Monday, May 08, 2017

Fear & Loathing at Desert Fest 2017 - Part 2


Day 2 



9:48am.


 I woke with the warm sun on my face, and a napkin. Saturday seemed to be beginning in much the same conscious state that Friday ended. Although I woke up spooning an empty Dominos pizza box and half empty bottle of Fanta. After praising a deity I don’t believe in for leaving me with orangey sustenance within arms reach, I checked my phone for some kind of pictographic evidence to try and piece together the latter of the previous night’s escapades. Through bleary eyes, well eye (I was still having to keep one closed to focus) I flicked through the photo’s…
Only one single, picture from the day before...


That was it. I’ll guess I’ll have to ask around. 

There wasn’t much of a hangover to speak of, which was disconcerting. Past experience has told me to expect a full scale biological assault on every one of my senses within the next two to four hours. Brace for a slow and impending death. 
Once able to focus with both eyes I got washed and dressed, rolled a joint of salvia and headed back out in the hope of catching Sonic Gypsy. 

I didn’t. 

The saliva hit me like a tennis racket to the face. Seemingly unlocking all the residual narcotics flowing throughout my blood stream and sending every last scrap directly to the centre of my brain. I fetched myself a pint of Guinness in the hope it would straighten me out enough to successfully converse with strangers. It seemed to do the trick. One of the chaps from Morass Of Molasses found me and struck up conversation. For the life of me I can’t recall what we talked about, but we seemed to hit it off and ended up chatting for some time. 
Most of the day flew by in a bit of a haze. There was a Chinese food buffet washed down with red wine (it seemed like a wise idea at the time) followed by gin and tonic by the canal. It all sounds very civilised, but in reality we must have looked like goth hobo’s to the passing general public. Thankfully this is Camden, and the whole goth hobo look is writhe on every corner, so I doubt anyone other than Asian tourists batted an eyelid after stumbling upon us. 



Following a brisk romp back, the first band I managed to catch was Iron Witch, raising hell upstairs in the Black Heart. We’d rocked up a little on the late side and the queue to see them was trailing down the stairs and along the side of the bar. We finally managed to fight our way in with just two songs left to spare. The Liverpudlians and certainly drawn a hell of crowd. Over the sprawling sweaty masses of heads and shoulders I could just make out a number of crusty dreadlocks whipping around and the occasional guitar headstock. The roar was deafening, even through my earplugs that I’d thankfully not managed to loose the night before. It was safe to say the guys were killing it.

As the set wound down and the rising in everyones ears began we were unceremoniously washed back down the stairs by the crowd evidently desperate for a gasp of fresh air. Taking a quick glance at the days stage times we high tailed it back over to The Underworld to catch most of Celeste’s set. I’ve been told to check them out on multiple occasions but I have to admit they’re not a band I’m all that familiar with. I would advise though, not to catch them while tripping your balls off. Their dark post metal ambience coupled with their unique stage show consisting of dry ice and red head torches is enough to strike fear into even the most seasoned psychonaut. Even stood way towards the back I was hit full on with a mix of both wonderment and fear by the sonic and visual experience. Not usually my go-to genre I was still left highly impressed by the French black metal quartet. It’s also worth mentioning, they easily won the prize for best merch of the weekend in my book too. 

Following their set, which I wish I’d got to catch more of we all headed off to find food. Casually forgetting Inter Arma were up next and I was looking forward to checking them out. By the time we returned the stage was empty and the masses were heading out. Piss poor timing. Not to be deterred and now at a bit of a loose end we headed back stage and before I knew it I found myself drinking with the guys. Trey (I believe - my face-to-name recollection is awful even when I’m sober) asked if I had ‘anything’ on me. I pushed all the empty cans and bottles on the table to one side and began emptying my pockets. Oli began laughing at the stunned faces looking down and the ever increasing pile of narcotics in the centre of the table. 

“Whats this” someone asked reaching down to pick up a bag.

“Mimosa” I replied. “You can make a drink out of it or just chew it… Right, thats the lot”.
“Jesus fucking christ”! 

“He’s like a wizard”
Oli responded, patting me on the back and handing me another can.

“Whats this”!?
 
“That’s ether. Careful with that shit, don’t smoke around it”. At which point I snatched it from their hands. “We’ll probably get into this rotten shit later on”. 

After introductions, lines were racked, drinks exchanged and the inevitable questions began flowing. All until I scrambled around in my pockets and pulled out another bag, handed two of the guys a bag and told them to eat.

The room when quiet. 

“What are they”? 

“Dried shrooms dude, just in capsule form”.

“Great, I love shrooms”!


They both took a couple of the small musty looking capsules and threw them back. 

“You’ll need a couple more”.

I pushed two more into their hands. Glancing concerned looks at each other they nervously swallowed them too. Looking down at the mere two I had left, I announced that two would be no bloody use to me so handed them over.

“Oh, I think I’ve had enough”.

“You can fuck that sky high mate. Stop being a pussy. Two won’t touch me, take them.” 


Now, with a slight look of terror in their eyes they reluctantly washed them down with the provided lager. 
The overwhelming sense of the room was nervousness, and I could feel eyes darting back and forth between me and my two “science experiments”.

“If I'm out there naked on the intersection later, please will you bring me back in”.

“Sure thing man”.


