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Festival Music ?

The "honor" of opening the Strange Daze '97 Festival went to Gaia Avatara. Flute, drums and haunting vocals got the first day off to a gentle, although late start - due to some unfortunate, minor, glitches in the sound system that shortened their already too short set. Next came Red Giant, a young, energetic, band playing rock & roll with excellent, choppy, guitar. The third band, Nucleon, was more a rock band than a space band. Since we were late in arriving, we took this time to set up and get all of our recording gear together.

When ST37 hit the stage, we were set up. This Texas band was pretty good, better than their 6 yr old CD 'Invisible College'. A bit noisy, a bit clashing at times rather than melodic, still a pretty decent set by a large band (maybe 6-7 folks on stage). Managed to pick up their CD for $8 after the show.

Next was Architectural Metaphor. Except for Nik and HW, this band was the highlight of the weekend for me. Their live set was dripping with the styles of Ash Ra Temple and the like, with liquid guitar solos, and haunting vocals from the percussionist. This trio is absolutely incredible. Catch them if you get a chance, they are better than they have ever been. Their cover of "Golden Void" is one of the best covers by any band, of any HW tune.

Next came F/i. They walked on-stage, and stated that it had been a long hard trip to get to the festival, and that they'd blown their engine on the long drive from Wisconsin. Still, they cranked it up and cooked. Definitely another great band to watch. Heavier space rock with lots of bubbling whooshes. I could be losing it, but I seem to recall a longhaired, bearded blonde fellow in a bright orange jacket playing an electric cello! This fellow was up all night that night :-) as best as I can tell, since the F/i and ArcMet tents were right near ours. I made sure to pick up their CD, and found it even better then the live set (then again, maybe I just wasn't familiar with their songs). Their new CD is called "Helioscopium", a terrific collection of space rock.

Then, "THE MAN". Nik Turner, backed by Far-Flung with special guest guitarist Steve Taylor (from Sun Machine). The most incredible Nik show I've ever seen or heard (since he went solo). This man has not had a band as good as these guys since he left HW! Nik poured a tremendous amount of energy into his performance and his vocals, and the band turned on a dime right with him. Nik had broken his leg earlier in the week (rumor was a motorcycle accident), and arrived on crutches that afternoon. He moved slow, and plopped down on the grass to speak to visitors and watch the earlier shows when he got there. Nik's head is now clean shaven. Not a good sign about the leg.

Soooo, the roadies came up with an alternate solution for the show...

A large black box with a cloth over it was brought out and placed in the center of the stage, right near the mic. A spaceman dressed in white with glowing white X-mas tree lights all over him came flowing out onto the stage (this is Scotty the HW light man), and the music built up into a proper intro. Then, Nik came out of the box wearing a tan colored rubber suit with long rubber spikes protruding from it in all directions! The spaceman continued to dance, and was joined by a black robed, alien masked figure wearing a glow-stick around the neck. Together with the 5 band members plus Nik himself, as well as a flame blower lurking at the rear of the stage, there were 9 folks on stage several times during the show! The songs were all great, with a tremendous amount of energy from both the band and especially Nik. The usual Hawkwind tunes showed up, including Watching the Grass Grow, Dragon Rider (GREAT!), Ejection, Master of the Universe, and Shouldn't Do That. The show ran from 10 PM until midnight without a break.

Lots of smiles all around, some solo flute from Nik, at least 4 or 5 songs from Far Flung's last two CDs also found their way into the mix. The Far Flung sound is that heavy space rock sludge played in a very fluid manner, with loud guitars in a not-complex liquid pattern, with a fast tempo where you just can't stop bouncing. Tommy Grenas was laid out over a bank of MOOG synths, and played almost no guitar. Steve Taylor was front and center for the leads, although this band is a jamming band rather than center-solo type of music.

Nik Turner's show revealed him in PEAK performance. Even with a broken leg (two toes, actually) even in his late fifties (older than Dave), even with a backup band that was swapped at the last minute for a different backup band, Nik was absolutely incredible.


