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

Acid Mothers Temple,Stearica, Chambers of the Heart (Oxford 30/05/2010)


Hello Good People who still sometimes read this blog…

I return briefly to give a highly subjective account of a gig I went to at the weekend, that blew my mind and which has deafened me although I hope to regain my hearing gradually over the week (wear earplugs kids and don’t do as I did).

I decided on the spur of the moment to go to Oxford on Sunday to see Acid Mothers Temple.

I bought my ticket online, but shortly afterwards realised I was ill with a stomach bug and had a bit of a temperature, but decided to go anyway, these difficulties were  compounded by missing not one but two Oxford Tube coaches ( long stupid story). However I live with the philosophy that if something has many obstacles in the way, then the rewards at the end of it all are bound to be amazing so I forged my way to Oxford from London eventually.

The Bullingdon Arms venue was a bit grim but OK. Many posters about sniffer dogs and a ban on drug dealing, made me realise that I was probably not hanging out in the poshest part of Oxford but the low down and dirty experimental rock part, as it should be for such a gig.

The first act on were a young local band called Chambers of The Heart. I think they were a 5 piece band, it was hard to tell as they were playing in the dark, with only a film projection behind to illuminate them. Sounding like early Hawkwind, they were very loud and jammed continuously well, but in line with the age of the musicians, they sounded too well rehearsed and polished to actually be mistaken for a group who were creating sounds out of the air after taking a strange combination of far too many drugs ( i.e. early Hawkwind or any of the other 70s jam bands crawling out of the squats and back streets of Ladbroke Grove).

Chambers of the Heart had no vocalist but was fronted by a truly excellent female theremin player, who made this contraption her own by making it sing like a drunken but earnest Clanger. They sounded somehow slower  than Hawkwind, but compensated for this by having great swells of  loud energy and contrasting quiet peaceful bits.

I couldn’t find any youtube clips for this band but instead here’s their myspace:

chambers of the heart
http://www.myspace.com/chambersoftheheartgroup

Motorhead may have claimed to have “Everything Louder Than Everything Else“, but that’s only because Stearica was not playing live at the time. Italian band Stearica, have several pleasant-sounding melodic clips of themselves online however at this gig they were loud, forceful, speedy and raucous like this clip but much louder and somewhat faster:

Stearica 14/4/2008 ( in the spirit that I saw them play in)

Again there was no singer, but the drummer was the front man. He was the most manic drummer since Keith Moon , although this reference may now be outmoded. He asked the audience standing a few feet back from the stage,to come in closer, in a strong Italian accent. So I moved right to the front, but I had already become so engrossed in the music than I forgot to put in earplugs. Thereby injuring both brain and ears and experiencing the music in the same way as gorging a curry full of chillies and not much in the way of other ingredients.

The bassist played from a wheelchair, with energy and originality. A third member of the band played synth and guitar through two rows of pedal effects, but I was not able to hear him until the rhythm section stopped playing, and even  then, I wasn’t sure if what I was listening too was him playing high-pitched sounds or my internal screaming tinnitus.

However here he is on an occasion where he can be heard:

There was nothing subtle about this band, but also no boring moments,high-speed all the way through. At one point, in mid-song,the drummer got up and the whole band halted in suspended animation, which was surreal. They kept this up for some time until the crowds cheered enough for the drummer to start back up again and the others joined in perfectly in time. Pretty impressive. If I was running a psychedelic club I’d book them just for their sheer attitude and contagious enthusiasm.

By the time Acid Mothers Temple got on stage , I was already a bit deaf and had headbanged several thousand brain-cells out of existence ( now living in headbanger’s heaven). I was a bit worried that I would not be able to hear the next band or have any energy left to dance with. I needn’t have worried as they cranked up the volume of the Marshall amps even further, and the two guitarists standing in front of me, moved about as they played ,so that somehow I became possessed by a need to dance even more frenetically. I didn’t need drink or drugs, the music was enough to temporarily cure my stomach malaise and send me into a psychedelic trance.

