Desertfest. The yearly kick-off for Room Thirteen's festival season and an event we've thoroughly enjoyed covering over the years. Landing in Camden Town early on Friday afternoon there was that familiar buzz and haze surrounding the core venues as the incredibly loyal patrons of this entire scene were arriving in their droves.


First port of call for us was to head down to The Electric Ballroom to check out Jaye Jayle (11/13), an Alternative four-piece unit who hail from Louisville Kentucky. Not to 'spoil' the rest of this review, but Evan Patterson's crew delivered a strikingly impressive show and despite being the first band of the day for many in attendance they were actually one of the better performances of the entire weekend. Musically they're clearly not afraid to experiment with different sounds and bring quite a strong Mark Lanegan/Nick Cave vibe - absolutely well worth checking out if you're unfamiliar.

Following this powerful, dark, brooding show came HHY & The Macumbas (6/13), a group which certainly started off interesting enough but quite quickly appeared to largely bore most of the people at The Ballroom. Rhythmically intense, it felt like watching a darker version of the West End show Stomp.

With yet another change of pace, heading over to The Underworld, the incredibly brash Zig Zags (9/13) pulled a very strong crowd as they ripped through a heavy set with plenty of Punk energy injected throughout. Speaking of brash, following on from that were the utterly bonkers R.I.P. (10/13). Clutching on to a huge scythe for a microphone the energetic vocalist led the line and full on set the tone for an enjoyable and raucous performance.

On then to the weekend's first big headliner and the highly anticipated return of Om (9/13) to London. In true Om fashion, the trio wandered on stage to barely a smidgen of fanfare as a tremendous haze billowing out from both the venue smoke machines and the patron made smoke set the scene appropriately. What was instantly very clear though was that it was all just a bit quiet? Quiet enough for the vast majority of The Electric Ballroom to lose its buzz within a few short minutes and start chattering away. It was good, but not as amazing as it first threatened to be.

Over at The Black Heart, Skraeckoedlan (10/13) were delivering a very different style set as the energetic punk fuelled fuzz whipped up those who had looked for an alternative to Om in to an absolute frenzy. Think Truckfighters, but slightly more interesting.


First up for us on day two were Norwegian Noise-Rock outfit Arabrot (11/13) who swaggered around effortlessly with grace and dark brooding style. Kjetil Nernes has this imposing attitude which gives the Arabrot performance an enhanced feel - few more years of him working on this and the cult following for this group will definitely grow.

Next up in the same venue were Headless Kross (10/13) - an energetic Scottish maelstrom of groove-laden Sludge. Very popular set, they attracted a good sized crowd who were particularly vocal in showing their appreciation come the end of the set. Of a slightly different tone (honestly very slightly) Stoned Jesus (10/13) bring a slower, monotonous sound to proceedings and for the majority of the set they had most of the Electric Ballroom crowd stood completely in a trance. It felt like it dragged on a bit by the end, but a solid set nonetheless.

Headlining the Saturday night were a band very different to their Friday night counterparts. The Belgian Post-Metal beasts Amenra (11/13) were absolutely deafening and relentlessly in your face - again stark contrast to the night before. Their live show is designed to attempt for your senses to be bludgeoned, it makes for what feels like a genuinely tense atmosphere and is largely compelling. Excellent band who you should definitely check out live if you get the chance.


There's always that feeling on Desertfest Sunday of hazy, hungover sadness that it's all close to coming to an end, but that doesn't mean it doesn't bring its own level of madness and fun. With its continual expansion over the years, Desertfest's utilisation of The Roundhouse has become one of its great yearly traditions and all roads this year led to Fu Manchu taking to the legendary stage in their headlining slot.

First off for us on the Sunday are a band part of the consistently superb Holy Roar Records roster. With a performance as relentless as this Wren (11/13) frankly deserved a slot higher than the one they had. Dark and uncomfortable, the walls were absolutely sweating and hangovers were being dropkicked clean in to the air. What a band.

Next up was a foray in to The Devonshire Arms to check out The Black Deer Stage. What on earth is that we hear you ask? Well, Black Deer Festival is a new Americana & Country music taking place in Eridge Park between 21st-23rd June. Black Deer have got the likes of Brant Bjork, Steak, The Vintage Caravan and more and Desertfest subsequently hosted an excellent dose of what to expect later this month in a field in Kent. Before shuffling off to the other venues we checked out The Outlaw Orchestra (8/13) who certainly brought a bouncing level of energy to open things up. Chatting to other Desertfest patrons later in the day who had checked out some of the bands across this stage we hope and think this could be the start of a very fruitful relationship between Camden's premier Stoner/Sludge festival and Black Deer.

On entering The Roundhouse American Stoners Witch (10/13) had attracted a vast horde who greeted opening track Black Saint with a roar of appreciation and a level of enthusiasm which didn't drop for the entire set. This is a very popular band with the Desertfest patrons and we're certain we'll be seeing J Mascis' current project potentially gracing an even higher slot next time they're in town.

The time had come then for the Sunday night headliners to close out the Desertfest party. Surprisingly this is the first time Fu Manchu (10/13) have ever graced the festival and judging by the kind of reception they got we seriously doubt it'll be the last. The kicked things off with an absolute flurry, the energy from the band infecting every corner of the room before dropping off a little bit. Weird Beard proved to be a much needed injection in to a set which had begun to drift a little for the masses but for the pocket of die-hards down the front they simply couldn't get enough of it. It was a good set to close out Desertfest, maybe not quite up there with some of the performances they've had at Roundhouse in the past but solid nonetheless.

So there we have it! Another Desertfest London wrapped up in a ball of hazy, gigantic riffs. See you next year!