Sunday, June 29, 2014

midsummer travels

Another summer solstice pilgrimage to Avebury. Adam (of Lapis Lazuli) and Kim wanted to come along this year, so we drove to near Barbury Castle and walked in on The Ridgeway on solstice eve. Orbiting the henge (after an excursion along the extraordinary valley of Greywethers to the Devil's Den dolmen), we ran into Stef and Peni (of The Mordekkers) with new Welsh percussionist friend Arran, about to launch into some pipes and drums to get the celebrations started. They played for quite a while (creating a kind of acoustic rave vibe), with me adding some shakey egg, until the Kings Drummers (the anthropologists' samba band who turn up every year) began a sort of funky, percussive death-and-rebirth mystery play leading up til sunset.

Stef, Peni and Arran combined forces with the drummers as it got darker, slightly more drunken and hectic, at which point we headed up to our usual quiet space on the fringes for our all-night music-and-fire vigil. Among others, Nathan Vibration was up there with his bouzouki. Peni got a few hours sleep before sunrise, so it was mostly twinkly, stringy jams all night. For the first time in a few years, we got a beautifully clear morning with unobstructed golden sunrise, pipes, mandola, saz and percussion up on the hilltop bell-barrow. Magnificent.

The next day I took Adam and Kim on a tour of the landscape (Swallowhead Springs, Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow, Waden Hill, The Avenue), in the midst of which we ran into Pok (having just invoked his name). He was on a good one, having just been performing at Stonehenge the night before. He went off to get his out-of-tune harp which he'd earlier stashed in hedge, twanged a bit before we had to move on.

Matt Spacegoat was also there with his new love, Sildy, and a bouzouki, so we got in a few jams too, before making our separate ways up over the Wansdyke to Knap Hill, from where we explored the churchyards of Alton Barnes and Alton Priors, the "laughing spring", etc. After a night sleeping under the old hawthorn trees on Golden Ball Hill, they gave me a lift to Bristol where I connected with Sondryfolk friends Sophie, Laurie, Synnøve, Alice and Hannah as well as meeting up with Vicky's son Thom for a game of Go in Victoria Park (accompanied by the sound of a couple of "outsider loop artists" on a bench messing about with a mic, busking amp, loop pedal, and detuned guitar, clearly having a hysterical time, sampling and looping strange vocal sounds and building up layers of bizarre funky loops which at times sounded quite Krautrock — I was reminded of Damo Suzuki on the mic with Can).

From Bristol it was down to Exeter for the first Children of the Drone session I've made it to for quite a while, with James T, Tim, Mick, Keith and Brian, at St. Mary Arches church:

Listen Here

The next day, after a quick dérive around parts of the city centre with mythogeographer Phil Smith and a trip down to Taunton to catch up with Amanda, an Orbis Tertius? reunion of sorts occured at Henry's. Keith, Henry and I jammed out way through some old set lists Keith had kept from a few years ago when OT? was most active. Henry was on digital drums this time, and we were all wired up to a headphone mix, so there was a real clarity of sound. My playing was disspiritingly sloppy (as I always used to find when we played as a trio), but still, there was something worthy in the overall sound, and it was undeniably fun to play that stuff as a trio again. Keith has suggested getting a few low-key gigs so we could keep it going in some very low-key way. I'd be into that.

Staying up late for the overnight Megabus to London, I watched a concert film that Keith had recommended: Jeff Beck's Live at Ronnie Scott's. Somehow I'd overlooked Jeff Beck, other than his early work with The Yardbirds (e.g. supposedly the first ever psychedelic guitar solo on "Shapes of Things"), but his mastery of the electric guitar was immediately evident on this performance. An effortless dissolving of boundaries between rock, blues and jazz, and a great band too, with sublime bass playing from Tal Wilkenfeld.


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