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

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Steve Hillage and Gong at The Forum (27th November 2009)-A Review


Hello Good People who read this blog


I am recovering from my evening out at the Forum last night in Kentish Town ( in London for anyone who might be reading this in Estonia) to see Steve Hillage and Gong.

Our little troupe of Hillage/Gong fans started our  journey to the gig after lots of cups of tea and a supper of winter foods including of course our green vegetables. We trailed up the road happily like well-fed hobbits, ready to face the bright lights and commuters, but had to make a detour after a rather alarming  encounter with Orcs dressed in blue accompanied by their hounds of hell.

By the time we got to The Forum , The Steve Hillage Band was already on stage, playing “Love Guitar” ,one of my favourite soppy songs.  The audience didn’t seem quite warmed up at that point and so we reckon we must have arrived pretty much close to the start of the proceedings.

(double-click on the photos to see them in full-screen)

Steve Hillage Band-The Forum-27/11/2009

Left to right

Miquette Giraudy Keyboards-Synth-Backing -Vocals-Air Guitar and fun

Steve Hillage –Genius Electric Guitarist, Vocals.

Chris Taylor (I think! at least it’s him on the 2032 new album by Gong) – Drums with a zillion tempo changes

Mike Howlett-Bass-player extra-ordinaire

I know that Steve Hillage and Gong have played The Forum before in 2008, and that they have toured quite a bit in the past 18 months or so,but this is the first time I have seen the “Steve Hillage Band”. The last time I saw Steve Hillage  playing live in a “rock” band,must have been around 1979  or 1980 at The Hammersmith Odeon. Also to my embarrassment, I had never seen Gong live until  last night. Although I know their early albums and the fantastic Japanese import  “Gong Live etc.” (Virgin,1977 ) back to front. If you do not have this double album, try to get one.I got mine on vinyl as a Japanese import around twenty-nine years ago now, but still love it.

Steve Hillage and Gong fans are very difficult to get rid of, as we could tell from the average age of the audience, although there was a minority of teenagers looking blissful while cuddling with their significant others.

We didn’t go there to take photos or film, but we took a few pictures and short clips,like the two above . We went to  have a good time in the audience, not to film, and we did have a great time, my sore  feet, sore neck and sore throat (from singing and dancing along) are testimony to this, so I’ll stop writing now and put up some photos and clips enshrined in a couple of comments.

After the first couple of songs, the audience were warmed up and the crowd had swelled, in fact the place was packed out. They had made an early start and this had obviously caught some by surprise. Steve Hillage and his band were on form. Occasionally Hillage seemed to lose confidence with his vocals, as many singers do as they get older, especially if they have not been singing for a decade or two. If you listen to Joni Mitchell in the sixties and now in her sixties, her voice is totally different but it’s good, she has had to change her singing range and vocal style to keep it up.

In terms of guitar playing and performing, Steve Hillage is still at the top of his league. As the evening wore on, he just got better and better ( and better) playing complicated solos, with key changes, tempo changes, etc..

Here is a short clip Intro to Hurdy-Gurdy Man

He played some fast and furious guitar too and the band were great, but we were too busy dancing to film it! No doubt more footage will appear on youtube. Also Mike  Howlett’s excellent bass playing was mixed in a way that was not beefy enough , we wanted to hear it louder,and yet it obliterated a bit of the rest of the band’s sound, not sure how! I guess that’s what live music is about, it depends where you stand (and the taste and/or ability of the engineer).

The set was amazing and the crowd were ecstatic, a great lightshow too with inventive animations adding to the whole performance.

My only complaint about The Steve Hillage Band was that their set was so short. I would have been happy to see them play their first five albums from start to end and would have not got bored for a second or judged them if they had missed a few bits and improvised instead.

Personally I would have been happier to see the evening split equally between Gong and Steve Hillage.

An Interval of Rainbow Dome Musick , while we got our “healing” beer would have been ideal! ( I am joking…kind of)

However,when we saw the long set that Gong played with the same instrumentalists , we realised perhaps why Steve Hillage’s set was short but quality rather than quantity. When we arrived at 7.45 pm, The Steve Hillage Band was already playing and by the time Gong had left the stage it was past 11 pm.

Miquette and Steve ( Forum 27/11/2009)

There was a long break for drinks, just as well as it seemed impossible to get served ( hence the request for Rainbow Dome Musick at this point to keep us all calm). Only two bars on the ground floor, for thousands of people, the bar we queued up at only had one person serving, although after half an hour or so ,he was joined by two others.

