Bloc 2012 Festival Review


Bloc Festival Review or why you shouldn’t try to have a good festival in a paranoid London devoid of all common sense.

Hello Good People who might read this blog….


Postscript July 10th 2012: When I wrote this post, it was from a confused punter’s perspective, I’d just experienced the festival ,left early and the next day was trying to make sense of it ( and also review the music in my own daft way). I start off blaming health and safety rules being over the top then get very worried as I leave, due to angry crowds outside and  people being cramped and prevented from going where they wanted inside . Since then I heard a totally different story from the  festival crew, which I wrote on July 7th. I now feel totally differently about the whole thing. If the information which was told to me was correct, then I think that some people  were neglectful of public safety to different degrees and maybe when large sums of money and major investments are involved, we really do need health and safety rules.


It’s been a long time, sorry about that, I did start writing this blog under my real name but it didn’t really work, so here I am back briefly as Born2rant, to write about a festival I went to yesterday that could have been great, but which I decided to leave before it all went to pieces.

This will only be a review of my limited experiences. I guess I arrived at the Bloc festival site at London’s Pleasure Gardens around 4.30pm by 10pm I decided it was sensible to leave but had a lot of difficulty getting out.

I was due to hang out on the ship MS Stubnitz, which has successfully been sailing around Germany as a mobile art installation and general chilling out party place for some time. It takes coming to crazy Britain for the Germans to realise they are far better off back home where things are more liberal, the state has less control, and the general public has not lost its ability to make individual sensible decisions without external legislation. Forget gloating about how great and wonderful the British are when I was trying to leave the Bloc festival, it was like trying to escape from a “psychedelic concentration camp” and that was entirely due to Great Union-Jack waving, right Royal Diamond Jubilee, aren’t we proud to be having the Olympics in London, paranoid British madness.

I arrived at Pontoon Dock around 4.15pm. There seemed to be a lot of stressed out people in orange jackets obstructing the oyster card bleeping machines, so people got confused where to “touch out”. They ushered me to a bridge to cross over the road and immediately my bag was searched, then further on more people in orange jackets asking me for a ticket. Other punters were clutching tickets printed out from the internet, I thought that strange to start with, it might be OK for using a budget airline, but without computers, scanners, ID and a whole big security system how can you tell if a computer print-out is genuine? I asked where the guest entrance was after some confusion I was directed to a gate a few minutes walk away.

At the guest entrance I had my bag searched again, then a sniffer dog climbed up the back of my legs, then my bag was searched AGAIN!!!! I complained politely but complied. They couldn’t find my name on the guest list but gave me a wristband anyway because I was saying all the right names. I had to put the wristband on myself, also a bit strange.

It took me a few minutes to chill out after all the security measures, and dealing with stressed out people, lots of security guards on the site, and mobile CCTV units, but the security man I spoke to was friendly enough and to be fair all the police people I spoke to during the course of the day were polite, but then all the paying public I met at the festival were also extremely patient and polite considering we were treated like dangerous animals throughout the festival, and the people who payed £125 per weekend ticket must have been peeved.

At first I went on the ship, the MS Stubnitz where I had a great time. In Germany they do not have many health and safety regulations, and do not scream announcements to passengers on the tube to say that due to a little drizzle that people are bound to fall over and kill themselves on the potentially slippery floor. Therefore I think the general public were probably quite shocked to be on an actual fishing ship with many steps, some damp from rain, and bits of metal to step over, no warning signs and generally to be in a place where you actually had to take responsibility for yourself and keep yourself sober enough to watch what you did. Also there was a big central hole leading from one deck to another, this had some fencing and chains around it to stop people falling in.  From the all dancing deck below, I could see many punters going to the edge of the hole and testing to see if the fence was secure. I felt like saying “You are at a festival, you are free to enjoy yourselves now, so forget the fences, forget health and security rules and just enjoy the lack of them for once”. I feel that the British public and especially Londoners, are brainwashed at all times to seek fences and rules in order to feel safe. Of course bad things could and do happen, but life is dangerous, you can’t control everything, get over it and try to enjoy life!

People on the ship were having a good time, somehow in spite of sniffer dogs and CCTV everywhere, the odd person was skinning up on the top deck, most sat drinking beer, smiling beneath the warm sun bouncing off their sunglasses. Below many moved to the music whilst taking copious pictures of the ship on their phones. Downstairs there were at least two bars and padded “seating bars” around tables where they used to freeze and chop fish. The ship was an awesome place to have different party rooms, the angular industrial music bounced off the ship’s hull in a suitably sheet metal way.

My only gripe about the ship was the music, I would have preferred dancing to Led Zep’s Immigrant Song, that would have been perfect or some kind of heavy metal version of  the Ride of the Valkyries would have been great.Here is some Led Zeppelin with  The Song Remains the Same just for effect,old fart I am!

But the DJ I heard on the Stubnitz was mixing French café style accordion music with deafening heart-stopping bass and drum music, note I did not write “drum ‘n’ bass”. I am too old and psychedelic to know what type of dance music I was listening to but it was experi and mental. I left the relaxed atmosphere of the MS Stubnitz to go and see Steve Reich around 6pm.

This was another “odd thing” , I noticed that they put some of the biggest crowd-pullers on early on both evenings even though the music ended at 6 a.m. Gary Numan was due to be on at 6pm the following day (today). I started to realise that maybe there were “problems” with the festival. Well to be fair all festivals have problems, they are always a headache to run for the organisers but some are worse than others. You really need to know what you are doing when you run a festival, especially if you plan to run it in a dock full of water and then place barriers so people can’t get out.

I found the hugest biggest queue  zigzagging its way round a small bit of the site, but people were patient and well-behaved, I hardly saw anyone attempt to push in. I must have queued for over 20 minutes, everyone was saying they’d never seen anything like this and we could hear Mr. Reich playing from outside, we could not understand why security did not seem to be letting anyone in.

Once we got in the tent was only a third full and yet he had been playing for over 30 minutes. The sound quality was not good, the audience was pretty thin, so this did not help the general feel of the gig. Many people were waiting for their friends to be allowed in.

While watching Steve Reich there were times when I wanted to sit down or leave, but both options were difficult from where I was standing, once people were allowed in from their long queuing they tended to head into the crowd and stand and the only way out I could see was through the entrance with hundreds and hundreds of people blocking the way. I looked around and saw there was a zip in the side of the tent, if I’d been feeling trapped I thought I could always use it to get the hell out.

As people slowly and steadily dribbled into the tent, while many left, the music livened up a bit. This was when a full rock band ensemble in the form of Bang on a Can, complete with sheet music,  started to play. It was enjoyable but stilted at first. They sounded like ‘Yes’ doing a version of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, in fact I was beginning to wonder if Steve Reich had been listening to the final few minutes of Tubular Bells when he wrote it. I’m sure others must have thought the same as me! But then I decided that perhaps Steve Reich  wrote it first and Mike Oldfield and Yes who copied his style. Playing repeated patterns in unusual time signatures is the link. Steve Reich must be far more influential than I realised and I must listen to more of his stuff.

Here is Bang on a Can playing Steve Reich’s  2x 5 (2008)

( turn the volume up first, sorry about any ads that come up, try AdBlock)

But although Steve Reich is no doubt a genius and influenced Yes,

I’m afraid I much prefer the following clip which sounds remarkably similar,

compare the two introductions!

