Text Of Festival (5)

Last week I said this would be the last part....no it won't, there's too much to cram in....

Gig no.181 - 21/01/93 - Man - Princess Charlotte, Leicester
When I was in seminary school, a man put forth the proposition....hang on I'm getting confused here......
Waaay back in the early 70s my best mate had a cousin who was five or six years older than us and occasionally he used to play us the latest waxings of the time. One of his favourite bands was the Welsh hippy space rockers Man. In 1973 they had one third of the live double album Greasy Truckers (a review - http://astoundedbysound.blogspot.com/2010/02/candy-for-ears-2.html). The main part of their contribution was the side long (that's 20 minutes to those of you too young to recall slabs of black vinyl) psych guitar overload masterpiece that was Spunk Rock. Still one of my all time fave bits of music.
Anyway, this gig was the one and only time I got to see the band, and this line up contained three of the original five members. Sadly Mickey Jones who was one half of the twin guitar attack along with Deke Leonard is no longer with us, but that night they showed they still had the chops. And they played Spunk Rock! Far out maaan.
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Gig no.199 - 23rd to 25th June 1995 - Glastonbury Festival
June 1995 was the last time I ventured down to Pilton to witness what was then still the best festival vibe in the country. Nowadays I reckon it's got too big, and worse than that has become part of the Hooray Henry summer scene along with Royal Ascot, Henley, and all that other nose in the air shite. They've even had a Royal visit! Next year's festival sold out in 4 hours and the tickets were a mere £195 and that does not include booking fees, p&p etc. There are nowadays dozens of much smaller more friendly festivals to choose from. Ok, you might not get the likes of Muse, Coldplay etc, turning up, but is that any great loss?
The '95 festival was a snip at £65 and the line up included The Cure, Massive Attack, Oasis - 'scuse me while I block my ears - I think we saw Massive Attack while the lumpen Manc proles took centre stage, Portishead, Black Crowes, Jeff Buckley (astonishing voice), Page & Plant and loads of others. Highlights were The Verve's modern stoner rock, Pulp who were great entertainment and as last minute replacements for The Stone Roses quickly won over what could have been a hostile crowd. The highlight of the weekend for me was a stunning set by Orbital as the sun was setting. Out There Somewhere was just perfect for the scene.
And it didn't rain!
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Gig no.204 - 28/10/96 - Pearl Jam - Wembley Arena
A big disappointment from a band that made no concessions to vast soulless space that is Wembley Arena. They had no stage set to speak of, minimal lighting, and frontman Eddie Vedder had absolutely no stage presence. I suppose they were making a misguided attempt to stay true to their plaid shirt new punk roots, but it backfired badly. The whole thing was dispirited and a big let let down. I still reckon the Alive is one of the best rock anthems ever though.
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There follows a fallow period - I decided to knuckle down at work, and became a mini property baron into the bargain. Bad timing meant it didn't make me rich, but that's another story. In 1997 I attended two gigs, none (!) in 1998, and only one in 1999.
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Gig no.208 - 30/01/2000 - The Bevis Frond - The Standard, Walthamstow 
In the latter two years of the eighties and early nineties I got into The Frond, as the aficionados called them, in a big way. I've got nigh on twenty albums by the band, who were basically psychedelic veteran Nick Saloman (wah & fuzz guitar, vocals, songs) and a revolving door of sidemen centred on Bari Watts (gtr) & Ric Gunther (drums). This music pub in deepest London was their home patch and this was a mini festival featuring other psych bands on Saloman's Woronzow label. Their second album 1987's Inner Marshland is a buried treasure and if you're at all into furious guitar based psych wigouts but with good songwriting thrown in, it's a must.
The Frond eventually arrived on stage around midnight and played for nearly two hours. A sleazy psychedelic stew was dished up by the lads and the small but devoted audience of old hippies and freaks lapped it up. We didn't get home until about 3 in the morning, totally knackered.
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Gig no.209 - 16/02/00 - Yes - Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
The one and only time I've seen the Starship Troopers, although I suppose you could count Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe as being Yes in all but name. This gig featured the amazing talents of Igor Koroshev on keyboards while Rick Wakeman took one of his many sabbaticals from the band. A fine musical evening.
