Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Selkies and Mikey Kenny at Smugglers Records

Wednesday 20th February 2019
Smugglers Records, Deal
 

Flo and Nou were joined by Flo's sister Otterly for their final number — a quirky cover of a quirky Pearl Jam song I'd never heard before. New album out in the summer. And I finally got to meet Adam Beattie, who was playing in Mikey's band (great set from them too, although I had to run for the last train before the end).

Burgate jam

Sunday 10th Februrary, 2019
Johannes' flat, Burgate, Canterbury

JoJo's friend Keshia was visiting from Germany, sang some lovely songs of hers and played guitar. He took this little clip, a nice memory of a lovely evening. Me on saz, Cameron from El Paso on guitar!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Beetbox open mic

Saturday 16th February 2019
The Mooring Cafe, Canterbury
 

Emilia and friends put this together to support their local organic veg box scheme. It was mostly students singing songs with guitars (I remember a young woman from Norway doing a nice cover of "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" and a couple of her songs in Norwegian) but also one poet (reading off a smartphone, of course) and UKC Psychedelic Society veterans Jacob and Luke doing lively sets (including "Cod Liver Oil and Orange Juice" and "Purple Haze", respectively). I was asked if I wanted to play some saz, but it didn't feel like the right kind of occasion, so I opted out. Feeling rather introspective.

Canterbury Sans Frontières: episode 68

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 68

"Stately cacophony" from Gong, followed by more of the same from Sun Ra's Arkestra, vintage 1979, Kevin Ayers and the Whole World on The Old Grey Whistle Test in '72, Daevid Allen rearranging a Soft Machine classic in one of his last live performances, Robert Wyatt rearranging the 20th century and playing the piano at home. Also, Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets, new work from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, some classic Can, live Kraftwerk, Led Bib, a Pharaoh Sanders remix and Ozric Tentacles playing Gong at the 1984 Stonehenge Free Festival. From the Canterbury of today, more from the new Lapis Lazuli album, Lapis guitarist Neil Sullivan's solo project Thing, a new EP from Jacob Brant and an archival jam from Syd Arthur with Jack Hues and the Quartet.

Dido and Aeneas

Friday 15th February 2019
Colyer-Fergusson Hall, University of Kent, Canterbury
 

University Cecilian Choir and String Sinfonia. The witches were great, the lead sorceress in particular had real presence. Fairly minimal props/effects/etc., very nicely done.

Ben Insall at Luke Smith's Lo-Fi Zone (and Pink Floyd)

Monday 12th February
Bramleys, Canterbury
 

Luke Smith and the Feelings are currently just Luke and Tom Holden (now on guitar, rather than bass). It was nice to hear "I Don't Want To Go To Parties Anymore" again. A set of folkish originals from guest artist Ben Insall (probably most familiar here as a member of Arlet).

I saw Luke again on the Friday afternoon up in Origins bar at UKC's Darwin College, where he has a casual weekly lunchtime piano gig. Always an incredibly diverse array of pop melodies, you never know what's coming next. I was on a sofa working on my laptop, and Luke dropped into Wyatt & Kramer's "Free Will and Testament" knowing I'd like that. Having just finished Mark Blake's Pink Floyd history Pigs Might Fly I'd been binge-listening to early Floyd earlier that day, so I almost went up to Luke to ask if he could play any Syd Barrett. But I was caught up in my work, and delayed doing this for a few minutes...and then, he suddenly went into "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". When he'd finished, I explained what had happened, and then had a super-intense deja vu while discussing the Floyd's career arc with him.

Although rather sad, this was my favourite anecdote from the book:

I also felt quite a lot of sympathy for Rick Wright, "the quiet one" who got given rather a hard time for many years. It was heartening to learn, though, that a couple of years before his death in 2008, Gilmour invited him along on a tour which he enjoyed more than any he'd previously been part of. Gilmour several times refers to "Echoes" in the book as a conversation between himself and Wright, so I went back to the footage from the gig they played in the Gdańsk shipyards in 2006, found this, which feels more "genuinely" Pink Floyd than anything that the Gilmour-Mason-Wright lineup did in the 80s or 90s, and it feels like Wright being fully acknowledged for his work. Just WOW!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Goodwin Sound Radiogram live recording at Free Range

Thursday 14th February 2019
Garage Coffee, Canterbury
 

Great fun throughout, and a pretty deep episode of GSR. Excellent musical contributions from Sam Bailey on piano and Oliver Perrott-Webb on electric guitar. It was also a pleasant to hear free trombonist Sarah Gail Brand's voice in the recorded content, hilariously slagging off the saxophone solo on Spandau Ballet's "True" (and swearing a lot, of course)!

Friday, February 08, 2019

Zubin Kanga at Free Range again

Thursday 7th February 2018
Garage Coffee, Canterbury
 

Amazing stuff! Especially the wikified piano score. And that weird video sequence at the end...WTF??!

And there was more (the ubiquitous Aidan Shepherd making yet another Free Range appearance). Am Horizont seems to be a project to watch. As well as the Crane Octet they played a pre-aleatoric John Cage composition (didn't catch the title). Aidan's MCC colleagues Anna Braithwaite and Matthew Brown were seated as part of the octet, carefully following the score...Anna occasionally percussed by rubbing a sheet of paper in a circular motion on the table. I didn't at any point spot MB do anything (except turn pages of the score), but there was a little mixer and some other gadgetry within reach, so presumably he was responsible for some of the drones?

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Alabaster DePlume and Bellatrix

Saturday 2nd February 2019
Hangar, Hackney, East London
 

Bellatrix (best known as a beatboxer, I was told) was a revelation. Killer band making an immense sound: two women drumming and a guitarist doing cool textural work and triggering stuff on a synth, Bella herself singing in a piercing, otherworldly voice, and playing bass on about half the songs. A captivating performer who it's easy to imagine progressing rapidly onto much larger stages. At times it felt like a reimagining of the 80s — the spooky/cold 80s and the "tribal" 80s, but with triphop flavours, and at times a kind of post-grime Kate Bush vibe (sorry to bring KB into this, she's so overcompared, but in this case, it really is...).

Alabaster's band involved Donna Thompson (one of the drummers with Bellatrix) drumming alongside Sarathy Korwar (drumkit and tabla), Hannah from the Moulettes on electric six-string cello (built by her luthier dad) and Danalogue on analogue synths. His biggest audience yet, and a large Canterbury contingent were there to support him. He sold the place out and had everyone as spellbound — in a trendy East London concrete bunker venue — as he did the last time I saw him play, at an intimate fireside gig in the woods. His melodies and facial expressions and turns of phrase are all so extraordinary that his saxophone playing sometimes gets overlooked. He's a self-taught tenor player and plays like no other. He was on top form. AND his mum was in the audience (a surprise trip down from Manchester). Everyone left feeling better, no doubt, after being reassured, for a final time that we were "doing very well" by a beaming Mr. DePlume before he departed the necessary. No encore needed. That was so good. Then a falafel wrap, and talking with Garance and some of the Smuggler-y crowd clustered out the back of a surprisingly friendly pub in the cold for a while before being whisked back to the CT.

Friday, February 01, 2019

For Now I am Winter: the music of Ólafur Arnalds

Friday 1st February (Imbolc!) 2019
Colyer-Fergusson Hall, University of Kent at Canterbury
 

I really needed this, suited my mood, the weather and season perfectly. Gorgeous Icelandic neo-classical melancholia played by a (student?) string quartet + pianist. Beautiful landscape photography projected behind them. And free!

