Ino-Rock Festival, Inowroclaw, Poland, September 8, 2012

Review by 'Oscar from Poland': "Please be warned: this is more of a personal reflection than a review
per se."
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Above left: the festival poster...                                  Above right: Oscar and his allegedly willing victims

It is exciting albeit disconcerting when worlds we had heretofore considered to be mutually exclusive
touch or even combine. Such were my feelings in advance of the Hawkwind show yesterday. World 1: I
came of age in the mid-eighties in a middle class neighborhood in Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), in an
environment that could best be described as artsy/intellectual. I chanced upon Hawkwind through the
writings of Michael Moorcock and became a fan for life (although the mid-80's oeuvre is my least favorite
these days). World 2: I left for Poland in 1991 and have lived here ever since with a brief stay back in
Pittsburgh to finish university. I worked for 2 years as an English teacher but for almost 20 years I have
been, if you like, a "making it in the straight world" (standard corporate job). Until now, the overlap
between these worlds has been limited, safe, and well-delineated: maintaining tenuous contact with some
local fans but mostly using any opportunity to torture my wife and 2 children with studio albums and
concert recordings both old and new. Luckily, they like the music well-enough. One of the earliest
memories of my oldest child (also named Oscar, now 11) is of him listening to Death Trap and singing
along enthusiastically but interpreting the song title as "ketchup".
Of course I bought tickets for my family the very day I found out that Hawkwind was playing in my
adopted and beloved Poland! Driving in from Warsaw was absolutely horrible, mostly due to my stupid
habit of trusting the GPS rather than bothering to read a map before embarking. This is a frequent source
of driving tension between my wife and me, heightened on this day by the necessity of making a 40-mile
detour due to the unexpected closure of a bridge across the Vistula river and - during this detour - coming
very close to killing a dog that ran out on the road. Finally, after a drive uselessly lengthened by 2 hours
and feeling very stressed out, we found the place we had reserved and gratefully parked the car.

I have travelled around Poland quite a lot but had never been to Inowroclaw, which is a very small city (I
would say just big enough not to be a large town) about 3 hours west of Warsaw, where I live. Poland
has plenty to offer in terms of big city hustle and the beauties of nature but Inowroclaw is neither: this is a
semi run-down but still charming enough town "in the middle of nowhere" famous for large salt deposits,
manifested naturally enough in salt mines and spas. The most famous of the latter is free to the public and
is called in English (as I read in Wikipedia) a "graduation tower": a complicated and extremely large
wooden structure continuously doused with natural saltwater so as to give visitors the benefits of seashore
air while remaining inland. Poles really believe in alternate medicine (you can even get an "official"
prescription from a doctor to go to a place like this) and the average age of people we met in town was at
least 60, many with respiratory or other ailments (the salty air is said to help with this).
Left: Dead Fred & Pierre the drummer (it says here)
We had quite a lot of free time before the show and walked around the extensive and well-maintained
municipal park which includes the aforementioned graduation tower -¦so I now consider myself a pretty
low risk for tuberculosis. We saw almost no signs of the show except for some visiting German fans
without reservations wandering around and looking for a place to stay, which I hope they found. The
festival (now in its second and final day) started at 8PM, but we decided to get a bite to eat first (nothing
better than a Polish breaded pork chop with a side order of fried potatoes and sauerkraut!) at a restaurant
that was also hosting a traditional wedding party, only adding to my feeling of meta-mismatch: could I
only be 1 hour from seeing vodka drunk in earnest from being forged in the cosmic furnace?

The Ino-rock festival (progressive rock of all hues) has been going on for 4 years and from what I can
see has hosted some very good bands, like Ozric Tentacles (2010 headliners). I wish both the festival and
the good people of Inowroclaw the very best of luck but this is an extremely strange match: presumably
mind-bending music in an ultra-geriatric setting. It was 9pm by the time we got to the outdoor
amphitheater which was pleasant enough and seats about 1,500 people. The crowd seemed to be at or
close to capacity but was it was very comfortable with ample places to sit on benches or stand in front of
the stage, as one desired. I wish we had shown up earlier because the penultimate band of the night
(Gazpacho, from Norway) turned out to be very good, especially violin/guitar/mandolin player and the lead
singer (even though he looked a bit like Kermit the Frog in his round glasses).
Finally, it was time for Hawkwind. This may seem a silly thing to get worked up about but I was in a high
state of cognitive dissonance. Progressive rock in an extended old folks' home! My semi-private musical
pleasure now thrust straight into my every-day Polish experience! Comsic rays bouncing off my pork
chop! Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was still feeling the stress of the road: was the close call with
the dog some sort of message? The last time I saw Hawkwind, it was in the mid-90's! How would this
work out? I had to continuously fight against the sensation of watching myself watch the concert and had
to concentrate on simply watching the concert.

The band was Captain Brock, Mr. Dibs, Tim Blake, Niall Hone, and Dead Fred (all as expected) but with
Pierre the drummer substituting for Richard Chadwick, who had a sudden and serious medical issue.
Pierre also goes by the name of "SpacePierre" but I assume both monikers are artistic pseudonyms, since
he is Polish (so, "Piotr" would be more likely). I read in the Internet that he plays/played (?) in the groups
hipiersoniK, Muariolanza, MEQ, Trio de Janeiro and Spitfire. Pierre had only 2 days to prepare but did
smashingly well (for which he was praised on multiple occasions by Mr. Dibs), although I missed a bit the
trademark snare and high-hat work of Richard (best wishes for a speedy recovery!)