Perpetual Change by Yes  (1971)

OK I digress but it’s my blog so I can, and hopefully not bore the pants off you

After Steve Reich I couldn’t get back onto the ship because by now there were long queues and barriers preventing people from going on board, this made good sense to me because it was quite crowded and there was only one way on or off, unless you jumped into the water, but I still think that if people were left to their own devices that they could have managed to see it was too crowded before boarding instead of being restrained like stupid sheep.

I went for a walk about but there wasn’t a whole lot else going on, the cheapest Amber Leaf rolling tobacco on site was a staggering £7, so I decided to go to the local shop. I couldn’t find the way out as described on the map, so I went to the main way in. There were by now already hundreds of people stuck outside the entrance, and the security process was slow and they were clearly not in a hurry to let anyone in, I have never seen anything like it before, they allowed just a handful of people in then would let them wait a few minutes before letting in another few people, meanwhile crowds were building up outside.

I asked one security guard if I could go out and come back in again. He said “NO” sternly. I explained that I had a weekend ticket. He just said “You can’t leave till later and when you do leave, you can’t come back in again”. Since there were no camping facilities, I decided he was stressed out and uninformed and I continued to look for the exit but couldn’t find one, I asked another security guard but he didn’t seem to know anything.

Then I looked for the queue to go and watch Amon Tobin on the main stage. Another very long queue, at one point that queue got muddled into the ship queue and no one knew what they were queuing for or where the queues ended. After queuing for 20 minutes in the crowded area outside, I found the main tent almost empty once I got in.

It made no bloody sense at all.

This was a joke, why was everyone queuing outside virtually empty tents in a limited area surrounded by deep water, since the whole festival was in fact at an old dock?

Amon Tobin  came on. The 3D projections were fantastic. They had a big installation of a kind of cube shaped wall, I’d seen similar things at multi-media art installations, but this was huge and exciting to start with. Amon Tobin was inside one of the cubes which was see-through, it was a bit “Spinal Tap” but I’d rather have seen Spinal Tap.  I was bored, maybe if the sound had been better I would have enjoyed it. Like so much music in 2012, the visual element seems to be more creative and interesting than the sound itself. Maybe you disagree, here is a clip, it sounds better than I remember , it was visually stunning but after a while it was repetitive ( sorry Amon,I’m sure you are a nice guy, it’s just not my kind of thing)

While I was watching the show, all around me a load of very drunk vertically challenged girls wearing too much fake tan, too much make-up, with silly hats and no clothing but a few bits of white fur and denim, were hugging each other violently and squealing. They took millions of photos of each other to put online, they disregarded the music which was very loud and hard to ignore. On the side of the stage there was  a guy pointing a camera on the audience in a type of steering-wheel shaped frame, which I thought might be a CCTV camera scanning the few people that were allowed in. I decided it was not worth sacrificing my hearing for this, and being sober and not having a set of friends to hug, I decided to go outside to look for something else to do.

By this time there were a lot more people just hanging around outside trying to get into the various venues, queues here and queues there, it was ridiculous. Then when I walked past the main gate even more people were even more tightly packed and waiting to get in and being processed at a snail’s pace as if they didn’t actually want to let them in. Those waiting outside seemed remarkably patient, I am sure some of them had maybe shelled out £55 just to see Amon Tobin , the festival was sold out, but they were unable to get in, others may have paid £125 for the two days and the last DLR train back home would not leave that late.  I felt very sorry for these people waiting, thinking that they might not get in for more than a hour or two before they’d have to go home again. I went for a walk around the dock like others who got fed up with the queues. Thirty minutes later the crowds trying to get in were chanting and then someone let off a flare, the exiled crowd cheered, I wandered off for a bit enjoying the sunset and beautiful clouds, the weather was fantastic and there were some nice walks around the dock away from everyone.

But when I came back to the entrance the people waiting to get in had disappeared, something had happened. Inside the festival the crowds were growing a bit and all this queuing was taking up a lot of space, although walking around was no problem, but it was a pain to queue up all the time, I decided since it was dark to go home and come back the following afternoon. I still could not find the exit and a security guard suggested I went out through the main gate. Since there were no crowds left on the other side of the main gate, I thought that maybe they had all got in, but I could hear “booing” not far away. There were many metal barriers, in my way and I had to climb and crawl here and there, there were many security people thinking of not letting me out, and then telling me it was OK to leave, none of them directed me to the proper exit, if indeed there was one.

I got to stairs that led into the main road and then I was quite surprised at what I saw. A double police line at the top of the stairs, plus many more security guards and on the steps a huge crowd, well-behaved, but angry and a few shouting. Well wouldn’t you be, if two of the main acts had already been on, and you’d paid £125 for a ticket to get in?

The police were very calm at that point, some stood with their arms crossed smiling, they seemed surprised that I wanted to leave, they also could not tell me of another exit and they were very polite, and helped me to get out. As I went down the steps some man grabbed me and asked me a question and I pulled away and ignored him, then this other woman shouted to me and asked me if there was trouble inside, if it was safe to go in. I said “Yes it’s fine. It’s great!” but afterwards I thought maybe I should have told her about the amount of pointless queuing you had to do to get to see any act.

After I crossed the road to get into the station I turned around and then I realised that things were seriously wrong. I hadn’t realised just how many people were queuing to get in, there were in my rough estimation at least two thousand, booing. It occurred to me then  that either they had sold far too many tickets and had hoped to stagger the crowds by putting the main acts on at 6pm, or perhaps that having a computer print-out had allowed a lot of people to forge tickets. What I couldn’t believe is that there were ticket touts still trying to buy tickets off the queuing punters, it was clearly a nightmare situation by the large crowds unable to get in.

I worried then for my son who was working there and for all the people there because if everyone had got on the site and they continued to deny people access to all the stages, then it would be overcrowded and tempers would flare especially by 6 a.m. The thing is, the tickets were expensive, most people who were going there were well-dressed, calm, extremely patient and mostly seemed  sober and compliant with the law, but we were treated like we were criminals before we even got in. It was a disgrace. It was like being kettled and herded the whole time but at a paying gig. We were not  going to a riot, it wasn’t a political demo, in fact there were no politics in evidence of any kind, not even an Amnesty International stall.

After an anxious night I got a call from my son this morning to say he was fine.

It did get overcrowded and they had to get all the stages and DJs to shut down  the music at midnight, then the police cleared the whole area. There was another big stand-off with the police and a bit of trouble, nothing major that he knew of, none at all on the ship where the good vibe remained throughout.

I wonder now how people managed to get home from the middle of nowhere at Midnight or 1 a.m.. My son stayed there overnight. He seemed to think only one person got hurt with concussion but this whole queuing/kettling technique to deal with the crowds caused a lot of the trouble and people were very angry that they were not allowed to see the artists they had paid to go and see.

I hope there were no further injuries. The rest of the festival is cancelled. I wonder if they’d had no barriers at all,  if  just maybe people would be sensible enough to come and go as they pleased.

In less paranoid times, with an atmosphere of caring for one another and looking where you tread, could a few roadies and stewards, a St. John’s Ambulance, a fire  engine and maybe a few lifebuoys, be more than enough to keep this festival safe?

Will the police be kettling people all through the Olympic games for their own safety?

I need a musical interval, this next song was ringing through my head as I took the DLR home, very worried about my son and everyone left at the festival. In spite of my ranting about health and safety regulations, given the situation and the fact that people couldn’t leave easily, I am glad they stopped everyone from getting in, it could have been a dangerous situation, due to the tensions building up over a number of hours as well as the size of the crowd outside.

