29 November 2009

Return Of The Pot-Head Pixies - Gong: O2 Academy, Oxford - November 28, 2009 - Haab: 0 Mac/Tzolkin: 4 lk

Having not been to a live gig (not counting the Cropredy festival) in two years, I probably couldn't have picked a better one to attend than the re-formed Gong. That's right, the Alien Australian and most of the 'classic' line-up are back spreading the P.H.P. gospel, including Gilli Smyth, now 76! Amazing. Steve Hillage and his longtime partner Miquette Giraudy have re-joined the fold, as has Mike Howlett, who played bass on the awesome Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy albums. At the moment, Didier Malherbe has decided not to tour (though he does guest on the latest studio album, 2032), and Tim Blake, Gong's early-70s keyboard-player has also declined to join the latest incarnation. It still promised to be a great concert.

Pixie, myself and my muso-mate Will arrived at the O2, after dinner at Subway and a pre-show pint at the Cape Of Good Hope, with enough time to grab a beer at the bar and for Pixie to grab a Camembert Electrique T-shirt for me , as an X-Mas gift, before The Steve Hillage Band took the stage. I was surprised that there weren't any dedicated tour T-shirts, but never mind. Hillage was assisted by Giraudy, Howlett, Chris Taylor on drums and Theo Travis on sax and flute. They ran through a selection of tunes from Steve's 70s solo albums and a few instrumentals. Hillage proved he can still act the guitar hero and work the fret magic, even when playing one of those ugly Steinberger guitars. Giraudy churned out the spacey synth drones and Howlett and Taylor make a tight rhythm section. We were a bit back in the crowd, so we were able to watch both the band and the psychedelic graphics that were shown on the video screens behind the soundboard. The highlights of the set were a nice Hurdy Gurdy Man, covered on the 1976 album L and Salmon Song, from Hillage's solo debut, Fish Rising. They wound up their slot with a funky jam and came back out for a short encore.

After about a half-hour, the Radio Gnome intro. spilled out of the speakers, and the 2009 model Gong hit the stage. Hillage and crew started up a signature Gong-type riff and then Daevid Allen walked out, dressed as a wizard, to loud cheers. The beginning instrumental finished and they tore into an energized You Can't Kill Me. Gilli Smyth took to the stage during the tune, to more applause, and joined in with her patented 'space whisper' vocals. Digital Girl, from the "2032" album, followed...leading into Dynamite/I Am Your Animal, another rave-up from the group. Yoni Poem, a Smyth 'solo spot' followed, which led into Zero The Hero & The Witch's Spell (also known as Tic-Toc). Allen surprised me with his energy - he would swoop all over the stage, raise his arms in mystic gestures and occasionally grab a guitar and play some rhythm under Hillage's psychedelic lead riffs. Malherbe was missed, but Travis ably filled his shoes on a great version of Flute Salad/Oily Way (from the classic Angel's Egg record). Other peaks for me were a very trippy and very rockin' Master Builder, toward the end of the gig, which started with a slow version of the chant on the You album. They also played Wacky Baccy Banker, off of the new album - it's a kind of update on Kevin Ayers' Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes - I couldn't really hear the lyrics because of the muddy mix for the mics.

They played for two hours, including the encore--though Allen and especially Smyth, had to take a few breaks in the set--but hey, I hope I have as much life in me when I'm in my 70s. The encore was a sort-of improvised chant of "I Am You, You Are Me", while Hillage, Giraudy, Taylor and Travis played a spacey tune. The lights came on and the space dust settled. I had a great time and despite a few..erm...'over-enthusiastic' fans (read: nutters) weaving around the crowd, doing the tai-chi hippie dance and singing lyrics in punter's faces, it seemed to be an excellent gig to me. That's the thing with a band like Gong, though, you really have to expect a few nutters in the crowd. Ah well, they looked like they were enjoying themselves, so more power to 'em. If you get the chance to see the band on this tour, I would recommend you do so. In my view, they still manage to out-psychedelic a lot of the younger bands practising the genre. If you want to see the real deal before it's gone...get yer pointy hat on and get glidding!

