Desert HEL 2022 – day 2 (23/04/2022)

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There is Desertfest Antwerp, Berlin, London,… but nothing of the sorts in Finland despite a pretty active stoner/psychedelic/doom scene. Time to change something about that, some people were clearly thinking. Enter the first ever Desert Hel festival for the heaviest stoner and doom music from Finnish shores and beyond. It promised to be a weekend full of loud & fuzzy shows, craft beer and psychedelic visuals and hopefully the start of a new yearly tradition after having to postpone it several times due to the pandemic! After a first night that pretty much filled On The Rocks to the brim, we were really looking forward what the Saturday night would give with shows from Khat Moses, Kaiser, Thermate, the by us much anticipated return to the stage of local rock heroes Blue Eyed Sons and the Norwegian rockers of Lonely Kamel as headliners!


Khat Moses

Opening up the second night and promising a good serving of rock ‘n’ roll were the guys of Khat Moses. Having released their debut album ‘Decadence’ only last year and seemingly haven’t been going around all that much yet, it was cool to see that they had a dedicated group of fans (or friends?) with them that were cheering them on and dancing straight from the start. But even without that group, the venue was already filling up quite nicely and the performance clearly convinced a whole lot of the people already there. What we got was that promised rock ‘n’ roll under the form of some tasty guitar riffing and a frontman that had a feverish kind of rock ‘n’ roll/punk attitude on stage. The pleasure to be on a stage and sheer fun they were having playing together was all too clear and it rubbed off on all of us, ending with loud cheers and big smiles when these dudes wrapped up their set.

Kaiser

Kaiser in turn was a whole other beast. The trio cranked out some of the tastiest riffs and grooves with their stoner metal/rock and set the room on fire quite early on in the night. Major bands in the desert/stoner sound like Kyuss and Red Fang easily sprung to mind and the energetic, groovy music blasting from the speakers quickly got everyone nodding along with their heads. Vocalist/guitarist Otu threw himself completely into the music with regular screams of excitement and so did drummer RiQ, banging the skins as if he was trying to kill something. The absolutely banging music was expertly guided by the rumbling basslines from the more stoic bassist Pex and their show was definitely one of the more intense ones of the night, almost on par with DÖ’s show of the night before. A very pleasant meeting that got me pumped up for the rest of the night!

Thermate

Thermate is a substance that can generate very high temperatures, but also a Finnish fuzz rock/stoner metal outfit that in a similar way raised the temperatures pretty high with the bursts of energy coming from them. Their blend of 70’s rock inspirations with 90’s stoner raised the groove banner yet again, but this time with sort of a southern rock twang. Guitarists Juuso and Mikko regularly found each other for a friendly guitar duel, while bassist Jere and drummer Kimmo were doing their thing to keep the rhythms up and running. Add to that the very energetic and attention demanding stage presence by vocalist Arthur, who literally threw himself around and whipped his long hairs to the music and showed to us how to properly rock out, and you’re in for a rock ‘n’ roll ride that is over before you realize it. These guys really rocked the house!

Blue Eyed Sons

And then it was finally time for the show that a bunch of us had been looking forward to ever since it was announced… the glorious return of Blue Eyed Sons! They clearly hadn’t been forgotten yet and people were obviously hungry for their blues rock inspired by some of the greats like The Doors and Led Zeppelin. The space in front of the stage pretty much filled up as if they were the actual headliner and once the room got dark and a moody intro hit the speakers, the whole crowd welcomed the band on stage with loud cheers. They returned from the dead and really thoroughly showed us how alive they actually still are. And they even grew a little bit with the addition of a keyboardist, at least for this reunion show. Vocalist Joel came on stage with his signature painted chest and upper arms and quickly conquered our hearts again with his amazing vocal talents and enigmatic stage presence, while the guys surrounding him were really throwing themselves in the music. The setlist brought us some classics and fan favorites from them like ‘Witches‘ and ‘Cold Blooded Man‘ and much to my surprise they left out their signature Led Zeppelin cover of ‘Immigrant Song’. But despite having to miss out on that track which always delivers live, this was an amazing return from these local rock heroes. I truly hope that they’re back properly and that this wasn’t a one time reunion show. And going on how the reaction was of the crowd, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Blue Eyed Sons, we hope you’re back to stay!

Lonely Kamel

And to round up what was an amazing 2 nights of great fuzz and rock ‘n’ roll, the Norwegians of Lonely Kamel took over the stage. The crowd grew into a size that was comparable to the night before and it seemed clear to me that there were a whole lot of people that had been eagerly awaiting the return of these Norwegian rockers. Bathed in smoke and lights, they didn’t waste time and immediately rolled into some serious rocking. After a couple of tracks they expressed how happy they were to be back in Helsinki after what they estimated to be a 9 year gap. Let’s hope they don’t take as long to return to the Finnish shores, because everyone could use the serving of rock they stand for! They continued to rock the night away and were the perfect closer for a damn great first edition of Desert HEL.

This concluded the first edition of a very very promising festival. Looking at how much people actually showed up from early on and how packed the venue was with the headliners, we’re guessing there might be a follow-up edition next year! We’re hoping for it at least…

For more pics of the night, go check out the photo report here!

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