Montrose Composers Club at Free Range

Thursday 31st January 2019
Garage Coffee, Canterbury
 

The MCC have evolved from a loose-knit collective to a very unified four-piece ensemble, bursting with creative ideas. This time: fun with wine glasses, Phil Self live drone remix of some German church bells, Aidan getting the other three to play rudimentary accordion (while he played synth), Anna Braithwaite singing "Washing Machine Head" with loop pedal, the always extraordinary viola playing of Matthew Brown, etc. etc. Very cold night, fairly small audience, but felt like a vibrant occasion.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

another Bramleys jazz jam

29th January 2019
Bramleys, Canterbury
 

Haven't been to one of these for a while, but when I saw the lineup I thought I'd better not miss it. I arrived to a young man singing impassioned soul-jazz (and playing soprano sax). He did "I'd Rather Go Blind", then "Let's Stay Together" to rapturous applause. As he was being led off stage I realised that he was blind, so an interesting choice of song! Great voice. A clarinet player and his pianist friend did a few songs. As I was leaving (earlier than I'd have liked) Frances and co. were making their way through an instrumental with a saxophonist...I couldn't leave until I'd identified it. "The Wichita Lineman", of all things — sounding good, naturally. Ian East was walking in as I was walking out — fresh from the studio, having just signed off the masters for the forthcoming Gong LP The Universe Also Collapses, seemingly positively delighted with the way that had gone.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Crash of Moons with Chroma and ZenSay

Thursday 24th January 2019
UCA Bar, Canterbury
 

A set from In'ovative, the main man behind the ZenSay collective, some extraordinary beatboxing from Mista (Dom) Wolfe, then a collaboration between the two. Chroma = Bobby C + Ash Noremac, quite trap-oriented, but thoughtful and well done, good energy. Good crowd, really into it. Then the cypher, with hastily assembled jam band: Matt from Witchdoctor on drums, Richard Armstrong on keyboards, etc, Neil from Lapis on guitar, Andy Prowse on bass, Ellen Tasou on flute, and three saxes - Oli Genn-Bash, Jules Madjar and someone called Nigel. No time for soundcheck and monitoring issues meant the band struggled to hear themselves, but the beats and basslines were strong, the horns, guitars and waveforms unintentionally smearing all over the soundspace in a Sun Ra Arkestra kind of way. And the MCs (Humble Pious, Reminisce, Jack Mythos, In'ovative) passed the mic and spat endless bars over this pulsing sonic weirdness, with a solid crowd of people dancing enthusiastically to the whole thing. Nice to see. Laszlo (Humble Pious) was gently pressured into compering the event, and did an excellent job of creating a vibe and drawing the crowd up the front.

Here are my DJ mixes (operating as Profe$$or Appleblo$$om on this occasion) from before/between/after the acts. We got to carry on til almost 1a.m., so there's a lot of hiphop here, starting fairly introspective, getting more party-oriented in the later sets:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Canterbury Sans Frontières: episode 67

Canterbury Sans Frontières: Episode 67

A rare live (German TV) version of Caravan's "Golf Girl", some Wyatt oddities you've probably not heard, another side of that Centipede double LP, Gilli Smyth, Soft Machine peaking in '67, three ex-members of Henry Cow playing as 3/4 of Artaud Beats live in Norway and some exciting Steve Hillage news. Also, Zappa in '73, Coltrane in '63, Miles Davis (entirely absent from one of his recordings) and something to commemorate King Crimson's 50th birthday. From the Canterbury of now, something else from that magnificent Lapis Lazuli album, Syd Arthur tearing it up live in 2014 and something new from Nancy Berserk.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Dominic Lash Quartet at Free Range

Thursday 17th January 2018
Garage Coffee, Canterbury

One long, continuous set, some written parts scattered throughout, but lots of skronky soloing and free playing in between. Lash on double bass, Javier Carmona on drums, Ricardo Tejero on alto sax and Alex Ward on electric guitar (all amazing players, although Ward was particularly impressive on this occasion).

Nancy Berserk and Hellfire Orchestra

Sunday 13th January 2019
secret woodland location near Canterbury

This was supposed to be a kind of raucous punkrock new year special, sort of for Libby's birthday, featuring Hellfire and The Heathens (new local punk supergroup featuring the Holden Brothers and Rob Gambell). A couple of days before the event, Tom H warned me that The Heathens were VERY loud, and that the audience might need earplugs. I was considering a bulk purchase when (perhaps for the best) Rob had to cancel. So no Heathens. Fortunately, Nancy agreed to step in. She's only done a couple of gigs before but is extremely confident and has a great voice. The first half of her set was accompanied by Tom H on acoustic guitar (including covers of Jane's Addiction's "Slow Divers" and Neil Young's "On The Beach"). The second half featured her singing to her laptop, her own electronic arrangements, including a stunning original called "Angelfish" and a gorgeous cover of New Order's "Blue Monday" to finish. Here's a demo she's made of "Angelfish"...

...and here she is a couple of months earlier at Lily's Bistro:

Hellfire were on fire! It's been over six years since they were last up in the woods, so there were some songs as well as all the classics. They started with "Year of the Tiger". The new song "Ironworks" (the only one during which Jamie shed his guitar) stood out as borderline-avant-garde-sounding. Phil Self rocking out on electric guitar (Marc Ribot influences showing at times) and playing some super-fast mandolin, Billy Glinn raging on bass, and Stewy drumming (slightly muted by multiple teatowels). We had three sound engineers in the audience so no problem getting everything balance. Jamie's lyrics continue to leave me awestruck — what a writer! And his atonal snarl approach to singing suits the songs perfectly. After a couple of songs everyone was up and dancing until the encore (the sea shanty "Blow Boys Blow"). Mighty!

more 2018 backblog

Just found quickly scrawled notes about these. 2018 was a busy year, musically:

Ma Poulane's Great Decline, Duke of Cumberland, Whitstable, 27/09/18

A couple down from London (plus drummer) who seem to be known and loved by the older gig-going Whitstable crowd. Katrina recommended this one. I got the bus over with Maud, visiting from Wisconsin (her first time out of N. America, first time she'd seen the sea for decades). We were both struck by how Ma Poulane's singer sounded quite similar to out mutual friend (from Central Wisconsin cult band Irene's Garden) Jenny Ludeman.
 

Llunic and Rosie Nobbs, secret woodland location near Canterbury, 14/10/18

Nick and Lucy playing accordion/fiddle duos, including some impossibly lovely arrangements of English Morris tunes! Rosie down from Bristol for the occasion, much hilarity and irreverence in between the celestial harp playing. The terrible weather stopped, almost miraculously, just before Llunic started.
 

Nelson Parade and Gambardella, Crash of Moons Club, Bramleys, Canterbury, 24/10/18

Callum and the band starting to sound more confident (this was the third time I'd seen them play the same basic set). VERY well received by the CoMC crowd. Gambardella from Barcelona blew the roof off (but had to finish early due to staff concerns about noise complaints). Looks like this will be the last full-on electric Crash of Moons night at Bramleys. Oh well.

As COMC resident DJ Professor Appleblossom, I played genre-appropriate sets before/between/after bands (tasteful synthpop gradually morphing into doom-prog, with a funky dance set to conclude):


 

Allen Family/Yiannis Zaronis/Ben Insall/Mimi O'Halloran/Garance Louis, secret woodland location near Canterbury, 28/10/18 What a day! Americana/old-time from the Allens, rembetika from Yiannis (plus some saz/oud duos with me), English folkiness from Ben, incredible singing of incredible songs by Mimi and late-night accordion wonderment from Garance. Yes!
 