The entire band was Japanese except for the bass player who had broken his arm and was replaced by a white guy with a poney tail and a moustache . He was a dead-ringer for a guy I used to know who was both a devout Catholic and a devout drug dealer with gangster connections.  This phased me initially, wondering if people who look just like other people, have similar personalities and lifestyles, but I digress. He was just a good bass player.

The lead guitarist was an artist. I don’t know his background but I could imagine him starting by learning to play Chopin from an early age and practising this for 5 hours a day and then graduating to Hawkwind, Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Steve Hillage in adolescence.

The front man with long grey hair, on guitar and synth, seemed also to have studied the greats. You note that I do not name them.I  know little about Acid Mothers Temple.

Of course I had heard of this band for some years , and knew that they had a connection with Gong, but the reason why I was at this concert was after a conversation in a London restaurant with some music students.

One girl, who is an excellent musician herself and generally a nice person, was taking the piss out of hippies as most people do. She was telling us about an Acid Mothers Temple gig she’d been to. She described them as being total hippies, who jammed for hours on stage, with a lead guitarist who did twenty-minute long solos, how everyone there was on acid and how there were hundreds of long-haired hippies in the audience either swaying or dancing crazily for hours on end to the loud psychedelic mayhem happening on stage. At which point I had to say “That sounds great!” even though she was criticising them. A music lecturer then helpfully told me that they were on tour and about to gig in Oxford.

I had heard some Japanese “noise” bands from clips on youtube, and this is what I was expecting, but Acid Mothers Temple was not only “noise”, it was bloody good music. It was not “original” music in Western terms, but blatantly imitating early Pink Floyd and Hawkwind jams, Hendrix , Steve Hillage, or other psychedelic artists, re-hashed (pardon the pun) and re-assembled into beautiful musical forms, sublimely executed by these crazed rebellious musicians. The riffs could be  a bit laboured and repetitive, but this had the effect of sending everyone into some kind of  trance. At one point I got slightly bored with the repeated riff  but then the bass player launched into the most amazing bass line in the style of Yes bassist Chris Squire.

But you can hear this for yourselves. A clip of  Acid Mothers Temple, this is one of their famous tracks ,Pink Lady Lemonade..wait for the bass to come in…followed a minute or so later by guitar solo (27 th march 2010 Vancouver)

Here is a little taster of them during a manic more disjointed phase of their musical performance from 2006:

The drummer was tucked away in the back but still drove the ever-changing speed and volume.There were phases in the music of light and dark, the pretty and melodic contrasted with piercing chaos. Feedback was used throughout as an extra dimension as well as prolific stage antics.

On several occasions, I expected the guitarist to smash his guitar to pieces in front of me and was ready to duck or catch it, if it landed in my direction. There were attempts at singing but due to the volume of the instruments it was impossible for either the audience, or the musicians to hear any vocals. At times,even the drum kit , which was being hit as hard as humanly possible, barely registered against the storm of surrounding feedback and electronic overdrive.

But hey, why have one drum-kit when you can have two?

Here is a clip of  Acid Mothers Temple ( with two drummers), doing a cover of a Steve Hillage track :The Glorious Om Riff Somehow they manage to shout the lyrics in a totally different key to the music, I don’t know if this is intentional , or just because they were deafened. Luckily they did not play this at the excellent Oxford gig I attended,as it is a bit painful to a  Steve Hillage fan, and yet it’s still brilliantly rebellious and entertaining. I assure you that they are much more “polished ” in 2010…if polished is the best word to describe them. Anyway Steve Hillage fans should play this clip from around 5 minutes in and see what you think of their cover version. Even later on in the clip, the band gets a tad nihilistic.

Acid Mother’s Temple with glissando guitar ( beautiful!)
14th April 2010 Kentucky

The final 30 minutes of the gig had virtually non-stop strobes. The lead guitarist threw his guitar around and then hung it up on the lighting rig, letting it ring out the feedback before leaving the stage.

Love ’em or hate ’em, the hurricane of electronic sounds and the dedication of the musicians to blow your mind into the ultimate psychedelic experience makes an “Acid Mothers Temple” concert an unmissable cathartic event.

