Desertfest London 2023 – Day 2

Written by Featured, Live

All aboard the Desertfest London 2023 train! Barely recovered from the first day and with the impending coronation in mind, we jump into this second day at Desertfest London. This Saturday is chock full of major acts (to be found on our review’s Picadilly Line) as well as plenty off-the-beaten-track peregrinations on our Northern Line. Choose your platform below and let’s go! (Photos: Tim Bugbee and Jessy Lotti // Text: Matt and Sofie Von Kelen)

Piccadilly Line: Passing through the major touristy spots, this line will take a few surprise detours. Your driver on this journey will be Matt and he wishes you a pleasant journey.

Northern Line: This will take you to an underground world full of discoveries, but it also calls at a few hubs with connections to the Piccadilly Line. This train is piloted by Sofie, who recommends that you hang on tight. 

Piccadilly Line


We kick off proceedings with Tons in a packed Black Heart. I’m totally into such Italian-bred sludge doom, although I must say that I wasn’t a big fan of their vocals on the album. And since a certain editor-in-chief urged me to be in the front row for the show, I ended up more than pleasantly surprised. As often with this subgenre, the band really takes on their full meaning on stage, and we’re on for an enjoyable headbanging session all throughout.

Fatso Jetson and Sean Wheeler

No sooner have Tons wrapped up than I rush to catch Fatso Jetson and Sean Wheeler at the Electric Ballroom. It’s also my chance to settle nicely for the next bands to play the venue today. I’m only catching the final tracks so it’s quite hard to get into it, but the audience seems won over. The charismatic Sean Wheeler keeps interacting with the crowd, the musicianship is tight, and goddamn these guys are just the epitome of cool. Jealousy.


I had never seen Dozer live before, and I loved it. Hard to compare with their usual performances, but the new songs blend in perfectly with the setlist and the band conveys great energy on stage. Anyway, now I can say that I heard the riff of “From Fire Fell” live, and it’s enough to put a lot of this weekend’s other performances to shame. My god, what a riff.

Tons (Photo: Tim Bugbee)


Of all the fat, sludgy, weed-worshipping bearded sludge bands, I’ve always had a soft spot for Weedeater. Having said that, I doubted their ability to kill it on a major stage like the Electric Ballroom’s but I was wrong: the energy reaches peaks, the crowd is 100% into it and the performance is delivered masterfully from start to finish. This is a true moment of communion. I’m not saying that because the Turbojugend London friends just stuffed themselves with the fattest shrooms I’ve ever seen. Out of a sense of professionalism, I refused their advances in between songs, though it didn’t spoil the experience in the least, as Weedeater was so damn good.


Let’s keep it short. Crowbar will always be Crowbar. The audience is on cloud nine, the sound is massive, the guys are happy to be here, and the tracks from the latest album truly pass the live test. Always a safe bet, Crowbar is your high-gain insurance policy.


Time for an impromptu story. Oreyeon’s set was off to a bad start, and for good reason: one of the guitarists had no sound once his pedals were on. As an eagle-eyed gear geek, I quickly figured out the problem but the stage guy told me to get off the Dev’s tiny stage without even double-checking. Irritated, the guitarist starts the set without any effect. As I noticed he was trying to look for a solution, I quickly explained the problem to him and after a brief moment of denial, he realized that I was indeed right. He’ll only have time to tune in properly as the set was already too far advanced to do much more. Why this digression? Well, because despite these technical glitches, the band delivered a top-notch set. And it’s this ability to cope with adversity (as well as a stage guy who is off-beam) that makes a good live band!

Telekinetic Yeti

At festivals like these, there’s always a moment of disappointment. The band we ticked off our running order and were looking forward to seeing so much, but who fails to live up to our expectations (which were probably too high anyway). This is what I experience with Telekinetic Yeti. I love their albums, especially the last one, which I consider a masterpiece. But tonight, the sound at the Powerhaus is terrible: muffled, twangy, too modern. The duo can hardly make up for it with increased on-stage energy, given their demanding setup (lots of pedalboard play). I only stay for a few songs and decide to catch them another time, hopefully under much better conditions.

Corrosion of Conformity

After a tussle with the security guy, who assures me that the show is over even though the band hasn’t even reached encore time, I’m allowed back into the Ballroom in time for “Clean My Wounds” and “Albatross”, which round off what was clearly one belter of a show. If I had a sharp tongue, I’d say that I didn’t need to see more, as these two songs in their extended jam version perfectly encapsulate COC: an undeniable stage presence, riffs as sharp as they are groovy, and that little “we’re the Metallica of people with good taste” quality will never cease to enchant me.

