Uploaded to Aural Innovations: August 2003
The second ever "Hawkwind Summer Camp" was held this year at Hamilton House Farm, St. Michaels on Wyre, Lancashire, England. Spanning three days, the 8th to the 10th of August, it was billed as Hawkwind's private festival and attempted to capture the atmosphere of the free festivals of the late 60's and 70's. Access to the festival was limited to 1000 tickets, costing only £50 each (which included 3 nights camping, all the gigs and stalls and workshops and a free exclusive cd sampler - for the first 500 ticket buyers - from the first Hawkfest double CD album which went on sale at the festival), a bargain when you see how many bands were billed and the quality of the musicianship on offer.
The tickets were only available to members of the Hawkwind fanclub with Hawkwind "passports" - available free (send two passport photographs) from this address: Hawkwind Passports, PO box 28, Honiton, East Devon EX14 8AP, England. This limitation cut out the massive crowd problems more commercial festivals suffer from such as space for camping, theft and assaults and other criminal acts. And with the location of the festival, which seems to change every year (last year it was near a Devon beach), sent out with the tickets a few weeks beforehand gatecrashers were left in the dark. There was no sign of any trouble during the course of the festival.
There were two stages, one being in a modern concrete barn, the main stage being in a type of huge marquee they often use for circuses. The tent field had plenty of space to pitch tents and park vehicles, there was a different field for staff. The stalls, workshops and cafe tents were in the same huge field as the main stage tent. So the whole site wasn't enormous and you could walk between the barn and the tent stage in less than a minute. The facilities were not fantastic but there were real toilets, a laundry room and showers. Featured inclusions for this year were mind, body and spirit (green) stalls, a tattooist, children's rides, Peter Pracownik's artwork, raiki, crystals, and workshops for drums, circus-skills, fire-eating, belly dancing and Dr Dark's synthie surgery. I must admit I didn't see them all in my explorations, and yes the tattooist had a sign outside saying it hurts...
Having arrived after 7 hours of driving at 6pm I had just missed the slot featuring Mr. Quimby's beard on the main stage. My first task was to locate the bars, grab a beer and see what was on.
12-1 Little Big Men
9 Big Amongst Sheep
10.30 Arthur Brown and Instant Flight
Tarantism (www.tarantism.co.uk - website down temporarily)
tel: (uk) 01604 784 827
mob: (uk) 07944 927 204
I was in time to see Tarantism, a six piece band, warm up and introduce themselves. I had not heard of them before despite doing extensive research. I did find on the web what the word means:- "Tarantism: Wild dancing mania, prevalent in thirteenth-century western Europe, supposedly incited by the bite of a tarantula."
There has been somewhat of a Celtic revival in mainstream music in Britain over the last few years. Tarantism instantly came over as a Celtic band with penny whistles and a bodhran drum evident in the forefront. And as soon as they started playing the infectious dance came over so strongly people were up and jigging at the front despite the heat. Britain was having a rare heatwave and we were due for a scorching weekend. They played their own songs which sometimes incorporated traditional tunes. I can describe their music as Celtic techno dub or Folk Ska with dance vibe, and when they play the spider bites hard and it is infectious!!
They played I Am amongst others from their cd and some new tunes inspired by their touring lifestyles. One song was called Wing Mirror and was about their old transit van which only just got them to the eastern side of Germany for a gig, another was about an acid trip at Glastonbury in which some performer was messing around with some fake blood and a chain saw and consequently the trip went bad BIG TIME!
Mixing traditional tunes from a variety of sources and their own strong song writing abilities - not to mention Mel's amazing percussion skills - Tarantism is most definitely a band you must see live! I got talking to them afterwards, they hail from Northampton and do acoustic gigs and DJ slots too. Mel explained the website was down temporarily. I bought their cd "The Cutting Edge of the Fluff Zone" on Shurely Bassey Records: P.O. Box 428, Bury St. Edmunds Suffolk IP3 1WA, England. Full of Celtic vibe and dance rhythms it is a good representation of what they do live - acoustic dance with a Celtic flavour.
Big Amongst Sheep (www.bigamongstsheep.com)
A band I had not yet experienced was due on next at the Tent Stage at 9. Psychedelic spiraling space rock was soon pumping out and the tent stage was engaged with wonderful sounds, amongst them a classic from way back in 1983, "Radioactive Daffodils" - a classic rock stomp with blang Brock style guitar and Hammond organ rumbling. "Vortex" was fantastic too, as was "Flying to the Future". I must clearly check out any albums of theirs.
Unfortunately I had to dash to the barn stage to catch Litmus playing, so I missed half of their set.