Aidan Shepherd and Sonotanotanpez, secret woodland location near Canterbury, 04/11/18

Analogue synth explorations from Aidan (Terry Riley would have approved!), then something entirely unclassifiable by the Japanese duo Sonotanotanpenz (Megan had seen them in Vienna while touring with Alabuster de Plume, helped make this happen). It's like these two young women have created their own microsubculture, with its own genre of music!
 

World Peng Presents and Lazuli Lazuli, Free Range, Garage Coffee, Canterbury 08/11/18

World Peng presented a kind of ritual, with video projections, Brew Dem MC Reminisce in a balaclava spitting furious bars over Humble Pious beats, Juliet, Olivia and Emilia doing an integrated performance piece... you kind of had to be there. I discovered via Emilia that I wasn't the only one who was reminded of the on-stage goings on during Hawkwind's Stonehenge '84 set! Emilia did some seriously next-level hula hooping while Lapis played a blistering jam set. One of the best sets I've heard them play, incredibly coherent, and continually evolving...they've got a pretty deep musical telepathy at this stage in the band's existence (and even though bassist Luke is fairly new to the fold, he's tapped straight into it). Organiser Sam Bailey was finding it hard to believe that it was improvised (they were in all kinds of unusual time-signatures, this wasn't some blues-based rock jam!).

A completely different kind of crowd. Well, just bigger, really. The Free Range regulars, plus a very large contingent who never come — Lapis fans and young scene-chasers. Apparently the largest FR audience ever. And we can thank The Great British Bake-Off for this. Quick story: At the "Canterbury Sound" conference at CCCU last year, Lapis were about to play at the end, but Sam decided to go home, having convinced himself on minimal exposure (early recordings) that they weren't his cup of tea (they'd contacted him about playing FR before, to no avail). He got home to find his wife and kids watching said reality TV programme, thought (in his words) "fuck this!" and decided to head back to the venue and watch Lapis. And, naturally, he was blown away.
 

Saskia Griffiths-Moore and Sam Brothers, Bramleys, Canterbury 14/11/18

Saskia describes herself as a folk singer, but these days that seems to just mean an acoustic guitar is involved. Mostly her own songs, a Dylan song (was it "Don't Think Twice"?) was about as "folk" as it got. Sam sounding as powerful and impassioned as ever. He's been busy this year.

Luke D and a visiting friend of his showed up. Nick Drake on the PA, had a laugh about the Volkswagon advert using "Pink Moon", which brought ND to the attention of countless sensitive Americans, rather than being a regrettable case of Nick Drake being used to advertise Volkswagons, turned out to be a bizarre case of Volkswagons being used to advertise Nick Drake. I just had a look on YouTube. Hmmm, a sensitive car advert. Could have been worse. But I was glad to hear that his family never approved this (presumably the rights weren't in their hands).


 

Kristin Frederickson's "Leap of Love" and Lunatraktors, Free Range, Garage Coffee, Canterbury, 29/11/18


 

Paisley Mess, Snazzback and Lapis Lazuli, Crash of Moons Club, UCA Bar, Canterbury, 30/11/18

People will be talking about this one for years. Snazzback a wonderful surprise (far more interesting than I'd been led to believe). Lapis just on fire. DJ Special Terry had to pull out due to food poisoning, so I ended up playing a dance set until 1:30am (so nice not to have to finish at 11 as at Bramleys) as well as sets before/between after. Here are my sets (starting with 60s psych and R&B, moving through abstract jazz fusion into ecstatic disco):

I was disappointed to find that Hello Gecko had had to pull out. But it was for the best reason ever — main man Nick's partner Lucy (the other half of the duo Llunic with him) had just given birth to their first child!
 

jazz jam, Bramley's, Canterbury, 04/12/18

I'd not been down to one of these for far too long. Headed down after a guest lecture from superstar anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann at UKC. My strongest memory is of Dulcie and James Taylor (extraordinary multi-instrumentalist and unlikely crooner) singing the duet "Autumn in New York".
 

Azul, The Millers Arms, Canterbury, 05/12/18

Pianist Frances Knight plus four jazz/soul singers. One Brazilian. One Ginger Bennett, who I'd seen with the band Glasshouse a couple of times, stunning voice. A nice mix of standards and originals. First gig I'd been to at the Millers (not really a music place). Arrived in wellies, for logistical reasons, and rather sleepy. But anything Frances involves herself in is worth checking out, and I'm glad I did (she hinted that this might have been a one-off thing).
 

Mavernie Cunningham + John Paul Zaccarini/Peter Coyte, Free Range, Garage Coffee, Canterbury, 06/12/18
 


 

Lila Matsumoto + Free Range Orchestra, Free Range, Garage Coffee, Canterbury, 13/12/18
 

Unusually accessible poetry for Free Range, I really enjoyed it. And FRO were brilliant, really reflected the spirit of Free Range I thought. A great way to end the 2018 part of the season.

2017 into 2018

Here's one I just remembered, a lunchtime concert back in October:
 

Then there was this...

Thursday, 15th November 2018
Garage Coffee, Canterbury

...incredible communication between Taylor and Bailey. BT seemed to be making every imaginable sound with his viola other than the usual ones. A couple of days later:

17th November 2018
Deal and St. Dunstans, Canterbury

That was a special one. Got the train over early with Megan, got to spend some time chatting with Conrad, Graeme and Lewis before the gig. And what a gig! They've got a new album and an entirely new live set and no one else is playing music like this. Such an extraordinary collection of five odd, lovable, ultra-talented people in one band. We were about to run for a train back to Canterbury, but Megan managed to figure out a lift with James in his campervan, so I got to prepare my battered old laptop (last-minute Windows updates!) before arriving in St. Dunstans to play a DJ set at Matt Rose's birthday party: a mixture of rockers, roots, dub, funk, soul, hiphop, Afro and Ethio, went down pretty well. And nice to see a racially mixed crowd at a party in Canterbury. We were initially having trouble with cables, connections, etc. (borrowed equipment), and at exactly the right moment who appeared but Crash of Moons soundman Big Will (who I'd temporarily forgot was Matt's brother), in party mode, wearing a sparkly top hat, but more than happy to get the sound working. Thanks Will!

Mid-December Prof. Appleblossom was back in action, DJing at a 'Goddess Temple Midwinter Warmer' near the Westgate. More ecstatic dance vibes. Then it was off to Wisconsin to be with my mum for Christmas. I got there in time to be whisked off to a winter solstice (and full moon) gathering out in the country...took my saz, but no jams (despite most of the band Burnt Toast and Jam being in attendance). I did get to walk a labyrinth in the snow and have a great conversation with a member of the Menominee tribe from the nearby reservation. And there was a bit of carol singing around the fire. Mum and I listened to the Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge and later in the day I managed a few wonky carols on my saz. Boxing day I got taken out to the Northland Ballroom near Iola where Sloppy Joe were doing their weekly thing — only caught a few minutes at the end of their set before they went into open mic mode. But nice to see them all again. Back in Canterbury just in time for New Years Eve. Found myself DJing from 11pm to 7am at a rather lovely party in Harbledown, cycling home rather bleary in the early morning light. A week later I was in Seville visiting my sister's family. I didn't get to check out any music or flamenco this time, all I heard were a few street buskers. "Knocking on Heaven's Door", etc.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

new year reboot

OK, so this blog had rather fizzled out, as any recurrent visitors will have noticed.

