Main Menu

Solar Fire Lightshow
Design Studio

Strange Daze 1997
Strange Daze 1998
Strange Daze 1999
Strange Daze 2000
Strange Daze 2001
N.Z./Aussie Tour

- Home -




This article was written for and appears in Progression Magazine

The Strange Daze '99 SpaceRock Festival was held over the weekend of August 20-22 at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park Campground in Nelson, Ohio, a beautiful park in the northeast section of Ohio. While some "so called" camping events (like the puzzlingly popular Woodstock '99) don't allow folks to bring in any cars, food, water or pointed objects, there was none of that here! For the reasonable $55 ticket price you got 3 days and 2 nights of music with camping and a clear 35 acre quarry lake to swim in. The lake was not used very much because of the breezy fall-like weather and the partly cloudy skies. Rain threatened on and off all weekend, but only delivered one 15-20 minute light drizzle.

This year's line up listed 17 bands, a large number considering that all bands get 90 minutes of stage time. Absent was England's Hawkwind, the flagship of the previous 2 Strange Daze festivals. Invited to appear, they declined the invitation. Dave Brock explained that there would be a total eclipse of the sun, happening in their own backyard just days before SD'99, and they wanted to take advantage of this cosmic happening to play some gigs at home. We wished them well!

Taking up the Hawk-slack this year was Hawkwind co-founder Nik Turner appearing Saturday evening with the Los Angeles space band Farflung. They are totally capable and were a big crowd pleaser at SD'97! Friday's headliner Tribe of Cro cancelled their US Tour 9 days before the festival was to begin and Helios Creed was quickly moved into that slot.

Early Friday afternoon a crew arrived on site and began erecting a large tent. New for this year was late night ambient type music (so as to not disturb the neighbors) in the tent after the main stage closed down around 11:15. Once erected, I took the opportunity to set up the Strange Trips table ( under it. This saved my balding head from one ferocious sunburn!

Brian Feather, Strange Trips webmaster, and I manned the table stocked with CD's, festival shirts and other goodies. Thanks to Keith Henderson, a frequent writer for Jerry Kranitz's Aural Innovations and Adam Strider of Strider News, I had 2 different SD'99 Programs to hand out with band bio's and day schedules. Keith did a very nice black and white booklet and Adam did a large folded page in full color, beautifully designed by Susan Suchman.

Earlier I had taken more than 25 new Hawkwind CD's, shirts and other items and had my brother Jerry (the OTHER balding fat ass) mount them on a 4x8 foot piece of plywood to raffle off at $1 a chance. This proved to be a very popular item. As the festival went on most of the bands donated their CD's, making it a very nice package to win.

Since I'm writing this from the organizer's point of view, I'm not really qualified to be much of a critic. This piece is more about the event as a whole, rather than a musical critique of each band. I may be biased (chahh!) but I felt that all of the bands who played did a very good job and added great Spirit and musical skill to the festival. I would like to thank each and every one of them for their time and effort!

It would be hard for any one person to do justice in reviewing so many bands, as I don't think anyone saw every band over the 3 days. The following band descriptions are composites containing mine and Keith Henderson's (a much more worthy music critic) observations along with band descriptions taken from Adam and Keith's programs. Since it's impossible for me to thank them every time I lift something from them, I wish to thank them both now!

A sparse crowd had gathered in front of the stage and under the tent when the music started on schedule at 4:00. Our old friend Thom the World Poet was doing emcee duty. He would help keep things moving along the entire weekend by doing impromptu poetry in between the acts and with various bands. He was in fine form as he introduced the first act. Oranj Climax (John Ortega, Charles Delozier and John Pichardo) from NYC was new to the festival. Their spacey sounding ambient music, with synth explorations leaning towards Tangerine Dream, got the festival off to a gentle start.