I later discovered that BAS started life in the South Lakes area in the early 1980s, creating legendary tracks such as "Radioactive Daffodils", then retired to, in their own words, the musical equivalent of Pluto≤.
The psychedelic-fueled space rockers of the 80's Big Amongst Sheep are coming in from the cold and are preparing for a re-launch on the festival stage, hence their great appearance at Hawkfest. Big Amongst Sheep have also re-released their 1983 album Terminal Velocity along with a best of album - A Laugh in the Wind.
BAS original Ian Bone said: We have been trawling through the phone book for former members of the band that are still mentally and physically up for it. Out of 16 we have just three definite and two optional but the slimmed down version of the band has plenty to say and is sounding better than ever.≤
PO Box 32133
England N6 1FY
Another band I had not heard of before, but I had checked out their website which was very promising despite the rather short sound clips. Better, I suppose, to dangle a carrot, if only a short carrot, than nothing at all!
The bar stage at 9 o clock was where Litmus first landed. Immense stage presence and power chords thumped the air with incredible sonic waves. Litmus were good, damn good! Despite not really hearing any vocals properly their music overcame the acoustic deathtrap that would be the downfall of bands later on. They had a young energetic look about them and clearly enjoyed playing live. I didn't catch any titles of songs, but they played their own stuff and a Hawkwind cover with great effect (I think it was Down Through The Night?). Aural Innovations have said of their studio music on cassette "genuine 100% unfiltered non-pasteurized SPACE ROCK". Their live set has nothing to do with milk or any other dairy product - these guys use high grade plutonium rocket fuel. I am anxious to get my hands on some studio tracks.
The synths and audio generators hum and whine, spacey bubbles and solar echoes, whilst guitars are screaming cosmic notes, full on bass throbbing and some fine airy space rock solos emanating from the guitarist. Finally floating over the top Hawkwindesque styled vocals spiral in and out rounding off what can only be called one of Britain's finest up and coming rock bands.
Litmus were formed in 1999 by Martin (vocals/bass) and Simon (vocals/guitar) as "part of a covert operation to discover the true nature of spacerock". They recruited Ben (drums) after playing in another band with him. The three of them recorded early demos in 2000/01, overdubbing keyboards, synths and audio generator (as well as acoustic guitar, mandolin and soprano saxophone) themselves. 'Analogue' Andy joined to add keyboards at gigs, but it was a lot of work for one man. So Matt (audio generator) joined (he really is Andy's brother). and then the spectacular arrival of 'Anton of Stoke' with his NovaDrive (synths and audio generator) in 2002. It was decided that he and his full arsenal of electronic wizardry would accompany the Litmus engines in search of deeper space, and this is the current line up they hope to get in the studio very soon. I can't wait for that and will be bullying the guys for their debut album.
Arthur Brown and Instant Flight
Headlining the Tent stage at 10.30 was the legendary Arthur Brown and accompanied by Instant Flight. I had last seen Arthur Brown at last year's Canterbury Fayre where he went down a storm with Hawkwind - so much so I wouldn't have doubted an appearance during Hawkwind's set tomorrow night.
The man is a genius. He is the God of Hellfire, and we did all burn burn burn! Superb music by Instant Flight and sustaining note perfectness of Mr. Brown stole the night. Imagine the gothic organ providing freaky shrilling and whining tunes to spacey guitar and superb drumming fully orchestrated by Arthur Brown, it was Scooby Doo on stage - the crowd was stunned on 60's style psych freak. Totally wicked and they deservedly got a curtain call, a mega long almost improv jam that ended with a "Fire" reprieve. We all suffered from third degree burns I can tell you.
Little Big Men
A dog tired crawl back to the Barn stage at midnight to catch the headlining band there, Little Big Men. Maybe I was expecting too much from bands I'd not come across, maybe I was tired and maybe the barn acoustics finally got to me. Little Big Men played and they seemed okay, nothing special. I couldn't understand what they said or sang about. The three blokes chucked out loud music and the crowd were applauding but I was still floating down from the sounds of Arthur Brown.
They needed to be on the main stage where acoustics are at least given a chance. I had heard their samples on the net and to me they sounded like Stereophonics, especially the vocalist, and American popular rock. But don't knock them until you have heard their cd and seen them live in a decent venue (not some duff sound-mutating barn).
7.30 Afresco Mantis
12-1 Tribe of Cro
9 Harvey Bainbridge
I am a big fan of this band, having played their Harris Tweed EP to melting point. It was a great delight and surprise to see them playing, as there was no mention of them on the Hawkwind website prior to leaving for the festival. They were good especially as the barn stage is so poor sound-wise, they made do and cranked out some marvelous sonics. I think the barn venue had, by now, gathered a reputation for being a sound minefield. It was never really overly full until the headlining stage was finished at midnight - its only redeeming feature was that it had a bar and it served spirits and crisps as well as beer! There was a fair crowd here when the Mantis played so that proves their worth.
