Friday, July 24, 2015

Avebury and Glastonbury

Another summer solstice in the Avebury landscape. Not so much musical activity during the usual solstice-eve fireside vigil this year (other than a bit of drumming from Adam and some out-of-tune sitar strumming from a very talkative visitor, there was just me and my saz playing). But the next morning saw Stef return from the henge (where he'd spent the night playing bagpipes and keeping the party going in the stones), plus Nathan Vibration and Jim from Oxford showed up with bouzouki and concertina respectively, the sun came out and we played some lovely tunes and jams. A new connection, Chez from Bristol, showed up later with an accordion and more good musical vibes.

Sista Luna and I got a lift with Nathan back to his home in Glastonbury the day after. I got in touch with Michael Tyack from Circulus that evening (he now lives in the Glastonbury area) and it happened to be his 50th birthday! So I ended up having a very entertaining evening with him, Jenny and friends in a pub I'd never noticed called The Becket (unexpected Canterbury connection no. 1). He filled us in on the recent rise of the Flat Earth theory among Avalonians, sought my mathematical opinion on his baffling 9x9x9 number cube that somehow mixes base-8 and base-9 representation with unexpected results, and introduced me to Martin Cockerham (unexpected Canterbury connection no. 2: he was the man behind the Canterbury-based 70s prog-folk band Spirogyra) who's now living in the area (when he's not in Southern India) working with Michael. Martin's stories of what happened during his year travelling to the Middle East and back the year before he started university in Canterbury were pretty incredible, worthy of a film script!

The next day, down the bottom of Glastonbury High Street, I got unexpectedly roped into playing on a "Fringe Festival" busking stage near the market cross. I'd been up the Tor playing some saz, then come into town to check out the charity shops. The person running the busking stage had just finished his set while I was chatting to Ingrid (known from Donga days), spotted my instrument and cheerfully badgered me into playing a little set. He added a bit of reverb, so it was very satisfying to hear my reverberated saz floating up the High Street. I felt like I was playing quite well, and noticed three young people sitting up close listening intently. I later found out that this was Declan (one of Nathan's guitar students), with Ben and Jess, an extraordinary folkie traveller duo who happened to have been busking in town that day. They're part of a Bristol-based entity called Yaga Sunet. Nathan ended up taking us to a field near Baltonsborough which Declan's parents own, and we spent several nights around the fire playing music with Declan, Ben and Jess, plus Seamus and Tara on one occasion (while the lasers over at the Festival site at Pilton were being tested). Declan has an amazing guitar style and, like Nathan, a vast repertoire of songs, mostly of the 60s-70s folkie variety (Richard Thompson, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Dylan, lots of Incredibe String Band, etc.). He also writes impressive songs of his own and plays some mandolin and bouzouki. His version of Dylan's "Señor" was particularly welcome – I love that song, and have never heard anyone else (other than recordings of the Jerry Garcia Band) performing it.

The day before heading back to Kent included a wonderfully far-out afternoon up on the Tor and Chalice Hill, with a spontaneous mad hatters' tea party involving me, Luna, a Scottish bard, an Avalonian wizard, a Spanish rainbow traveller and a cheerful man-of-few-words. Poems were recited, tunes were played, new worlds were conjured up, and an intoxicating silliness swept us all up into a temporary vortex of happy communion. That was on the side of Chalice Hill, having been up on the Tor while some Tibetan Buddhist-inspired peace pilgrims arrived, having walked from London to commemorate the Dalai Lama's appearance at the Glastonbury Festival (there was a lot of earnest speech-making, but one of them chose to sing instead, a wild, beautiful, open-throated improvisation in Welsh that came from somewhere ancient and deep). Once our tea party came to its natural conclusion, we processed back up the Tor (accompanied by my saz, which seemed to be playing itself at this point) for more singing, playing, meditation and sunrise-watching, before hurriedly cycling back over the levels to Baltonsborough in the dusky light. And then a lift back to Canterbury the next day with Adam and Kim (who'd been visiting Somerset at the same time), listening to Pink Floyd. A good trip...


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