|Hawkfest 2002 CD review
14th July 2005
This live CD is another variation on the general theme of â€œHawkwind, Friends and Relationsâ€�, but in
specific terms, features bands who played at the 1st Hawkfest in 2002, having been recorded live there.
This fact explains why I bought the CD; itâ€™s for sentimental reasons, i.e. because I was there, rather
than for any appreciation of the HF&R concept. I tend to avoid buying those kinds of albums, as theyâ
€™re usually somewhat poor IMHO, possessed of the sole virtue of illustrating what a great band
Hawkwind are, by comparison with their pale imitators. However, this CD manages to raise itself well
above that standard with several strong musical performances and some that are stylistically so far removed
from Hawkwind as to distance the whole album from the HF&R concept.
I have already reviewed some of these tracks on the Hawkwind CD Singles page, because they featured on
the Hawkfest 2002 Sampler CD which I chose to regard as just one such. So Iâ€™ll be brief and hopefully
not repeat myself.
Hawkwind open proceedings with Night Of The Hawks, clocking in at almost 14 minutes in length, the
first couple of minutes of which are initially pastoral synths undermined by trademark disturbing / tension-
building Hawkwindness. Dave intones â€œEarth Callingâ€� a few times and Alan grunts atmospherically
before the rhythm fades in with Tim Blake playing some tasteful two-chord synth parts. Daveâ€™s vocals
get the song proper under way, and the first verse is characterised by the interplay between Blakeâ€™s
keyboards and Simon Houseâ€™s brilliant violin. But once the second verse rolls around, Brock starts to
dominate proceedings with his driving guitar chords: *this* is what makes it all hang together!
The opening two-chord synthiness is repeated at around the 11-minute mark as a somewhat twinkly middle
section, but this benefits from some lead guitar from the Captain, which he mutates into accelerated,
forceful strumming, propelling the song and the band back into the main riff. For me, this number is all
about D.Brock esq. and why Hawkwind arenâ€™t Hawkwind if heâ€™s not there.
In terms of the albumâ€™s running order, itâ€™s an interesting choice to put the only Hawkwind number
on first. In effect it serves to throw down the gauntlet to all the other bands that follow on, and Proteus,
who are up next with Evenstar / Cloud City struggle to pick it up, despite being allotted a generous 10
minutes and 11 seconds in which to do so. But this is more to do with *what* they are rather than *how*
they perform: Proteus sound pretty much like mid-90â€™s Orbital, working a trance-inflected groove which
just about overcomes my prejudice against rave music. Over a track of this length the fact that thereâ€™s a
lot of variety and interchange of beats really helps the song to breathe as a piece of music.
One thing I should mention is the very skilful mixing, which sees Tribe Of Croâ€™s I Have No Life
overlapping the fading strains of the outgoing Proteus track. I liked this lot when I saw them at the
Hawkfest and their music doesnâ€™t disappoint here, being a looping spacey jam, replete with glissando
guitar, built around a bubbling bass thatâ€™s reminiscent of a more cosmic Shriekback, in a way. This
intersection of space-rock and jazz-funk (far less crude than the Rudolph / Powell crimes of that ilk) bears
promise for further, future discoveries should Tribe Of Cro choose to venture in that direction â€“ though
the whistle that starts being blown about halfway through this track is a major irritation and needs to die.
Far more satisfactory is the Gong-ish lead guitar into which it segues, conjuring up touches of the â€œYouâ
€� album. This is another long track, approaching 15 minutes, but contains enough textural variation that it
doesnâ€™t outstay its welcome.
Spacehead bring things back to a more Hawkwind-centric sound with Fire Dragons. This starts off with
layers of pulsing, swooping synth which are displaced after three minutes by Mr.Dibsâ€™ characteristic
pumping, adenoidal bass tones and some tasty guitar atmospherics (K.Barton, I believe). The vocals are less
successful for my money, but the bigger problem with this track is that it never really gets going â€“ the
whole thing sounds like a drawn-out intro, which you want to hear explode into the true blanga that
Spacehead can do. Perhaps the problem is that weâ€™re hearing this track out of context, compiled here
(by Keith Kniveton) instead of being placed amidst Spaceheadâ€™s entire setâ€¦
Anyway, Spacehead having paved the way, Astralasia get to go next with their horrible version of Uncle
Samâ€™s On Mars. This treatment first saw the light of day in 1994 and it sounds ten years or more out
of date, with a primitive, yet frenetic, pounding bass drum that picks up where Disco left off in the late 70â
€™s. As I mentioned in the Sampler CD review, Astralasia do a loud / quiet thing with the vocals, but I had
forgotten to mention the guitar solo at around the five minute mark. The tonality of this is pure Brock, but it
sounds like something heâ€™d played had been sampled, and then skilfully cut up and spliced back
together. That and the percussionless outro are the best part of thisâ€¦but I wonder if Pete Pracownik, who
guested with Astralasia on guitar at Hawkfest 2002, was actually playing this? Very good if so.
