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Friday 25/07/2008

There was the odd sputter of rain and grey clouds loomed just overhead as we crawled down the A303, and
then the A30, looking for the signpost to Luppitt and Dunkerswell.  We were almost into Honiton before
spotting it.  The road wound uphill into steadily more bucolic surroundings, with the last three miles taking us
down a wooded single track road along the crest of a ridge...after the fact I found out the event took place atop
St. Cyres' Hill.  It was a brilliantly chosen location, secluded without being remote, but the initial impression was
that it was a small, compact site.  In fact, it was the perfect size - for the first time, it did not feel as though we
were rattling around in far too large a space.  Arriving at about 5pm on the Friday, it seemed that almost
everyone else had got there before us, but after parking up, we walked around the site in 10 or 15 minutes
before finding a place to encamp our three tents.   
(Below left: note the lovely pink flowers)
Hawkfest 2008
This Hawkfest turned out to be quite a different
experience from last year's in that we saw a lot of
bands, and those that figured largely in Friday's
proceedings were Tribe Of Cro (who seemed to have
had a line-up change, with a guitarist I didn't recognise),
Spacehead and Spirits Of The Earth on the 2nd stage.  
Spacehead were playing for the first time since the last
Hawkfest (June 2007) but you would not have known
that from their performance.  Is it my imagination or
has Mr.Dibs become less shouty in his own band as a
result of his tenure in Hawkwind?  Whatever the reason,
I enjoyed them more than ever before.  Though what
It rained then, briefly, and became horribly sticky and humid while we were setting up camp.  (Thanks to our
neighbours Pete and Terry for the loan the of the mallet!)  But this was the last bit of unwelcome weather we
would get over the whole glorious weekend.  Taking further stock of our surroundings, there were two stages
housed in marquees fairly close to each other, one of them containing a bar, with another bar tucked in between
the two tents.  Around the corner were a cluster of cafes and several retail stalls, mostly selling clothes, jewellry
and hippy tat.  (I like hippy tat!)  No showers, and three or four clusters of portaloos completed the list of
amenities: more stuff than in previous years... we wandered around saying hello to people, and this must have
been annoying for Nick and Ali as I seem to know a lot of people :-/
they have in common with Tribe Of Cro is that both bands have in effect latched onto a small subset of what
Hawkwind do and have looped it into seemingly endless recycled permutations as the whole of their act.  It may
not be as contrived as I've stated it, but that's the impression they conveyed to me.  Tribe Of Cro's leitmotif
might be "Hash Cake" while Spacehead's is, not surprisingly, the unsubtle blanga of "The Right Stuff".
Main stage, above.  Thx to Graham P for the pic!
Above: early morning mist clearing from the main bar
usual inaudible vocal interjections.   Proceedings perked up in Hurry On Sundown when the members of
Spacehead and a certain D.Brock walked on halfway through.  The Captain was present for only three numbers
but elevated the performance to a different level all on his own.  This was the apogee of Huw's set, moving
from Hurry On Sundown to a differently-accented Waiting For Tomorrow, followed by an excellent
Moonglum.  After that Dave absented himself, but left a quorum of Spacehead members (Dibs, Keith, their
drummer) to support Huw for the remainder of his set, closing with Rocky Paths.  During which Dibs
inexplicably packed in the bass playing to go and stand grinning at the back of the stage and getting in everybody
else's way as someone said :-0  But as if to compensate, the ever-lovely Marion Lloyd-Langton came on and
danced, mostly right behind her husband, where he couldn't see her.

Tim Blake was next and turned in a set of finely-crafted Euro synth pop, despite technical difficulties requiring
some onstage reprogramming of his computer.  Which he accomplished despite the jocular hecklings of Richard
Chadwick, who was stood in the crowd right next to me.  This music of Tim's steers a middle course between
the seminal synthesizer odyssies of yore and his unfortunate leanings toward twee singer-songwriter lapses of
taste.  The version of Spirit Of The Age that he provided for the Daze Of The Underground tribute album is kind
of where he went for this set, and I have to admit I didn't stay for all of it.  Sorry Tim.

