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

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Steve Hillage and Gong, better late than never…


Hello Good People who surprise me by still reading this blog during my long absences.

This post was originally half written over four weeks ago and was never finished, I was interrupted by the ‘flu,the Cultural Revolution and Revolutionary Operas and then had to recover from the exhaustion of all three!

Anyway, I am now myself again and am greatly excited at the prospect of seeing the Steve Hillage Band and Gong live at The Forum in London, this Friday (on the 27/11/2009 in case you read this at some point in the future).

Talking about some point in the future, before the Cultural Revolution, or sleeping or reading about East Asian pop music compulsively once  again, I will get straight to the point and illustrate Gong’s new album entitled 2032 with a short clip. I have to admit that I think this music video is amazing. It was made by the Japanese animator team Mu-0C Magic , who I believe are Hibari Hoya,Haruka Sakota, and Akira Watanabe.

Gong- How to Stay Alive ( 2009)

Is the album entitled 2032 because an asteroid is due to hit Earth in that year?

Answers in the comments section please, the song is certainly cheerfully apocalyptic. But then the first ever song by Gong that hit me lyrically in the centre of my brain was You Can’t Kill Me, a song about killing off the rest of the family, symbolic and  psychologically strange.

( preceded appropriately by Radio Gnome Prediction) released in 1971 from the album Camembert Electrique:

The tracks on the new album 2032 sound definitely like the old Gong, although on occasion I can hear a bit of old Hawkwind and The Ozric Tentacles too. However considering that without both Hawkwind and Gong , there wouldn’t be any Ozric Tentacles ..I’ll let you do the maths…

Here is Pinkle Ponkle from the new Gong album, starting off sounding a bit techno, then a bit middle-Eastern but then definitely just like Gong’s unique style with echo unit orgasmic sighs by Gilli Smyth , Daevid Allen’s poetry, psychedelic spacy effects by Miquette Giraudy, Steve Hillage’s uniquely wonderful  guitar sound ,with Mike Howlett on bass,Chris Taylor on drums and Theo Travis on flute and sax.


See the Gong website (http://www.planetgong.co.uk/) for further guest players on the album including the original Didier Malherbe.

Gong and Steve Hillage surreptitiously introduced me to Gamelan, free form jazz , Middle-Eastern and Indian classical music and musical concepts like drones on Miquette’s synth,and modes from the East on Steve‘s guitar, when I was only fourteen and “World Music” was not generally heard in London’s mainstream media, apart from a bit of Indian Classical music.

In recent years of course, Steve Hillage has been creating music with Miquette as System7, but even with dance/trance/techno music he was still playing his guitar live.

Now with the reemergence of The Steve Hillage Band , he is playing his old stuff again, something many of us had wished and prayed for during the past two and a half decades and never dared to hope would come true.

I will end with some video clips as it’s late and I need to go to bed! One last piece of info, I phoned up a ticket agency today ( Keith Prowse) and there are still tickets available for this Friday (tomorrow) at the Forum in Kentish Town…

but only because every Steve Hillage fan in London does not realise he is playing yet. If you are one of them, get yourself a ticket by whatever means , it’s not too late. Or you could go and see The Steve Hillage Band and Gong , on Saturday the 28th at The O2 Academy in Oxford,  and Sunday the 29th of  November at The Corn Exchange in Brighton.

I have already put up so many of my favourite Steve Hillage tracks up on this blog along with my favourite youtube video clips so forgive me if I am repeating myself .

Om Nama Shivaya from the album “L” (1976)

Salmon Song ,this is a clip from the fantastic video of Steve Hillage playing in Canterbury from the truly excellent DVD  Steve Hillage LIVE in England 1979.

and from the same DVD here he is with Hurdy Gurdy Man

and here they are in 2009 in Bonn playing  Searching for The Spark ..they need a bigger audience to bounce their musical vibes off, so get down there , if you are in London, Oxford, or Brighton and dance your hippie dance.