The mood was jolly, lots of blokes, average age 50, many still with long hair or bald.But there were also a few women of all ages and also there were young, some very young ,teenage boys occasionally with young,very young,girlfriends in tow.

There is always a new crop of hippies germinating from any background. They emerge at around the age of 13 and by 16 they are either in a band or leading some form of alternative lifestyle with individual image to boot.These budding hippies who appear from nowhere decade after decade, will always gravitate towards the music of Gong and Steve Hillage.

Gong appeared on stage at around 9.15pm. They consisted of the members of  The Steve Hillage Band , plus Daevid Allen ( vocals and  guitar, and much leaping around), Gilli Smyth ( Vocals, “Space Whispers”, Goddess/Witch) and Theo Travis ( playing some rather excellent flute and sax).

Gong at The Forum 27/11/2009 ( minus Miquette)

We couldn’t help but notice that Gilli seemed older than the kind of woman you’d expect onstage with a rock band.We have been conditioned to expect only young people onstage doing weird rock music,  especially when it comes to women in a non-acoustic band.We are super-conditioned that only certain types of sexualised young women or alternatively young teenage rebel girls who shave their heads or dye it some extreme colour, will  be there. But I believe in breaking boundaries, most of the best classic bands are older, too old to rock and roll and too young to die? No! Get on stage, I say!

According to Wikipedia, Gilli Smyth, is 76 years old and used to be in academia, lecturing at the Sorbonne before deciding to do something all the more intellectual by forming Gong with her partner Daevid Allen.

Here is Gilli being a Witch on stage along to a free-form jazz jam from other members of Gong.

The Witch’s Song Performed at The Forum 27/11/2009  originally released 1973 on “Radio Gnome Invisible.Part One”

Daevid Allen is 71. But he bounces around the stage like a kangaroo on acid (and speed). Daevid has such a stage presence  that I can’t help but wonder what on earth he would do if he didn’t go on stage and dispel that energy. He is a jester with apparently boundless tigger-like energy. He definitely needs a stage to bounce on!

Gong- You Can’t Kill Me

Unfortunately the camera ran out of memory before being able to film Daevid in his special silver-white silk catsuit, embellished by CDs, or his “No one Knows I’m a Lesbian” T-Shirt, or when he chased Miquette around the stage, or was she chasing him, either way his energy was impressive.


Daevid Allen at The Forum 27/11/2009

Miquette having fun playing air guitar along to Steve (27/11/09-Forum)

There were times when Gong shouted and repeated the same line over like a cross between a sergeant major barking orders and the rat-rat-rat of a self-loading machine gun, which reminded me of war , riots and abrupt change. At other times, Gong intoned half-sung and half-spoken poems with themes of the collective unconscious and mythical archetypes in a free-from jazz jam, then planting  a strong melodic chorus , wherever and whenever it seemed the least expected. There were times when the music became ultra-psychedelic, the same repeated riff and beat, getting faster and louder with glissando guitars and excessive strobes, it went on in a cyclic fashion until it induced the brain into resistance or acceptance. I could not help but close my eyes to take it in. I felt like I was at some spiritual ceremony and that certain harmonious energies were being purposefully raised. I was pelted with rays of  white light and the sound of repeated musical mantras ,until I felt transported from the middle of winter, to a bright dance tent at some summer festival. People didn’t dance as much as they would in a dance tent though, but then we are older and we were tired by the end of the evening.

However there seemed to be some incredibly strong positive force present within the music. ..and I couldn’t help but notice that at the end of the evening, after a long encore and a very long gig,  Daevid Allen seemed to do a little ceremony to seal off each one of his chakra points, starting at his head and working his way down before leaving the stage.

Aha! I thought to myself , that’s where Daevid gets his energy from: rituals and chakras!

I am somewhat cynical about anything too religious, but they must be getting their energy from somewhere!

Love and Peace ( off to do yoga,meditation and find my chakras now!)

Born2rant

p.s. for more of a spiritual explanation click on Pete’s comment on the upper part of the left hand column of this blog or follow this link  to hear Daevid Allen’s spiritual vision for Gong( thanks again Pete).

http://vimeo.com/1626328

new readers to this blog  might be interested in this entry as well…

Steve Hillage always looking to the future: Part one from Hyde Park to Solfest


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