An altogether more enjoyable experience than 2007: the weather was fabulous, the selection of bands
more diverse and more interesting, and we got to see more of Hawkwind (Dave Brock on stage three
times). All the facilities, including the space and time stages, bars, stalls and luxury loos were all clustered
together in a fairly compact arrangement. I was staying off site (visiting family) so missed some events
but most of what I did see was well worth it.
|Hawkfest 2008 - by Graham P
current five piece Hawkwind were well-rehearsed.
Dave was energetic and enthused and only the
lack of new material (unless you count TimÂ´s
mainly solo new age piece "St. Dolay" in the
middle) really disappointed. You could quibble too
about the medleys. Nothing actually wrong with
them but whole songs would be better! "Orgone
Accumulator" as usual included a verse of "You
Know You're Only Dreaming" and the welcome
appearance of "Magnu" had part of "Brainbox
Pollution" spliced into the middle of it. Also dusted
off for rare appearances were the excellent "Right
To Decide" and "Who's Gonna Win The War".
every time he plays and his singing has been reduced to a semi-spoken rasp. The solo acoustic spot
(kicking off with the KinksÂ´"Death Of A Clown" and taking in "Wind Of Change", "Fur Kirsty", "5th
Second Of Forever (intro)" and â€œHurry On Sundown" was well-received but things livened up
dramatically when Dave, Dibs, Tim and Keith (plus SpaceheadÂ´s drummer) joined in and Dave took over
lead vocals. Huw strapped on an electric guitar -although his playing was barely audible from in front of
the stage- for "Waiting For Tomorrow" and "Moonglum", the former a credible version but the latter,
although very welcome, not a patch on the rousing Black Sword era performances or indeed those of the
early 2000s band. The Hawks departed the stage, leaving Huw, Keith and the drummer to perform a
barely recognisable "Rocky Paths". Marion came out to dance. Tim BlakeÂ´s solo set followed, starting
off with the elegant, plangent synth sounds we know and love, using sequencers, fixed keyboards and his
trusty synth-axe but after 10 minutes of this my attention was drifting and, mindful of the need to drive
home, I decided to call it a day.
Omnia Opera are as shouty and hectoring as they
were in 2007 and if your attention was drifting, you
might have noticed two topless women wandering
good it's on both their CDs) clinched it for me. Is Isobel Morris the next Suzanne Vega?
In the Whoopee Band slot this year were Tragic Roundabout, who played old (and possibly new) dance
tunes with a line-up that included clarinet, accordion and banjo. Less clichéd than the Whoopee Band they
also lack their slick repartee. The dance competition was less than inspiring but they had the balls to play
"The Wombling Song", a first for Hawkfest, I would think! Last year Dave came and listened to Bob
Kerr. This time he did briefly stand at the side of the tent during The Roundabout's set. Not everyone's
cup of tea for sure but good light relief.
On the home straight now and TOSH played a
blinder. Admittedly most of the time it was just
Spacehead up there on stage, augmented by Tim
Blake on theremin, but the other Hawks joined in at
various points and they unearthed some really
interesting back catalogue gems, while steering
clear of songs played during the main Hawks set.
"Life Form" kicked things off, followed by "Master
Of The Universe" and "Void City", establishing a
pattern of songs interspersed by instrumentals. Jason, Richard, Tim and Dave came on to play a masterful
sequence of "Needle Gun", "Golden Void" and "Psi Power". As "Virgin Of The World" played, the Hawks
left and SpaceheadÂ´s other guitarist came out for "Brainstorm". Dave briefly joined in and left again.
Jason came back on for "Infinity", sung by Keith (who did really well this year and is surely overdue for
another call up to the mothership). Then "Valium 10", "Forge of Vulcan" and a superb â€œYouÂ´d Better
Believe It" raised the bar - brilliant to hear these songs played live even if not by the Hawks themselves.
"Ejection" closed the set, with another brief cameo from Dave, and stunning lights.
Thanks to Graham P, the same gent who brought you all the 'Music from the Hawkwind family tree'
reviews, for the text and photos on this page...
Friday: I arrived in time to catch most of Richard
Chadwick's DJ set, which I would have to characterise
as worthy but dull - a mix of ambient, soft rock and
death metal and no between song chat from the DJ.
Tribe of Cro are pretty much a Hawfest fixture but their
angular and unstructured psychedelia doesn't move me
but Spacehead (or TOSH as they have effectively
become) did the business and Huw Lloyd Langton's set
promised much, not least because the stage was set for
a band performance. Huw appears physically smaller
through the tent, apparently in a blatant and reasonably successful attempt to drum up interest in Syren.