Taking Helios old spot next was Canis Minor (Thom Karshish, Joe Silver, Billy Capozzi and guest Thom Marianetti) also from NYC. As they took the stage I was beginning to worry about Helios. He hadn't arrived yet and I kept looking at the gate with the same sinking feeling that General Custer must have had as he was looking for his reinforcements to come. After burning one, my jangled nerves were smoothed by Canis Minor's haunting ambient electronic set and the lovely sounds of the Chapman Stick. Billy's improvisational vocals were busily weaving a magical spell around it all, putting all the right words in all the right places.

Then came Helios Creed....NOT!! The only thing I will say about Helios is that he didn't show up or even bother to call. Not very professional of him. Artists that pull no shows like this are only driving nails into their own coffins. There were bands that really wanted to play this festival and they could have been there, adding their Spirit to ours, if we had a little notification. We're all diminished by actions such as these.

Lucky for us Born to Go (Marc Power, Greg Florko, Louis Boone, Mark McClemens and Carl Howard) was on site. I had alerted them to be ready just in case. As they set up on stage I went to check on my able bodied assistants, Scott Kuti and Greg Stacko, who are running The Solar Fire Lightshow. I had recently picked up some new slide projectors (with zoom lenses and dissolve unit) and received 140 new 35mm slides of space scenes and images I had put together only 2 days before the festival. I felt that the SFL had moved up in capabilities and I was anxious to use them. Born to Go took off and so did the lights!

Hard rocking as usual, these guys do bass heavy spacerock reminiscent of DoReMi era Hawkwind. Great sci-fi lyrics tell stories of robots on the rise, government murder, cover-ups suppressing technology that would liberate mankind instead of enslaving it, space mining and a machine who falls in love with a human. Wait a minute.did I say science FICTION? It's all happening NOW!!! Marc Power, who looks like he could do a fair imitation of the Penguin from the old Batman TV series, introduces each new song as he tells you the story behind it. His young daughter joined him on stage for Radio Calvert, a tip of the hat to Hawkwind's late front man. They ended their set with a 20 minute cover of Hawkwind's Orgone Accumulator, much to the audience's delight.

As they jammed out the songs The Solar Fire Lightshow was chugging and clanking away with swirling moire's, checkerboard patterns, space scenes and more, washing over the stage. Flanked on both sides by 16mm movies of space travel, huge images were projected on the large overhead screen in rapid succession. Alien civilizations, travel through outer space, galaxies, flying saucers, Earth, reefer, magic mushrooms, aliens, Stonehenge, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Krishna, ***, space, space and more endless space. Good heavens!! WHAT ARE THESE GUYS TRYING TO SAY?..huh?.HUH?? A great light show even if some of the images didn't exactly match Born to Go's pointed lyrics. After all, these lights were to be for TOC who have no lyrics.

Drumplay (Warren Levert, Tim Strelau, Matthew Abelson, Brett Brandon and James Onysko) were the first in the tent and started the pot cooking with their spacey take on world beat percussion lightly flavored with xylo-marimba and hammered dulcimer. Whether in performance, workshop or educational presentation, no two Drumplay concerts are alike. Thom the World Poet added his unique word play in a brief appearance. Heating it up even more was Insanity in Motion, aka Leather, doing some amazing things with fire. Flaming tongue anyone?

Bionaut started setting up a huge amount of equipment, too much work for such a small crowd. I told them to do something lighter and I'll give them Born to Go's old spot tomorrow to make up for the lack of audience. They readily agreed and did a lighter set.

Saturday dawned looking like rain. The first band was Quarkspace (Paul Williams, Chet Santia, Jay Swanson and Dave Wexler and Stan Lyon). This has been "their" spot for the last 2 years and it fits them well. With their style of long, spacey, spontaneous jams and electronic drums, keyboards, loops, and gliss-like guitars layered over chunky bass lines, it wasn't hard to get everybody up and moving in no time at all.

