…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.


The Big Green Dispersion and Solfest 2009


Hello Good People who read this blog ,

(to anyone who read my Guilfest post, I have just added a video clip of Alice Armstrong at the end of it)

Just a note to say  that I just got an email from my son telling me that “The Big Green Gathering“, probably the official festival most like the older style alternative free festivals of the eighties , has been cancelled.

The Big Green Gathering really does represent  alternative hippie counterculture in all its creative and political forms, so it’s very sad.

Some footage of the Big Green Gathering one of many clips to be found on youtube but this one is particularly well put together.

Here is the notice from the BGG website:

Welcome to
The Big Green Gathering
The world’s premier and award winning Green Festival
Attitude Is Everything – Bronze Level Award
July 29th – 2nd August 2009
urgent message

Dear Friends,
following threatened injunction proceedings in High Court by Mendip District Council supported by Somerset & Avon Police and having taken extensive advice from a prominent QC and other eminent lawyers, the directors of the Big Green Gathering have been left with no other option than to voluntarily surrender the license for the Big Green Gathering 2009. The event will now not take place and the directors’ advice and request is that no one intending to attend the event should attempt to do so, as the site is now closed and they are likely to be turned away by Somerset Police. It is our intention to avoid any form of confrontation or public disorder in regard to this and it is our earnest hope that all those involved will follow this advice. It is with great sadness that we have been forced into this position and we express our profound apologies to all those concerned. The Directors of The Big Green Gathering

This is a very last minute decision. I don’t fully understand why the festival has been banned by the local council and police.

According to the BBC , the festival is cancelled for safety reasons as well as crime. Is this the whole reason? Or is it to stop political subversives from meeting in large quantities?

see BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/8169477.stm

is it really that dangerous that it must be closed down?

It looks like a great way to socialise kids and help them to build for the future when the world will change through our abuse of it.

Here are some more highly dangerous and criminal activities at the BGG.Young people making their own films of the festival. These are fantastic.

**********************************************************************************************************

Meanwhile I should be going to Solfest in Cumbria at the end of August( 28th -30th) ,after going to Hawkwind’s 40th Anniversary gig at Porchester Halls in London the night before.

It’s a long way from London but still my favourite festival, the atmosphere is much friendlier than festivals in the south and people go there not to see any particular band but for the festival experience.Everyone is co-operative and creates a good atmosphere, Saturday is “Fancy Dress” day,which is always spectacular and inventive.

I recommend it for any hippies out there who can no longer go to The Big Green Gathering, but get your tickets early.

It only costs £85 for the weekend  including camping  and car with very limited tickets. You can get there easily from Carlisle by train and minibus.

from the Solfest website:

“Tickets for Solfest 2009 will be available from the following outlets:

  • The Carnegie Theatre, Workington, 01900 602122 (telephone and counter sales, cash and cards accepted)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Aspatria (over the counter cash sales only)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Wigton (over the counter cash sales only)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Silloth (over the counter cash sales only)

For Solfest 2009 there will be a total of 6500 adult tickets available. There will also be a total of 750 children’s tickets and 750 Young people’s tickets. When they are gone, they are gone!”

Although I said that it isn’t the bands that matter, the line-up includes The Charlatans who I saw do a great live gig at Guilfest. Other acts include The Orb, Kula Shaker, Adrian Edmonson and the Bad Shepherds, The Beat ( who I was told did a great set at Guilfest too), The Buzzcocks, the  Blockheads, Nerina Pallot, and many more.

Solfest has all the things lacking at Guilfest in terms of quality of festival-going experience.

A sample from last year’s Solfest , as part of the goings-on in the all night Dogs in Space chill out tent featuring a bit of  Tetchi who are billed to play again there this year (this film makes the tent look a lot darker than in real life, it was actually fairly bright in there).

Any comments on why you think The Big Gathering was cancelled?

Love and Peace

Born2rant

p.s. thanks to the UK Hippie Forum, I have found this update about what to do if you have a ticket.Is there a UK Beatnik Forum? and a UK Crusty Forum? and if not why not?

Next time a radio show I made about the songwriting communities of Open Mic clubs in London.

From BGG website ( note that Gong are playing the Big Chill keep referring to the BGG website for news, the Big Chill is a good place if you want a holiday but it’s nothing like the BGG experience in terms of  green anarchy, still I think  it’s good that they’ve done this, better that than leave people totally stranded)

Several other festivals have already approached us, offering to accept BIg Green Gathering tickets for their events. Some have placed no limit on the number of our ticket holders they will accept. Others have offered us a quota… and have told us that they will announce, on their websites, how many they can accomodate and how many places for BGG ticket holders they still have left. So far, if you have paid for a ticket (whether full price or concession) you will find it is definitely good for full admission to SUNRISE 2010 (late May 2010, Somerset) See website for details of how their BGG swap quota is standing and we are hoping, soon, to announce similar swap options for several festivals. Watch this space please.
ALSO
If you are willing to pay an extra £20, you can swap your Big Green Gathering ticket for a ticket to the BIG CHILL. All you have to do is turn up at the gate of the Big Chill with your BGG ticket and your extra £20. We’ll have a stall there, and some of the same speakers who were on our bill (including Jonathan Cainer) will be in their Words In Motion tent. Also on the Big Chill bill are Max Romeo, Gong, Pharoah Sanders and Music from the Penguin Cafe, plus comedy from Noel Fielding, Tim Minchin, John Hegley, Josie Long and Rob Deering.
Click here for the link. Please note; the Big Chill is not yet a Green event but they do have a long history of supporting honourable causes including Amnesty International… and they are now starting to use more solar and wind power. Solar Aid have a presence there this year.
OR
If you really want to make a gesture of faith and support… you can hold on to your ticket and we will honour it at the next Big Green Gathering, wherever and whenever it will be.
If we can avoid having to give too many straight refunds, it will help us survive. And if you are feeling extra-ordinarily generous, you can simply write to us telling us that you are ‘donating’ your ticket towards our survival fund.



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