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Strange Daze 1997
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N.Z./Aussie Tour

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When I heard the news that Hawkwind was making plans to tour New Zealand and Australia, I quickly called Dave Brock and volunteered The Solar Fire Lightshow and the use of my services. He graciously (whooo hoo!) accepted my offer and I was soon winging my way to the other side of the world. After a grueling 20 hours of plane rides (the seats are definitely not made for large people) and various airports I arrived safely in Auckland, New Zealand with the bare essentials of The Solar Fire Lightshow in 5 large, heavy and slightly smashed cardboard boxes. Seeking visual efficiency AND economy of shipping I had only brought the unique-to-me equipment that I needed to interface with the existing house lights at each venue and round them out into a good, solid light show. I hoped everything was OK

After collecting my gear and going through customs, I was met at the airport by John Attard and Jordan Morris. John is the English promoter who got the ball rolling and made the NZ/OZ dates possible by financing a large chunk of the tour, purchasing the necessary plane fares and arranging the NZ gig dates with the help of Jordan's mother Wendy. The Morris's (Andy, Wendy, Rainbow, Jordan and Cristen) also went deep into their pockets (and big hearts) to help out with the financing in addition to putting up the whole band and crew at their Tanglewood Farm homestead and moving us around NZ.

If you are ever down that way give them a call at (64) 09 8335533 and ask about their more than reasonable rates for renting a caravan. They will try their best to help you out. They sure fed us well and took care of us like we were family! We are very grateful to them and anyone who was happy to see Hawkwind down under owe these kind folks and a few others in Australia (more on them later) a very big thank you because it never would have happened without them. Ready? All together now .....1...2...3...... THANK YOU!!!

As we were driving to Tanglewood Farm I was immediately aware of the sub-tropical humidity in the air and of the fact that I wasn't upside down. That's right...even though you are on the bottom of the other side of the world and you should be upside down, you're not! It definitely took a little getting used to. Although Orion is in the night sky, he doesn't quite look the same and there is no North Star. You have the Southern Cross instead. As Harvey would later put it, we were "upside down and backward in a parallel universe". And what a beautiful universe it is! Sandy beaches, refreshing water and hilly green country, plus sheep, Sheep and MORE SHEEP! I just loved it!

NZ is not very crowded and a laid back feeling permeated the air. Kiwis (as they are wont to be called) are a freedom loving people and believe in the live and let live philosophy. I was pleased to see that the "cookie cutter, track housing, everything looks the same" way-of-living hadn't yet made big inroads here. I enjoyed seeing the simpler, square-ish house designs (indicative of do-it-yourselfers) rather than the pretentious phony lines of the new homes that we are now mostly seeing built in the US. It really was like a breath of fresh air and perhaps more similar to the America of 40-50 years ago. Steve commented that it reminded him a bit of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.

Arriving at Tanglewood I meet the band for the first time since I went to England in October and it was great to see them all again! For this tour Hawkwind was Dave Brock (guitar, synth, vocals) Richard Chadwick (percussion) Jerry Richards (guitar, vocals) Harvey Bainbridge (keyboards, vocals) Simon House (violin) and my fellow Clevelander Steve Taylor (bass). A very promising line up! Rounding out the crew was Kris Tait doing stage visuals and fire eating (blowing some immense fireballs for being such a wee lass), sound engineer/equipment tech Lofty McCrusty, monitor man/equipment tech John Oddy and myself, Jim Lascko, on lights. On board to help with the merchandising was Holly House, Simon's charming and capable 14 year old daughter. It was also my pleasure to meet Asaf Shlomo, an Israeli living in London who came along with John Attard to video tape the tour for a possible future Hawkwind documentary. I found him to be a very knowledgeable, sensible man and I enjoyed his company.

I discovered that Tanglewood Farm was about 10 acres (or is that hectares?) of rolling hillside on the outskirts of Auckland. Scattered around this land were numerous caravans. These are what they called anything that once had wheels and was outfitted to live in like a camper. Some were still running and others were immobile, molded forever to the ground by the passing of time. From buses and house trailers to Beverly Hillbilly type shacks on the backs of old pick up trucks. The one assigned to me was the classic hillbilly type on the outside but extremely nice on the inside. It was cunningly made all of wood and fitted together with care towards matching the grain and contrasting the colors of the wood in a manner pleasing to the eye. Very cool! All of the others were scattered about in various caravans while Dave and Kris rented a small modern motor home (by this I mean a caravan that actually MOVES) so they could go off and enjoy some of the island's sights by themselves.

By the time I arrived Hawkwind had already done 2 shows in NZ. The reason for this was that if I didn't return within 30 days of my departure it would cost TWICE as much money for my airfare to NZ. Doing all of the shows would have taken closer to 35 days, so it was decided that they would do without me for the first two dates and hire a local lightshow instead. Although I wasn't there to see it, I understand that they did a bang up job for the first 2 shows (Auckland and Waihi Beach) and the lights looked great!