We finished Friday night with Tarantism's set on the second stage (the smaller marquee containing the Otter
Bar...)  This was a tight blend of spacey reggae and skittering celtic flavourings.  The guitar player even covers
on the drums when Tarantism's skinsman moves to the bongos.  Frontwoman Mel plays a mean penny whistle
when not acting as stage manager in the big tent, and overall they had a bigger sound than on previous
encounters...thumbs up!

Saturday 26/07/2008
A long hot sunny day which started with a morning
guitar workshop with Huw.  He did this outside the main
stage, on the grass, and some eager young attendees
started to look bored and disappointed when the
workshop seemed as though it wasn't going to get much
further than Huw's rambling anecdotes: mumblings in
place of the hoped-for pearls of wisdom.  But it did come
together, and I gather that Dave Brock also participated
(after I'd wandered off) to the pleasure of the 20-odd
people sitting in a circle clutching their guitars.  We
headed for the second stage to catch Richard Chadwick's
drum workshop, the highlight of which was a very good
session by a female drummer in a red T-shirt.  She later
turned out to be doing the biz behind the kit for Syren.
The first 10 minutes consisted of Huw trying to get his guitar case open...
We wandered about, enjoying the sunshine and meeting up with our fellow hairy-arsed Hawkwind fans, ate
lunch and then went back to stage 2 to catch Wind Of Change at 2.30pm.  They are led by John Pattison aka
Hawklord Of Shields and the author of 'A Love Affair With Cancer'.  He and his band were great, the overall
sound being a duel between John's spacey keyboards and guitarist Robin's NWOBHM / ZZ Top / Zakk Wylde
leanings.  We clamoured for one of their free CD's afterwards, and for my money they were one of the best
bands I saw over the entire weekend.
John Pattison (left) and his mad rock'n'roll band Wind Of Change (above)
I'd had high hopes of the Starfighters who came on next, but time has not been kind to Bob Calvert's band of
young guns, as they were twenty or more years ago.  Only the bass player and drummer remain from those
days, but they are now 40-somethings.  The new guitarist and vocalist might be even older and I was looking
around to see if there were any children watching, and if they appeared to be frightened by these two.  I was.  
The vocalist, who is apparently "Dr. Maya" was quite demented in a simian sort of way, and had one half of
his face daubed white, looking as though it had been smeared along the crease of a cricket pitch.  They trawled
through a lot of Bob Calvert's old material in a loose, sometimes shambolic, occasionally ropey fashion, but
were nonetheless not bad.  The sectionable superannuated hippy guitarist was a pretty decent musician and
mustered a lovely sweetly overdriven sound, pairing a semi-acoustic guitar (Gibson ES335 or similar) with a
full Marshall stack.  The Starfighters also played at least one original number which caught our attention and
had us remarking that "that ought to raise a black flag" for the remainder of the weekend...
Omnia Opera were on the main stage at 4pm, and kudos to Mel for making sure that these schedules stayed
accurate all weekend.  That was very impressive.  Omnia Opera perhaps weren't, but they were definitely very
enjoyable visually, with two yummy mummy singers / dancers and a mad Simon House lookalike keyboard
player who got my vote for specifically putting on an aviator jacket and goggles for one number, when the
tent was really getting hot at ground level - I was told it was like a furnace on stage, which was about 6 feet
high off the ground.  Like Tribe Of Cro the day before, and Underground Zero a day after, Omnia Opera have
a sound which might be quite distinctive in isolation, but it was almost thematic of the bands at the festival:
mid-paced spacey grooves that never deviate very far from the template, perhaps throwing in a touch of dub
here and there, and dominated by keyboards rather than distorted guitars.  Despite the contention that
Hawkwind invented space rock, the phrase has perhaps come to mean this sort of sound (and it is based on a
sound rather than on songwriting) instead of the raunch that I think is Hawkwind's main weapon.
Syren succeeded Omnia Opera, and succeeded also in
breaking out of the run of similar bands.  They're an all
female three-piece featuring the drummer who starred at
the workshop, a frontwoman singer / guitar player in a
short skirt and a tight top, plus a fretless bassist who
was all smiles and enthusiasm, swiveling her hips most
sensuously, while pumping out intricate funky basslines.  
Vocalist Erin was not just a pretty face but also has a
fabulous voice, and the drummer pulled out a drum solo
which was actually song-like in having an identifiable
structure, and thus worth listening to.  I can't remember the last time I heard a drum solo of which you could
say that.

