|Gig Review 4 - Canterbury Festival, 18th August 2001
|The stage at Canterbury, Porcupine Tree playing.
Below: the campsite and festival site were about 6 miles apart - not really walkable under the influence!
|Death of a Bootleg
Well, it's taken a while but the official recording of this gig has been released as a live album and my copy arrived
today (thank you Amazon). The album is called Canterbury Fayre 2001 and includes the entire set from the festival -
initial impressions are that it's one of the best Hawkwind live albums in existence. But then, my initial impressions are
coloured by the fact that I've had an audience recording of the gig since a couple of weeks after it happened. But not
any more...audience CDR's are no alternative to real albums, and here's what mine looks like now...
I drove down from London to Canterbury
on the day, with the car full of hairy-arsed
Hawkwind fans. We had previously
advertised ourselves on the BOC-L mailing
list as "the Moonglum posse", which made
me cringe somewhat, but never mind. I
had even made some simple badges for us
to wear / put on the tent, identifying us as
BOC-L members, and in some cases
displaying our IRC nicknames. I was
Mooongluum, Ben was Linuxchaos, Ali
was Electronic_No1, and Nick was
Ormuzd. (NB This is not the same Nick
who went to Hawkestra with me. As far
as I know Ormuzd's air of rectitude is still intact.)
I had booked a camping space at Painter's Farm, in the village of Painter's Forstal. This is about 5 or 6 miles away
from Mount Ephraim Gardens, where the Festival was to be held, but there's a pub nearby and you can easily get a
taxi to take you to the festival. If anyone's going to this festival in the future, I can heartily recommend this camp
site. It's the nearest one anyway if you're using a tent. Anyway, we found the place, went to the pub to grab lunch
and a pint, and then phoned a taxi. While we were waiting for it, we had a smoke....oo-er... and Ormuzd started
playing on the swings etc. in the children's playground next to the pub. I have a photograph to prove this and it will
be on this site sooner or later....
When we arrived at Mount Ephraim, what immediately struck me was what a beautiful location it was...rolling
green hills, woods and fields. It was overcast but that didn't matter. We found our way down the hill to the stage,
and settled down. There were probably about 2,000 people there, a high proportion of them being the usual
Hawkwind crowd of alternative people of all descriptions. We spotted an amphetamine victim straight away, well,
we heard her before we saw her. Stay clear of that one!
We managed to miss the opening bands completely, and a
while after we arrived, Caravan came on. Caravan are a
60's band from Canterbury and they put this festival
together. What a shame then, that they seemed to play
tedious AOR type music. Sorry, but I just couldn't get
into this at all.
So then somebody says, "Look, do you think that might
be Jill S?" Jill is a lady who posts to BOC-L and had
described herself as looking like a little old lady with glasses. This is quite an exaggeration...anyway I was, err,
relaxed enough not to mind taking a chance, so I went after her and said "Your name wouldn't be Jill, would it?"
Luckily it was her...Jill introduced us to some other BOC-L members, including Jon J, and also pointed out Keith B,
however by now I was so relaxed that I thought she was pointing to someone who resembled a tattooed, pierced
grizzly bear whose main method of locomotion is a Triumph Bonneville. So I didn't go and say hello, which is just
as well really since it wasn't Keith B. We also met Alan D. and Colm M. And probably a whole lot more people
who I can't remember now...
Then Porcupine Tree came on. I had heard of them, knew some ex-Japan people were in the band (which was
promising), and was expecting to really enjoy their set. Steven Wilson, the main man, is pale but determined. They
played well enough but it somehow just didn't reach me. I had no urge to go out and buy anything of theirs, even
though it was definitely Space Rock. Maybe I need to hear some more. The sound couldn't be faulted, because it
was excellent - amazingly good for an outdoor gig, and it augured well for Hawkwind....
After Porcupine Tree finished, we wandered around the place and went up to the top of the hill to get some food.
While we were standing around eating we spotted Dave Brock ducking into a clothes stall to get out of the rain. We
were in two minds about this but I thought, "he must get pestered by people all the time" so we left him in peace.
Did talk to Keith Kniveton though, and he is a great bloke....written about this elsewhere...I did ask Keith what he
thought of Caravan and he surprised me saying "I thought they were very impressive. Really excellent musicians,
very tight...not like us!"
Arthur Brown, who MC'd, was a revelation. He did his party
piece, "Fire", during which a roadie set a cap on Arthur's
head, and set light to the lyre-shaped prongs emerging from
the cap. Arthur then sidled across the stage, singing "I am the
God of Hell Fire!" with flames coming from his head. It was
a truly Spinal Tap moment. But Arthur can really sing - a
number of us there thought he ought to join Hawkwind on a
permanent basis to replace Calvert!
At last Hawkwind came on, and as Keith had promised, it was
a new line-up. No Ron or Jerry, which is fine with me, being
a fan of the old school Hawkwind. As befits the return of
Huw they played mostly late 70's and early 80's material, and
did it amazingly well. After Aldershot I thought I had seen a
Hawkwind performance that was as good as it could be, but
this was better. Perfect sound, great setlist...it didn't even
rain enough to make the ground muddy. In fact it seemed like
an archetypically English experience - going to a festival in the
rain, in beautiful surroundings, amid a field full of freaks. A
bit like Wimbledon or the FA Cup Final in it's way.... We
could ACTUALLY HEAR Simon House for once, and down
the front anyway, Huw was perfectly audible. (Credit here
goes to Gwion for complaining that Huw could not be heard
farther back.) It was just about perfect. Towards the end,
Arthur Brown came back on and sang Silver Machine with the band. It was probably the best version of Silver
Machine I've ever heard, even though Arthur didn't know the words.... and then they wound it up. The encore was
Assault & Battery segueing into The Golden Void. That was it, we thought....but Arthur told us all to cheer and
they did something unusual, came back on for another encore: Ejection. But all good things come to an end, and
this did too. One nice little postscript was that as we waited for our prebooked taxi in the car park, Dave Brock and
Kris Tait drove out...the Captain was driving, and Kris wound down the window to wave to us and said
goodnight... I don't think Steven Wilson would have done that, somehow...