See you all on Friday or online sometime.

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))

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

Steve Hillage: Part Two trying to reach number 7


Steve Hillage: Part Two trying to reach number 7

Hello good people who read this blog

If Steve Hillage had been a spy I am sure he would not have called himself 007 but maybe 777.
On the “System 7” site the contact e-mail is s777@a-wave.com. (oh but please don’t bombard them with spam!). There is also a page explaining why in the USA Steve and Miquette are called “777” and not “System 7” – because there was another band called System 7 of course. How confusing!
This obsession with the number 7 goes back a long way.
On his album Motivation Radio released in 1977 he has a Tarot card on the back. It is the card called “The Chariot” which is one from the Major Arcana ( spiritually more charged). Guess what number it is ?
Yes number VII or 7.
Plus in his song “ Light in the Sky” he sings ” In ‘77 the light shone in our hearts and in our minds”.
Once Steve and Miquette formed “System 7” they released an album called “777” in 1993, one called “Power of Seven” in 1996 and another album called “Seventh Wave” in 2001.
I haven’t looked at the track listings but I would be surprised if there weren’t any 7‘s there.

So if I ever got to talk to Steve Hillage for any length of time I’d want to know. ” Why all the 7s?”
Without him here to answer I am speculating that he and Miquette are probably into Numerology and possibly using the number 7 is a kind of symbol to help his music to generate the right energy and receptivity ( there are plenty of numbers in their lyrics and track titles not just 7).
I am not a numerology expert although I do know quite a bit about The Chariot tarot card.
Depending on which book you read it can be associated with a variety of concepts. Off the top of my head I would say it is symbol of Motivation, of either competing drives within oneself or different drives working together ( the horses drawing the chariot). The Chariot is going places that is why it’s associated with motivation and no doubt the album Motivation Radio. The driver is in control of the reins and the horses can symbolise sometimes conflicting emotions, or spiritual energies or subconscious impulses that work together to propel us to “Progress”. It is one of the “gateway” cards in Tarot which takes you a new part of a spiritual journey of growth.
My knowledge of Numerology is not good. I have problems with it.
Doing a bit of research online it looks complicated as there is Indian numerology and Qabalistic numerology and many other types. I once had my real name and date of birth calculated in numerological terms and I was told I was a was number 7 . They might as well have told me that the meaning of life was 42 . The meaning of who I am is 7 ! That’s 6 times 7.
But I am not a number ! (neither 6 nor 7) I am a free person!
Before I annoy everyone into numerology I’ll confess my weakness for the I Ching and Tarot both of which use numbers and random acts to gain insight into the psychic, emotional and spiritual undercurrents we may generate subconsciously which then can be interpreted in both numbers, symbols and ancient philosophies and archetypes.
Actually I guess that anyone reading this who is into numerology is probably rubbing their chins right now and have a big thought bubble popping out of their heads saying “Yes , well reading her blog I always thought she was a number 7!”
To which I sing back the lyrics Steve Hillage’s “Unidentified!” “Don’t put no labels on me, don’t you block my energy…so my spirit can be free..”etc..etc..

Yes I don’t want to be labelled by a number as that means I cannot change or be fluid in who I am.

Anyway I now realise I don’t need to ask Steve Hillage the seven question because someone else has.This is what Steve Hillage said in an interview in 2001( shortly after 9/11 ) to read the full interview please go to http://www.centralstation.com.au/articles/shownews.asp?newsid=692

” Numbers pop up a lot in your work, how important is numerology to you?

Steve Hillage: “We’re not number fetishists, but numbers do have a great symbolic importance and we’re also intrigued by things like sacred geometry, which also has a bearing on music. The number 7 is a number we particularly like and keen students of Steve Hillage albums from the 70s will find plenty of references there. We’ve moved away from expressing ourselves through songs and lyrics towards a purely instrumental form.”