The Clash – London Calling (1979)

They should just have removed the barriers so people could leave at least!

The festival was sold out, did they sell too many tickets ? I can’t see that several thousand people would forge tickets.

 If you were there and want to say something please leave a comment.

Gary Numan who was due to play today, Down In the Park

Love and Peace

Born2rant

 

Too busy living to blog or watch TV, plus a teeny bit about Solfest 2010


Hello Good People who evidently still read this blog…

I keep trying to give up this blog for good but it’s up there in cyberspace without me, just like the millions of  photographs of teenagers on Facebook,  who may at some time, rue the day they allowed photos of, and  information about themselves, to be handed over to various companies and intelligence agencies who rule the net. My blog will outlive my initial enthusiasm for bi-weekly blogging ,and like many a dead rock star’s music, will probably outlive me.

I did go to Solfest this year , and I guess that by the number of hits on the day it ended, many will have to checked in to see if I have done a review like I have done the three previous years.

In a word  “no”, and I’m not really going to. It is still the greatest UK hippie festival that I have experienced this millennium,although a few less punters this year and slightly more zealous security. Well actually, I mean specifically one guy. A young security steward who wore large sunglasses day or night , wore a “security hat”, and obviously took his job extremely seriously. He questioned and scrutinised people at the gates of Solfest as if they were non-EU citizens of “Asian” origin trying to get through passport control at Heathrow. It was only one enthusiastic Nazi  in the whole organisation, but one too many, plus he never seemed to go off duty. Maybe he dreams of being head of all security services one day…in which case, don’t work at a hippie festival, run by hippies.

Backstage the air of hippiedom was also occasionally marred by the odd territorial argument over which loo one could use .One group of people in particular, got hysterical if other members of crew used “their” portaloo and shouted to me “don’t fill our loo up or we can’t use it”, which I found mildly insulting. There was also by the end of the weekend, a row over who could have access to my nearest water supply. Various people started to attach their own personal pipes,to the general standpipe going directly to their tent or caravan, leaving no access to water for the humble camper without extra water-pipe fixtures, and a trickle of water to all trying to get their direct private supply, due to low pressure. It was exemplary of the follies and injustices of  Capitalism, which I hoped to get away from completely during my stay at Solfest. I am hoping that the hippie spirit of sharing resources over and above stupid claims to exclusive access to basic amenities will return next year in the backstage area.

I have not written a review of Solfest, why ? Because I am not often here.

I’ve turned my back on blogging, Myspace, Facebook, hotmail, Googlemail, all mainstream TV news, most TV programmes, and most Radio programmes. I do still use youtube quite a lot, especially if I want to hear music from the other side of the world. I mainly watch TV if I have visitors who want to watch it or if I am just too tired or ill to think of anything else I can do. I read newspapers if I find them lying on the tube, and yet without the internet or the media intruding in my life as much, I am not suffering from any withdrawal symptoms. Quite the opposite, I actually talk to real people face-to-face,  go to real places, and don’t feel like my life is over because my hair is dull or I don’t have a car, or I don’t know what David deCameron said today, and I haven’t suffered any more patriotic military propaganda passing for news on a daily basis.

However I will entwine this rant against second hand communication and experiences with a bit of music from Solfest.

In spite of my previous negative comments, Solfest  is still friendly, creative, and the happiest weekend of the year for me. I always meet great people, have long rambling conversations, dance to loud music even though I feel I am too old to do so, laugh at the inventiveness of fancy dress costumes, discover new  music, see amazing landscapes, feel hopeful that there is a little bit of the year that is not cynical and under surveillance but is creative and flourishing. I love going up north, can’t cope with southern festivals ever since my first Solfest. Ironically it has now become a yearly gathering point for people I know from London, Brighton and South Wales.

Every ageing hippie seems to have their favourite yearly festival, the one where they will see their old friends again and maybe have a little smoke even if they gave up on New Year’s day 2000, laugh like teenagers again, and show their kids how to power generators by pedalling like crazy, how to make things out of wood, and basically introduce them to various degrees of alternative living.

Some of my favourite musicians at Solfest 2010.

Here is John Fairhurst playing sitar music on the guitar. I saw him on the main stage on Saturday, strumming hard and fast, blending slide guitar with flamenco and ragas, very impressive. Unfortunately there is no footage of him playing at Solfest, so here he is playing in 2008 at an album launch party.

John Fairhurst , a sublime creative guitarist. Here he  starts quietly and gradually builds up momentum, then later explodes into a raucous manifestation of  many guitar genres peeping out from one another to say a brief  hello. Are you following me? Good, if not, don’t read any more, have a cup of tea instead.

My favourite Drystone stage act at Solfest was Richard Barry and The Chaps from Manchester. Maybe I am biased, I met Richard at a residential songwriting workshop in 1999. His sense of humour, charm and excellent musicianship make him always worth catching. Yet again, there is no Solfest footage his performance. It was pouring down with rain when he started but he still gathered a crowd, and then the sun came out!

Richard Barry and The Chaps – Please Don’t Ration My Fags.

I spent a lot more time in the Dance Tent than I intended to, especially on Saturday night where I danced to Eat Static, now a solo act, but still doing “his”/ “their” thing, and this guy DJ Adsorb who did an interesting set. Well I enjoyed it but I am frankly not an expert in dance music at all!  I’m more of an acoustic guitar person myself. I just liked Adsorb’s set because there was plenty of variety.

Now maybe it’s because I have never taken the right drugs , or possibly because I haven’t taken the correct amount of drugs, or more likely because I don’t even know by what  acronyms the drugs I’d have to take, and ask for,  from someone  two decades or more younger than me, leads me to find the brain-shaking tones of “doofff-doofff-doofff-da-da-dooff-dooff-doofff etc…” looped for an hour, and somehow so loud that they obliterate any other sounds in the mix…..B.O.R.I.N.G..

However this Solfest having spent much time talking to DJs in the Chill-Out tent who had taken the correct drugs, with their abbreviated names, in the right amounts, to like every type of  Dance Music,  I was  re-assured  that what I was referring to, was music that was  “relentless”.

You can actually pretend to like it, then when in the company of those you truly trust, complain that in fact it was “relentless” possibly shaking your head to demonstrate just how relentless it was.

So now I can blend in with people who know and appreciate all types of dance music by saying  ” God, that was  relentless!” and show the punishment I endured with a little  downwards shake of the head.

But as you can tell I don’t pretend to be anyone but the anonymous person I am pretending to be.

I cannot find much footage of Solfest 2010 itself!

But here is some footage from the Dance tent, I don’t know which DJ this is but I am sure someone will tell me, it could very well be DJ Adsorb, this is then contrasted with the Dogs in Space ( Chill-Out) tent, where you will see a few seconds of an amazing trio driven by the jazz beats of the Van Der Graaf Generator drummer: Guy Evans, along with psychedelic guitarist, Nigel Mazlyn Jones and flautist/guitarist Jim Nield. I caught the end of their set and they created a sound as colourful and ambient as the décor and lightshow of the Dogs in Space tent itself, shame there are only a few seconds of this available to show. I thoroughly enjoyed their mesmerizing set of jazz drumming and psychedelia.

The Damned played but I didn’t go to see them, the youtube clips are pretty poor quality soundwise.

