Next and last episode of that fat HELLFEST 2014 report. Until now, we can say this weekend in Clisson has been quite challenging, literally burning, and filled with… well, dust. We can also say that bands such as Clutch, Mos Generator and Electric Wizard have delivered among the most mind blowing performances of the festival so far. Yet it’s clearly on this last day that the rate of euphoria will reach peaks. Let’s close this 2014 edition on a triumphant note with Black Sabbath, Turbonegro, Lowrider, Crowbar, Blues Pills, Black Tusk and more. THANK YOU Hellfest for giving us such an amount of good music, craziness and, most of all, emotion. (PHOTOS : THC / Gaël Mathieu)
Did you know? It is humanly possible to wake up IN GREAT FORM on the last day of Hellfest. Yeah alright, going to bed at 11AM might have helped. The sun is once again invited to the party today, even though a few clouds are here to cool us down a little bit: why not starting the day on a fantastic succession of vintage rock acts, then?
Time for a super healthy breakfast with the golden kids of the 70’s rock revival wave: BLUES PILLS. Like many friends of mine, I wasn’t really sold on the idea of seeing them playing on the Mainstage… But in the end, the foursome sets the crowd on fire, with Elin Larsson’s fabulous on-stage presence and her three musicians’ unrivaled precision. The setlist goes more soul than rock (which doesn’t feel so bad, after two days of “fucking metaaaaaaaaal!!!”), yet the varied crowd shows a sincere enthusiasm from the beginning to the end, loudly cheering the band in between the songs. We all know Blues Pills haven’t reinvented the wheel – like most of the “revival bands” out there – but they execute their songs in such a perfect way, Larrson has such a natural charisma, that it really makes this band stand out from the pack. Let’s just hope this sheer talent won’t be spoilt by the big marketing machine that’s presently working in their shadow.
As soon as the gig is over, I head to the second Mainstage to see SCORPION CHILD. If these young hard rockers from Texas are not reinventing the wheel either, well, their performance is nothing but sexy and groovy, the center of attention being their magnetic frontman Aryn Jonathan. The combination of his powerful soprano voice with his Plant-esque attitude (and moves) is a real delight for the ears and eyes. I’ve got to say I would be completely unable to describe the other band members, inasmuch as this guy is stealing the show. What we have here is a very nice mix between Wolfmother and Soundgarden, and hell, it feels GOOD.
Next on the list are New-Orleans legendary sludge mongers CROWBAR. Under a blazing sun and with my bandana as an anti-dust mask, I’m attending the Mainstage… a bit reluctantly, once again. For Crowbar is one of those bands I’d rather enjoy in a more intimate context, but hey, I’m not going to complain! The distance that separates me and and my friend (and fellow journalist) Pierre-Antoine from the stage doesn’t prevent us from going apeshit, singing along on “High Rate Extinction”, “All I had I Gave”, “The Lasting Dose”, and offering a real air guitar/air vocals performance to the bemused people nearby. Songs from the last two records can be heavy as fuck, there’s nothing like a grand finale on the oh-so-classic and stirring “Planets Collide”. Even though there was a blatant lack of craziness from the crowd, and it was far from being the most exciting gig of the whole weekend, we leave the show with a struck dumb smile on our faces… Next, the Valley stage!
The day sort of started in a foxy way with both Blues Pills and Scorpion Child bewitching our ears, and my next rendez-vous is going to be just as sublime, with German rockers ZODIAC, a band who totally blew my mind at the last Desertfest London. After the novelty effect of the first time, I can now enjoy fully their fine classic rock tunes. Five songs suffice to blow a breathe of fresh air over the Valley, which has been smothering in thick riffs and dust for three days. Entrancing as they are, ZODIAC are nonetheless anything but cold, and constantly jump at every opportunity to interact with the crowd. Their handsome vocalist and guitarist Nick Van Delft keeps on making eye contact with people in the audience, which contributes to make the gig feel even more intense. Their wonderful cover of Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer” (that you can and MUST watch here) takes me to the guts so strongly, to the point when I cry (it had to happen…). The band ends the set with “Coming Home”, letting the whole crowd sing the chorus. We leave the tent 100% satisfied, with the feeling that we just lived a real moment of sharing. This third and last day of Hellfest is really FANTASTIC so far, my friends.
So yeah, even though I already saw them twice within only one year (for their first two shows in about ten years), LOWRIDER is a band I sure wouldn’t have missed at Hellfest, for their shows get you totally ADDICTED. Whether it’s due to the high rate of fuzz provided by their “forest rock” (the Swedish equivalent for desert rock, according to their frontman Peder Bergstrand) or the sympathy theses gentlemen inspire us. The Valley is crowded, ooooovercrowded… yet oddly, we feel like we’re in family right now. “Caravan” opens the show, and immediately the first rows start headbanging as if it was their last afternoon on Earth. Then comes the mighty “Dust Settlin'”, the trigger that always drives people seriously nuts. Fucking crowdsurfers, falling on me like the fucking rain. I resist for about ten or twenty minutes, driven by the need to get crazy front row, but the onslaught is more violent than I expected and forces me to take a couple of steps back. In front of such a psyched up audience, our Swedish dudes are smiling from ear to ear, while Peder Bergstrand decides to show us his language skills, making his speech in French in between the songs. With a couple of new songs, and a masterfully performed “Texas Part I & II” by the end of the gig, the band filled the fans’ hearts with bliss and won over the rest with brio. As far as I’m concerned, I just can’t walk straight for one minute or two after the show, like drunk with good rock music (don’t get me wrong, it’s only because of too much headbanging!)… Tchin tchin, Lowrider !