I started it in 2005 while living in Exeter, primarily to document and promulgate my own music. Gradually, I started including gig, festival and record reviews (which tended to be more gushing enthusiasm for the things I loved than critical music writing) plus general musings on musical goings-on. When I moved back to the Canterbury area a couple of years later, my own music-making took a bit of a back seat while I got to know and started documenting the local scene that was bubbling away at the time. This led to a whole network of new friendships and musical connections, for which I shall be forever grateful — so if it had had no other function, all that early blogging was worth the effort. In more recent years, I've been involved in organising and promoting gigs, podcasting, DJing, compering gigs and festivals, curating "respectable" musical events, providing hospitality for touring musicians, helping write press releases, being asked to publicly speak and to contribute an article for an academic tome on the Canterbury Scene of yore, etc. All of this means that The Spring has languished, with little more than my moonthly Canterbury Sans Frontières episodes being posted about here.


first post, April 2005

Rather than allowing this to be another source of minor background anxiety (something I "should" be keeping up with, but failing to), I'm going to switch to a slightly different format. Any recordings I make or DJ sets I record will get posted here, gigs attended will be logged (typically with an image of a flyer/poster or embedded video), but not reviewed. The "recent listening" stack on the right-hand sidebar will be discontinued (does anyone really care?). I'll carry on posting the CSF episodes for as long as I continue that series (although that may also undergo a reformatting in the next while...)

So, for now, here are my leftover "A Tiny Window" collaborative saz recordings from 2018:

Some late-night fireside jams recorded in early April with East Anglian acoustic guitar duo Namakai:

Listen Here


 

Jams and sketches with Jacob "Yakobfinga" Brant and Luke "Pyramid Youth" Dodson, friends from the UKC Psychedelics Society crowd, recorded in May and June:

 

Listen Here


 

Free-flowing acoustic guitar-and-saz improvisations recorded with Luke Dodson in the last few months of the year:

Listen Here


 

A miscellaneous collection: a couple of solo saz sketches plus jams with Stella Homewood (Spacegoats), Yiannis and Roberto, Stewart Hughes (Cocos Lovers, etc.), Adam Brodigan (Lapis Lazuli), Jacob Brant (Bardo Thodol/Yakobfinga) and Dominic Conway (Little Bulb Theatre):

Listen Here

no one cares...

But yeah, whatever, that's cool. Time for a reformat. Stay ye tunèd, lurkers real and imaginary...

Hello Gecko!

9 November 2018
The Penny Theatre, Canterbury
 

I made it down early to catch Splink's set. Guitarist Matt (aka Leonie Evans' dad) was flattered and put me on the guest list, kindly. They'd offered to play first so that they'd get a longer set. Spacerock! Broken Boats were pretty intense, the singer clearly influenced by Joy Division (Unknown Pleasures T-shirt and Ian Curtis vocal stylings). Soft Wax had some impressively written songs and sung harmonies, a bit Split Enz. And Hello Gecko were simply fabulous! A fresh take on danceable, euphoric psychedelia. Without sounding anything like them, HG have the same "woooosh" factor as Hawkwind. You felt like you'd been taken on a journey. "Well that was refreshing," commented Martin from Witchdoctor at the end, and that was exactly the word. I'd started to think I was getting bored with live music in recent weeks, but this completely restored my faith in it.

Free Women at Free Range

Thursday 18th October, 2018
Garage Coffee, Canterbury
 

I'd missed the previous week's Free Range (the SquibBox xmas special) as Leon from the Evil Usses was staying, and not really in a mood for crazy avant garde happenings. Apparently that one was rather uncomfortable for the audience, so no mind. THIS one would have been a terrible shame to miss. The first half included a few people talking about a piece of music of their choice (of most interest was Will Glanfield playing an early Happy Accidents tape — mid-80s? — sounding amazing...I really must get my hands on that for broadcast on Canterbury Sans Frontières). The main act was a trio called Free Women, one of my favourite Free Range events ever. At the time I was struck by how similar they were to FIG (Lindsay Cooper, Maggie Nicols, Georgie Born, etc. late 70s women's improv collective) in their inventiveness and humour. I later noticed that the event blurb specifically referenced FIG. Sylvia Hallett, Gemma Storr and Anna Braithwaite — thanks so much, and please come back to Canterbury.

Rise of Moons with The Selkies and Cloudshoes

Wednesday 10th October 2018
Bramleys, Canterbury
 

Liam couldn't make it in the end. The Selkies were as lovely as ever. As well as handing out percussion instruments to the audience at one point, they got everyone involved in a Scandinavian(?) girls' singing game. Nou's boyfriend Seb assisting on percussion. Cloudshoes was a band this time (not just Conrad solo): the one-and-only Josh Cottam on drums and Pete Gibbs on bass. Despite "Rise of Moons" supposedly being an acoustic alternative to the Crash of Moons nights, this was fully electric. Various masks and skulls involved, one of Conrad's things at the moment. Josh playing synths and drumming simultaneously (and singing harmonies!) I was DJ and (masked) compere on this occasion. Excellent turnout. And because there were only two of the three acts, I got to play an extra long DJ set at the end, had time to really get the party started (you can hear that dance set from a about 45m here, the first 45 minutes being genre-appropriate mini-sets played before The Selkies and between acts):

Laura Jurd's Total Vibration

Thursday 4th October 2018
Garage Coffee, Canterbury

Amazing stuff from Laura Jurd and Chris Batchelor on trumpets, Corrie Dick on drums and Tom Herbert on bass. A few Ornette Coleman tunes were involved. A perfect blend of totally wild/free/atonal and groovy/joyous/melodic.

Meg Janaway EP launch

3rd October 2018
Bramleys, Canterbury
 

I was a bit late, only caught the last two songs from Poggy (her sister Natasha singing harmonies). Mimi O'Halloran was fab...really interesting song structures and soaring vocals. Meg's band gets a great groove on with Jules on double bass and Neil Stockley on drums, also Mark C on mandolin/banjo/bouzouki. "St. James Infirmary" was dedicated to our old friend Josh (RIP). And there was a great "I'd Rather Be a Blind Girl" duo with Callum, really impassioned, sweet and funny the way they performed it together.

autumn equinox gathering

Perry Woods, near Selling, Kent
22nd—23rd September 2018

I got a lift with Rory and friend, arrived just in time to catch the last song-and-a-half from the new band Hello Gecko (Nick who's half of Llunic is the keyboard player and band-leader... years ago he was in a live electronic dance band called Bonze with Ginge, co-host of this gathering). Lewis then took to the decks for a long 'tribal' electronica set with musicians welcome to jam along (mostly percussion, but also some guitar and, briefly, me on saz). Some circus-y techno and electro-swing, all good...he really tapped into the collective mood and space, and appeared to be having a great time. Sarah Y's boyfriend Patrick then played more of an abstract techno set until quite late. I had been asked if I'd like to play for a while, brought my laptop, but didn't in the end. Which was fine, as I was enjoying the social vibes. I did get on the mic for 2:54am to announce that the Earth's axis had just crossed the right-angle point with the ecliptic plane...happy equinox people! Home just before sunrise.

Nelson Parade EP launch

14th September 2018
Tom Thumb Theatre, Cliftonville
 

This is the venue with supposedly the smallest stage area in Britain. Support came from Dream Phases (LA neo-psych along the lines of Morgan Delt and the Once And Future Band). Lots of faces from the Canterbury music scene of the last decade or so, members of Zoo For You, Boot Lagoon, Bison Bonasus, Syd Arthur, Lapis Lazuli and Arlet. Joel offered me the chance to do the introduction, but I wasn't quite in the right mood and opted out. Callum aka Nelson is backed up by Joel on bass, Josh on drums and Phil Self on guitar/synth. They played the whole EP and one (or two?) new tracks. Caught the whole gig but had to rush back to the station for the last train home. There followed some lovely late night space jams with Luke and Jake at Jake's flat on the Whitstable Road til about 3am, something like this.