Another act who played twice in the Dogs in Space tent and performed in cafés all over the site were the excellent Marley Chingus, from Liverpool,played rich bebop jazz covers as well as their own compositions, their long-haired and bearded trumpet player was particularly outstanding although all of them are very highly skilled musicians. Again no footage of them at Solfest but here they are with one of their own compositions, no trumpet player but a great sax player instead.

Marley Chingus -Neolithic Chant.

Well I’m off now to make some tea and maybe listen to some music. In the meantime I asked a DJ who came to visit my place last night what his favourite Gong tune was. He told me this one because of the electronics in it, the synths were played  by Tim Blake. It’s a fantabulous track beginning with synths, echo and tabla and building up nicely into a freeform jazz jam with psychedelic lead guitar, slide “glissando” guitar, with other sounds and many instruments thrown in for good measure.

So, I’ll leave you with the brilliant and mind-awakening : Gong – A Sprinkling of Clouds (1974)


Love and Peace to all of you

and remember hippies are cool, superficial people are… well …superficial

Born2rant

Too much partying: Hawkwind and onto Solfest…


Hello Good People who still read this blog…

Some music to start with….

Here is one of my favourite Hawkwind tracks , the apocalyptic “Angels of Death” ( always reminds me of Hell’s Angels)

I can’t embed the Porchester Hall version but you can find it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsnbxH0etbM

I have been trying to get my strange radio show up on youtube before writing this review but basically I haven’t been able to due to being temporarily enjoying  a second adolescence in the body of someone old enough to be my mother.

So I might as well write what I can remember of the last week or so, excluding some of the most decadent bits.

On Friday the 28th of August I went with a friend to the Hawkwind Party in Porchester Hall  ( W2) to celebrate their 40th anniversary. I had just come back from travelling and seeing friends as soon as I got back to London. I had already way overdone it before the onslaught of the weekend, and spent the morning under my duvet thinking how I was too tired to go anywhere and just wanted to sleep for a week.

At lunchtime a friend of mine arrived to go to the party with me , we listened to “Carl’s Hawkwind Cassette” as part of  getting in “the right frame of mind”. This is a compilation made for me by another friend 20 years ago of some the best Hawkwind tracks, apparently it’s been copied and circulated so much,that bikers totally unrelated to Carl also have a copy.

Hawkwind – “You Shouldn’t Do That

We arrived at about 3.30 pm, it was very strange for me as the location of the party was in the same building as my local library and being the middle of the day, it didn’t quite feel like a “party kind” of time or place. Our first pleasant surprise was getting a free commemorative bag containing a free CD featuring the sadly deceased keyboard player, Jason Stuart, a postcard signed by the entire band, a flyer for the tour, a ticket simulating that of  their first ever gig as “Group X” at the All Saints Hall , a “Planet Rock” sticker and a packet of popping candy.

In the red carpeted stairs up to the hall, some girls in sci-fi costumes on stilts asked us if we wanted to ask a question. We didn’t understand that this was for  a question and answer session later and so proceeded to the hall.We expected a long painful wait until Hawkwind took to the stage but as we entered the room they were already on the stage blasting away. There must have been about thirty people in the audience.  Dave Brock looked kind of surprised to see us coming in. In between songs we were told how we were the lucky ones for being there early we would see Hawkwind twice unlike those who turned up just for the evening.

As soon as we got in the hall, and as the afternoon progressed,the following became clear:

(I’ll be negative to start with and positive afterwards!)

a) Something had gone drastically wrong with the organisation, and as someone who has organised different types of gig over the years I was shocked at certain things especially the “lightshow” . I have seen powerpoint presentations that were more exciting. At one point my friend asked me if it was normal to keep seeing a projection of   drop-down menus projected at the back of the stage. He thought it might be some kind of “sci-fi effect” like H.A.L.,or some computer talking to us visually perhaps.  I said “No, it’s that they can’t operate the computer software. If a lighting engineer had done this at Megadog they would have been shot!” ( or retrospectively maybe they would have been “chilled out” of the organisation).

Also the sound was awful during the acoustic bits and not great,the rest of the time until Hawkwind came on. Sometimes this is a “trick” engineers do to make the main act sound better than the support, like a bride who forces the bridesmaids to wear ugly dresses to make them look better. However I really don’t think that this was the case here, I don’t think anything malicious was going on.

In terms of the café, when I ordered a very expensive egg roll,they told me it would take 30-40 minutes. So I dragged myself  to one of the many fast food places nearby instead.

Hawkwind – “Quark, Strangeness and Charm”

b) On the positive side, we had a great time and we found it very endearing and comical when things went wrong. It was like seeing a band who really was just starting out, maybe playing in a church hall .

I think I would have hated the party if it was all running smoothly like clockwork, with glamour and perfection. The spirit of Hawkwind is anarchy, rough and ready, improvisation, free festivals, beauty out of chaos and  breaking all the rules, all this was evident during the party.

The other acts it seemed, were either composed of members of Hawkwind or roadies .

I particularly enjoyed seeing Tim Blake playing the theremin with great expertise and gurning. It was quite funny when he announced that he was going to play “an acoustic number” for the first time ever with the band “The Elves of Silbury Hill” . He played the acoustic guitar and sang but the sound of his guitar was truly unamplified and his voice was faint too, Dave Brock and the others were pretty good at guessing what chords he was playing thank God. ( didn’t there used to be a free festival on Silbury Hill or am I confusing it with Sisbury Ring or was I at both? Don’t ask me! It was a long time ago when one festival blended into another).

Also playing a set was Huw Lloyd-Langton . He had chatted to us earlier in the audience, and was very friendly although I couldn’t really understand what he was saying to me. I don’t think I took enough drugs to understand what Huw was saying, he was communicating on another level. I recognised him as a familiar face from Portobello Road from  deep  in my past but didn’t realise who he was until he took to the stage. Unfortunately on Friday, anything acoustic was very quiet and muffled, except for the awful poet who was miles too loud. I am a fan of  performance poetry  but this guy’s material reminded me of Vogon poetry.

Here is a clip of Huw Lloyd-Langton jamming from the Saturday set when the sound was a lot better, still he managed to put a few extra beats in there to keep Dave  Brock (on harmonica) on his toes!

By the time Huw did his solo set I had gone out several times for a cigarette in Porchester Road. People walking around in the street in the rush hour were puzzled by what they saw, as the street was lined by the weirdest, most extreme looking hippies mostly dressed in black with long grey hair, many of whom were smoking such vast quantities of skunk that passers-by must have been affected by secondary smoking. Several people asked me what was going on and were surprised to hear that Hawkwind were playing upstairs from their library.

I couldn’t help but think that if this party had taken place in the late seventies , that the drug-squad would have been there,  certainly people would have been searched and arrested. But here we all were, in the middle of London,in the middle of the day, in a town which is half-way to being a chilling example of a police state, and yet one of the most political, anti-authoritarian bands ever, had escaped attention from the local coppers.

Hawkwind- “Urban Guerilla”

There were many comedic moments provided by the compere, although these were not planned. He kept telling us how Hawkwind had made it a true party and festival atmosphere by decorating the hall and all the stalls. Each time he said this, we all looked around at the completely bare hall and wondered what the hell he was talking about. I guess these things materialised on the Saturday but the more he referred to it , the more we chuckled.

Hawkwind – “Assault and Battery “( Porchester Hall on Saturday 29th August)

The compere read out a “timetable of events” from 4pm onwards, it was very informative and interesting, but totally inaccurate! Meanwhile, to be honest I got pretty “tired but happy” and a lot of the afternoon was a blur.

