Stoner Summer Madness: SonicBlast 2022
The arrival of August means the same thing every year for us – it’s time to go back to the best festival a stonerhead can wish for. And so, here we are, back to SonicBlast. But this time, we arrive at a somewhat different and definitely more alluring location. Due to certain circumstances, SonicBlast was forced to relocate but that only made things better in our opinion, as the sound of psychedelic rock is so much better when the beach is right next to its source. So, thank you, rich boomer fucks, enjoy your holidays with nothing going on.
A new location obviously brings its challenges, especially when it comes to camping, but we made our way to Âncora and the campsite with relative ease. With our tents pitched and our bellies full, we surveyed our surroundings, got a good look and feel of the beach, and got our wristbands. There was still some mild rumbling coming from the festival site – last minute details being tuned and whatnot. When it finally opened, we knew we were in for a nice treat – a stoner Summer madness trip was finally upon us once again, as we got ready to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of SonicBlast.
The craziness on the first day started with The Devil and The Almighty Blues. Still presenting their latest record, Tre, their show was pretty much the same as the last time they were at SonicBlast, with vocalist Arnt O. Andersen looking like a cult leader, while the rest of the band gave somewhat crazed looks to the crowd every so often. Next up was a jewel from the icy fjords of Norway called Slomosa. Being such a hyped band since the release of their eponymous debut, the anticipation was at an all-time high, and the quartet surpassed all expectations. What a damn good show it was; special note to the new members of the band, bassist Marie Moe and drummer Jard Hole, who performed relentlessly all throughout. A definite highlight of the festival. Things them got a bit damper with the more bland than entertaining performance of King Buffalo, but Meatbodies saved it a bit with their Sabbath-sized psych rock riffage. W.I.T.C.H. came afterwards, all the way from Zambia to show us what zamrock is all about. Despite the joyful happiness of frontman Emmanuel Jagari Chanda and the band’s output of classic prog music mixed with local Zambia vibes, the set fell a bit short of what was expected.
THE ALMIGHTY BLUES
With the arrival of a full moon in Aquarius, also came the mighty Nebula. Led by the unmistakable and very grey-haired Eddie Glass, the trio completed by bassist Tom Davies and drummer Michael Amster delivered a solid performance that heavily focused on their latest record, Transmission from Mothership Earth, which had been released just a few weeks prior. After them came Stöner, a new supergroup of sorts formed by ex-Kyuss members Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri. Having already seen them once at that point and feeling extremely disappointed, we thought that maybe the problem was the ambiance of the venue they were playing. It was not. In fact, we still have the thought that if it weren’t for the names attached to the band, no one would really give two shits about such bland and insipid, stoner melodies. The name of the band itself is a perfect analogy to it. But our feelings of disappointment quickly dissipated as it was time to witness once again the total maelstrom that is Toxic Shock. Last time they performed at SonicBlast, frontman Wouter Verhaegen jumped from the stage scaffolding straight to the pool. He couldn’t do that this time, but that didn’t stop him from engaging in some nifty shenanigans, including standing on the barriers and inciting crowdsurfing, moshing and circle pits. As for the concert itself, it was good ol’ crossover thrash, what more is there to say?
On the second day of this wonderful stonerhead resort vacation, we kicked off the party with a pleasant, folky and supernatural performance by Luna Vieja. The Machine followed up with a very chill and stress-free performance full of wonderful jams such as “Faceshift”, “Wave Cannon” and “Genau or Never”. Another incredibly hyped band came afterwards, the tremendous Green Lung. Presenting both their record, Woodland Rites and Black Harvest, for the very first time in Portugal, the British quintet delivered a rather enjoyable performance, which saw frontman Tom Templar armed with a rainbow-coloured Lucifer backpatch, a nice callback to the short film Lucifer Rising by Kenneth Anger. Majestic guitar riffs meet olde folklore sung in the most perfect of fashions – another definite highlight of the festival. Their fellow countrymen in Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs followed up with their own colossal blend of doom, sludge and rock n’ roll, an uncompromising mixture that left many absolutely dazed. Both El Perro and Frankie and the Witch Fingers performed afterwards but it was nothing too exciting to write home about.
Then came Conan. Purveyors of the so-called “caveman battle doom”, the British trio open up battlefields wherever they play, with their incessant barrage of monolithic riffs, crushing drum beats and vocal howling that resonates deep between mountains. No strangers to the audience of SonicBlast, and this time playing at night, Conan took the opportunity to take no prisoners, as they presented Evidence of Immortality, their latest bone-shattering opus. From the moment the first riffs of “Total Conquest” were heard, we could see bodies being flailed to the ground and the barriers by the sheer magnitude of Conan’s wall of sound. Legend says that so tremendous was the enthusiasm and sonic flagellation that the barriers almost broke. A much better performance this time around. Following such a devastating set is no easy task and we wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. But the Californian WITCH felt they were up to it and to some extent, their heaviness was enough to sate the appetite of those that demanded more mind-melting, sonic density. For us, it was just okay. Worse, however, was the penultimate band of the night. We realize we might be a bit controversial when we say this but Electric Wizard are not very good in a live setting. That is, they were good in the past, but they are one of those bands where you see them once and that’s it, you are set for life. The painful sound quality didn’t do the band any favours either and despite playing classic songs such as “Return Trip”, “The Chosen Few” and “Funeralopolis”, we were left with a sour taste in our mouth that only Kaleidobolt were able to cure. God bless them for performing afterwards, we needed the pick-me-up.