Because of the massive expenses involved in taking a band halfway around the world, I wasn't surprised to arrive in the middle of a discussion involving the problem of a low cash flow. I don't know if you can appreciate how unbelievably fast the money can go when you are moving almost a dozen people around the world and putting them up in hotels and eating out in restaurants. It's like having a vacuum hose in your pocket sucking out all your money! You have to pay for airfares, air freight, visas, vehicles, sound system, equipment rental, food, fuel, hotels and much more. I guess it's the price you must pay for not licking the grease off of corporate fingers! We would just have to tighten our belts and expect only the essentials. It was at this time that I first heard of the possibility of the South Island gigs being cancelled. We all hoped that it wouldn't come to that as we sat and tried to iron out the logistics. The South Island was supposed to be a virtual hot bed for freedom loving, laid back, old time, crusty types. You know... your typical Hawkwind fan! Unfortunately, it was not to be and we ended up canceling the South Island leg due to logistic clashes with the Australian tour. Maybe the next tour!

I spent the next few days recuperating from my flight. Seeing that I wouldn't have any voltage converters until we got to New Plymouth I didn't even bother to unpack my boxes leaving them unopened so they would be easier to transport. I figured I'll get to my first gig early and sort everything out then. During this time Andy took some of us to Long Bay beach. Inside of this big beautiful bay is where the America's Cup boat races are held. In fact the cup races were going on during the time we were there with New Zealand ending up victorious. The Kiwis were all pumped up and kicking ass, but seeing that we weren't exactly the yachting set we didn't really give a shit!

In a few days we were on our way to the first gig in New Plymouth. Going inland the terrain starts to quickly climb and the country is hilly. Sheep paddocks abound and you can see why the lamb chops are so cheap there. Our first stop was to be a crater lake that used to be an active volcano that erupted about 5,000 years ago. The consequent flooding of the crater that was left resulted in a gorgeous lake that was now home to a resort community. It was a very pretty and idyllic spot. The motel we stayed at boasted mud baths and water slides but we arrived too late, and left too early, to take advantage of them. We had a lot of driving ahead of us to get to the gig. The roads in NZ are mostly of the 2 lane black top type. They necessarily have to twist and turn as they wind around the hills. This swerving left, right, left, right, left, right and on and on and on and on eventually started to make me a little queasy. Things got even worse when we ran out of paved road and we had to close all of the windows to keep the dust out.

After more hours than we thought it would take we arrived late at the Fitzroy Hotel in New Plymouth. The show was in a mid sized sports-type bar complete with pool tables and tv monitors scattered about. I discovered that I had no voltage converters due to a communications error on John and Lofty's part. After a brief conversation with Lofty 2 converters were found locally and were on their way to the venue. I opened my boxes and discovered that my projecting kaleidoscope, oil wheel and one overhead projector was broken in transit. The rest of the night was a blur for me. Sweating like a pig from too much salt and beer (that's right - LIKE A STUCK PIG!) I was so busy straightening out my equipment that I couldn't even tell you what songs Hawkwind played. All I knew was that the set list I was given was only good as ass wipe material because Hawkwind didn't play a few of the songs - which made all the rest of the songs out of order. I saw I would have to rearrange the slides for a more generic lightshow. Chaos reigned!

In addition to these obstacles one of the newly arrived voltage converters took a crap before the show even started. White smoke billowed out from it and I had to do a quick removal and reroute the cords on half of my equipment. The sound company boys quickly hooked me up with a couple of emergency power feeds and plug converters ("no guarantees" they told me) from a dimmer pack that took the 230 volt NZ power and "dimmed" it down to 120 volts. This proved to be a costly mistake as the frequency remained unchanged and I needed 60hz instead of the NZ 50hz. This resulted in my equipment overheating and I slowly started to blow my lightbulbs. Even so, it turned out to be a good show judging by the audience's response. Kris Tait wowed them by fire eating and blowing a few huge fireballs so that the folks up front could feel the heat in their faces. There was a good size crowd for a Thursday night and everyone was stomping and cheering loudly for more when it ended.

We had the first of two gigs the next night at the St. James Cabaret in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. The reason there were two gigs in Wellington was because Hawkwind had said that they COULD play two shows there if the audience/fanbase warranted it. What the ticket sellers heard was that they WOULD play two shows! Since tickets were sold for both shows before the misunderstanding was discovered, Hawkwind decided to play both of them rather than disappoint any fans who bought tickets for the second show. The St. James Cabaret was a good size club that had a balcony where I was able to set up the lights. It was a pretty easy set up for me and an ideal spot for the lightshow.