It’s been three days and I still have some tinnitus in my ears, but all in all, that was the craziest psychedelic rock gig I have been to in 30 years.

There were no lyrics, no elaborate lightshows, no on stage choreography, but f*** me it was good.

Go see Acid Mothers Temple before you die, or they do (and bring earplugs).

Love and Peace

Born2rant

I am on a lonely road and I am travelling, travelling, travelling…


Hello Good People who read this blog in my absence

(This blog entry was written after listening to hours of Joni Mitchell on my travels…)

I thought of you all on Solstice morning . The light was shining through the curtains of my guest room not long past 4 a.m. , unable to sleep I looked out the window and in the pale light I saw the sea, the birds and some drunken young revellers still ambling loudly on the beach from the night before with beer bottles in hand. They weren’t celebrating the Solstice, they were simply on holiday. Yes, I was in England but I don’t have a laptop or a mobile and was in a seaside town without internet access.

But I thought of you all out there somewhere. I felt bad for not writing about the Solstice, for this blog has become a commitment, although I don’t need any commitments right now.

I am on my own personal journey, this blog started with bits of my past, that others could relate to, then as I wrote various forces and choices transformed my present.

The same thing used to happen when I wrote many songs,  when I did art and wrote silly stories,the creative process subsequently changed my life.

Some people always stay in the same place all their lives, they like the same things, wear the same clothes, do the same job, love the same people and live with the same friends, family and neighbourhood. Although they still gently change and age, they are content with their stability.But people like me find this stability impossible and in spite of ourselves we need to transform, re-generate especially at times when the world too is changing fast( and we clash with our kin).

Joni Mitchell”California” 1970

So as a result of my blog I started to study again a subject which turned out to be just right for me in many ways, and also as a result of writing about protests and rights and looking at inequalities in relationships between people I mounted my own protest with  my nearest and dearest. Not fun, not fun at all but revolutionary. Not sure where it will end.

Also I foolishly mentioned to some that I had an anonymous blog and know that others observe me and can see into my private writings, I have to just live with that, but it has also put me off . A bit like having your parents or your teacher look over your shoulder while writing your private diary about the same said parent or teacher.

Joni Mitchell live 1974 “all i want”

Anyway I have been travelling and dealing with shit, just came back from a place in Eastern Europe that is amazing. I don’t want to tell you where it is! Because there are so few British and American tourists there at present. I may be going back there soon, just to say that people are nice there, much much nicer than in London, and that I left  a bag with my money , passport , debit card on a bench surrounded by at least a hundred people at the side of the biggest outdoor swimming pool I have ever seen and left it there for a couple of hours and no one took it.

But really coming back to London is so bad , as soon as I got here I was robbed in the street of only a few quid, still it was meant to be my week’s food money, without violence or even my noticing. I told the community police, they said there was nothing they could do but were sympathetic.

So  I called the real police, they were really nice but I soon felt like I was in a Monty Python sketch, the one with the restaurant where a diner complains about a dirty fork. In the end all the staff apologise and I think at least one stabs themselves to death.

They called me again today and asked for a description of the people hanging around me in the street when the money was taken. They chatted and laughed with me and were really nice so I thought I’d write about that.

But at lunchtime I had to walk past the same spot where I think my money was taken. There were two police vans , three police cars and about thirty police officers and community police people all standing guard around the place and stopping young people in the street asking them for ID. They didn’t stop me as I am too old.

I suddenly felt really guilty wondering if  maybe my calling them had somehow contributed to this operation.I am not being too specific here for obvious reasons. I didn’t feel good about it. I went back about four hours later and there were still around 15 police officers there stopping young people.

So on the one hand for a change I’d like to state that the police really can be very helpful and on the other , if this police presence really was in response to my complaint then we are living in a  scary place.

In the tremendously cultured , beautiful , historic, progressive , very friendly and poor town in eastern Europe I have been recently been to, they only have one or two CCTV cameras. Eco-conscious weasels break into parked cars at night and chew through the electrical wiring.There are tons of young people there, little or no health and safety rules, no Body Shop, no Starbucks etc..and the locals don’t speak English.