I managed to grab a very brief chat with them afterwards. There is apparently new material due out around the New Year. The basic sounds are already recorded and it's mostly studio tweaking now. Well, I certainly look forward to hearing the new stuff.
Seeing them play with Bedouin in Rye several times, and at various Hawkwind events I have become a huge fan of Spacehead. They have that solid no crap attitude to space rock that I like. It is on their albums and in their live shows. I managed to dash back from the barn to see Mr. Dibs (Jonathan is his real name) doing wonders to a Hawkwind cover, Spirit of the Age. They played the classics and another Hawkwind cover. The tent stage was packed, in the five or so years I have known them they have consistently gathered new fans and they are becoming quite a cult. There is a side to Spacehead I am not overly keen on - it's the slower droning songs. I find them too depressing and soporific. Live versions of "Monolith/Continuum", for example, make me want to keel over - but the studio version is quite cool!?
There were carnival fish swimming at the front of the crowd during the Spacehead gig. The Coddess and the Codfather. These brilliantly coloured fish were from Red Dragon Puppets (www.reddragonpuppets.co.uk) and were 9 ft high, 10 ft long. They swam and danced through the crowds stopping and feeding, getting up to mischief and squirting water. It added a great surreal carnival atmosphere to the show.
I spoke to Martyn "Dr. Hasbeen" Needham afterwards. They enjoyed themselves playing and seemed pleased with themselves. I asked about any new material and Martyn mentioned that his other band Dr.Hasbeen has new stuff out soon but "nothing in the pipeline" for Spacehead.
The Loonies are excellent and they're Welsh. What more can I say? Rising from the ashes of Shockhead, a band which made a big impact on the British and European music of 1989 - 1992 gaining them prestigious support slots for bands such as Jah Wobble, Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles. They have carved out their own special niche in space/psych rock and have some great albums out on cd. Crum, synths and vocals, gained acclaim with Hawkwind's Dave Brock and has joined them on British and European tours. He has also appeared on the albums In Your Area and LIVE as one of the Agents of Chaos and he's on stage tonight with Hawkwind! Dai, drummer and percussionist has been involved from the start with his solid backbeats and live complex sequencing. Chris, guitar and vocals, is an expert at tuning his guitar into "cosmic vibrations" and tapping into the "stellar feedback". Matt, bass, samplers and vocals, is not just the solid bassman extraordinaire, but his extensive knob twiddling has made his sampling an integral part of the Loonies' sound.
I spoke to Dai and Matt about any new projects and he mentioned they were in the studio now recording their 6th album - due out early next year?! He thought the barn was acoustically terrible and asked how they sounded. I said they pulled it off well. He explained the Moonloonies have a new bass player, original guitarist Chris Swambo died in March 2001. Matt is settling in nicely. Their fifth album, WILD ANGEL, is in part a tribute to Chris Swambo, and marks a changed direction for the band.
Wow, here was a chance to meet some big space heroes of mine! I just couldn't miss the chance to see PXR1 even though they were unfortunate to get the same time slot as Hawkwind. So I slipped away from Hawkwind after a few songs and went to the barn stage, disappointingly empty and yet some amazing deep space music was being pumped out. It was so good I had to stay to the end! PXR1 have an EP out called Earthspace which is crucial listening to anyone interested in the genre, they also appear on The Elf and Hawk album doing a wicked cover of "Spirit of the Age". I was so impressed with the PXR1 ep I had made contact last year with Phil and bought some of his other project work, EM2 and Cellular Structure. Again both albums are fantastic. I spoke to Phil after the show and asked him if he was pissed off that they drew the bum deal time slot-wise. But Phil shook his head and said he was just glad to be asked to play at Hawkfest! The band were so good, they played with stiff upper lips to a very poor audience but gave it all they got, professional and superb to the last. I thanked Phil for a great show and promised to be in contact with him in the not distant future. He has, in fact, made contact with me and has 2 eps out this September called Alien Nation which is 34 mins and the other is Live 2003 - is 37 minutes long.