With a heavy punk sound that would probably fit more to the Warzone atmospheres, it’s still on the Valley Stage that three badass rednecks who go by the name of BLACK TUSK are set to raise hell. Because there’s no impregnable stage for the Savannah trio. With their characteristic wildness, the band delivers their unique and brutally heavy punk sludge, giving a massive kick in the butt to those who were starting to feel the after-affects of this long weekend. The three voices coupled with their relentless energy violently hits the crowd, making smiles appear on faces here and there. The Black Tusk fellas are obviously having a blast, yet some people still remain stone-faced… How is it even possible? Eh, I guess many people are exhausted or drunk, or both. Can’t wait to see the band again anyway!
After the beat-up, follows a vital break during which I meet my boys Mars Red Sky to debrief a little bit about the weekend. I intended to see DOZER at the Valley, for I’ve never seen them in good conditions (their sound was terrible at Desertfest 2013, and I was running an interview during their last London show in February), but I fail once again for reasons that escape me. Regretfully, the same thing happens for SOUNDGARDEN. After a quick detour by the Food Market or whatever it’s called, I stumble upon the LOWRIDER guys who just lost track of their guitarist Ola. As it would like looking for a needle in a haystack, we all decide to head to the Valley to see SPIRIT CARAVAN. When I first saw them in April at Desertfest, the only thing that got me thrilled was their insane drummer Henry Vasquez and his unbelievable power, and tonight again, that’s the only thing that makes an impression on me. Peder apparently shares my opinion, and decides to get back on the track of his guitarist (who was actually having beers with fans a few meters away from the tent).
The festival’s site is now fully packed for BLACK SABBATH. I’m only able to see the first half of the show – as UNIDA are soon to play on the Valley stage – and to be honest: apart from the emotion produced by the simple fact of hearing Tony Iommi’s legendary riffs resound at full volume in the air, the show leaves me quite cold. It feels like the band is playing in slow motion, and Ozzy’s catastrophic vocals is really not helping. With no question asked, I then rush to the Valley to see UNIDA. This decision probably makes up for some of my weekend’s “fails”. The Palm Desert outfit is off to a roaring start with their hot anthem “Wet Pussycat”, and proves to be in great form, even if John Garcia lets his bearded guitarist Arthur Seay do all of the talking. The night has felt a few hours ago, dust has also settled, yet it’s fucking 40°C in our heads right now, thanks to the band’s über sensual heavy rock. Swaying hips at a metal festival? I can ensure you that’s possible. Having goosebumps at a UNIDA gig is however the norm. Impossible not to feel anything during their long jam filled with Seay’s breathtaking solos. The show ends with the invigorating “Black Woman”… Anyone needs a cold shower? I sure do. Oh well, cold beer will do instead.
The ultimate gig of the festival had to be special, so there was no better band than those crazy motherfuckers TURBONEGRO to take care of the mission. We’re not even arrived at the Warzone that the british-norwegian outfit’s raving energy instantly takes possession of the last ounce of sanity I had left. After a whole weekend spent working, striding across the site, severely lacking of sleep, and basically restraining myself from partying, it’s time to go APESHIT. “All My Friends Are Dead”, “Wasted Again”, “Fuck The World”, “Get It On”, we get treated to a best-of setlist while charismatic vocalist Tony Sylvester throws a few jokes here and there, even making a reference to French subversive politician Dominique Strauss-Khan, right before blasting the even more subversive “Blow Me (like the wind)”.
We’ve now reached a general state of insanity in the Warzone, which has kind of been stirred up by the crude humour of our sailor in chief. After a short break, the guys hit the stage again for a generous encore of four songs, among which a cover of Dire Straits “Money For Nothing”. No pun intended, but after an hour of limitless – and uncensored – partying, climax is finally reached when the band starts playing “I Got Erection”… along with a brand new recruit who was randomly found hanging around the side of the stage: NICK OLIVERI! Wearing a sailor hat like the rest of the crew, we couldn’t dream a better guest to back up Turbonegro on the choruses as this sexy desert punk. It couldn’t get more epic, until the whole crowd starts to chant “wooohoooo, I got erection!”. Inevitably, the show comes to an end, a glitter canon explodes above the Warzone, and we all leave with wide smiles on our faces. This punktastic rock’n’roll gig was without a doubt one of the highlights of this exceptional weekend. Hellfest, YOU FUCKING ROCK. Damn, the comedown is going to be huge. Fortunately, both the Metal Corner and campsite will keep the party going for a couple more hours. There’s about to be some rude awakenings on Monday…
See you next year Hellfest…
Last modified: 10 February 2015