This was one of the sidebars from Record Collector's May 2002 issue (and the timeline was another)
The mud. The toilets. The drugs. The horror - it's a music festival, to which many of us return time
and time again (even though we always say we won't). It takes a certain type of band to excel in the
festival environment; one that is adaptable, humble and downright eccentric will survive far better than
a snobby, studio-polished one.
Hawkwind fit the bill perfectly, as their dozens of festival appearances testify. For example, they
bucked tradition right from the off with their unorthodox set at the 1970 Isle Of Wight festival, when
they and the Pink Fairies played outside the fences for free. The second Glastonbury event, which
took place from 20th to 24th June 1971 and was billed as the 'Glastonbury Fayre' was also a
memorable 'Wind moment. They performed a brain-frying set beneath the first pyramid tent, which
had been constructed of scaffolding, expanded metal and plastic sheeting and placed directly above a
Glastonbury-Stonehenge ley-line. They also appeared on the Glastonbury Fayre live album and in Nic
Roeg's film of the same name. A precedent established, Hawkwind then graced Glasto in 1981 (the
first CND benefit), alongside New Order and Taj Mahal, and again four years later, by which time the
festival was pulling in serious crowd (and revenue).
Stonehenge has always been a focus for Hawkwind, too, with the Wiltshire monoliths' mystical and
astronomical connotations the perfect setting for the band's acid-drenched philosophising. 1981 and
1983 saw two memorable appearances, featuring the psychedelic lightshows for which the band
became famous. Add to this the many European festivals that saw the 'Wind play, and you have a
band which has always made the tents'n'acid environment its chosen milieu.
What makes Hawkwind so good in the festival context is the extended nature of their songs, which
can evolve organically in the playing (witness their almost innumerable live albums for evidence), their
cortex-shredding light display and -let's face it- their preoccupations with cosmic forces, divine
phenomena, outer-space weirditude and general outlandishness. All of which sounds much more
meaningful when you're sitting beneath the stars, in a lysergic trance, with an industrial-sized flagon of
cider to hand.
Are they playing a festival near you this year? If so, see 'em - your brain will never be the same.