What made this memorable was the weather. The journey up to Nottingham was unremarkable - the night was cold but nothing extreme for February in our sceptered isle. When we left the venue it was as we had arrived, still cold but dry. We spied a welcoming hostelry on the outskirts of the city and decided to stop for a pint. When we left the pub about half an hour later it was snowing hard, and already about six inches had settled. As we journeyed south on the M1 it had turned into a blizzard, to the point where we had to leave the motorway because Phill simply could not see where he was going. By the time we had driven a further 20 or so miles south the snow had stopped, and by the time we got home not a flake was to be seen on the ground! British weather, doncha just love it?
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Gig no.223 - 15/02/04 - Arthur Lee & Love - Roadmender, Northampton
My home town was lucky enough to be graced with the presence of Arthur Lee on his UK tour of 2004. The "Love" of the title were actually an L.A. psych band who had been backing Lee since 1995. Lee, an other-worldly figure who for six years up to 2001 had been in prison for firearms offences, cut a strange but remarkably together figure on stage, led the band through all the classics. An honour to have seen the man before his untimely death in 2006.
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Gig no.229 - 9/07/05 - Van Der Graaf Generator - De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Probably my favourite prog band, and one of few bands of that era who were actually "progressive" in the true meaning of the word, reformed in 2005 with the classic line up. Peter Hammill is one of the most intellectually demanding songwriters these shores have ever produced, and with a new album to promote, they mixed new songs with old classics like Lemmings, Sleepwalkers, The Undercover Man. Brilliant!
Type "Nutter Alert" into Spotify for an example of a skewed pop song. If you like that, delve deeper!
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Gig no. 232 - 30/11/05 - The Mars Volta - Nottingham Rock City
Of recent gigs, the worst I've been to. This band's first album, 2003's De-Loused In The Comatorium is something of a nu-prog classic, but the law of diminishing returns seems to have set in for the most part ever since. I still thought they would be worth seeing though. I need not have bothered. Never in my 36 years of gig going had I seen such a bunch of self-absorbed pretentiousness at work, disappearing up their own fretboards. Not once in 2 hours did any band member acknowledge the audience. To make matters worse we were harangued by a very drunk bloke probably in his mid twenties who kept asking my companion Phil W "What are two old fogies like you doing at a gig like this?" Despite Phil's attempts to offer perfectly reasonable explanations the guy was having none of it. When he started on me I told him to fuck off, and, amazingly, he did!
All in all a horrible night. 
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There follows a few visits to Nottingham's Rescue Rooms, a tiny cramped sweaty pit of a place that makes Northampton's Roadmender look like The Albert Hall. I've been to some dives in my time but this place takes the award for Worst Venue.
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Gig no.237 - 13/11/06 - The Flaming Lips - Hammersmith Apollo
I used to love this band. From quirky beginnings their career trajectory is similar to REM in that by 2006 they were HUGE having crossed into the mainstream with what is still their best album The Soft Bulletin. Following albums have slowly faded from view sadly. Still, I was looking forward to this gig no end.
First surprise was where we were sat, up in the gods. A word of warning - if you suffer from vertigo, don't get circle tickets at the Hammersmith Apollo. It feels like there's a vertical drop in front of your feet. Two thousand feet down were the band on stage with their usual accompanying dancing eyeballs and other weird costumes. The music was fine, but after virtually every song mainman Wayne Coyne wibbles on like a 60's hippy acid casualty about how we should love each other and how the world is a pea green boat or somesuch. Heard once or twice this fine, but after a dozen times you wanna gaffa tape his twee mouth.
I was offered the chance to see them again on the next tour, but wisely turned it down!
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Gig no.242 - 24/10/07 - Shack - Barfly, Birmingham
In the 80s I was into the marvellous Pale Fountains (got to see them once, too) who made dreamy pop songs backed by sweeping soundscapes and whimsical strumming. They were lead by Michael Head, and after they split up he formed Shack with his brother John. This was the second time I saw this band who craft the most wonderful pop songs written by the Head brothers. A more appropriate surname is not feasible for these two, at least one of which has gone through heroin addiction. You'd think their songs would be sleaze fests along the lines of Jesus & Mary Chain, but not a bit of it. Classic Byrds influenced shoegazy pop is their bag, and great stuff it is. Time for A Cup Of Tea...

.....back next week...

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