Saturday, 25 September 2010

Text Of Festival

Gigs. I've been to over 250 in my 50 years on this planet, and it was my main leisure activity for a long period of my life. I say "was" because this year so far I've been to but one gig (reviewed here ), although there is a long anticipated concert by Porcupine Tree at The Royal Albert Hall coming up next month. In 1979 I went to 28, and that's just the ones I could recall or had ticket stubs from when I first started keeping a list in about 1985. The actual total to date is probably at least 20 more than the 261 recorded.

The title of this ramble is taken from a 1983 Hawkwind live album. Hawkwind are the makers of what in my opinion is the best live album of all time, 1973's Space Ritual, now available in expanded form on remastered CD. A must have for any collection. Despite this I never saw the 'Wind in their prime, although I did catch the punked up version Hawklords in 1979. In fact one of the worst gigs I have ever witnessed was the modern day Hawkwind in 2004. Then reduced to a three piece of guitar, bass & drums, 90% of the music was on a backing tape (showing my age there - it was probably on a laptop!), and it all sounded dull and uninspiring.

The first gig I went to was Wizzard at Kettering Granada cinema on the 22nd March 1974. Can't remember much about it other than that we had arranged to be picked up by my mate's mum at a prearranged time, and so had to leave before the end, and judging by the number of early teens like us getting up and leaving at various stages throughout the show, we weren't the only ones! There must have been only ten people in the audience by the end! Wizzard Brew is actually a rather good album and shows the direction ELO might have taken had Roy Wood not left and Jeff Lynne's Beatle fixation become the dominant influence.

Highlights of my gig going? well, this could not be topped by following The Clash around the country for a few weeks in the summer of '78 between finishing work experience and starting my first proper job. They were a band that were completely relevant to the times they lived in and hit the zeitgeist like no other band in my lifetime. And they knew how to party! I learned more about life in those few short weeks than in all my previous 18 years - say no more!

The House Of Love at The Royal Albert Hall, 1992 - simply stunning sound in a great setting. Hope it's repeated for Porcupine Tree next month. HoL also handed fans a free gig only 10 inch single on entry by way of apology as the gig had been postponed from an earlier date. The single has a long giutar wig out version of Into The Tunnel which as far as I know was never released anywhere else, and a demo version of Crush Me. I must get round to transferring it to mp3.

King Crimson at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire in 2000 was a very loud 2 hour aural assault of top notch musicianship. The audience were mostly all over 50!

The Stone Roses at The Roadmender, Northampton, 1989, about a week after the first album came out. The place was packed like a sardine can, condensation was dripping off the ceiling and down the walls, and the band were amazing. Ian Brown actually sang in tune too!

There are actually too many highlights to mention, and I have seen some proper shite in my time as well. My early years of gig going were largely dictated by the musical taste of the only one of us who could drive. Steve was a longhair hard rock and metal fan from Rushden. I can still remember the aroma of rock/metal gigs in the late 70s. A mixture of worn leather, unwashed denim and patchouli oil, with the the odd waft of jazz cigarette. The audience was 90% spotty male grebo-lite as I recall. Some of the bands I witnessed were Rainbow (who actually were not that bad), Kiss (hilarious - you'll see why), Budgie (4 times goddamit!), Angelwitch, Saxon, Samson, Girlschool (4 times again. A luverly all girl hard rock band - I once thought I'd gotten off with the bass player, Enid (!) I think her name was, because she let me buy her a drink, only to be knocked off my pedestal when her huge roadie boyfriend appeared and stuck his tongue down her throat) and a host of other forgettable NWOBHM bands.

I mentioned Kiss. This was in 1980 at Wembley Arena. By then I was well into anything new wave and hated all the old metal and hard rock stuff, and it was only because my neighbour Ian couldn't persuade anyone else to go see his favourite band with him, and the promise of free beer, that I went. Part of the act of this largely talent free bunch of Yanks in clown make up was to have the guitarist hoisted aloft while he played an endless two note "solo". Said musical excursion ends, and the Godzilla attired plank spanker is lowered to the ground while the song ends. Only the winch got stuck. The show must go on, so one and a half songs later, the guy is still up there manfully carrying on with his guitar parts and occasionally gesticulating wildly at his roadies to get him down. In an attempt to spare his blushes, the lighting crew deliberately left him in near total darkness, but the audience, most of whom were wetting themselves by now, were only looking at one thing, and it wasn't the rest of the band! Being in near total darkness and still being suspended also had a detrimental effect on plank spanker's contribution to the point where he was mixed out of the sound completely. I nearly brought on a hernia I laughed so much. Spinal Tap couldn't have done better.

A gig I remember for the wrong reasons was The Stranglers in Peterborough in 1978. Jean Jacques Burnel the so-called pin up of the band, and let's face it being a pin up in the Stranglers was not difficult, imprinted himself on my memory and more disgustingly on the face of a girl fan, by kicking her in the head from his position on the stage, presumably because she was screaming at him. What a cunt. Incidentally the support band at this gig was Riff Raff. That name probably does not mean much to you, but this was Billy Bragg's punk outfit before he went solo.