Light Bright Highway was to be next, but pulled a no show on us without even a phone call! No problem. This was a good opportunity to give National Steam, an off shoot project of Quarkspace members Paul and Dave, some stage time. They were a little different from Quarkspace but that difference became less apparent as Chet and Stan rejoined Paul and Dave on stage towards the end of their set.

True to my word Bionaut (Paul Eggleston and Chris Green) was next. With vintage synthesizers up the yinyang they played complimentary keyboards. Dense cascading sounds created musical landscapes very familiar to fans of spacerock's Architectural Metaphor, the other band Paul is in. The set today, very trippy music reminiscent of Klaus Schulze, was livelier than the previous tent show.

Around dinner time Alien Planetscapes (Doug Walker, Mathew Block, Chris Attenhoff and Josh Gazes) explodes on stage. After the laid back, synthesizer laden afternoon it woke everyone up and got their blood boiling. The sound percolated, bubbled and took on a life of it's own as they showed everyone why they are America's finest space/jazz band. Innovative cosmic free form jazz combined with high energy instrumental rock. Although slammed by recent health problems, they sure didn't let it show as they ran through some great new tunes.

While the stage was being set for the main act the raffle was held. One happy camper went home with about 35 spacerock CD's and other Hawkwind and Strange Daze memorabilia.

Hypnotic tribal space music started mixing with twilight as Anubian Lights (Tommy Grenas and Len Del Rio) began. With phat beats and definite middle eastern influences, it is a very unique and sometimes mellow sound. One Eye to the Sky samples Gong's Gilli Smyth, weaving her distinctive whisper vocals throughout the song beautifully. Other songs move faster and you find yourself involuntarily moving your feet. As their show progresses and it becomes ever darker, Rob Jacobs Midnite Sun Lightshow slowly kicks in as folks are transported to the Middle East with the rich tapestry of musical delights.

After a short break more people joined them on stage and they became Farflung (Tommy Grenas, Dix Carbonic, Gammaknife, Scott and guest Steve Taylor). Starting out slowly, they built up intensity as the night progressed. Sometimes sludgy and industrial sounding, they are also capable of some of the best all out spacerock that the US has to offer. The music starts to move faster and faster as Rob Jacob's superb light show keeps pace with the action. Computer generated images, captured on 16mm film, look like a spirograph on acid as they fly around the stage turning every which way. Soon a familiar saxophone is heard winding it's way from the back of the crowd to the stage. As astonished fans turn around they see the unearthly vision of an astronaut flowing with lights (Scott Kuti) leading a large red mantilian creature, with lizard spikes sticking out all over it's body and head, through the crowd. The legendary Nik Turner has arrived!

Hypnotized, the crowd can only stare as unearthly sounds, standard spacerock fare, emerge from the speakers like alien messages from distant galaxies. Mounting the stage while still blowing the sax, Nik isn't hobbled by a bad foot like at SD'97. He's in fine form and quickly takes control as he starts out with his own take on an old Hawkwind favorite, Sonic Attack. Indeed, Nik's show tonight mostly consists of his songs from the old Hawkwind glory days. Soon he launches into a wicked Brainstorm as the band kicks into high gear and Spaceman Scott joins him on stage with his glowing outfit. Psychedelia rules as colorful explosions burst over the stage, moving much too fast for the eyes to fully take in, but still burning into the unconscious mind. An alien appears on stage (R.J. Wyse) and curiously eyes Nik blatting away on his sax as if he were some celestial oddity from a undiscovered planet or perhaps even another dimension.

Slowing down, they do an unusual version of Free Fall with Tommy doing the vocals. Anubis/Soul Herder follows as the hypnotic drums and Nik's flute lead us into the next world. Soon we hear the beginning of Watching the Grass Grow as Nik intones "We ARE the survivors! The Eternal Survivors. androgynous energies travelling through time!" Another alien (Alicia Schlenkar) soon joins her friend on stage along with the spaceman, while pictures of growing flowers and other green things (you know.the stuff that Man is trying his best to destroy) are splashed onto the large overhead screen. This is rapidly followed by the heavy and eerie D-Rider, the ever popular Ejection complete with Star Fighters flying across the screen, and a rousing Master of the Universe. The crowd is left cheering for more as Nik bids them good night.

