Restart The Heart

Back in Lockdown a lot of venues realised that they would be in danger of closing and, with a lack of clear leadership and long-term, strategic planning shown by our government, many decided to fundraise to avoid going under. The Black Heart were one of these and I was happy to contribute a bit, getting a t-shirt, entering raffles (and winning a box of CDs) and I jumped at the promise of a festival after re-opening with an interesting array of acts, including Jo Quail, Gévaudon and Torpor who got to play and Dawn Ray’d, Witchsorrow and Wren who couldn’t play on the finally arranged dates.

Friday

I rocked up to the Black Heart before the first band was scheduled to start. Having done a bit of research, I was a bit concerned that most of the bands that day wouldn’t be my cup of tea. The first two, Skullfucked, a death metal band, and Gurgle, a punk band pleasantly surprised me and I watched them with interest. This wasn’t the case for the next two, a death grind and a thrash band, so I didn’t stay long for either.

The headliners were more than a pleasant surprise, they were a very interesting prog doom band, Kurokuma, who played about with rhythm and, at one point, all three of the musicians played percussion. Despite being the headline band, having replaced Dawn Rayd, they didn’t play the last slot as they had to get home to Sheffield. During their set, a photographer from The Guardian took shots of the crowd for an upcoming article on the effect of Lockdown on venues. The final band of the night didn’t appeal to me so I went downstairs for another beer shortly after they started.

Saturday

I walked to the Black Heart, slowly due to all of the tourists and shoppers that Camden is full of nowadays, displacing the alternative crowd that originally brought people to the place. I walked in and almost immediately bumped into Nick Ruskell who was Djing upstairs with Emily as Witchsorrow had had to drop out of playing. After I got my beer we chatted and he recommended some of that day’s bands.

Allfather he described as speeded up sludge, which was an accurate description. They played a good opening set. They were followed by a succession of other good bands playing variations on doom. Butcher in the Fog, a threepiece, played a lively and entertaining set, with a lot of humour showing through. This was carried on by Possessor who also played a solid set. In between these two were Grey Brain.

Jøtnarr were one of the bands that I had managed to catch before, having played the iconic Myrkur Underworld gig. They were good then and good tonight. Gurt have a reputation that precedes them, which could have been a bad thing but they didn’t disappoint, playing a solid set.

Band of the day for me were Morag Tong who played a set tinged with prog. Conan finished off the proceedings with a heavy doom set, finishing the night on a high.

Sunday

After wandering around Camden for food, I headed off to the venue. On arrival, I found that the first band Gévaudan, weren’t due on for another hour. Not to waste that time, I chatted to people and enjoyed a beer.

Gévaudan were well worth the wait, playing a set that could easily be a headline set at a gig. I could also say the same for the next two bands, Lowen and Five the Hierophant. Lowen are graced by a singer and a guitarist who have brought together a middle-eastern flavoured doom set, ably assisted on drums by Damim’s drummer. The singer wore a traditional robe, intricately decorated. Five the Hierophant were a very different kettle of fish. Their take on things is a four-piece – drums, guitar, bass and saxophone, with spoken voice on backing tape – playing post-Hawkwind style music in the vein of Ship of fools or Ozric Tentacles. Next on were Urne (have to make sure spellcheck doesn’t take the piss) who play a solid Black Metal, more support band level though. After taking shots of them, I went for a beer and it didn’t take me much persuading to chat with friends instead of heading back up.

Two of the anticipated highlights of the weekend for me were on to finish the festival. The first of these, Torpor, I last shot when they were a four-piece, seven years previously, at one of the last gigs before their vocalist left. I have seen them since. The stage lights had been really dimmed down so I had to work really hard to get decent shots of them, whilst listening to the solid and powerful music that they play.

Finally we had a complete change of style and pace with the awesome Jo Quail, solo with her electric cello and looping pedals. It has been an aim of mine to be able to shoot her so I was excited about this prospect as well as being able to watch her play and catch up with her, albeit briefly. I also reaquainted myself to Simon Callas who is one of the photographers I admire and who has taken some really amazing shots of Jo and other musicians. At the end of night I also spoke briefly with the sound engineer, Paula, who had held things together all weekend.

All in all it was a good weekend, with many good bands coming together to support this venue. I had a good time, meeting up with friends from the Brighton scene, musicians I know and others that I met for the first time.

Ready for the first day of the festival

Photos courtesy of Green Wyvern Photography.