And here is the Nelson Parade EP Nothing In Particles.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Guitar and Other Machines

Saturday 8th September 2018
Radio Margate, Cliftonville
 

Katrina suggested going to this, and I was immediately won over by the Durutti Column reference. We drove to Margate with her sound artist friend Peter Coyte, who I learned once made house music as “Shape Navigator” and was half of the duo SaltPeter, also turns out to have been a friend of John Allen, a hyper-eclectic DJ I listen to regularly on freeform WFMU.

The venue has an associated online radio station, with a DJ booth as part of it (plus views of the sea). Robert Stallman was spinning an interesting mix of vinyl before the gig. Three acts: three guitars + drums (nice); one bloke with lots of electronics and a bit of guitar (very layered); two guitars + violin (sublime).

Nice venue, like a mini version of London’s Cafe Oto. Open mics are ten a penny these days, and I’ve seen “open decks” once or twice, but this is the only place I know that has an “open jack” session!

"open wood" and sing-around

Sunday 9th September 2018
secret woodland location near Canterbury

Liam Magill and Ellen Tasou were the original lineup for this event, but both eventually cancelled, resulting in a completely different kind of evening. I very nearly decided just to cancel it, but decided to run the first half as a kind of “open wood”. So we got some songs from Luke Dodson, Will Greenham, Stewart Hughes (old Celtic rebel songs with just bhodrán and voice, one with the melody of "Come Ye O'er Frae France") and Ellen (her voice wasn't in a state to last a full set), also a cosmic group overtoning jam led by Sam from the Cathedral Choir, a simulated rainstorm (involving everyone tapping fingers on palms in an unsynchronised 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 succession) led by William and, finally, I decided to get my new saz out and play a little bit (with Adam and Stewy on percussion — slightly self-conscious, I felt like this was going on for too long and wound it down, turns out after less than three minutes). The second half was kept as a surprise until the last minute, and involved Smugglers crew member Andy Foster leading everyone in singing rounds, shanties, etc. Really excellent fun, which so easily could have just not happened. Thanks everyone.

TITK and Smugglers Festival

Thursday 30th August 2018
Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

I’d never really got on with the Marlowe Studio space before, but it was perfect for This Is The Kit, who were enjoying a break from playing festivals. Nice audience, wonderful music as always. They stayed over at mine that night, had a jovial porridge breakfast together and then headed off to Wiltshire (I think) en route to Smugglers Festival!

Friday 31st August - Sunday 2nd September 2018
Little Mongeham, near Deal, Kent

I’d been on site for a couple of days helping out, met some new people, had some evening fireside jams, made myself useful and then headed back to Canterbury for that TITK gig. I like to cycle out to Smugglers (just in from the coast, near Little Mongeham, on the outskirts of Deal), have done so every year, but this time I had to put my bike on the train to Walmer and cycle so as not to miss my slot doing ‘freestyle performance mathematics lecturing’ as Professor Appleblossom, something of a yearly tradition (12-2pm Friday-Sunday).

Another amazing Smugglers Festival. So much good stuff. I’d been offered Friday and Saturday night DJ slots in the dance tents — both prime time — then asked if I wouldn’t mind giving up the Saturday. I was fine with that, but got confused, because I was in the programme as DJing Saturday but not Friday. So I missed my set, but only because I was DJing in a much cooler location, the underground ‘Zap Trap’ club, the brainchild of Tom Holden and Juliet who’d created a whole late-night-secret-festival world involving a number of friends in moth costumes, and giant Emperor Moth animated puppet thing operated by Tom. I played glitchy, skittering electronica and free jazz/noise art for three hours while perched on a small ledge Friday and Saturday night (the most ‘mothy’ music I could muster) while an endless succession of confused and delighted party people were led through a closet door, into a beautifully decorated absinthe bar (to be served by moth bar staff) and then down into the Zap Trap to meet the Emperor (and a few random raver moths trying to sell them mothballs, etc.). On the Sunday night Tom had to leave early so we didn't do the Zap Trap thing, but the upstairs bar remained open, and Nancy (who was responsible) asked me to DJ. The mood seemed to call for mellow spiritual jazz...I have a happy memory of This Is The Kit coming in and flopping down on sofas after their set, enjoying some Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, George Duke, etc.

Musical highlights: Arlet (new trio lineup, with Ben guesting on some guitar, and Aidan playing analogue synth alongside accordion); Jouis; The Evil Usses; Cocos Lovers; Paddy Steer; Lapis Lazuli; the 'funk ceilidh' featuring Stewy and Aidan; The Selkies (augmented by Phil Self and Stewy); Imarhan; This Is The Kit

I did get a couple of Sunday afternoon DJ slots in the bar too, between Cocos Lovers, Willie Mason and This Is the Kit (playing a lot of melancholy Americana, acid folk, etc. to a mostly empty field, as everyone had headed down the end to see Alabaster de Plume's band Soccer96). I got asked to do some compering too — introduced Paddy Steer, also Lapis Lazuli, and Cocos Lovers (with a Northern Irish Krautrock joke, of course). And I got to DJ for the Monday night crew party. Nice cycle ride home on Tuesday, stopping at the ancient yew tree in Tilmanstone churchyard as ever.

Dave Hammer and Leonie Evans

secret woodland location near Canterbury
26 August 2018

This was a few days before Smugglers Festival. A wild and stormy evening, so fortunately we had an indoor space we could use. I’d met Dave when I spent a week with Leonie in New Orleans in 2016 and this was his first trip to Europe, touring with her. In fact it was the last date of their tour. The weather seemed to put a lot of people off, but fortunately an entourage of Smugglers Festival crew came over from the site just in time to boost the audience to a respectable size. Everyone loves Leonie (who has some fabulous new songs...they just keep coming); and everyone loved Dave, his quirky humour and his songs. Some I recognised from 2016, but there were some great new ones like "The Man Whose Life Don't Make No Sense". Two sets of the two of them together. Wond’rous vocal harmonies and ‘frumpet’ soloing from Leonie throughout.

back to the West Country


late August 2018

Fraggle was going to be back from Barcelona for a rare summer visit (her band Gadjo aren’t up for UK festival summers any more, but she gets odd solo gigs, this time at Shambala), so I arranged to spend a few days with her and Stevie P in Glastonbury. I also managed to run into Pok (of course), and managed to get in a little walk up Wearyall Hill with Emilia, stranded at a nearby travellers site with broken down van. Mostly just talking, laughing, eating, going for walks, etc. with Stevie and Fraggle — there was a little evening saz/guitar jam with Stevie, but it didn’t get recorded.

Then there was also a trip to Exeter to see Vicky and squeeze in the first Children of the Drone session for quite a while. This was the first one we’ve done at St. Petrock’s Church in the High Street. I was always keen to try Droning in that space, but it turns out that the acoustics are almost impossibly murky. Really quite frustrating at the times, but this is one of those COTD sessions where the recording sounds a lot more coherent than what I remember. This involved me, Henry, Lucy, Keith, James T, James S and Joel (who came up from Dartmoor with his hurdy-gurdy to join us).