I might know more about Syren had I gone over to the information desk they had set up at the back of the
main tent, but I didn't because it was staffed by a stunning looking dark-haired woman who was topless.  I
would not have been able to avoid drooling or worse, so I didn't go over there.  In fact there were two
women in Syren's entourage who strolled about the festival site wearing almost nothing the whole weekend.  
Someone said they had been in or associated with the band Rockbitch, and in fact I think Syren's bassist was
a member, so her naturally sexy moves make perfect sense...
There was a pause at this point with the big top being closed to set up for Hawkwind's set at 8.00pm.  I always
want to wind down before their sets, because it's the centrepiece of the entire festival, and so we did, returning
to our tents for a while.  But we were there, some way back and dead centre, when Mr.Dibs, Tim Blake,
Richard Chadwick, Dave Brock and Jason Stuart filed on.  The stage lighting was dominated by green and
purple spotlights with plenty of dry ice and red lasers.  The customary Chaos Illumination back projections and
dancers Matt and Laura (all tours from Dec 2007 on) rounded off the visuals.  The sound was well-balanced
though DB's guitar tended to wander out of audible range on some numbers.  This was more pronounced
during the tentative opening phase of the set, where the band weren't yet firing on all cylinders.  Some
interesting ideas didn't quite come off because of this, such as the inclusion of the lyrics to The Awakening in
Splashfin, and Mr.Dibs' over-histrionic reading of Abducted.
However the turning point seemed to have come with
the slamming bass chords that heralded Time We Left,
which was discharged excellently, only for the set to
dip again with the elongated instrumental opening
passage that opened Who's Gonna Win The War. A
punching rendition of Arrival In Utopia restored the
forward progress of the proceedings, and the band
were now going from strength to strength, and
throwing in the odd surprise along the way; some new
lyrics in the middle of this number were underpinned by
the riff from Death Trap.  Hassan-i-Sahba made an
unexpected return to the set and is, in these post-Davey
times, much better for having an abbreviated 'Space Is
Their Palestine' midsection.  I think this may be where
You'll be glad to know it wasn't Mr.Dibs in a wig with oranges stuffed down the front of his T-shirt
Tim Blake had been enlivening the arrangements with
plenty of theremin along the way, but now he had a
solo spot in the middle of the main set.  For some
reason he chose to include St. Dolay from the Tide
Of  The Century album, which for my money is
potentially the worst thing he's ever done.  The lyrics
are excruciatingly bad, but at least it was followed by
an all-band version of Lighthouse; this restored
momentum with the tempo being slowly ratcheted up,
and served as the ideal way to accelerate into Right To
Decide, featuring a few stunning Brock moments of ferociously strummed muted rhythm guitar.  Then it was
Sonic Attack with the sign-bearing dancers (they've corrected the one that said "Don't panic" to "Do not
panic") dressed as Pierrotesque airline attendants.