Its their private festival, its their stage and its their headlining slot! They take a while to warm up, the first few songs were somewhat slow and lacking but by the time I had dashed to see PXR1 they were already cooking up nebulae sized tunes and the crowd was drinking it in. So when I got back to see them guess who had joined them on stage?! Yup, Mr. Arthur Brown!! And yes he was stealing the Saturday night headline slot limelight too. There were a few songs I did not recognize, "Time Captive (?)" was amongst them. Maybe new stuff from the new album, who knows, but Arthur Brown was singing and performing as an alien with a weird gyrating ball contraption that could expand and shrink. I am assuming the unknown songs will be on the next studio album. Hawkwind were their usual good selves, belting out their good tunes and had a number of guests on stage including Crum, Mr Dibs and Harvey Bainbridge. Disappointingly there was no sign of Huw Lloyd Langton, at least I didn't see him. I had assumed from last year's various gigs that Huw had rejoined Hawkwind? [Ed. note: Andy was off watching PXR1 and only after this writeup realized Huw had been there.] As curfew was twelve midnight on the tent stage most of the crowd made their way to the barn to see Tribe of Cro, who have an album out on the Emergency Broadcast label.
Tribe of Cro
Recalling the album Sporadic Spiro-Gyra I was looking forward to seeing TOC do their almost improv jam on stage: instrumental, exploratory, jamming form of spacerock mixed with dashes of Krautrock or metallic heavy, and sometimes squirts of trancey electronic spats. They didn't let us down! The songs from Sporadic can be heavier. I've not heard the Hydroculture album as yet - though Jerry says its more along the Ozric school of psychspace. The gig certainly had a mix of the two sounds and the freeform jazzy jam style went down very well to conclude a very superb day of music.
I spoke to TOC afterwards. Although described as a Belgian band, its only the drummer Kev who is from Brussels, Belgium. The other guys are British, apart from Mik in Wales the others reside in Brighton. Kev said that this spread out of musicians was making gigging quite difficult and this was the first time they had played since last years Hawkfest. And with their day jobs, Niall is a lecturer, its hard to find time to get stuff done but the website is due to start selling music on-line very soon, and should coincide with a new CD release of live material, possibly entitled 'Smell the Clutch'. When asked about a new studio album Kev said should be finished and released by the end of the year. It seems that the New Year will see a plethora of new studio albums being released!
3.30-4.30 Mr. Quimby's Beard
5-6 Alien Dream
6.30-7.30 Stereo Vaccine
8-9 Assassins of Silence
9.30-10.30 Only One Mammel
2.45 Sophia Dean
4 Audio Einstein
7.00 Tribe of Cro
10 Drunk in Public (acoustic Levellers)
I was fortunate enough to be strolling through the tent after getting my exclusive Hawkwind sampler CD to catch Sophia Dean on stage doing her acoustic numbers, accompanied by Richard Chadwick on bongo and a keyboardist (?). Some lovely tunes and strong lyrics about green matters, the world's future and the way mankind is heading into bleak oblivion. She grabbed your attention with her voice and simple though effective songs. Very cool and the crowd warmly praised her, but she had run out of songs for a curtain call and she said we'd have to wait for a cd to come out to hear more!
Mr Quimby's Beard (www.freakyfungi.com)
What a result! I was very excited to be able to finally listen to them as they put on an additional show, even though it was in the barn. With tight but amazing guitar playing, solid drums and high altitude synths, MQB drew large crowds and kept them charmed! They were excellent indeed. "7 by 7" was cool and the new song "Pollen" (?!) looks like it is going to be a classic. I managed to say hi to the guys from Jerry and asked about new material, which was smiled at. The new album was being recorded at home to keep costs down and each track was being analyzed and needs to be finalized, it should be done by Christmas!
The Skyclad performance time was moved, they actually played at 5:30 (not 4:30 as originally planned). People drifted back from MQB throughout the show and as the audience grew the response got better and better. Most people, I think, hadn't heard of the band but the audience were very impressed and a few Skyclad fans seemed to be a great time. I had assumed they were going to be heavy metal, but they were more folk metal - a bizarre mix but one that worked well as the live show really thumped out some great tunes and with the folk side of things drifting over the top people could not help dancing and nodding their heads. They did a more acoustic set, and this included:
Penny Dreadful (dedicated to Dave Ling)
The Cry of the Land
Spinning Jenny (acoustic)
Sins Of Emission (acoustic)
Land of the Rising Slum (acoustic)
History Lessens (acoustic)
A Great Blow for a Day Job
No Deposit No Return
The Parliament of Fools
Swords of 1000 Men
I was impressed with the energy and power of the band and had to buy some of their albums, which are available through the website. Great to hear another previously unknown band and like them thoroughly.
Due to the long journey back and work the next day I had to leave the festival early. I had already seen Tribe of Cro, Tarantism and the Levellers. Apologies to Assassins of Silence (Hawkwind tribute band), Bruise and Only One Mammel. Maybe catch you next year?