The morning opened up with Bionaut, apparently a synth based offshoot of ArcMet.This was mellow, pleasing music, just what was needed to wake the folks up gently.

Next came Nick Riff. Not my style really, more of a pop singer with a rock backup band. His tunes were nice and catchy, and I caught myself singing along with them before his set was done. (that is usually a *bad* thing for me).

Melting Euphoria was a band I really wanted to see. Their first two albums are incredible Ozric like space synth jamming and Form an American band no less! The third album didn't do much for me, but there is a brand new one just out in the last two weeks that may be different. I didn't know what to expect really. M.E. came on as a four piece, with 2 guitars + drums + synth. This band really rocked out, with much less apparent synth than appears on their polished production CDs. Unfortunately, they hadn't played more than 20 mins.. when a rain came down that caused them to stop. When the rain let up, they were able to play maybe another 10-15 mins.., but this just wasn't enough to do justice to this excellent band.

Born To Go came out. Their lead singer was an English fellow, who rapped with the audience a bit before and between songs. Their attitude is definitely in the right place. IMHO the music needs more of a synth sound, or more tonality in the lead guitar perhaps, but the lyrics are dead on Sci-Fi / technology stuff. Their influences are good ones. Born To Go also deserves credit for having been a vocal proponent on the net for the Strange Daze fest. (I forgot to get my free drink from the lead singer following their set. They did a song called "Kill -9", and the singer offered a " drink at the bar for anyone who knows what this means!". I knew those years of college would amount to something!)

Quarkspace was a band I missed seeing, although they sounded pretty good from where I sat out their set. They had a more complex, structured sound, with numerous layered instruments, kind of mid tempo. I kept wishing could get up and go see this band I was hearing, but my tent was full of partying people at that moment so I missed out.

Alien Planetscapes came out and seemed to do a similar set to the one they'd used Friday night when they also opened for HW. Their sound is really good, with a good mix of synths and guitars with other instruments for accent.

They have done it again. Hawkwind has a new sound, and it is great! The addition of Jerry Richards on guitar and Ron Tree now on bass has pumped a fast-paced jamming-oriented rock sensibility into this band. No more long synth excursions, tunes from here on out are going to be hard crunchers and pounding jams!

Ron was shirtless, covered in red paint, with two glowing stars on antennae above his head. He is playing an ancient Gibson bass, a monster of a guitar, center stage. Jerry Richard is on the left side, wearing the black glow-in-the-dark HW T-shirt for this tour. He has black hair and a short trimmed goatee. He *does* look just like Tony Iommi, except for a little around the eyes. Dave Brock was on the right, behind his keyboards, his axe sitting on a stand beside him. Richard was hiding in the distant back of the stage, and I saw little of him.

The Hawks opened with one of the new songs, I believe it is called "The Wheel". Unlike the never-quite-gelled version from NYC on Friday, tonight this song coalesced into a fast tight construction from an almost ambient beginning. Something to look forward to on the new album. Jerry and Ron are now a driving energy in this band. More good stuff all around. As I knew the show was being recorded I didn't bother to keep a set list. I remember hearing Assassins of Allah with the Space is Your Pal middle section. Also, there were several new songs in there somewhere (don't remember any names I'd heard them called).

Captain Rizz joined HW on stage for several songs. One great moment that worked better here than in NYC was an antiestablishment dub chant that Rizz did over a new HW tune in the background. I'd like to have heard Dave or Ron sing it instead, but my guess is that Captain Rizz may make an appearance on the next HW album...???

The big question was whether Dave would allow Nik to come on-stage during the HW set. So it was actually a happy surprise when Dave mentioned early on in the set that Captain Rizz would guest tonight, and that "...a little later we might wheel Nik Turner up here.." or something like that. Well, they jammed hard. Nik joined them, and then sat out a song. Then Nik joined them again, and played more sax. Then, they played a new song which Nik didn't know, but Nik tried to keep up thereby earning himself some strong looks from Dave but Nik just smiled throughout.