The undoubted climax was Damnation Alley, which embodied such accomplished vocals as to qualify it as
power pop.  A thumping version of Flying Doctor followed, and then the main set closed with Spirit Of The
Age.  It took a minute of whistling, clapping and cheering to bring them back for an encore of Magnu,
embedding a nugget of Brainbox Pollution (the middle section only) followed by Paradox, arranged as per the
2005 revival version, and finally a thrashing Silver Machine, the crowd bellowing along with tons of emotion.  
Compelling and fulfilling, a great way to end another wonderful gig...
But it wasn't the last entertainment of the evening.  That was reserved for the trashy, sexy antics of Tits Of
Death, following Hawkwind on the main stage.  They were as described in last year's review of the 2007
Hawkfest, but are a year further along in terms of musical togetherness.  They threw down an excellent version
of AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and for what it's worth, I've decided the bass player in the red dress
has an arch knowing quality that pushes the envelope into lush, overheated regions of imagination.  Or perhaps
I'd had too much fun by then.

Sunday 27/07/2008

It was hotter than Hades from the off, so we made a slow start and did nothing structured at all until the
Question and Answer session on the main stage at 2.00pm.  The panel was chaired by Matthew Wright and
included the bloke who does the onstage mixing (his name escapes me, sorry), all the band members, Kris and
Marie.  Apparently all the questions emailed into Mission Control in advance had been lost, so the microphone
was passed around the audience.  Consequently the questions that were posed weren't as interesting as they
might have been, no disrespect to my fellow fans intended there.  Tim Blake took quite a few of the answers
and made some serious points, while Richard Chadwick resorted to deployment of a glove puppet, in the guise
of a badger who inexplicably wasn't called Brock.  There was a good deal of laughter throughout, not least
when one audience member asked about Dave's plans for Hawkwind in the event of him pegging it.  Hawkwind
will continue, apparently.
After having taken in a number of bands on the two days preceding, the first one we got to on Sunday was
T.O.S.H.  Again, all the members of Hawkwind participated (Tim Blake for the whole set, I think) and there
were some great inclusions in the set list, such as Valium 10, Void City, Brainstorm and Virgin Of The World.  
Well done to the lads for picking out so many neglected classics, and Brainstorm in particular was fabulous.  
As we'd seen with Huw's set, it was when Dave Brock was participating that T.O.S.H. really hit their stride -
without him they were only a tribute band, even with Tim and Dibs on board.  But there was one aspect in
which their set excelled Hawkwind's and that was the lasers that Chaos Illumination worked to hard to
maintain.  During T.O.S.H.'s set they were fantastic, radiating mostly in shades of red and green.  I hope these
become a fixture of Hawkwind's stage show, since they're as good as anything I've seen since the city / tree
sequence designed by Liquid Len.
After T.O.S.H. we caught Underground Zero on the
main stage (see preceding comments about Omnia
Opera).  Actually, Underground Zero deserve better then
the short shrift I am giving them, but one problem was
definitely when on the bill they played: by this time late
on Sunday, fatigue was setting in and it would have
taken something much more distinctive from the general
run of bands who'd played the festival to stir me from
my ennui.  As
luck would have it, there was such a band
playing on the second stage in the Otter Bar tent: Uncle Rotter.  This lot were unexpectedly brilliant, half the
band masked Jordi-style, ripping through a collection of filthily-worded me(n)tal anthems of their own
devising, with lots of shouty choruses.  

What a great way to end a great festival, undoubtedly the best-organised Hawkfest yet, and I'd really have to
think hard before saying I enjoyed any of the others more.  Thanks to Kris, Margaret and Rose first and
foremost, not to forget all the other volunteers, and the musicians and crew among all the bands (who were
much better than last years' roster).  Thanks too to all the brilliant fans without whom the atmosphere couldn't
have been as relaxed and friendly as it was.  The superb location and wonderful weather rounded it all off.  
The best news came from one of the questions asked at the Question and Answer session, and that is that
there will be another Hawkfest next year.  In fact the Captain suggested "same time, same place, next year"
and I for one would certainly be up for that...
Undergriound Zero: at least they get a photo
the belly dancer came on.  She threw her arms about enthusiastically enough, anyway...
Huw Lloyd-Langton turned in a solo set on the main
stage, starting off creakily with a Kinks cover and the