The first night was a decent size crowd, but not enough to warrant opening up the balcony. The house lighting rig (which looked really nice) wasn't usable at all because we brought a sound system into the club and they disconnected the lighting rig from it's power in order to plug this system in. I sat up there and couldn't even give the opening act much of a lightshow other than a simple colorful slide projection or two for a back drop. I had some trouble the show before with my bulbs blowing and I had only so many spare bulbs left. I couldn't risk blowing any on the opening band and then not have them for Hawkwind. Opening the show was Inangafunga, a band that I understand was from the South Island. They laid down some pretty solid grooves and were very easy to get into. I liked them. Definitely a hard-core, barefoot, hippy band with at least one member sporting the obligatory dreadlocks and tattoos. Check 'em out! Hawkwind came on after them and did a two hour set. They were in good form and ready to go as the stage set up went a little easier tonight and the pressure was off a little. The following is a typical set list (actually from the final Auckland, NZ Power Station gig) and it is a sample of what they played during this tour. It changed a little bit in order and content from gig to gig as Dave and the boys tried doing different things

Right Stuff / Coded Languages / Motorway City / Assault & Battery / Golden Void / new instrumental / Forge of Vulcan / Assassins of Allah / Spirit of the Age / Utopia / Poem / Free Fall / Experiment with Destiny / Brainstorm / Sonic Attack / Rat Race / Shouldn't Do That / and then back to Brainstorm again! The encore was Ejection / Song of the Gremlin / and Welcome to the Future.

I met Richard Stockwell (from Cranium Records) and his wife Chrissy at these Wellington gigs as well as my NZ pen pals Shane Palmer and Des Hunt. It was really good to see friendly faces and finally meet the people you have only written to before. After the gig there was a lot of happy chattering and milling around going on as the band hung around visiting with folks and signing record covers, female mammalian protuberances, and other such things. The second night was similar to the first except with fewer people (just as we had feared) and a wee bit darker lightshow. I had blown the bulbs in 3 out of my 4 colored spotlights the night before (making the stage very dark indeed without the use of the house lights) and on this night one of my slide projector bulbs blew up early in the show and shattered the inside lens right next to it. That was it for that projector!

I unplugged my rigged NZ "120 volt" power supply and didn't use it again. I had blown every one of the five spare projector bulbs I had brought by my third show. I put everything on the one power converter I had left and tried not to run it all at once. It still wasn't a bad lightshow as the darkness only enhanced and defined the 150+ slides of stars, space and alien civilizations that I brought with me. By the final song of the evening the power converter finally overheated and blew an internal fuse from being overloaded. I was left with only some white strobes which I used for all they were worth. It seemed to work for the audience because folks came up to me and commented on how they liked the "lightning effect" at the end.

The astounding thing to me was that I ended up running the whole lightshow on one cheap little house extension cord....and it held out to the end! God sure watches over us.

After the last show in Wellington we headed back towards Auckland by way of Rotorua. Wendy had arranged for us to visit a park there that featured sulfur springs, geysers, boiling mud and other things indicative of volcanic activity. It seemed much like an open wound on the skin of the earth and it made the whole town smell like rotten eggs. Many of the motels had hot mineral baths where this boiling water is piped directly into a wading pool. The one we stayed at had 2 pools and we soaked in hot water that night, floating around on our backs and looking up at the stars. Jerry Richard's was suffering a little because his back was hurting from riding all day and getting in and out of the vans. This soaking helped loosen him up a bit and it did him a world of good! I burned one and had a little vino - and THAT did me a world of good!

Although the water did feel good on my festering sores and alligator like skin I couldn't help but wonder what effect the sulfur smell may have on your lungs over a long period of time. To me it was like the odor you get when you strike a match and it flares up as it burns off the sulfur. It seemed to make my lungs feel "heavy" after a while. I really noticed this more the next day when we went to the park and spent a few hours wandering about the walkways that snaked around the various points of interest. I took a few photos while there and got a pretty good picture of Richard standing in front of a smoking pit. After a while we loaded into the van and headed for Auckland once again.

On the way home we stopped at Cranium Records. This is a small record shop owned by Richard and Chrissy Stockwell. It is attached to their home and laid out beautifully, all neat and trim. As we walked in and looked around we saw a whole slew of our favorite artists featured on the shelves. We all had a ball going through the records saying "remember this one?" and "I used to listen to this when I was...." and other such things as we uncovered goodie after goodie after goodie! The Stockwell's have a love for good music and are great supporters of spacerock in New Zealand. If you ever get a chance to visit their shop, please do! You sure won't be disappointed in the quality of music that you will find. I'm sure they would be happy to do mail order for those things you just can't find at home. For more info email them at: "Stockwell, Richard"

Once back at Tanglewood Farm we had a few days to rest up and then it was off to Australia. Kris Tait was busily making arrangements all week so that everything would go smoothly over there. The band was looking forward to seeing the country and everyone's spirits were high as we got our equipment ready for shipping. By this time the cardboard boxes I was using to haul my lightshow around in started to have the look and feel of finely tanned buckskin! Andy helped me find some new cardboard boxes and with the help of a couple of rolls of duct tape I was once again ready for whatever abuse the ape like baggage handlers could dish out. So off to the airport we went.

-Jim Lascko