The only event that actually happened on time was Matthew Wright’s question time. It was just like Question Time on the BBC but instead of swarmy politicians trying to sidestep questions and make themselves look good, the questions were posed to a line of mostly totally incoherent members and ex-members of Hawkwind. The questions included ” Where’s Lemmy?” ( answer : on tour). No one dared ask “Where’s Nick Turner, Mick Slattery , Terry Ollis etc?”. Ah, how divorce is hard! Who gets the alimony, custody of the name and all the friends have to choose whose side they are on.

Matthew Wright was the most eloquent and seemingly organised person there, thank God. The most popular question was supplied by a  friend of mine: “What was the most acid you have ever taken before playing live on stage? ( and when and where)” The question made Matthew Wright laugh quite a lot and the panel who were initially reluctant to answer, eventually got involved in a long discussion.

Dave said it was at the Windsor Free Festival, Huw disagreed but I am not sure what he was saying.Then there was a lengthy and confusing debate which involved orange and apple juice. Everyone in the panel contributed enthusiastically, but I’m not sure they were all answering the same question.

By the time Hawkwind rounded off the evening, introduced I think by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, or maybe he introduced someone else.

Hawkwind started with Assault and Battery and ended with Farenheit 451, which I sang all the way down the stairs and down Westbourne Grove, occasionally punching the air.

“Farenheit 451” ( I would have prefered it with the Truffaut film as a visual)

In between the beginning and end the songs seemed go very fast from one to the other. It’s all a bit of a blur I’m afraid. Matthew Wright sang “Spirit of The Age”. I can’t put a clip up of that version,but here it is from the album.

The also did “Magnu” ( this is footage from the Friday…I will have been dancing like a maniac somewhere not far)

After the gig, I stayed up for a couple of hours and had a couple of hours sleep. I woke up a six a.m., I am usually moderate with my intake, but not this time. I realised I had to pack for a camping trip and catch a train leaving at King’s Cross at 7 a.m. to get to Solfest in Cumbria. I dawdled, writing emails instead of getting ready and then threw a few things in a suitcase. The tube got delayed at Edgware Road, my brain was in a total haze,and as I ran up the stairs to King’s Cross station carrying a heavy suitcase I thought :“I’m going to die of a heart attack running to get to a festival! How fitting!” then I thought of Lemmy and somehow I made it onto that train with one minute to spare , I arrived at Solfest ten hours later…

Leaving you with Hawkwind “Better Believe it”

and another jolly tune “Psi Power” ( Hawklords)

I got to go to bed now, going to bed early for the first time in a couple of months.Will try to get it together to do a brief review of Solfest and much more ranting soon.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

Solfest (Cumbria) 2008…a personal journey


Hello Good people who read this blog

(there may be some editorial mistakes I missed still swimming about)

( this post is very long to save your eyes from going funny copy it & print it!)

I am still coming down from the high of going to Solfest where although there were some initial stresses a thoroughly good time was enjoyed by myself and my companions.

You just can’t beat Solfest as a small friendly creative festival. It has no pretentions of grandeur it is what it is like most of the festival attendees it’s simply there being alternative, subversive, artistic, musical and just a having bloody good time . It doesn’t need to do any social climbing or promote itself.

It sold out but it doesn’t sell out to corporate nonsense or music biz nonsense.

The clips I put up were made by other people I was too busy enjoying myself to film anything!

This is the Human Jukebox you have to put a pound and they will play what you chose!

The Journey to Solfest

Although my son decided to travel from London up to the festival some 10 million miles away in a small car containing 4 blokes,  4 different types of guitar, a mixer, a saxophone, computers, a keyboard and 4 tents, 4 rucksacks and probably more. I decided to travel up the easy way by train and was due to borrow one of the lad’s guitars to perform as I couldn’t carry mine along with everything else.

I have a lot of respect for any festival that puts on a free bus from the local train station and no respect for those who don’t! We all need to be green and some of us don’t drive. There was a lot of traffic trying to get into the festival  and our friendly patient minibus driver took us through the lake district on a detour to avoid congestion he then took me and a couple of others near the artist’s gate which I was very grateful for.

There were a few teething problems on the Friday at The Chill-Out (Dogs in Space) stage jointly organised by Michael Dog of Megadog and Fred of SPACED which was where I was due to camp and perform. I think there were gremlins at work either that or just the heavy rain. The power was failing frequently all evening leaving punters in the dark and with acts having to start and stop, plus there were sound problems with feedback when anyone used a microphone onstage and other technical problems with speakers and then with the generator but the vibe was still good. Thanks to the hard work and brainpower of the crew the many various difficulties were all sorted out by Saturday . I was due to perform the next day at Saturday lunchtime and didn’t really start to relax and enjoy myself fully until after my gig.

Another creative lunatic from Solfest this year!

Never lend a guitar to a man at a festival (even if it’s Bob Dylan wanting try out his new song)

I got up Saturday around 11a.m. after a couple of hours sleep , being camped backstage is great in many ways but you have to be able to sleep through the universal “doof-doof-doof-dum dum doof-doof-doof etc…” from the Dance Tent combined with the much quieter all night djs in the Chill Out tent and louder than both of these were the bass lines bursting out from the Disco Fromage nearby.

Subsequent nights I slept fine with some well placed earplugs and an extra layer of clothing to keep me warm in bed.

I had my pre-gig nerves but knew these could be handled if I followed my plan to rehearse alone and spend some quiet time to relax before going on.  But hey, it’s a festival… I should have known better than expect anything to go to plan!

I borrowed a six string acoustic guitar from one of the two Hamishes resident at the Chill-Out tent.

I started to rehearse backstage with a bit of an audience and this poet who was also about to go stage just before me wanted to play me a song and said he was going to use the guitar onstage. He was a nice guy and in spite of the fact that I soon wanted to garrotte him with a guitar string in a very unhippie way I am sure he is still a very nice guy.

I reluctantly handed him the guitar and to cut a very long story short this was a big mistake. He kept telling me that if I was nervous I had to do this breathing exercise and trying to persuade me to do this exercise while simultaneously breaking the strings on the guitar one by one. Then he was rushing off to get another string to put it on and then telling me to do the breathing exercise again for my nerves, then showing me how to put on a guitar string ( as if I didn’t know how to do this after putting them for myself for 35 years) and each time he would snap the string again. Somehow he got through two spare sets of guitar strings. He would not let me or the owner of the guitar have it back as he was deeply apologetic and was adamant he would fix it himself.

I lost count of how many strings he broke after 4 or 5 I could no longer stand watching him and was frantically going up to random people asking them to lend me an acoustic guitar as I was about to play on stage. Eventually he found a replacement guitar for us ( thanks to Blenkie the owner of said guitar)   but I decided I’d had enough and was not going to risk any more damage. In a very unhippie way,  I grabbed the guitar and made a mad dash off with it while the poet was still telling me to do this breathing exercise to calm my nerves.

The adrenaline from stage nerves , the string breaking incident plus some feedback problems on stage meant my performance had a few mistakes in it but no one seemed to notice and it went well, the lovely  people at Solfest came up to me throughout the festival to say they enjoyed it.

I sincerely hope to play there again and other festivals but with my own guitar which will be kept hidden from poets.

