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

The Banning of Free Festivals, not by locals,but by the police…again.


Hello Good People who still might read this blog

I have become lazy in writing and today is no exception however I had to share this rather bad news.

The Strawberry Fair due to run on June 5th 2010 has been cancelled due to police objections. I have personally attended many Strawberry Fairs and thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing and friendly atmosphere, the entertainment, featuring local bands rather than those elected by the music business, encouraging local performing arts , local traders and alternative people to gather publicly for one day . This historic Cambridge  free festival which has been running for 37 years was due to run until this recent decision.

They were awarded a license by Cambridge County Council on March the 2nd.However, according to the Strawberry Fair website: “At the licence hearing that the police spent a great deal of time and money attempting to get the fair closed down, employing a London-based law firm and barrister to present the evidence they had gathered at significant cost to the tax payer.”

When the license was granted the police appealed and as a voluntary group the Strawberry Fair organisers cannot afford  the same kind of legal representation. On their site they write “It is going to be a very tough task for us to prepare for the appeal hearing both in time and money, we hope that the people of Cambridge will support us in our mission to secure the fair for 2011 and onwards and give generously whilst not doing anything to exasperate the situation unnecessarily and damage the future of the fair.” ( http://www.strawberry-fair.org.uk/)

Here is a youtube clip of Strawberry Fair 2007, I was there somewhere! Nice pictures sorry about ads at beginning!

Here are some alternative people with dangerous bubble making equipment at Strawberry Fair. I hope they don’t mind me broadcasting their dangerous bubbles on my blog.

If the police keep banning festivals which organisers have taken great pains to organise legally and safely in conjunction with the local community, then the alternative is to go back to random unchartered free festivals that are not legal, not properly organised and not safe!

You can’t stop similar minded people from gathering and celebrating together. It’s a basic human need.

Love and Peace

Born2rant


…to Solfest, not a review, but some thoughts…


Hello Good People who read this blog…

Although I will be writing about Solfest, this is not a review as I have done in the past two years. I spent most of my time at Solfest recovering from the Hawkwind party and evaluating other experiences I had from my crazy summer.

For me the Notting Hill Carnival or in recent years Solfest , mark the end of summer and announce the beginning of a period of reflection and times indoors. Hawkwind reminds me of the past and the power of rebellion. The music reflects the effects of both drugs and the power of large gatherings and in particular the extremes of creativity.Thus opening  the “Doors of Perception” to deeper consciousness where both heaven and hell  live cheek by jowl.

Solfest was an altogether more “grounding” experience and is an example of a “newer type of festival”, exemplifying changes in alternative culture. It bridges the spirit of free festivals, mainly started by travelling creative idealistic people being chased around the country by the police, with the present, to create an event that has learnt lessons from the past and does its own thing while still conforming to rules and regulations, although there is  much turning of a blind eye to activities that are not harming anyone.

At Solfest I found both the most anarchic creative influences present in the entertainment, fancy dress costumes, and various types of  artistic installation and also mainstream culture in some of the aspiring stars performing, still climbing that ladder, even though making obscene amounts of money out of music is mostly a thing of the past.

At Solfest, you can pretty much have the experience you want, whether you have small children,don’t have children, love acoustic music, want to go to various excesses of toxicity, want to be healthy and coherent and attend yoga workshops, want to rock, listen to live world music, chill out all night  in a psychedelic way or want to dance.

This is a clip from the dance tent although many of the older and youngest attendees completely avoid this place.

The Ashan Project in the Dance tent Solfest 2009

The only time I went into the dance tent was on Saturday night waiting for The Orb to come on and this was an experience in itself. Northerners and the Scots know how to get excited and to enjoy themselves with free abandon twenty times more than any uptight Londoner. The atmosphere was crazy. The tent was packed with people of all ages in strange costumes with hash pipes, cans of beer, laughing ,dancing and shouting and throwing themselves about and screaming in anticipation. After thirty minutes of  being pushed about in a friendly way by revellers, I left the dance tent feeling like I was being boring but also avoiding the odd bruise the next day.

I am using youtube in a lazy way today but I think this little clip highlights pretty much what it is like wandering around this festival and why I love it. You have the organised entertainment but the majority of the time you have people just entertaining themselves, everyone participates and creates the atmosphere( watch about 1 minute in for little sound system scene with live singer, random saxophonist and “The Urban Gypsies” dancing along).

If you like your rock music truly raw and raucous (plus beer) then the Bar Stage is often the place to be. I didn’t see this band but I quite like them(you get to see them on stage 30 seconds into this clip).

This is “Vice Squad” originally formed in 1979 as a punk rock band featuring “Beki Bondage” on vocals.

There seems to be less footage of Solfest this year up online than last time.

One of the reasons may have been the mud and the rain. By Sunday,the mud was almost as bad as Glastonbury 1997. My tent is cosy but not very high and you have to crawl into it from outside. Due to last minute packing ,I had only one pair of jeans and no torch, since coming home I have washed my jeans three times on the maximum cycle to get rid of the mud and had to machine wash the tent too, plus my boots have shrunk . You get the picture! Travelling home on public transport one had to adopt a ” I don’t care if people stare at me strangely” attitude.

Also walking around the festival started to get a bit grim by Sunday night. I went to watch Kula Shaker then The Charlatans with my son and his friends. I didn’t much like Kula Shaker, sometimes I felt like I was listening to The Doors, sometimes The Who, sometimes early Deep Purple, or even The Kinks. It was like listening to a puzzle , lots of pieces of different bands copied and assembled into songs but no continuity or individual style. The performance was faultless and excellently executed, but then to me,that’s not creative. I like music that has mistakes, it’s the mistakes and the improvisation that generates something new.

In the break between the two bands my son and I discussed various things, we like talking about music and culture together. We were saying how everyone is a “covers band” these days. The new bands copy the styles of the old bands and the old bands keep touring doing their old stuff, that nothing new has really happened for twenty years in terms of live (non-dance) music. I pointed out that in the 60s and 70s everyone was intent on finding their own unique style and not just trying to fit into a marketable music category that wouldn’t offend anyone.

My son wanted to know a detailed account of the Hawkwind party. Then he told me about a conversation he had heard in the Dogs in Space tent with this bloke who had been a HUGE Hawkwind fan. The ex-Hawkwind fan described how he used to have every single Hawkwind album on vinyl, first pressings only. When asked if he had sold them since,he said in all seriousness(something like) :”No, I gave up drugs and as part of  the process, I had to give away all my Hawkwind albums, it was a big step!”

I know we were cruel, but we laughed about it and imagined a twelve step programme for giving up drugs .

STEP ONE: Get rid of all your Hawkwind memorabilia and never listen to them again!

( end of my brief comment on Solfest, still my favourite festival)

Love and Peace

Born2rant

p.s. I just found out that the “Urban Gypsies” were on “Britain’s Got Talent” 2008 , they have just blown their urban gypsy credibility.


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