Who are a three piece all female band, fronted by Erin, a brassy blond native of Las Vegas, and backed by
an all English rhythm section and their set was thoroughly enjoyable. Edgy songs about relationships with
percussive acoustic guitar and suppressed violence in the vocals and some impressively fluid fretless
bass, courtesy of Amanda - whose non-stop movement around the stage were also eye-catching. Only
the crew went topless. Several tunes stuck around and a later visit to their website (look for â
€œSyrenband" since "Syren" takes you to a different sort of link) and subsequent purchase of the album,
"Dehumanised") did not disappoint. I caught the end of the set by Familiar Looking Strangers,
apparently all sunny west coast harmonies and duelling guitars. They looked and sounded slick and should
go far. [Where did you have in mind, Graham?]
The main event was good enough, scheduled in the child- and oldie-friendly mid-evening 8-10 slot. The
Saturday: The first order of the day was the
Starfighters. Later research (thanks Nick)
suggests that the rhythm section (Jaime Cortinas on
bass and Lugi Michael on drums) is original (â
€œalthough they were just young lads then") and
somewhere along the line they seem to have
acquired Gollum lookalike Dr Maya on vocals and
Freewheeling Franklin (Greg Courtney) on lead
guitar (sorry guys, no offence intended). Jaime
"Arrival in Utopia", "Damnation Alley", "Spirit Of The Age", "Paradox", "Flying Doctor", "Lighthouse",
"Sonic Attack", "Time We Left", "Right Stuff" and "Silver Machine" were all present and correct.
"Assassins of Allah" was back (as is the "Space Is Their" interlude). Dibs did "The Black Corridor", "The
Awakening" (over the top of "Splashfin") and "Abducted". Gone from the set and not much missed were
the other TMTYL tracks, "Robot" and the lacklustre new song, "Space Love". Unfortunately "Alien I Am"
and "Infinity" were also dropped. They did seem to run out of steam a bit in places but the sound in
general was superb, the dancers were never embarrassing and the lights were excellent. The entertainment
continued long after the Hawks were offstage and safely tucked up in bed but I figured it couldn't get any
better and drove home again.
Sunday: I missed the question session due to
arriving late. FlutatiousÂ´s rocked up folk was
suitably rousing, especially the front line of
woodwind and fiddle, although better without the
bass playerÂ´s vocals. BushplantÂ´s take on the
same genre was decidedly less welcome - lumpen
rock beats tending to smother the folk sensibilities.
Bruise attracted a good crowd to the Time Stage
and did their rather prosaic and earnest singer
songwriter folk rock stuff rather well, all dressed
fetchingly in white. The last song, "Silvertown" (so
played occasional synth to fill out the no frills guitar-bass-drums sound. They look particularly scuzzy,
especially Dr Maya - who cackled like a maniac and drooled facepaint onto the stage for most of the set
but if some of the performances lacked subtlety and finesse, most of the material was beyond reproach.
The band evidently appreciated the humour of the spoken routines and seemed to get off on the
enthusiasm of the crowd - and personally I enjoyed every minute of the set, which took in "Spirit Of The
Age", "Assassins of Allah" and a fair chunk of the Captain Lockheed album - "Catch A Falling Starfighter",
"Song Of The Gremlin", "Ground Control To Pilot", "Aerospaceage Inferno", "The Right Stuff" and
"Ejection". They encored with "Orgone Accumulator". There was also one (not bad) song I didnÂ´t
recognise, which I think was their own "OM Shiva" (it is on their Myspace website.) Whatever, they are
keeping Bob Calvert's music alive and good luck to them.
Over in the Time Tent some obnoxious masked
jokers called Uncle Rotter attracted a fair crowd
for some thuggish cartoon metal ("Makes you
proud to be British" said Steve Starfarer, although
his review suggests he enjoyed them) but back on
the Space Stage, last but not least was the strange
lumbering dinosaur that is Underground Zero.
Now apparently led by Gil Grissom on bass and
with a stand-in keyboard player, they cranked out
fine versions of several of the seventies rock tunes
captured on the recent "Powerplay" compilation
CD. Nothing was new, some of the lyrics remained
just a touch dubious (especially that spoken passage
in "Forlorn and Lethal") and the sound mix wasn't always quite right but the songs hold up. Midnight
struck and the planned final number ("Never Reach The Stars") sadly never materialised but it was still an
excellent way to end an outstanding festival.