Listen Here

Sam Brothers and Owl Light Trio

Sunday 19th August 2018
secret woodland location near Canterbury

I spoke to Inge on the phone just before this gig, got the sad news that Zymbii, our old mule (with whom we had travelled around Ireland, Wales and Cornwall 1996—2000) had died. He was getting really quite old for a mule, and having travelled almost the entire length of France with her, had retired to a donkey-and-mule sanctuary in the Pyrenees to run around with the herd. So he had a good life. Here’s the last time I saw him, while visiting Inge down there a couple of years ago:

A beautiful night in the woods, though. Sam played his usual mix of powerful originals and well-chosen covers (Howling Wolf, Leadbelly, Sam Cooke) and folksongs (“Blackwaterside”). Owl Light Trio are getting tighter and more trance-inducing, in a Spiro-like way. A mix of their own tunes, French/Breton trad and even “The Road to Lisdoonvarna” (an Irish tune I played with Inge years ago). I finally found an excuse to light an owl-shaped candle I’d received as a birthday or xmas present some time ago… it burned away beside then as they played their set. No actual owl sounds (wrong time of year), but perhaps one day if they come back to play in the autumn...

A couple of nights earlier I’d joined folksinger Sarah Yarwood and friends for her birthday on Whitstable beach. She and her boyfriend had been living in Ibiza, were back and forth a lot — I learned about the Phoenician deity Bes, god of song and dance, who presides over the island. Immediately, Bez from the Happy Mondays came to mind, and I was surprised this younger crowd all knew exactly who he was — ah yes, he won Celebrity Big Brother! I’ve since learned that Bez has been asked to play the god Bes in an experimental film set on the island. Well, of course! I then headed over to David L’s flat for a guitar/saz jam...lovely connection, but so much to talk about that the music was a bit fragmentary (dozens of half-played songs and tunes interrupted by cosmic insights and observations).

Sarah Smith art commission

July 2018

I got in touch by email with Sarah Jones (once Sarah Smith, the saxophonist in the Cardiacs, who also played/sung in The Sea Nymphs) about the possibility of commissioning some artwork for my friend Andy (aka Sir Robert Bunkum)'s 50th birthday.

 

Her website is currently being overhauled, but at the time it was entirely gone, so I really wasn't sure if I'd hear back (here's the archived version of the site I'd found). I got a pleasant surprise a couple of weeks later when an unrecognised number showed up calling my phone while I was doing my laundry — I got a good feeling and answered...it was Sarah! And just as lovely as you'd expect if you were familiar with her work.

Despite being incredibly busy working and looking after seriously ill parents, she seemed determined to take this commission on, so pencilled in a date in her diary for "Andy painting"...and she came through with this piece of wonderfulness which, as Andy puts it "radiates good in all directions":

Here's the little dedication she included for Andy which references "On The Dry Land", as heard in that video:

Thanks again to Sarah, and to all of Andy's friends who were involved in crowdfunding this!

Friday, January 11, 2019

West Country adventures

Kozfest: 27th—29th July 2018
near Uffculme, Devon

I got a lift to this wonderful little psychedelic festival with 3/4 of Lapis Lazuli. Despite it being one of the hottest days in recorded UK history, by the time we got into Devon it was clouding over, becoming chilly and drizzly! The site features just two smallish stages (in marquees), no separate performers' camping, just everyone enjoying themselves together. No heavy-handed security, no commercial nonsense, it had the feeling of an old-school free festival. Lapis played not long after we arrived, really blew everyone away. They'd sold out of merchandise halfway through their set! (Who buys merch during a performance?) The compere/organiser announced at one point that they were his favourite act of the weekend.

As well as just having an excellent, floaty weekend in a beautiful setting, I got to enjoy sets from The Cosmic Dead, Beastfish, Zetan Spore, Deviant Amps, Nukli, Sumerian Kings, The Dials, Skeleton Gong and others. There was a tiny little jam tent for the late night crowd (lots of gliss guitar and squelchy synths), a chill-out grove with little memorial stones to those we have lost (I chalked one up for Gilli, who'd been overlooked) and a Krautrock disco with a DJ from the Future Sound of Exeter (who were my gateway into the music scene there when I moved to the city). My old Avalonian friend Tim Hawthorn and his flautist sidekick played a wonderful little acoustic set in the jam tent one afternoon as the Anarchetypes, ending with a rollicking "A Maid in Bedlam".

The Lapis crew dropped me in Taunton where I spent some time with Amanda (including a trip to Bristol), then a bus to Glastonbury to connect with Emilia and Juliet. We immersed ourselves in the waters of the White Spring (a new experience for me), didn't make it up the Tor, but I did run into Pok and went back to a trailer he was borrowing on a nearby travellers site where he filled me in on his latest ventures. He's currently rehearsing regularly in Frome with Ron Tree (ex-Hawkwind) and Elmer (ex-Loop Guru) as "Unit X", which he was excited about, also reissuing a lot of his back catalogue with new artwork, helped along by some energetic new allies. Emilia, JJ and I cycled out to Cam's family home in Cossington (with reggae pumping out of a MiniRig on the back of Emilia's bike), had a jam (saz/guitar/whistle) and a meal there, then made my way to the nearby M5 junction to catch a lift with Joel and his son Pip. They'd been at a We Are Scientists gig in Gloucester (young Pip's favourite indie band), were heading back to their home on Dartmoor. Our friends Ruth and Gav (fabulous folk musicians) were also staying, and more mutual friends — Kel, Heather, John and kids — arrived separately. A Lammas gathering came together effortlessly, involving much tune playing (I sat out, rather tired, and unfamiliar with the complex Scandinavian repertoire they're getting into these days) and a trip to nearby Grimspound. I did have a little saz/guitar jam with Joel the next day, although that was unrecorded.

Sarah was going shopping in Exeter, so dropped me there. I got to spend a weekend with Vicky (including a lovely coastal walk), saw my old Children of the Drone/Orbis Tertius friend Henry and his wife Lucy briefly, no time to jam though. Vicky was driving to Bristol, so I went along, had dinner with her and her son Thom at his new place in Fishponds, listening to some crazy Japanese mathrock. I was raving about seeing the Cosmic Dead at Kozfest (a Scottish super-heavy psych band, possibly the most intense rock experience of my life!) and it turns out his partner Joanna knew them, and they'd even stayed at their old house in Bristol! We wandered via Eastville Park to the unofficial BLOOM collective HQ (where Leon and Dan from The Evil Usses live) just in time for me to catch a lift into town to see the gig they've been waiting years for: support Deerhoof(!!!), on the Thekla (the famous boat/venue once which once belonged to Viv Stanshall). Guitarist Conrad was hoving on the quay when we arrived, handed me a can of Red Stripe from their rider and then went in to soundcheck. The Thekla's not quite what I imagined — the interior is rather soulless and industrial, the floor is really sticky and clearly the venue is now being run with a student/alcohol focus. Butno mind. The Usses played a blinding set to a packed out and enthusiastic audience, then were followed by the rather lacklustre shoegaze-y Quodega, before Deerhoof came on and very nearly sunk the venue with their unparalleled energy and sonic insanity. Every time I see them I can see why Pitchfork described them as the best band in the world! This was a happy occasion for everyone involved, and had come about partly as a result of me putting the Usses in touch with John Dietrich, Deerhoof's guitarist, whose older brother Dan was a schoolfriend of mine, and who went on to mix a couple of their records.