Coming back on stage Nik, sans spiked hood for the first time tonight, tells the audience "You are the Spirit of Hawkwind" and urges them to not let it die! They finished up the night with You Shouldn't Do That, jamming it out until they had to end it because of the 11:00 stage curfew.

An amazing show, Nik was absolutely electric in a blistering performance while Farflung never missed a single beat. As is his habit, Nik hung around on stage afterwards bantering with the audience and playing his sax. People yelled out requests for songs and then clapped and sang along as Nik, all in good fun, stumbled through them for about half an hour or so before saying good night!

Attention was then shifted to the tent where Scott had set up The Solar Fire Lightshow and Circus Kaotica (Terry Sindar and Sadie Wolfkitten) were beginning to do their act. A form of sideshow, they performed escapes, magic, fire walking displays and more, keeping up a steady banter and entertaining the people as Canis Minor set up their equipment.

Soon Canis Minor was playing their gentle, haunting trance music for the second time this weekend while Billy wrapped his vocals around it. It looked very eerie when Scott started smoking the tent and spinning colored beams of light through the London Fog like mist. Nik Turner stopped by and joined in for a bit, softly playing along with his flute.

One man met an unexpected friend as he lay there on the ground listening. It appears that a large Tarantula, one of Circus Kaotica's pets, had escaped from his box. Finding this man while wandering around in the dark, it curled up against his neck seeking the warmth of his body. Feeling something odd he discovered the spider and reacted with restraint, keeping a presence of mind that was quite admirable under the circumstances. The spider was captured (he really more like gave himself up) and was returned to its owner unharmed the following day. After this Sloterdijk (Mike Burro with guest Jay Adcock) capped the evening off with his ambient music, as electronic throbbing, voice samples and an occasional stream of guitar cut through the dense fog.

The music started Sunday with W.O.O. Revelator (Bonnie Kane, Ray Sage and Chris Forsyth) cleaning out everyone's ears with some great improvisational and psychedelic free form jazz/rock/space. Unique and a bundle of energy with colorful hair, Bonnie played sax like a Nik Turner with breasts!

Das Ludicroix (Larry Boyd, Carl Anderson, Ron Scott, Doug Pearson, Doug Walker) is a group of musical acquaintances who've communicated over the years. SD'99 gave them a chance to finally jam together, resulting in an interesting set that re-created the sound of early day Space Ritual era spacerock. A strong performance from a band who had, up till then, been linked more through cyber-space than real life!

Closing the festival was Tombstone Valentine (Richelle Toombs, Greg Toombs, Diane Hancock, Rick Wilkenson and Randy Schwartz) a soft space/psychedelic outfit. With outstanding female vocals and unusual instrumentation giving their sound a unique character, they brought a bit of the spirit of 60's psychedelia into the late 90's.

Good things this year - the raffle, late night tent, and better sound. Bad things - bands who didn't show, police stopping some people on their way to the park - bad bathrooms again! SD2000 possibilities include: 3 nights - Thursday, Friday and Saturday with $20-$25 day tickets available, late night tent, better bathrooms! Bands expressing mild interest in SD2000: Ozric Tentacles, Mr. Quimby's Beard and Porcupine Tree. If you want them there, let them know!

Attendance was down from SD'98. If you didn't support all of these fine bands just because Hawkwind wasn't there, shame on you! You missed a unique festival featuring music that isn't just run of the mill, corporate trash. We are THE alternative to the increasingly corporate sponsored "alternative festivals" you find now.

Many thanks to all who were there and who helped! Like a young child, we have to learn to stand on our own. Hawkwind, as we have known and loved them over the last 30 years, won't be around for much longer. But the Spirit of Hawkwind will live forever! Don't let it die within YOU!

-Jim Lascko