’s voice never seemed so powerful. A great gig to kick off their European tour and end this Desert Fest Berlin.
Exhausted after these four days, voiceless and feeling like every bone of my body was ready to break, I went back to bed but this time there won’t be the joyful feeling of seeing familiar faces and enjoying 10 amazing bands tomorrow. We’ll go back to our daily lives, glad of all these moments we shared, and a bit relieved that it is over for now, waiting for our next endeavors with the desert scene.
Festival highlights Lowrider, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Baroness, Dhidalah, Samavayo, My Sleeping Karma, Electric Wizard, Sâver.
Last modified: 5 July 2022