On the next song Nik played sax very loud and up front and when the band attempted to bring the song to an end after 5 or 6 minutes old Captain Nik wanted to keep playing. He went into a big solo and thus forced the band into extending the song a bit more. Finally, the end of the set and the single encore, which I believe included "Ejection". The band wrapped it up, promised to come back in the future, and split.

The crowd chanted for 10 minutes, then the roadies came out and started tearing down the stage. At the first sign of the crowd's disappointment at not getting a second encore, Nik Turner appeared at center stage wearing his sax. He broke into one of those little ditties that he does, and the crowd started cheering. When he finished, he played another one. Then, he took a request to play "Master of the Universe" I think it was, which he proceeded to do for 10 min. By now the sweat was dripping off of him, and a mic had been brought out for his sax. Meanwhile the roadies continued to do their work right behind him, and all stage lights were on. Finally, Nik played a last tune and called it a night. Total time for HW was around 90 min. including the encore and Nik played another 30 min after that.

Summing it Up...

Summing it up, Hawkwind has a great new sound that pumps more energy into the band. Their new album is looking really good, based on the live shows. Nik clearly knows what it is that the people want, and he wants to give it to them. Nik is a master showman, whereas Dave continues to focus on the music first, in a structured format. Hawkwind now have a heavier sound than they've had in many years. Jerry Richards plays fast and furious, as does Ron on bass. The new songs are going to be more jam-oriented than any Brock has written in quite a while. The future is glorious...!

The entire festival went off on schedule, with all bands starting and stopping close to the published time. There was absolutely no police or security presence at the fest, just a lot of well behaved hippies having a tripping good time. I witnessed not a single fight, there was a food stand selling (ONLY) veggie burgers and tea, there was a real bar selling booze and beer, and you could buy a wheelbarrow full of wood for a campfire for the measly fee of $5.

The weather was warm during the day, with a brief rain shower on Sat morn and late Sat afternoon, and wet fog on Sat night. Temp seemed to drop into the low 50s F (maybe hi 40s?). Most bands camped out at the festival, and the guy on stage was frequently the guy standing next to you when the next band came on.

Band members from all bands appeared accessible throughout the event. HW arrived late in the day on Saturday, and were seen walking around the area checking things out. Supposedly Dave wandered past each and every campsite, to see what was up and how things were. My guess is that he was impressed by the American take on throwing a camp out hippie festival. Dave is reported to have volunteered to come back again and play future Strange Daze type festivals, if they become regular events.

On Saturday afternoon a Militant Nudist on Acid was spotted yelling and ranting "Take off your clothes. You must be free!". He was tripping VERY hard, and (from earlier discussions) appeared to be a nudist down for the camping, without any background on Hawkwind. Reportedly he ran up to Dave during his wandering, until Dave was able to escape him. Eventually this fellow's girlfriend showed up, calmed him down and dressed him, and tucked him away in their tent.

There was a large bonfire and drum circle on Saturday night following the Nikwind show and another on Sunday night. Naked pagans and stoned hippies clustered around the "wooden Stonehenge" area where the huge fire was burning, trying to warm themselves and dance out their trips. Drumplay from Cleveland started it off . Way cool, with several HW members observing.

There were at least 4 video cameras going at all times, and scattered tape recorders all over the place. Absolutely no effort was made to restrict any recording of any kind at the festival. There was a large truck containing a 24-track recorder dubbing the Hawkwind set, and probably the entire show. Good chance that there might be a CD coming out of this event.

I never did see the fellow giving away copies of the "Space Rock Manifesto" which I'd heard advertised. Wonder what that was about..? Bob Lennon was distributing copies of Hawk-U.S. #6, which came with a floppy containing a dozen JPEGs of HW from the 1995 tour (I believe) and a small color photo of a freaky looking space rock terrarium. I picked up a 'zine called "The Hipster" that contained an interview with Dave Brock this past winter.

The new HW album has been completed and mixed, except for one song and finishing the artwork. I didn't get a title, but the band played a tape of it to some of the folks at Lascko's house following the Ohio show. The release date is supposedly in October '97.

Thanks to all the great folks that I met during the festival. You know who you are!

-Captain Cloud