Setlist (as much as I can remember):

The Steve Hillage Band:

Instrumental (?)

Hurdy Gurdy Man

Instrumental (?)

Hello Dawn


Sea Nature

Salmon Song


Instrumental (?)


Radio Gnome intro.


You Can't Kill Me

Digital Girl

Dynamite/I Am Your Animal

Witch Poem/Zero The Hero & The Witch's Spell

I Never Glid Before

Flute Solo/Flute Salad/Oily Way

Yoni Poem/Dance With The Pixies

Wacky Baccy Banker

IAO Chant/Master Builder

Guitar Zero/Jam/Selene


I Am You, You Are Me chant

12 November 2009

Cinema Corner #309

25 Heshvn - Year 5770

Time for some thoughts on a couple of films:

The Boat That Rocked - I really really wanted to like this, despite it being directed by Richard Curtis, of such rom-com fare as Four Weddings And A Funeral and Notting Hill. You can see why I had some trepidations. But hey, Nick Frost is in the cast, and that won me over. Turns out it's not that great, though the film premise, based on one of the English 'pirate radio' ships in the 1960s, is an interesting one. I should say very loosely based, because there are lots of historical inaccuracies. At one point, Chris O'Dowd's character tells the main character, played by Charlie Rowe, to "think outside the box..pretend the box isn't there." Hmmm...now, I wasn't on the planet during the 60s, but I strongly suspect that counter-culture types weren't using lame late-1990s corporate-speak. In another scene, one of the DJs plays The Rolling Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash, to herald the return of another jockey who left the ship to 'find fame in the U.S.' I think the year the film was supposed to be set in was 1967 and seeing as "J.J.F." wasn't released until 1968 makes that another glaring error. The plot, such as it is, involves Rowe being invited to the boat by his godfather, played with his usual posh-ness by Bill Nighy. Apparently, Rowe's a bit of a wayward child, though he looks like a massive, soppy bookworm. Nighy's character has supposedly invited him aboard to keep him out of trouble...riiiiiiight. On a boat filled with proto-hippies with sex and drugs and rock-n-roll all over the shop. Of course, you never see any of that - well, a little bit of sex, but certainly no drugs. It transpires that Rowe has heard that his estranged father is on the boat and is looking to reunite with him. There's also a tired 'coming-of-age' story about him falling in love with Marianne, another godchild of Nighy's, but then her breaking his heart by shagging Nick Frost's character (they actually play Leonard Cohen's So Long, Marianne during the scene where he's all lovelorn - how cheesy is that?)--don't worry, true believers...they get back together at the end.

There's also "The Count", an American DJ, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (as usual, doing his best with a so-so script) and Gavin Cavanaugh, played by Rhys Ifans as a sort-of psychedelic Howard Stern, another anomaly for the 60s, who's keen to freak out the squares. Kenneth Brannagh plays a drab, humourless government official who's determined to shut down the pirates...with Jack Davenport playing "Mr. Twatt", his assistant. Yes, that gag does get old after about the fifth time Brannagh refers to him by his surname. Curtis does the good/evil thing to death - with the pirate DJs engaging in wacky antics and having colourful Hapshash posters tacked up all over the boat--while the government offices seem cold and grey and all the button-down officials dressed in black or grey all the time. I dunno, maybe London in the late 60s 'was' that polarised, but I suspect things weren't so much. Anyway, the posh kid finds his dad, gets the girl and they all live happily ever after...in the 60s created in Richard Curtis's mind. Oh yeah..the boat sinks. Oop, that's a big spoiler. Ah well, you weren't going to watch it, were you? Good.