Doof! (Mr Psik)

Some of the people I met

Here is one of the enthusiastic and vibrant people I met and saw perform  Buntyface in the Chill-Out tent this year but this footage is from the previous year…need to feed my brain now…

All the people I met at Solfest were friendly and approachable although a minority were too out of it to really communicate including one old hippie complete with hippie hat who came into the Chill-Out tent and played with the decor of dangling shiny silver threads in the middle of the tent then proceeded to climb on the tables and fall on people, another old drunken hippie was shouting “What about me?” to various people  very loudly during a film and I also saw a steward crawling into a speaker under the stage to pass out from the evening’s excesses ( I checked to see that he was still breathing). But generally speaking people were able to hold full conversations and/or dance wildly to the proceedings.

Various people made an impression on me for instance I was chatting to a singer the same age as me. She said she wouldn’t even bother with women who lied about their age that it was a kind of dishonesty , that she was proud of who she was and that her age meant she was able to give advice to people. She was a (young) grandmother and proud of it. She also had a disability which meant she had to take very strong painkillers every four hours, even in the middle of the night or be in such pain that she would pass out and needed a special kind of bed to sleep in.  This woman was performing in a band and camping at a festival. She also had a varied lovelife. I suddenly felt that there were no excuses not to live your life fully no matter what your circumstances and to wear your age with pride.

I was also impressed by a woman working at “The Camel’s Arse”café one morning. She was single-handedly taking a constant stream of orders, dealing with the money and calling out people’s names when their meals were ready. She was clearly exhausted and stressed and yet she had a smile on her face illustrated with facepaints and greeted each customer with a welcoming cheerful tone that warranted a medal.

The Saturday fancy-dress code enabled people to be endlessly inventive. There were hundreds of interesting costumes for instance in our tent I saw someone dressed as a whoopie cushion, a couple of dominos danced with a pack of  fascinated little children while a Big Friendly Giant on stilts scared them a bit.
Outside at night I saw an incredible sight. Four illuminated people on bicycles. Each bike and rider covered with carefully placed fairy lights, each  a seperate colour, they were spectacular when they cycled in the darkness.

Loads of men in drag, usually the butch macho men.

Outside the Chill-Out tent I shared a fag with “Martin” and “Amy”, two bumbling drunk hairy macho scousers with big black wigs, mini skirts ( frequently falling down and needing to be pulled up again), and make-up plastered on their face. One of them staggered up to me and asked if I had any crack cocaine. I was a bit taken aback until I realised he was “in character” and was pretending to be Amy Winehouse. He showed me his tattoos on one bicep he had a delicatedly drawn diagram of male sexual equipment and on the other a more scrawled “BLAKE”. “Martin” who I suggested should be called “Martina”  was well over six foot tall . He asked me if I liked his make up as he had spent hours getting ready. I looked up at his face, his crimson lipstick was not just on his lips but also plastered all around his stubbly face along with eyeliner that was also heftily and precariously applied. I just looked at him and laughed. They ranted about how they had left their wives and children and were going to have the operation and other things. Everything they said and did made me laugh. I told them they made a great double act and should be onstage. Martin responded “You haven’t seen us together in bed yet” the image was too much for my mind to cope with.

The “Dogs in Space“crew were great too and I had many rambling and bizarre conversations with them at all times of day and night, I already knew most of them some being part of the family past or present.

Here is a clip of the Chill-Out tent at night taken by Michael although it was a lot brighter than this in real life! ( I am  hoping  he won’t mind me linking  it up here  but I don’t think he will. Go to Michael Dog’s myspace

www.myspace.com/michaeldog

for more photos of Solfest 2008 and another video of daytime in the chill-out tent!)


Some of the acts I enjoyed

In terms of entertainment I missed a lot of it because there was simply so much going on and I was spending most of my time at the “Dogs in Space” tent. I still have not attended a Solfest workshop or other activities such as sauna etc..
At the Chill-Out ( Dogs in Space) tent there was a huge variety of acts going on and it was very different to the previous year. The tent ran 24 hours a day and ended at 8 a.m. Monday morning so there was room for variety.
They had acoustic bands with harps, hurdy gurdies, jazz, singer-songwriters, djs, vjs, experimental electronica bands, films, poetry, weird jams, hip-hop rapping and probably more that I missed. Hosted by Michael Dog and assisted by Len from Needle and Thread not forgetting the invaluable input of the second Hamish and sound engineer Matt both great characters.

Some of my favourite acts from the “Dogs in Space” tent included……..
The 2.2 killaVolt Cables whose beautiful melodic electronica that can be listened to lying down or when dancing. In their spare time they also put on shows  with a dance company from the Laban School in London.
To listen to their music check out their myspace :   http://www.myspace.com/twopointtwokv

I also greatly enjoyed an extended set from the Bonsai Big Band from South London. Their brand of nu- jazz was immaculately performed and structured in sections like a symphony with layer upon layer of tastily textured instrumental lines.

I missed Mixmorris Morris’ set  as he was on in the middle of the night but had a chat with him and hope to see him again. He said he’d been in Canada and Japan djing recently and he was very excited to tell me that he had sung with a band his own songs at The Big Chill Festival earlier this summer. It was the first time he had sung on stage for years. He looked well and relaxed.

I also enjoyed hearing the acoustic guitar virtuosity of Hamish Meany ( whose guitar was trashed by a poet and who drove half the performers 10 million miles up to the festival).

The cheerful jazz showtunes of Tres Fez fronted by the talented Helen Maher ( singer and accordion player)
and more….

I didn’t visit the Drystone Stage ( Acoustic Music)  much. This was because I spend a lot of time in acoustic clubs performing or listening to acoustic music and I wanted a break from it. However you can listen to a podcast of some of the performers by copying and pasting this link:

http://drystone.podOmatic.com/entry/2008-07-01T08_29_18-07_00

I was also not in the mood for dancing as my legs were tired so I didn’t venture too far into the Disco Fromage or the Dance Tent.

However I was unexpectedly taken backstage into the Dance Tent and sat on a metal box onstage behind Michael (Dog of Megadog ) while he did his set. The sound wasn’t too loud through the on stage monitors and I was able to rest my legs and enjoy the music and the spectacular lightshow/projections. God I sound like I’m 100 years old.  Some really mad band went on after him and I danced a bit to that. Sorry that is such a brief and sedentary review of the Dance Tent!

On the Main stage I saw a bit of Supergrass , a bit of Alabama 3 , a bit of Dreadzone.
My favourite acts included the very manic folk/rockabilly/ska  Black Velvet Band. Although there was an embarrassing moment when the over-energetic lead singer said ” This next song is the story of a virgin and a ( something or other)…Are there any virgins out in the audience?”
Then he looked down as there were about 20 or 30 little girls and boys dancing right in front of the stage and said . “..except for you of course” .
Oh how I cringed on his behalf!
* (see comment by Louis of The Black Velvet Band below this post)
I also very much enjoyed dancing to the mute Bikini Beach Band who dressed in orange costumes, fez hats and shades played a variety of pop tunes re-arranged in ace surf music style and accompanied by two Hawaiian grass-skirted dancers.