I didn't take notes during the show but the setlist was something like the following: Awakening; You'd
Better Believe It; The Hills Have Ears; Seasons; Southern Cross; Hassan-i-Sahba; Space Is Their;
Hassan-i-Sahba; Sonic Attack; Prometheus; Assault & Battery; Golden Void; Where Are They Now;
Arrival in Utopia; Damnation Alley; Silver Machine (as encore). I'm sure the official setlist will be
published forthwith. The acoustics were acceptable although some people/instruments were difficult to
hear some of the time.
Above, looking rather Brock-like, this is actually Niall
As others have noted, Mr. Dibs has really "stepped to the front". I must admit that I initially had some
reservations about this: was an individual personality (and a relatively new face) somehow overwhelming
what has always been more of a musical collective (perhaps with Dave driving from the back seat)? I got
over any such trepidation quite early: Mr. Dibs is simply into it, feeling it, and being it. To say the least, he
puts his heart in his job! Tim was very animated, especially as he coaxed his theremin, although from
where he was I couldn't hear him very well part of the time. The Captain was, as usual, the eminence
grise of the band, keeping a low profile but delivering guitar and vocal work flawlessly if somewhat "from
the shadows". Niall Hone was - as far as I could tell - the most musically talented of the lot although I
think once I saw him yawn! I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was
communicating in-song instructions in a long monosyllable. Dead Fred was the invisible gluon that holds it
all together. If I didn't look at him, I didn't hear him; when I looked at him, I realized how much he was
adding to the music.

Two other local guests (from hipiersoniK) joined for Sonic Attack, Damnation Alley, and Silver Machine:
Marcin Babko (vocals) and Michal Sosna (saxophone). Sonic Attack was especially effective as Mr. Dibs
and Marcin traded (English, Polish, English, Polish) the delivery to ensure proper transmission of the
message to the audience while the projections read "do not panic" in Polish! I listened intently to the
translation into Polish and only had one issue. In the phrase "your only protection is flight", the word
"flight" was translated into Polish as a very specific "flight in air" (in Polish: "lot") whereas my
understanding of "flight" in this oratory has always been more general (as in "escape", in Polish:
"ucieczka"). But I quibble! I had some correspondence with John Foules (the projections guy) in the
weeks leading up to the show and I guess I can claim "partial credit" for the multi-lingual Sonic Attack
concept (in Polish: "Atak Dzwiekowy") and also the choice for some videos of recent Polish protests
shown during "Seasons". A big hello to John - it was very nice to meet you at the show and the ideas we
traded were very well executed! I could not hear Michal Sosna's saxophone very well but perhaps this will
be corrected if I can get my hands someday on a recording of the proceedings.
My wife (Barbara) and our children enjoyed the
show greatly
[yeah, I believe you, Oscar :-) ]
although it got a bit chilly as the night progressed
and my youngest child (Iggy, 9) - who, like his
brother, had stoppers in his ears to protect his tender
membranes - fell asleep on a bench with his head on
his mother's knee during Gazpacho and had to be
awakened a few songs into Hawkwind's show.

The band was in good form and the only "down
time" for me was Southern Cross; I think more
melodic lead keyboard from Tim (although could be
that this was a question of acoustics) could make
this number more interesting. The highlight for me
surely must be the bi-lingual Sonic Attack just for its
uniqueness and adequacy to the place. Ironically, it
was a number designed to induce disquiet that
brought me the most peace. The kids' musical
favorite was definitely "Hassan-i-Sahba", which they
refer to as "Black September" (I will not correct
them).
I haven't mentioned the dancers yet but they were simply superb. My favorite dance performance was the
visual dialogue between an angel and a space alien during Golden Void. The angel especially was perfect
with exactly the beatific and serene expression one would expect from such an enlightened being. My
children's favorite performance was the jerky moves they made while dressed in full-body salmon-colored
"cosmic mummy" suits during Silver Machine.

If I had to choose one word for the band's musical performance it would be "tight and heavy" (as always,
much heavier live than in the studio) and it seems that this is increasingly complemented (among others by
virtue of Mr. Dibs' obvious engagement and enthusiasm) by being truly "into it". I sincerely hope - as
unlikely as this may be - that Hawkwind plays again in Poland sometime. If a gig could be arranged (and
I'm sure it can, may I help?) in a larger city (Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, Wroclaw, Gdansk) I think
attendance could easily be increased five-fold. Sorry for this note being very light on the music itself, by
the way. If I can get a recording of the show somehow I may try to expand this bit after a careful listen
or two.
If one thinks of it objectively, it is a bit absurd for a mid-40's corporate soldier (dragging along his wife
and two children) to see some 40-70 year olds sing about space travel and whatnot in an old folk's spa
town in the middle of nowhere in Poland. Is this reality, however grim our journey's end? Not really! I do
not consider this to be grim, our journey's end, or - for that matter - reality. The dissonance I had been
feeling disappeared in smoke and I embraced (but did not deny) the discrepancies, discontinuities, and
contradictions I had experienced going into the show - surely this all makes life richer and more enjoyable.

On the morning after the show, we visited the small town square in Inowroclaw and - after a brief stop at
the nearby town of Kruszwica (where the mythical Prince Popiel II is said to have been eaten by mice in
the 9th century as revenge for poisoning his 12 uncles and throwing their bodies into the nearby lake) - we
drove back to Warsaw. Sunny weather, roadmap was consulted for a change, and the pleasant drive took
only 3 hours, just like it says on the Internet. Also, there were no close calls with dogs, surely a sign of
something.

So, there you go. Thanks to the festival organizers for inviting my favorite band to Poland, thanks again to
John for great projections - especially the "fine-tuning for the Polish audience", thanks to the dancers for
their artful writhing, thanks to my wife and sons for indulging me, and most of all - thanks to the Hawks
for such a great show in such an odd and out-of-the-way place. Onward!

-Oscar Swan