Apparently they had put a CCTV camera outside a building where journalists worked. The journalists complained that they should not be filmed and it was taken down. Also there was a smoking ban and bar owners who smoked complained that they would have to go outside for a smoke at their place of work, so they allow some restaurants and bars to have a major smoking section and a small non-smoking section. I’m not saying smoking is good for you but I think their approach is a little saner.

Here is a collection of Joni Mitchell songs starting with “Come to the Sunshine” with a great guitar riff with bended strings, performed live in 1967 at  the Couriers Folk Club Leicester. This song is definitely my current favourite of hers. If this plays correctly this should be a series of songs including a very expressive version of “Both Sides Now“. Joni Mitchell’s early live stuff is really her at her best in my humble opinion. If you can’t hear the others double-click onto youtube to find the rest. There are remastered (clearer) versions of some of these songs on one of a couple of live bootlegs called2nd Frets  1966-1968″ and “Live at Club 47″ ( 1968).

I think Joni should release this song again, it’s a definite hit, the version on “Live at Club 47” , unfortunately a bootleg, is louder on the guitar and more confident but the words and structure of this song are fantastic, it’s a gem of an undiscovered song. (maybe the sexual connotations kept it hidden!)

(for a complete list of Joni’s 37  unreleased early songs with lyrics go to jonimitchell.com)

Back to my travel tales in a cultured town in Eastern Europe….

I was sitting outside alone at three a.m. one night, smoking a fag and I asked a local if I was in danger of getting mugged. He told me that the only crime in their town was ” Street Demolition” which made me laugh.

I asked him what that was, it turns out it means graffiti and other small acts of vandalism like the odd beer bottle being smashed. There was lots of graffiti, but most of it was art which was much cleverer and skilled than your average “Banksy”.

I also went to an outside swimming pool there which was the size of Belgium, it even had waves without a wave machine. There was no chlorine in it, no shallow end,the lifeguard was in his own room about a million miles away and was fully clothed. It was bloody scary but no one drowned and everyone looked like they were having fun. Families chain smoked on the grass and under tress after a good swim.

The young people there seem so much more responsible and organised about their lives. They all drink  beer but  I was in this major town for ten days, I never saw a police car or a police officer.

Everyone in the street, in shops, everywhere was smiling and friendly even though I couldn’t speak the language , they were patient and entertained by my ” charade” miming skills. I didn’t have a phrase book though:

London and the UK are so over-rated, in just ain’t the same as in the times of Monty Python. Comedy is censured now so that no one gets upset. Would that sketch upset Hungarians?  It depends how people are represented. Freedom is good, travel broadens the mind if you allow it to, or if you are going a bit crazy it can cure depression or a nervous breakdown better than Prozac or dyamtholintoolitisticholum ( random name of prescribed drug I invented). If travel is better than anti-depressants then I will also say that music is also better than religion . Will I get comments? I doubt it, I’m not John Lennon.

That’s why I haven’t been here, but I am thinking of all of you. Going to Guilfest tomorrow, never been, I will writing again when I can like a  lost alternative Auntie. I’m going to Guilfest for an odd reason, my friend wants to go and see Motorhead somewhere he can smoke. Simples, squeak. Heavy rain is forecast.

I am going through a Joni Mitchell phase who wrote many songs about her travels but this is her famous ecological one.

“Big Yellow Taxi” 1970

Love and Peace

Born2rant

(I really should be packing and other stuff..excuse any typos!)

17/7/09 P.S. Clue for those who can be bothered to Google: the town I was referring to is home to a place where in the past , two dictators gave public speeches  from its main balcony,that was at the Blue Elephant Hotel. If you go there don’t take lager lout friends or hen parties with you,  the place is almost free of foreign tourists due to its location and history. Actually it’s not blue just Elephant Hotel, I must have put a colour in there with my imagination. You’ll probably read this after Googling “Blue Elephant Hotel” ten times, but I have to make it possible but hard for you to find, so only the determined will succeed, like the swimmers determined to survive a length without drowning at the swimming pool there.



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