What kind of ideas are you trying to put across?

Steve Hillage: “You can’t encapsulate it in a few glib sentences, particularly when you look at the state of the world now, which is pretty dire. As a musician, you have to honestly ask yourself what you’re doing and why. Ultimately the best thing we can do is put over some positive, genuine feelings and hope to influence people in a positive and expanded direction. That’s the only way people are going to sort the world out. I’m not making any claims about there being any particular power in what we do, but as musicians I’d defend what we do as being honest. We feel a natural inclination to associate our music with certain symbolic things, in order to try and tilt people’s awareness towards positive and beneficial things. Also, the experience of partying is not purely an escapist phenomenon; there’s actually a positive function in people expressing themselves to good music.”

So there you are but I still want to know more! Maybe I am making too much of this , maybe it doesn’t matter. But ultimately music and physics boil down to numbers. I feel that for me music is like a maths and imagery ( in lyrics) and sound imagery ..I don’t know this is nonsense but I’ll say it anyway: for me music is the place where maths meets the soul.

So here is a brief definition of the number 7 from a numerology website site
7 Spirituality, mental analysis, wisdom, fault finding, suppression”

Hmm…nope that’s too vague.
However for a fascinating and detailed description of number 7 go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7_(number)

So that’s my little rant about number 7 and Steve Hillage …a bit of a shaggy dog’s story really .
Here’s a poster for the London launch party for System 7’s new album at Heaven on the 21st of February click on image to enlarge. Be there or be a number 4! (square).system7.jpg

Before bed a bit of music!

This track “Song for the Phoenix” is from their new album which has just been released. I like what I have heard a lot . . It seems to me that Steve Hillage is turning his techno/ambient/trance into a more peaceful and melodic direction. This track reminds me of “Green”.

Next time I’ll be ranting and ambling a bit more about Steve Hillage. Ideally I’d like to interview him for my little blog one day. Have a good weekend!

Steve Hillage , Solfest 2007 and revivals


Is there a revival going on?

When I was at Solfest this year ( the one in Cumbria not in the US ) in the chill out tent there were some fantastic psychedelic, ambient and yes, trance live performances from Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy, Eat Static, various combinations of Ozric Tentacle members ( Nodens Ictus) and many more ( including my son, “the next generation” as they say in Star Trek with the 2.2 killaVolt Cables).

There were lots of great djs too but I’m more into live music personally and the dynamics and energy between performers and the excitement of the moment.

(Oh dear an apology to all the other people I haven’t mentioned who played or dj-ed in that tent, there were too many good ones to mention).

I really wish someone had filmed it I saw and danced to some of the best live music I heard in years and years and I go to a lot of gigs!

Steve and Miquette did a performance of ” Rainbow Dome Music” . I spoke to Steve the next day and he told me that they hadn’t performed it live before. I’m not sure if he meant ever or just since the late seventies.

He also told me that neither of them could listen to the track until it came out on CD. That’s because the vinyl version on clear vinyl has some kind of defect and crackled a lot.

I know ours did but I thought it was because we played it so much! I always cursed our copy but in fact the years of hearing some crackles at the start of the album were more than compensated for by seeing them play it live in the small chill out tent and so much other good music.

I’d heard that Steve Hillage had played some of his old stuff in Holland last year and managed to find this online, although it’s great to see it I think the sound could have been better but never mind. It seems to me that there’s a bit of a revival going on. Certainly at Solfest the Dogs in Space tent was heaven although a lot of people in the audience had no idea of who they were listening to and it was relaxed and informal. maybe that’s why it was so good. No pressure and not much ego! ( no egos or breadheads!)

Here’s Steve Hillage in 2006 then!( doing his old stuff) filmed live at the Gong UnConvention in Amsterdam, November 2006. With backing by Mike Howlett (bass), Chris Taylor (drums) and Miquette Giraudy (synths).

OM!

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