Corrosion Of Conformity (Photo : Jessy Lotti)

Northern Line


If, on this balmy Saturday, you’re at the Underworld waiting for the mists of your lie-in morning to clear, don’t worry: Tuskar is about to quickly set your head back on its axis. The Buckinghamshire duo manage the tour de force of being sludgy as fuck while reaching prog territories in their songwriting. With a fierce drummer-singer and a quite theatrical guitarist, the audience is taken on an emotional rollercoaster built around tracks reminiscent of a Western movie OST played by doomsters born and raised in DIY clubs. It’s not even 5 p.m. and this is the first slap in the face of a particularly memorable series…

Our Man in The Bronze Age

If there’s one band I’m really looking forward to on today’s highly tempting lineup at the Black Heart, this is one! Labeled as prog by some and post-doom by others, this five-piece from the same area as Tuskar are no rookies and treat us to a fun soundcheck with a typical British banter between the sound guy and musicians. A quick show inside the show. And off we go for 50 minutes of multi-faceted prog between melodic buildups and insanely heavy parts. Tom Plat and Graham Hulbert battle it out for the most beautiful vocals, while the songs unfold like different adventures from the same book. The only downside: the sound is WAY too loud for this kind of music, which tends to detract us from the finesse of their performance.


The only instruction our editor Beeho gave me for this review was not to miss Deathchant, a band of hoodlums from L.A. whom I will interview a little later. They embody a new wave of heavy metal, with insane twin guitars, few vocals (which really isn’t an issue), and songs that flow so seamlessly that the whole set sounds like one juggernaut piece of music, leaving the band supercharged and the audience worn out. Fun festival fact: the two Californians I’ve been hanging out with since Thursday’s warm-up party are good friends of the band, and one of them, Ed, will even get a shout-out during the show.

An hour later, I finally manage to get hold of the band for a quick interview under the canal bridge. the merry band members answer my questions loosely, but not until we’ve all screamed verses of “Under The Bridge” in unison.

Church of the Cosmic Skull

I didn’t want to check out this band until I saw them. Or just enough to realize that I would love them. However, I certainly wasn’t ready for such an insane show and their atomic-heavy psych prog in the purest tradition of the 70s. Their drummer-singer (the third today) truly reminds me of Don Henley of The Eagles, both vocally and physically. The sound is so good that earplugs aren’t even necessary on the front row, and I’m stunned by this avalanche of backing vocalists and organ riffs on top of incredibly well-crafted breaks. The furious Nottingham outfit washes away my Deathchant-tainted ego, and I leave the venue in a state of hilarity, ready to sing my heads off at Dev on the cheekiest 80s hard FM tunes…

Unsane connection

Piccadilly Line: Unsane is insane (I had to do it, but in this case, the band is way less insane than the fans). Sofie and I sneak into a rammed Underworld. We meet up with the guys from Tons as well as the Arrache Toi Un Oeil team and enjoy this outpouring of sophisticated violence. In the pit, moshing is the law and heads are constantly brushing against the two pillars in the center of the room, forcing me to look away from the stage to make sure there isn’t a bloodbath in the pit. This is by far the punkest and most nihilistic gig of this Desertfest, due to the trio’s attitude and relentless energy. Today’s biggest slap in the face without a doubt.

Northern line: Indeed, Unsane rocks as standard and the Underworld is just the perfect venue for them. The performance is tight as hell, powerful and clean yet not aseptic, 100% New York style.

Unsane (Photo: Tim Bugbee)

Last stop

The Dev afterparty on this Saturday night has been… MAGIC! The DJ — a cross between Joan Jett and an anime character — delivers the kitschest and catchiest hard rock tunes from the past 50 years. Every festival-goer instantly falls for this badass siren who embodies the London metal chick style. The last ones standing bawl, wriggle around the bar’s poles (obviously diverted from their original purpose), howl or turn into air guitarists, all washed down with gin and tonic, cheap red wine, or the last kegs of beer left…

The atmosphere is incredible until the depths of the night. Exhausted but happy, our eyes full of glitter, we all crash in our beds, longing for the next day to end just as wildly.

Last modified: 19 June 2023