The next day was spent back at BLOOM HQ chatting in the garden with Conrad and their faithful ally Captain Chris. Indoors, Dan from Spindle Ensemble played me a new orchestral thing they've recorded, and the new Dubi Dolczek Dubi In Space, vol. 2. Then it was down to Devon with Rosy, breaking down on the A38 in the middle of the night. I was 'DJ', working with a random selection of charity shop CDs she'd acquired. Destiny's Child's "Survivor" was on when her tyre blew out. We put the kettle on and stayed calm until the AA man arrived. We survived. A few lovely down near an estuary near Kingsbridge listening to her Deerhoof boxset and other vinyl wonders. She's been writing songs, so one night we had a bit of a session, some of which got recorded. My last day in the West involved a trip to Schumacher College to visit my friend Andy Letcher (founder of World Bagpipe Day and author of Shroom, among many other things). While I was eating lunch with everyone there, Stephan Harding, one of the founders of the place, asked if it was my saz leaning against the wall near the entrance. Excitedly, he went to get his guitar so we could have a jam. And we did, a really nice spacy raga jam (he's inspired by Rumi, Taoism and his childhood in Venezuela). He has a background in biology and we also ended up deep in conversation about termite mounds, and social insects in general. He seemed to have me come back to get involved with the place, which would be nice. Here's a picture someone took from the balcony:

Someone recorded part of the jam on their iPhone and forwarded it to me, so here's that + some of Rosy's songs with tenuous saz accompaniment:

Listen Here

And while having a cup of tea sitting outside Rosy's van in Totnes railway station car park (just by the path to Schumacher that runs along the River Dart), the one person I'd have loved to have seen in that part of the world, but hadn't managed to fit in — Josh Z — came cycling towards us! Perfect! We shared tea and had a quick catchup before I had to run for the train. A couple of people were playing mbiras together on the station platform too, but then this was Totnes, so that's hardly remarkable...

Within 24 hours of getting back I was in Deal watching Count Bobo (another BLOOM band, who play old rocksteady and ska, very beautifully) with Angela, Adam, Kim et al. at the Lighthouse. They were ace, as always. Nice to catch up with Graeme outside, within earshot of the waves crashing on Walmer beach.

Assumption pilgrimage with Will and Lasz

15th August 2018 (Feast of the Assumption of the BVM)
Canterbury area

Will Parsons from the British Pilgrimage Trust took Laszlo and I on the last stage of what they've styled "The Old Way", a kind of reinvented pilgrimage route from Southampton to Canterbury (based on Britain's oldest road map). This involved him driving us (rather counterintuitively) to Patrixbourne where we met the vicar of St. Mary's church there, and selected a pilgrim's staff from a collection leaning against a wall. The pilgrimage took us spiralling into Canterbury via Bekesbourne Church and St Mary's, Fordwich plus a few springs and holy wells.

The BPT are attempting to revive pilgrimage as a secular activity, so have decided to focus on water as a central theme (one everyone can agree about). So there's a little water song that he got us to sing each time we stopped to drink from a source (carefully filtered via his hi-tech device). We came in via the golf course in the Scotland Hills. I mentioned that this was where Richard Sinclair had written "Golf Girl", one fact Will was unaware of (like me, he's very clued up about the minutiae of local history and culture). As we emerged from the foliage, the first golfer we saw happened to be a woman, but we didn't stop to ask her if her name was Pat. We stopped at St. Martin's (the oldest continually used Christian church in the English-speaking world, Queen Bertha's private chapel where Augustine baptised King Ethelbert in 597AD) and drank from a nearby spring I was entirely unaware of. By the time we made it to the Cathedral, we were too late to be admitted for Evensong, but were able to sit by a side entrance in the cloisters and listen.

Will also showed us the location of what he believes to have been St. Thomas's Well (the primary water source for Christchurch Priory back in the Middle Ages).

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Poggy and Callum Sutton

Sunday 22nd July 2018
secret woodland location

Poggy's set involved her sister Natasha singing harony on most songs. Electric guitar through my little Vox, lovely harmonies, quite simple songs, not much off her lovely Woman album except title track at the end. At one point she decided to play something she'd written that day, ended by trailing off and laughing about how she didn't know how to end it yet. Very relaxed and informal set, nice.

Callum's band The Pinnochios were meant to play, but had to cancel so he did a solo set, singing and playing his heart out. Quite heavy religious (Christian) vibes, probably not to everyone's taste, but you couldn't doubt his commitment. Sam Brothers joined him for a few blues numbers too, Cal broke a string so Sam did a "train" harmonica solo and then a harmonica and voice blues while Cal fixed it. I suggested he play the old Irish song "Carrickfergus" at the end (he'd once blown me away with this, one night down at The Monument pub in St. Dunstans). A good suggestion I think, closed the night on a note everyone could agree on. Gorgeous.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Hawkwind at Dreamland

Dreamland, Margate
Friday 20th July

Epic! I can't find a full set list, but it included:
"Lives of Great Men" > "The Golden Void"
"Ejection"
"Paradox"
"Damnation Alley"
"Spirit of the Age"
"Hassan-i-Sabbah"
+ other Hawkwind classics and some stuff I didn't recognise, but all infused with swirly, squelchy, cosmic Hawkwindness (it's like a kind of cumulative process that's been going on for fifty years...they just keep getting MORE Hawkwind). Great lineup, energy and lightshow. REALLY hot inside the venue, but somehow that seemed to suit the occasion. Dave Brock still rocking and looking like he's enjoying himself, while playing a LONG set in an oven-like space. Richard Chadwick still drumming after all these years. Tim Blake, back in the fold, was enthusiastically jamming out on his keytar and theremin, not looking quite as ridiculous as last time I caught them, but wearing (of course) a Tim Blake "Crystal Machine" T-shirt. Magnus from Tarantism on keys and guitar. Dibs has handed over bass playing duties to Niall Hone, now fully engaged as frontman, making jarring noises both digital and analogue, and generally looking baaaad. Overwhelming, overall. A few weak moments, but they're jamming out, c'mon.

I spent a while "on Margate Sands, connecting nothing with nothing" and preparing my head before venturing into the venue. I opted out from the metal band who were supporting, ended up out in the smoking area chatting with Dave Sanger, the man behind the horsedrawn festival stage, who was at that time camped with his horses and wagon in the area — not only had he been given a free ticket to a Hawkwind gig, he beamed, he'd been able to walk to it!

I chose not to run for the last train and miss the end of "Hassan-i-Sabbah", despite knowing I'd have to cycle the 20+ miles back to Canterbury in the dark and rain, it was that good! The journey home was a joyful one, including a magickal few moments beneath the towers at Reculver, before heading inland along little country roads. Home safe and very happy.

Here's some reasonably decent footage of them playing "The Watcher" off Doremi Fasolatio (1972):

And here's a flyer from around the time that was released, for the only other time they played Dreamland:

The place is closely tied up with the history of the band, as Nik Turner met Bob Calvert while working there in the late 60s renting out deckchairs or something! Also, the brutalist tower block right next to the venue was where Calvert grew up, and is the high-rise that inspired the Hawkwind classic "High Rise".

Lunatraktors and Cloudshoes

secret woodland location near Canterbury
Sunday 15th July 2018

"Broken folk" duo Lunatraktors were suggested to me by Katrina's Canadian artist friend Susan, shortly before she left Whitstable to head back to Canada. Great suggestion, and a perfect pairing with Conrad "Cloudshoes" Singh. Incredible dynamics, harmonies, percussion, character acting, angry tap dancing, semi-performative bickering, archival song selection... the song based on lines from Ecclesiastes was utterly spellbinding. Conrad played a wildly eclectic set, including an old folksong about hop-picking in Kent, Beefheart's "Orange Claw Hammer", some psychedelic electric guitar jamming through my little Vox busking amp, some slide resonator guitar ambience, "Go Away From My Window", a Bob-Dylan-inspired masked "one-note dance" (you'd have to have been there!) and some of Conrad's own songs from the recorded Cloudshoes oeuvre (at least four albums deep).