The last day of any festival is always a difficult endeavour. On the one hand, you have the sadness that sets in as the party is nearing its end and you will only be able to return a year later. On the other hand, knowing it’s the last day also pains one’s soul because you have to pack up everything on that day or the day after. And that shit is never a happy thing. Digressions aside, we started the day with the beautiful tunes of The Black Wizards and then felt miserable because Mythic Sunship had unfortunately cancelled their performance. Auspiciously, however, the Californian Deathchant were still around the festival and ready to give the audience another taste of their epic riffage free of any bullshit. We had missed them on the warm up party before the festival started but were glad to catch them now on a bigger stage. Indomitable from start to finish, the band conquered the hearts and souls of the crowd and we hope they return soon. Afterwards, it was time for the power duo Bala to pulverize the stage with their raw energy and riot grrrl attitude. If there is a name that many were surprised to see at this year’s SonicBlast, that name is Mdou Moctar. But when one thinks about it, it’s the name that perhaps makes the most sense in a festival such as this – after all, what is more desert rock than Tuareg rock? And Mdou Moctar is the master of it all, the Jimi Hendrix of the desert, if you will. If any doubts were in the minds of the crowd as to whether or not this made sense, all of it was cleared when Mdou and company stepped on stage and created the biggest party we have ever seen at SonicBlast. From front to back, side to side, everywhere our eyes looked, there were people dancing, always with a smile from ear to ear. It was truly a sight to behold, an authentic and genre-bending celebration of sound, magic and language. At the very end, a roaring ovation could be heard from all points of the festival – the best concert of the entire festival had just been played.
So, how do you follow-up the best show of the festival? Maybe a classic stoner rock band such as The Atomic Bitchwax does the trick. Mixing elements of psych rock and prog rock in their music, the group formed by vocalist and bassist Chris Kosnik, vocalist and guitarist Garrett Sweeny and drummer Bob Pantella had a lot on their plate, but we feel they did a pretty good job on keeping the crowd with their good spirits up. Then came the legendary doomsters Pentagram. Led by a recovered and renewed Bobby Liebling, the band was dead set on celebrating their 50th Anniversary it the best way possible. With cascading and potent riffage in the background, the true star of the show was Liebling himself, as was expected. Still owning a powerful voice after all these problematic and drug-filled years, Liebling seemed genuinely happy to have finally put his demons to permanent sleep, walking around on stage, mimicking his fellow bandmates and interacting with the audience in delicious ways, always with a smile on his face, as classic songs such as “Starlady”, “Dying World, “Forever My Queen” and “20 Buck Spin” were heard. We were honestly not expecting that a Pentagram show could be this good after all the troubling times the band had, but here we are being proven wrong. And thank God for that.
1000mods also had the task of playing after an immensely good show but they somewhat delivered with their stoner rock melodies, but at this point, the audience’s attention was set on another band that would play next, and for a good reason. After being forced to cancel their appearance at the festival back in 2019 due to their drummer’s illness, the German instrumental quartet known as My Sleeping Karma were finally back to SonicBlast. Highly emotional from start to finish, the band started their show with a heartfelt group hug, before proceeding to distill some of the best psychedelic riffs and solos we have ever heard. Much like Mdou Moctar before them, My Sleeping Karma commune with their audience via the language of sound – no others need be uttered, the riffs say everything one needs to know. We close our eyes and dive deep into their psychedelic sonorities, travelling between worlds of wonder and colour, returning back to solid ground as the band finishes their set. It feels like an entire lifetime as passed, but it was only an hour, that’s our powerful the music of My Sleeping Karma is.
But just as powerful is the music of Orange Goblin, albeit for an entirely different reason. We’ve said this before – these fine gentlemen from London can return to SonicBlast as many times as they want, we’ll always be here to receive them in open arms. If things got wild in a few concerts during the festival, this was the moment where everyone just went batshit insane. Non-stop moshing, circle pits from hell and the usual wall of death during the mythical “They Come Back (Harvest of Skulls)”, it was all there. Orange Goblin are one of those bands we will never get tired of and we’ll always do our damn best to catch them live. And to finish an already perfect day, we had a very special performance by the legendary marijuana-lovers and stoner metal torch bearers known as Weedeater. Trust us when we say that there is no better way to end a festival dedicated to stoner and psychedelic sonorities than this – Weedeater are damn filthy on a live setting, with their bass and guitar tones as low as they can possibly be without reaching the core of the Earth, drum pounds that resonate our very souls and Dixie’s vocals as rasp and as loud as rusted metal scraping on a rugged surface. Dixie does proclaim a disclaimer at the beginning with a bottle of Jack in hand, stating the band fucking sucks and you should get your money back. We obviously disagree, but it’s the humour behind these words and all the hat-related shenanigans employed by Dixie and the rest of the band that make Weedeater so special. And after all, isn’t SonicBlast all about those special moments, hilarious or otherwise?
Words by Filipe Silva
Photos by Marta Rebelo