Another support act that I recall at the time thinking that they were rather good was one U2 supporting Slade at The Lyceum, London, in 1980 just before Boy came out.

Festivals, I've had a few, but too few to mention. Well about 10 actually. Back in my hard rockin' days, Reading was the festival of choice. This was an era when if the assembled greasers didn't like a band or were just bored, an empty plastic 1 litre cider bottle would be filled with piss and lobbed either at the stage or the mosh pit. Charming I can tell you. The view from further back was broken by the occasional spiralling bottle flying overhead and landing on the moshers were a big gap would instantly form around the poor sod who'd just been drenched. By 1978 the Reading Festival was slowly accommodating the rise of punk and new wave. On the Friday afternoon we were entertained by Sham 69, fronted by faux cockernee loudmouth Jimmy Pursey, who was keen to impart to us masses that "If you fuckin' ippees don't fuckin' like it, you can all fuck off". This seemed to be a cue for his crowd of 14 year old skinhead fans to go on a rampage through the audience, running into people and shouting. It was quite comical. Pursey's mob launched into their set of two chord shout alongs, and who should we see lurking stage left almost out of sight playing the 10 second lead breaks because 69's geetar player was incapable? None other than Steve Hillage, probably the epitome of "a fuckin' 'ippee"! Oh, the irony.

As far as festival vibes go, you can't beat Glastonbury in the early to mid 80s before it became too big and an excuse for Tarquin and Vanessa to forget their day jobs in The City where they make big bucks exploiting the less fortunate, and pretend to be at one with nature and their fellow humans for 3 days.
I can remember one Glasto' - '84 it was - when we turned up in style on motorbikes early on the Friday evening, sat in a cafe tent all night listening to loud dub reggae, drinking rum punch, eating all kinds of wonderful creole grub and imbibing the odd herbal ciggy or ten with the other waifs and strays. We didn't put the tents up until about 11 the following morning. It took a long time. Who was playing down the hill on the stages was largely irrelevant, although I do recall a rather fine set by Elvis Costello and his Attractions.

Wettest festival ever? No, not Glasto as you might expect but 2000 Trees in deepest Gloucestershire in July 2009. It belted down for the entire day, apart from about 1 hour during a fine set by the underrated modern hard rockers Amplifier, who were the band we had gone to see, so it was all ok in the end.

2000 Trees - a man in a dress for no apparent reason...

2000 Trees - the predominant view from under Phill's purloined umbrella. There were people there, honest! Most of the crowd were sensibly under cover.

Here's some pics of ticket stubs from my gig going past....

The Copemeister - one of many times

Tom Verlaine - Guitar hero

Keep on rockin'....

I was young once you know...

I could be happy...Claire Grogan...mmmm...

A great live band - one of many times seen


JJ Burnel - Get back in the sewer...............


Saturday, 11 September 2010

Gong - Acid Motherhood

Gong have been going in one form or another for over 40 years now, some giving them the epithet "The European Grateful Dead" for the legion of loyal fans, community even, that surrounds them, and also for their similar acid drenched beginnings. Like The 'Dead, I have always struggled to get into Gong, and their innate silliness prevents me from listening to the few albums I have by them on anything more than a very occasional basis.

The 2004 version of the band, still fronted by Daevid Allen, and featuring co-founder Gilli Smith on one track are here teamed up with Kawabata Makoto (guitars & bazouki) & Cotton Casino (synths & voices) from the equally bizarre Acid Mothers Temple, a band whose promise more often than not far exceeds their delivery. Prince is or was famous for his lack of quality control, releasing lots of below par stuff, but he's got nothing on these guys who seem to release absolutely everything they put on tape, and at an alarming rate. But that's another story.

The pairing of Gong's daftness with AMT's noiseniks actually works, and what could have been entirely unlistenable is actually not bad at all. The album maybe lacks the thematic quality of Gong's best work (the Hillage/Allen era imo) and veers from gentle space balladry to noise freakouts, to a weird noise-funk hybrid on the marvellous Supercotton where the "space whisper" synth of Ms Smith & Cotton Casino's synth drones are backed by a belting off-kilter funk beat. Brainwash Me has a sub Talking Heads funk groove put through a blender - splendid!
On the slower tracks Makoto actually plays some fluent lead in places, but it's sometimes difficult to tell whether or not it's him or Daevid Allen doing the widdly bits. As Makoto wrote Bazuki Logix I can only assume it's him on uncharacteristic whimsical lead guitar.

All in all a rather unexpectedly good album. A friend of a friend who is a big Gong fan described this as "unlistenable", but in my opinion it's anything but.

3 out of 5 - A truly hideous cover though!

You can get this on mp3 on Amazon at a much more reasonable £6.99 by the way.

2019, the insanity grows...

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