On the Bar Stage I went to see The Hamsters but arrived just in time to hear them say a final ” Thank you and Goodnight”. Still I can go see them back in London at the Half Moon in Putney where they play the last Saturday of every month.
I saw a couple of mad heavy rock bands that made me laugh, cheered me up and made me realise I’m not that good a guitar player and should learn  more.
Firstly a band called “Off the Hook” with an impressive over-the-top lead singer and frontman with a wrestler’s demeanour, stomping about the stage like a stormtrooper hitting cymbals attached to the microphone stand aggressively. He also took the bass player by surprise hitting him between the legs with his drumstick. (This sounds rude but it wasn’t, it was just bonkers.)
The final act on the Bar Stage was just so entertaining I’ve saved writing about them until last.
Forget MOTORHEAD, forget BLACK SABBATH, forget “The Darkness”
( who?  they were easily forgotten) for now we have a band who not only are Motorhead and Sabbath rolled into one but they can turn any pop tune into a heavy metal epic.They’re bloody good musicians and hilarious too.

I am speaking of a band who are the new Spinal Tap and Bad News but more inventive.( they might even be as good as Bludgen..seeThe Chainsaw Party (still feeling guilty about this)


This is a band descended from Vikings (having emigrated to Newcastle) known as  “AROCKALYPSE NOW”.

Here is a clip from their Rockumentary the full thing is up on youtube ( starting off with a cover of a “Bad News” song and then to disco hit “You Spin Me Right Round”)


On Sunday night I had left my son and his friend dancing at the Disco Fromage as I wanted to go hear some live music.

I then came across the fabulous “Arockalypse Now” doing a heavy metal version of ” Play That Funky Music White Boy” on the Bar Stage and it was so good that I ran back down the hill and dragged them off the illuminated dance floor saying “I’m taking you to a higher place where you can both dance and hear good live music“. ( or something less dramatic but it doesn’t sound as good).
They were persuaded and when we got there they were not disappointed. The audience were going completely berserk dancing and headbanging carried away by the passion and lunacy of the performers on the stage. Some people behind me were all dancing while holding up a carpet, it was mad. They played a number of tunes including codpiece Cameo’s Word Up“. The thing is the quality of the musicianship and how they arranged the songs was just amazing. If they were in London I’d go and see them every Saturday night to shrug off the stresses of the week.
Here is a clip of them at Solfest doing “The Final Countdown” but it’s not as great as I remembered at the time. I think being far away from the stage , poor sound quality and not being actually there in the drunken crowd has a lot to do with it.
Check out their myspace site….  http://http://www.myspace.com/arockalypsenow
(they do a great version  of Ziggy Stardust).
Enjoy!

Love and peace
Born2rant
(Undercover Hippie tempted to start headbanging again)

(My thanks to Michael for “strongly suggesting” I play in the Chill-Out tent and putting me on his artist list and to Len (for strongly accepting the suggestion))

The Dave Russell Interviews reborn ( Notting Hill Arts- 1967-72)


Hello Good People who read this blog

If you go back in time to my earlier entries you will find some interesting stories about Notting Hill in the 60s and 70s and also Anti-Media activities in the 80s , bits about the gigs before Club Dog etc….

However I have been having problems with technology and the Dave Russell interviews being repeatedly deleted .

Therefore I have re-issued part one of this interview on Youtube. It’s the first time I have ever done anything like this so don’t expect miracles!

Enjoy ! and to read onthe background to the things mentioned in this interview go back to my previous post called

Notting Hill and the Arts 1967-1972: an interview with Dave Russell – Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Gong and more…(Episode One)

This was written back in the winter of 2007 and the weather today is about the same.

here is part two of the interview for more information go to my previous post

(Episode two) Notting Hill and the Arts 1967-1972: an interview with Dave Russell -Psychedelic rock bands, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Ralph McTell, Davy Graham, lightshows, poets, and drug-taking in a crypt

Part two

Part Three

of the interview below please see this post for more details:

(Episode Three) Notting Hill and the Arts 1967-1972: an interview with Dave Russell – Jazz, Psychedelic Rock Bands, Poetry, Frestonia, Release and Pete Brown’s Battered Ornaments

The final part

read more on

(Episode Four) Dave Russell – Notting Hill 1967-1972 The Free School, Destruction in Art Symposium, Friends/Frendz magazine and the Rural Retreat

Love and peace

Born2rant

Steve Hillage Part 3 :Gone to Heaven and Found System 7


Steve Hillage Part 3 :Gone to Heaven and Found System 7
(something old , something new, something borrowed,something Green)


Hello Good People who read this blog! (sorry about typos I am still editing this!)

Apologies for the delay since my last entry.
Yesterday
I went to Heaven last night and saw System 7.

launchparties2c.gif
Preamble….
I have to say that I wasn’t in the mood to go to the album launch party. This was for a totally different reason. Recently I’ve been thinking of learning to play Congolese music on the guitar from a guy I met at a folk club ( The Green Note) in Camden called Nick Mulvey whose guitar playing is stunning. Yesterday afternoon, impressed by the Congolese style of guitar playing I’d heard Nick playing , I went online to find out a bit more about the Congo which is now split into 2 countries .
I read some deeply disturbing facts about “the war against women” in The Democratic Republic of Congo and it had put me in a mood of feeling just so naive about what is really going on in this world and how cut off and priviledged we are in this country.
I phoned up my son in Germany for some some encouragement to go to the gig knowing he would be very envious of my seeing System 7, Eat Static, and Alex Patterson and Slack Baba .

He told me that I must go and to wear something “funky” so I did! I wore something funky and totally untrendy that suited my hippie roots and I went.

I got there just in time as System 7 were already on stage. Steve Hillage was wearing glasses but they suited him ( I am being so shallow but honest! I wish I could think of a witty joke including the phrase ” should have gone to specsavers” but I can’t).

dragon-and-phoenix

I was feeling self-conscious at first alone in a rather over-the-top outfit at Heaven and decided that I would not and could not dance. However the music was infectious and I started to move and then once dancing I could not stop.
I recognised the beautiful “Hinotori” and “Song for the Phoenix” from the youtube excerpts .Others of my too-old-to-be-dancing-to-techno generation surrounded me going berserk in time to the music , including a guy who danced with me who looked exactly like Howard Marks I still don’t know if it was him.

Some of the crowd were young and alternative, others young and gay and not really familiar with System 7 et al, and mostly people in their thirties who probably used to go to Megadog but no one I knew apart from those on stage. I was half expecting to see Mixmaster Morris dancing there or some significant others but even surrounded by strangers I felt at home and sharing a common need to dance and celebrate life there and then.
Miquette as usual seemed to be enjoying herself smiling at the audience and making synth sounds. Steve Hillage played a lot of guitar and at times I just wanted them to take out all the sequenced drum beats ( sorry I know I am using uncool music terminology because I am a 60s and 70s music person) because I just wanted to hear the live guitar on its own.
There was a good lightshow with some interesting video clips but the music was the main thing for me.
There was a contrast of old and new. Some bits of rock guitar and psychedelic ” analog” sounding synth, some ambient phases and then the hardcore techno. But no matter what style and twists and turns the music made it was always colourful and multidimentional and never once got boring .

I confess that a lot of techno bores me senseless when too repetitive but this was not in that category. Furthermore rather than trying to be too cool/trendy to make an effort to relate to their audience Steve and Miquette frequently made eye contact with the crowd and smiled warmly.


Here is a bit from the album courtesy of System7 on Youtube “Hinotori

They played their new “Phoenix“album which has samples of old and new. “Hinotori” has bits of rock guitar riffs, with ambient keyboards and the “thumping bass”.