2012 - You may have seen this in the past couple of weeks:

That's right. It's the new 'blockbuster' action/disaster film from the guy who directed Independence Day and some other CGI'd crapola. For those who have been following the 2012 meme for a while, you'll know that Terence McKenna had been talking about the 2012 phenomenon since the mid-1970s and even wrote a book about his "Timewave Zero" software and the Mayan calendar called The Invisible Landscape. He posited that 'novelty', or advancement in human critters' thinking would be so fast by December 2012 that a 'new age' would dawn. It would be the 'end of the world', but not really in a literal sense, more of a metaphysical one. James Joyce referred to it as "waking from the nightmare of history".

It seems that the meme was hijacked by various other groups, including some Christian eschatologists. They are taking the more literal translation - that there will be super-storms, floods, earthquakes and on and on. According to them, the world will end in December 2012. They use global warming and the various wars and unrest around the globe to lend credence to their theory. Enter Roland Emmerich and his film. Playing on these fears, he's concocted yet another 'the-humans-are-doomed-but-there's-a-glimmer-of-hope' scenario. He and his cronies started a viral marketing campaign with fake websites and teaser clips. One of the websites offered a lottery system, so visitors could win a place in the remainder of humanity, after the shit hit the fan. Nice way to stoke the hysteria.

I haven't seen the film, nor do I intend to. I actually sat through that Day After Tomorrow fiasco--not in the cinema, mind - just on the toob. I seriously wanted the two hours of my life back after it finished. I also sat through a rental of Deep Impact and wasn't impressed with that either. Sure, "2012" looks nice, with it's CGI depictions of Vatican domes collapsing and highways crumbling....hundred-foot high tsunamis crashing into beachfronts and skyscrapers being snapped like kindling. Mainly, it just seems like a monument to fatalistic thinking and the co-opting of yet another counter-culture meme by greed-heads. If you've seen it, I hope you had your money's worth. If you haven't - try not to give your money to these cretins. Fuck Roland Emmerich and his death-trip vision. As McKenna said: "I don't know what's going to happen..it may be that people just get a little smarter and legalise marijuana or something similar."

Edward Woodward: Sadly, the man has passed away. Aside from his brief stint on East Enders earlier this year, the last thing I saw him in is the hilarious Hot Fuzz. He was also in the decent 80s TV show The Equalizer and of course, the awesome Wicker Man....the original, not the shit re-make with Nicolas Cage. I also remember watching Breaker Morant on cable in the early 80s. I didn't understand the complexities of the Boer conflict, but I did think Woodward was brilliant. R.I.P. Edward - the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance won't be the same without you.

03 November 2009

Kaleidophonic Stroboscope 2.0

12 Aban - Year 1388

I was recently checking out another podcast site--Harold's Attic Radio, in fact - and I was impressed by their site layout. They were set up on My Podcast and maybe became tired of M.P.'s limitations. I must say that their new set-up looks much better and with a lot more options.

I liked it so much that I decided to give it a go myself. H.A.R.'s main page uses WordPress - so I headed there to find out how to set a site up. W.P. advises getting a web host, but you don't really have to - you can set up a blog on it's own. I thought it would be kinda cool to have a domain name for the podcast. I chose the web host that W.P. recommends, BlueHost. It's fairly cheap for a year's cost (well, if you break it down monthly - though you have to pay for a year in advance). You get all kinds of features - the ones I might use would be the FTP and "Web Disk" storage feature.

I set up a page using WordPress and chose a groovy template (much, much more choice than My yPodcast offers..). I hit a massive snag, though...in that I couldn't figure out how to load my shows through W.P. The memory allowance is quite small and the allowance through BlueHost isn't much better, which seems annoying to me--especially after forking over some coin of the realm for the host priviledges. I was about the ask the H.A.R. crew how they got around that...when I found Podcast Machine. You can upload your episodes there - then just copy the HTML code for their player and add that to your post in WordPress...fairly painless. You do have to do that for each episode you create, but it does only take a minute.

For all that, I give you the new (and hopefully improved) version of The Kaleidophonic Stroboscope! I'm adding the remaining epsiodes from the MyPodcast site in the next couple of weeks and then I'll work on a brand-new one. I'm going to try and tweak the template a bit, too, as well as add a few more widgets. Let me know what you think.