At which point I patted them on the shoulders, said “I’ll see you on the other side” and strolled just in time to catch Scissorfight clearing all their equipment from the stage. I felt like overstayed my welcome and without me realising Oli had wondered off. The guys were lovely, but I became acutely aware that I was stood there in silence for prolonged periods of time and it was no doubt becoming awkward as fuck. To them some random guy and his enormous friend and bust into their dressing room and instantly plied them with exotic weird and wonderful narcotics before even introducing themselves. Oh, and they were knocking back our beers at an alarming rate too. No, it was most certainly time for me to retreat, so I headed to the bar to grab some more whiskey before trying to locate someone I knew. As I downed my drink it dawned on me that I’d left something on the table backstage. I wondered back and the guys were all stood in a circle around said table peering down at it. I excused myself and reached between them to pick up the small brown bottle and pipette they were staring at. I held it up to the light and saw it was still at the same level I’d left it at. 

“I knew none of you fuckers would be dumb enough to touch this shit”. I said and placed it back into my jacket pocket. 
They all laughed as I turned to the fridge, grabbed a beer said “I’m taking this. See y’all later” before walking out. I felt I’d left on a slightly better note this time and happily strolled to once again find someone I knew. 


This proved to be pretty unsuccessful and after aimlessly walking in circles I opted to return back to the dressing room… Everyones faces were different. Wait, what had I taken? Had it just kicked in?… Evidently looking completely baffled, Matt explained that Inter Arma had gone and he subsequently introduced me to Bongzilla. Mike shook my hand and asks “are you the chemist guy”? I squint and turn to Oli who had happened to spot me and followed me in. 

“Oh yeah, people are calling you The Chemist now”. 
 
Sweet! 

“I guess I am then”. 

“Have you got any coke”? 

“You don’t beat around the bush do you”
I smile and Mike pats me on the back. 
We’re all stood around chatting for a while when a voice from behind shouts “on in five minutes”! At which point a monster of a joint is thrust towards my chest. 

“Oh, go on then” I mutter and I take a big drag.
For some reason waiting for me to fully inhale first, I hear Oli whisper in my ear “Thats all weed” …I look down at the faint green phallic looking thing between my fingers and cough.
Heartily. 

Oh, I’m going to regret this I think, before foolishly taking another hit and handing it back. 
Now, I’ve smoked on and off for a number of years, but when I do I tend to be no good for anything. I’ll happily just sit in a comfy chair and laugh myself silly. With that in mind, I’m in complete awe of Bongzilla. Anyone who’d have walked into that room five minutes prior to them hitting the stage would have been met by the most overwhelming contact high alone. Seriously, it was like someone had a dry ice machine in there. How they’re able to maintain such a tight set after smoking that much is nothing short of a miracle. But that they did. I watched in awe as they blistered through their first of two sets planned for the London audience. This set, consisting solely of their early work, got straight off to a thunderous start. Bathed in their token green light they instantly began to melt the faces of the completely packed out Underworld crowd. I wish I could offer a more detailed description of the show, but having smoked with them prior, and now standing just three feet from the the band I’ve been dying to catch for around 15 years now, it was all I could do to stand there utterly transfixed. It all went by in a gut rumbling, green, endorphin releasing blur. I evidently wasn’t the only one that enjoyed the spectacle, as during their final song I looked down to see one girl in the front row below me, passed out, face down on the edge of the stage. This picture really typifies the whole show… 





 In some what of a euphoric state, I don’t recall much of the following hour or so or actually leaving The Underworld. My next memory is talking to an old rocker outside of The Black Heart, who kindly gave me a cigarette as it had just dawned on me I’d left nearly a whole pack of Lucky Strikes and the remainder of my weed elsewhere. I recall discussing the role of Sabbath in influencing the likes of Sleep, The Obsessed and Yob. The pros and cons of prog rock and Triumph bikes. I told him how my old man had grew up in Aston and had seen Sabbath’s very first gig after changing their name from Earth. He hugged me, offered me another cigarette and I politely excused myself. What ever it was I’d taken earlier was beginning to wear off and I needed to maintain. I fought my way to the bar where someone handed me a rum and coke. Oh, sweet sweet sustenance. Around this time Oli returned grinning from ear to ear in his trade mark way. I explained that what ever the fuck I’d taken had run its course and I was now beginning to lag. 

“Thats the ether”.
 
“What?!”
I shouted back. 

“The ether, don’t you remember? We huffed it before Bongzilla”!

Well, shit. That explains my loss of basic motor skills and inability to maintain a steady trajectory. I knew we’d get into that rotten shit sooner rather than later. 

“Here, take this”. 

As a small baggy was pushed into my hands. What a life saver. 

On the way to ‘refuel’ Mike from Bongzilla ambushed me once again. Plying me with a beer and asking me if I could find him any “stuff”.
“Ah, some dusty showbiz? Follow me my good man”! 

It’s a weird scenario being locked in a toilet cubicle with one of your musical idols, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. It’s not the first time I’ve found myself in this predicament either. Similar instances have occurred with guys from Eyehategod, Raging Speedhorn and most of Church of Misery to name just a few. The surreal-ness of this position never fails to astound. You take the hit, stand up, then proceed to try and make small talk, before one of you comes down just enough to realise that you’re both stood in a dank, shit smelling, cramped box, chatting bollocks, mere inches from each others faces. At which point the more compos of the two of you reaches for the lock and excuses themselves. 
So, as Mike opened the door and left, Oli returned asking for his stash back. 

“FUCK! Mike’s got it!” 

Luckily Oli was able to explain that this was a misunderstanding and retrieve his hard earned devil’s dandruff. It’s a good job that big ol’ bastard loves me, because although out of it, that was a dick move on my part. 
Suitable scorned, and with recompense made in the form of a beer, we continued the night sat at the bar occasionally getting up to request songs from Julia, who was doing and absolutely stellar job of DJ’ing. 
My final recollection of the night was singing along to Queen then yodelling to Hocus Pocus by Focus with a compete stranger, before deciding enough was enough and staggering my way back in the general direction of my bed.

 End of day 2.

 ~