Mr. Cloudshoes and I sat up jamming late around the fire (no recording) and then had a pedal-harmonium-and-saz jam in a shed the next morning before he took off back to Bristol. Wowowowow!

Relics Floyd tribute at The Penny

Friday 6th July 2018
Penny Theatre, Canterbury
 

After cycling to Margate and back with Emilia (finally saw the mysterious shell grotto...wow!), I felt compelled to cycle just a bit further and drop in to The Penny to catch some of this Pink Floyd tribute band from Ashford.

I arrived just in time for the second set, the singer/guitarist coming on stage to announce "We're going to try playing the whole of Dark Side." And they did. Plus "Comfortably Numb" and "Another Brick In The Wall" to finish (including some Scottish-accented vocal humour, "...Grooving With a Pict"-style). The keyboard player covered the sax parts about as well as you could hope, and together with the guitarist managed to jam their way through a vocal-free "Great Gig In The Sky" surprisingly effectively. They didn't try to do it note-for-note, to their credit, adding their own touch and soloing freely. The mini laser show was rather sweet, when contrasted with the scale of Floyd's! What really struck me was that, despite the Floyd's very public school, middle-class origins, the band and audience were (as far as I could tell) much more working class — this music has become so embedded in the national psyche that it has become "the People's", and playing it like this has effectively become a form of folk art.

Lizfest 2018

Tadpole Field, near Tiddington, near Oxford
29th June—1st July 2018

I headed up to Oxford for my old UKC friend Lizzie McHale's 50th birthday minifest. Got there on the Friday night and ended up in an abortive mass attempt to erect a geodesic dome, ending in hilarity as the light faded.

The next day there was a bit of an open mic thing going on with the PA which Lizzie's young nephew had set up, and I ended up having a bit of a dub jam with Steve, Kevin (or was it Keith) and Carl from The Friday Project, a cover band who played a nice set later on: Bowie, T-Rex, Steve Miller, "Shakin' All Over", "Summertime Blues", "LA Woman", etc. Their first gig ever, not bad at all. Later in the night there was a wonderful, sprawling chaotic set from cult Oxford jamband The Gees (involving a bagpiper, naturally). I kind of missed out on a set involving two women using sax, loops and percussion as I was deep in DJ-related conversation with DJ Giles who'd played earlier. Great funk-and-soul-type DJ sets from Jo Banana (another UKC alumnus I vaguely remember) and Floaty Jo, a lovely older woman from Devon who'd got into DJing in recent years. She and I got talking and somehow got onto the subject of Gong...it turns out she once went out with Steffi Sharpstrings from Here & Now, had created outfits for Daevid around the time of the 25th Birthday gigs which Steffi played Hillage's parts for. I had to break the sad news to her of Gilli Smyth's (relatively) recent passing. The amplified music that night ended with a storming set by Liz's nephew playing 2000-era drum'n'bass.

The next day I cycled via Otmoor to Jim P's mooring on the canal directly north of Oxford. His neighbours are also his bandmates — Colin and Jane from Owl Light Trio — so in summers they often end up rehearsing on the towpath. No music on that visit, but the usual deep conversation. The day after I cycled into Oxford and got to check out the 17th century Botanic Garden where Jim works before heading back to Kent.

Meg Janaway and the Allen Brothers

secret woodland location near Canterbury
24th June 2018 (Midsummer's Day)

Meg's back in action now after a maternity break (now mother of little Arthur), opened with 3/4 of her current band, Dan Sayer on flutes, etc. and Jules propelling things along nicely with some very subtle double bass. All new stuff, some really great songs, great grooves and that powerful voice of hers. When I'd booked them I was somehow under the impression that the Allen Brothers were playing bluegrass these days (they're certainly capable of that), but it turns out they're doing gypsy jazz and Western swing, and I think I enjoyed that more. Toby and Geary on blazing guitars, Josh on bass. A great turnout for this one, and a peculiarly magickal atmosphere it seems several of us picked up on...

summer solstice 2018

19th—22nd June 2018
Wiltshire

This year I got a train to Bedwyn, then cycled along the Kennet & Avon Canal to Honey Street (The Barge Inn is now closed, sadly), then on to Alton Priors. Saz jammming at the "laughing spring", in the tiny, magickal All Saints church and beside the ancient yew tree in the churchyard. Headed up Golden Ball Hill via Knapp Hill, which was positively swimmming in orchids. I went for a night walk to Adam's Grave (the neolithic barrow), sat jamming up there in the warm, thick summer air before heading back to sleep under my favourite gnarled hawthorn. Weird, inexplicable animal noises and fog that night. In the morning I cycled up The Ridgeway, walked along The Wansdyke a bit, played saz in the Sanctuary, chatted with a Canadian woman there who had a solstice birthday. Down the West Kennet Avenue into Avebury proper, I found found Stef in the stones. We went to the launch of a new Wooden Books compendium called Megalith upstairs at the Henge Shop, then headed up Windmill Hill for a while. Back down to meet recent Canterbury friends Emilia, Cam and Olivia and partake of the rather wild festivities — lots of drumming, but I also stumbled upon a surprising hiphop jam in the stones (someone had smuggled in a tiny active speaker-type PA with a couple of mics, no prerecorded beats, just young heads beatboxing and spitting bars, a nice fusion of cosmic goddess culture and "urban" hiphop vibes, really tapping into the bardic potential of the genre). There were some nice jams that night with Nathan Vibration and his friend Steve (I particularly enjoyed playing "John Riley"). Not much music at sunrise, just a bit of noodling...nice jam with Nathan at sunset though.

The next day I showed Emilia around Silbury Hill, Swallowhead Spring, Waden Hill, the Avenue, etc., ending up in the stones with Alex from Wales, Stef's percussionist friend Arran and a fast-talking, quick-thinking young Avalonian called JJ, collectively percussing, rhyming and sazzing over MiniRig dancehall beats at sensible volume (some nice video of that has since surfaced). Then back up the hill for more music that night (can't remember much except that we played til quite late and that Pok came up and did a bunch of songs, including his "A303" (to the tune of "Country Roads": "A303/won't you carry me/to the hills/where I feel at ease", etc.). Back to Bedwyn the next day via the Tan Hill Way, passing the Giant's Grave en route.

Lindsay Cooper Songbook

Cafe OTO, Dalston, London
Saturday 16th June 2018
 

Hectic vibes out in the street before while waiting in the queue (some random violence I've since forgotten the details of). Once inside, Yumi was tense (logistical issues) and, sadly, Dagmar Krause was absent. Someone forgot to circulate the programmes, causing Yumi to be more flustered. False starts. But John Greaves and Chris Cutler remained very calm and seemed pleasantly amused throughout. First there was a very nice improv set from The Watts (Yumi, Chris and Tim Hodgkinson), some Kew.Rhone songs (and more) from Greaves, then a truly amazing solo set from Chlöe Herrington — bassoon, effects, loops, and a version of a Maggie Holland song about the Iraq war ("Perfumes of Arabia"?)... I suspect Lindsay would have been deeply proud that she'd inspired this! Second set was News From Babel stuff...a properly awesome performance... Yumi did remarkably well covering Dagmar's vocals. The third set was Lindsay's Henry Cow compositions, but I had to run halfway through, sadly, to get the last train back to Canterbury. Alas. They were really cooking at that point. Amazingness.

And although I realise I'm probably an ultra-biased Linsday Cooper fanboy, there's this review of an earlier performance, and this one from someone who'd come all the way from Sweden for the occasion. I'm now looking to book LCS for Free Range next spring in Canterbury. Fingers crossed...