I’ll pause this assessment of the new System 7 album with a little rant about where I am coming from

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I am not a “clubber” although I’ve been to a lot of club nights over the years. I’d so much like to hear a live bassist and drummer and percussionist with this music, but I guess then the bass-player would inevitably want to play something more complex and less trance-like than the simple one note on one beat and it would alter the experience. There is something about “repetitive beats” that switches off the endless chatter of the mind and waves of emotions and takes you into wanting to move and to feel the rhythm connecting in your body like a kind of physical euphoric meditation . However I still prefer a live band and emotions and the chatter of the mind over dancing .The experience of dancing to ambient/trance/techno music in a friendly atmosphere I can enjoy from time to time, it has its plus points, I can get on a physical and mental high without the use of toxic substances and sometimes make new friends, get fit but there’s no denying that I prefer live bands with songs, emotions, controversy, mayhem.

Now back to the gig/Phoenix Album…..

The celestial and very beautiful”Song for the Phoenix” (which you can hear on my previous entry or on youtube) starts with Tibetan bells and has guitar that sounds almost acoustic through reverb, there are many familiar sounds here and there and I wonder if samples for Steve’s works from the seventies were used in places. I wish I was more of an anorak and could tell you.
The dancing crowd went completely crazy as samples of Gong’s “Pot-Head Pixies” singing ” I am , you are , we are crAAAZEEE!”
were blended with industrial beats ( if they are not industrial then I was just guessing! I need my son to help me with the right lingo)

The atmosphere was fantastic and wildly energetic and there was room enough dance madly without injuring others too badly . I did not see any big fish or little fish just individuals inventing their own crAAAAZEEE dances to this Gong sample track called “Strange Beings“.
During other pieces there were episodes of glissando guitar and sometimes just mayhem but it was all good.
Towards the end of their set they were joined by Slack Baba and Alex Paterson creating interesting and at times maybe conflicting mixtures which seemed to be due to a short technical setback but no one minded as it was still good enough to dance to…and let’s face it … once you start dancing to this kind of music it is impossible to stop if the good vibe is still there.

Lastly Merv ( Eat Static) joined them on an electronic pad drums and played in his usual forceful way in control and master of any rhythm . He is really is an astounding live drummer.

I wish the 5 of them had gone on for longer but it had to end. There was a lot of cheering and shouting and handshaking, even minor stage-invasion at one point.
The last time I had seen System 7 was in the dance tent at Solfest this summer but the atmosphere was totally different here. In the huge dance tent it had been very loud, very heavy, very crowded and I had felt alienated in the noise , the stage seemed remote and I was surrounded with people dancing with a bit of an aggressive and drunken edge to it that time. Last night the venue was cosier, the crowd was smiling, joyful and the volume was not deafening and so the more melodic aspects of the music could be more freely enjoyed without distortion.
Afterwards Alex Paterson ( The Orb) did a set and the bass was cranked way up . Later still after 1 a.m. Merv on his own started a Joie-less set for Eat Static I would have loved to have stayed but this time everything was cranked way up on trebble and bass and all the middle frequencies too! and my ears without earplugs just had to be taken home, plus I’d danced solidly for two hours and considering I have just shed wearing a neckbrace after having an agonising neck I thought it wise to leave and stop dancing before I risked further pain and inflammation. ( I’m so boring I know but I did enough excessive headbanging next to bass drum speakers when younger and lost a little of hearing and braincells).

I had a sore neck this morning but it was worth it. Last night I felt euphoric without alcohol of drugs, or even friends, just from the music, the never-ending dancing and the friendly atmosphere. I’ll see Merv in Eat Static or the Ozrics another time.
I was so impressed with System 7′s gig that I bought the new album on the way home which is playing happy vibe music on my computer as I tap my little blog here.

I love “Makimura -Space Pilot“( track 8).

If you like the old Steve Hillage guitar playing but not keen on pounding techno BUY THIS ALBUM ! and then we can try to persuade them to do it on “Later” on BBC2
( with Merv on drums) .

Jools Holland would be perplexed by something that actually is innovative and vibrant and not like so many hyped up acts I’ve seen on that show. Steve Hillage could teach them a thing or two!

This is the cover of “Green” from 30 years ago definitely one of my desert island discs.Cover of “Green” 1978

Some of the elements of this new album remind me of Green are they samples or is it the spirit?
Now I am listening to “Wolf-Head“(track 9) which is written in collaboration with Eat Static it’s great too. It’s like rock and deeply chaotic synth weirdness , clever passages of dark, light and a guest appearance of R2D2.

They probably use samples from Eat Static tracks . If you happen to know where from tell us in a comment.
Go to this link to hear these tracks now

http://www.a-wave.com/system7/
then click on the title that says
PHOENIX New album released Jan 28th 2008 – MP3 page
and you can listen to all the tracks!
then support System 7 by buying their album.

Yes I am biased and any other reviews of any other bands will no doubt be far more critical.
I wish I’d had a camera or phone to take pictures but I didn’t think of it but there were plenty of people filming .

Next time a review of Steve Hillage’s live in 1979 DVD and rant on about Steve Hillage some more.

( at some point I will do a little thing about Cantlin Stone ..but not yet!)

Here is a sample of System 7 at Glastonbury 2007

If you are having trouble watching this press pause until it has fully downloaded.
P.S. I was so upset about what I read about the ongoing war in Congo that I joined Amnesty International today…long overdue. I hope in the future to do something more to help rebuild peace and the welfare of people in this country, the DRC or Democratic Republic of Congo. If you want to know a bit more even though it is harrowing to read then please go to these sites. I cannot believe this stuff is not in our mainstream news more often.
Article in The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/12/congo.international

BBC report in 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2405563.stm

Amnesty International Article
http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/africa/central-africa/dr-congo

(Episode two) Notting Hill and the Arts 1967-1972: an interview with Dave Russell -Psychedelic rock bands, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Ralph McTell, Davy Graham, lightshows, poets, and drug-taking in a crypt


Interview with Dave Russell on the Arts and Community Centre Notting Hill in the 60s and 70s( Part Two)

Following on from my previous post here is episode 2 of my interview with Dave Russell from a couple of weeks ago. Here he continues to tell us of the gigs and wild arts happenings in Notting Hill 1967-1972 occurring first at The Ecumenical Centre in Denbigh Road Notting Hill which later moved to the bigger venue in the crypt of the Methodist Church in Lancaster Road otherwise known as “The Arts and Community Centre Notting Hill” where psychedelic bands such as Gong, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind performed, here he also tells us of acoustic musicians, poets and drug use on church premises.

Dave Russell interview episode 2

I’ll edit and upload the next episode of this interview in a couple of days time.

This is Ron Geesin with “Spiky Diving Bells”

Now I’m cheating by using a documentary of Hawkwind in the early Notting Hill years
(for those of you from outside the UK :Ladbroke Grove is a road and an area in the North End of Notting Hill where it was a bit rougher than than the south, Notting Hill is in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea but was a much poorer area)

I apologise for name-dropping but I just cannot post that Hawkwind clip without saying that I used to know both Mick Slattery and Terry Ollis who both feature in that clip and have casually played music with both of them..although I’m not sure what they think of me! I’ve also met Lemmy and Nik Turner but they won’t remember me and I don’t remember a lot about them!

This is the Amazing Davy Graham who is still gigging and very influential to British Folk musicians in the 60s

…..and here is Dave Russell himself performing

Back in a couple of days with episode three
Love and Peace
Born2rant

Apologies to anyone who doesn’t have broadband!

I’ll write some more stories soon but unfortunately some of the craziest ones I could write I won’t because I respect my old friends too much not just the ones in this post!