CD1 completes with Jez Huggett's Band Of Gold playing Kansas City Blues â€“ which is so not my cup
of tea and totally unlike anything else on this album or anything else that was played at the entire Hawkfest
for that matter. If you recall the old Dire Straits song Sultans Of Swing, it contains the line â€œThey donâ
€™t give a damn about any trumpet-playing band / it ainâ€™t what they call rockâ€™nâ€™rollâ€� and thatâ
€™s about where we are with this. Thereâ€™s a walking double bass, drums played with brushes, some
smooth piano low in the mix and lots of sax, of course. Itâ€™s very nice if you like that sort of thing, but
itâ€™s not for everyone, is it?! :-)
And so on to CD2 and Miss Bigfish by London band Bruise. This lot failed to make any impression on me
when they played at the Hawkfest, but this has a previously unsuspected pop sensibility on the choruses,
and a propulsive quality throughout: there is an overdriven guitar here, but itsâ€™ placement low in the mix
keeps the overall sound smooth rather than raucous. The cool, feminine vocals are tonally somewhere in
Chrissie Hynde territory but without her streetwise American inflections. Distractingly, the last minute or so
of this track is overlaid by what sounds like a conversation among the audience, just below the threshold of
Connecting Routes follow with Intro, which is laidback crossover stuff: they themselves call it â€œroots
rock reggaeâ€� and they achieve quite a bit of interaction with the crowd, who are heard for the one and
only time on this album, cheering like a throng of thousands rather than hundreds. The distinctive reggae
feel emphasises the 2nd and 4th beats of each bar, and there is lots of space in the arrangement. The bass is
not so punishingly deep as to put this anywhere near heavy dub territory, and the individual instruments
(guitar, organ and brass section) are all quite bright and cheerful sounding. Itâ€™s a clichÃ© to describe
this kind of thing as â€œsunnyâ€�, but Connecting Routes put the â€˜festiveâ€™ into â€˜festivalâ€™, here.
All of which makes Mr.Quimbyâ€™s Beard sound very overwrought as they kick off Mystery with a skirl
of phase-shifted synth and dark guitar figures. However, the track at once relaxes into a spacious Ozrics-
kind of pace although MQBâ€™s sound is much more rock and supplies a double dose of space-rock
credentials in place of the world music intonations. This is not some balls-to-the-wall workout, and in fact
drags a little bit here and there, without a central platform of driving guitar or keyboard to anchor the song
(which is 13 minutes in length!). The reggae-ish coda, coming so soon after the effortless bounce of
Connecting Routes, is shown up for the pale imitation it is, especially as performed by space rock bands.
This is something that ought to be left well alone.
Next, Bedouin perform their version of the Hawkwind number LSD and they are of course far from being
anaemic, with their combination of rasping vocals, pulsating bass and solid rock guitar. This hasnâ€™t the
textural lushness of the original but instead substitutes bucketfuls of rock drive and swagger. Glenn Povey
throws in a long meandering guitar solo of the Fast Eddie Clarke school somewhere in the middle, and not to
be outdone, Alanâ€™s Rickenbacker bass solo evokes Lemmy. Danny Thompson then slaps the snare
drum around a bit but weâ€™re spared the full horror of the drum solo as Bedouin instead launch into a
fairly brief coda and close this out after 8 minutes and 23 seconds.
Who better to take on the baton than Litmus, with Invader. They were the first band to play at Hawkfest
2002 and in that sense were bottom of the bill: last, perhaps, but not least. Here they do their usual rip
through four minutes of thrashing space rock, slashing guitars and punky vocals offset by twittering
synths. Itâ€™s excellent stuff. And going straight from the festivalâ€™s opening act to the closing one,
Huw Lloyd Langtonâ€™s Broken Bits Band, do Cardboard City. This is better than remembered: Huwâ
€™s jagged, over-distorted guitar sound is much more effective on this recording than it seemed on the
night, and the ramshackle nature of his scratch line-up, which seemed at the time to be so loose as to be
falling apart, here just makes for a loose feel. In fact, this whole thing is not a million miles away from a
live Neil Young number, say â€˜Rockinâ€™ In The Free Worldâ€™ on the â€˜Weldâ€™ album. Huwâ€™s
in good voice too, and pulls together some decentish lead guitar throughout. Which is not bad considering
he was recovering from Legionnaireâ€™s disease and two broken wrists at the time!
To close out the album we have Mike Burroâ€™s One-Eyed Bishops performing Hawkwindâ€™s Hurry
On Sundown. Musically itâ€™s quite authentic sounding, if somewhat subdued with a line-up of acoustic
guitar, bass, mournful vocals and washboard. The downbeat feel is alleviated halfway through by some
electric lead guitar which is excellent, after which Mike goes into a bluesy vocal extemporisation and even
exhorts Mr.Dibs (whoâ€™s on bass) to do a solo! In a rare outbreak of good taste, this doesnâ€™t happenâ
€¦ :-) In fact, this track is a bit too redolent of good taste for my money, and I think should have discarded
some of the restraint it displays, and gone for something a bit shoutier!
And now it is all over bar the shouting, and of course Iâ€™ve already given the game away by saying this
album is a good deal better than the standard Hawkwind Friends & Relations type of proposition. One thing
to point out is that the sleeve notes say â€œThis CD aims to capture a little of this very special moment in
time â€“ and will surely rekindle warm memories for those who attendedâ€¦â€� It absolutely succeeds in
this, and just listening to this album, in my mindâ€™s eye I could see the sea off in the distance and the
farm away on the other side of the valley. This has given me some serious Hawkfest nostalgia and I think itâ
€™s high time that another one was arranged!!