Jonathan Jarrett jjarrett at CORIOLIS.GREENEND.ORG.UK
Tue Jun 14 11:49:20 EDT 2011

On Sun, 29 May 2011, Martin Hutchby wrote:

> Just an update -Hawkwind were awesome in Aylesbury last night  - a real
> return to form.

 	Meh, I should have gone, but I couldn't see how I was going to get 
back from Aylesbury if I did. I went to see Bruise in London instead, 
and they were excellent, perhaps the best I've seen them, and they did do 
`Silver Machine' as they occasionally do, but I might still rather have 
seen the real thing if I could have done.

 	I did go and see Here'n'Now the previous night, though, as I said 
last post. That was at the Borderline off Oxford Street, which is a good 
venue usually except for the fact that people coming in and out have to 
pass in front of the stage. Support was an outfit called Lunar Dunes, who 
are probably one of a kind. They were a six-piece: an under-stated 
guitarist doing occasional lead, a guy working keyboards and a Macbook 
full of samples, a drummer, a vocalist and switch doctrix whom I was told 
was ex-Cornershop, a bassist and a harpist. Yes, a harpist: a huge and 
very ornate orchestral-size harp, played through a line of about six 
pedals by a small lissom blonde woman. The pedals gave it a very staccato 
metallic sound and she played it as a lead instrument, sometimes a bit 
like a Spanish guitar sounds and at other times as only a harp could. She 
strummed it sometimes, which surely hurts.

 	The general pattern of performance was that they would start with 
a backing sample, sometimes just synth swoosh but usually with some 
non-Western percussion in too, the drummer would lock in and then the rest 
would weave around. The vocalist sometimes had three different boxes I 
think, one of which was effects for her own vocals running on only one of 
her two mikes, one of which was a sampler running off the stage mixer, so 
that she could capture people's output and loop them or effect them (like 
Del in _Space Ritual_) and the third of which was a sort of touch-pad 
theremin affair, which made twittery noises as it was rubbed. So she kept 
herself busy, though her actual vocals were often just percussive breaths 
or gasps which basically vanished in the mix. I thought she came over very 
nervous, which seemed weird for a frontwoman such as she effectively was.

 	Overall, the band were very impressive to watch - you might expect 
me to have spent all the time watching the harpist but the band kept 
distracting me, which is probably a good sign - but they were very 
restricted by the use of samples. I couldn't work out if they were timed 
backing tracks or just loops; certainly there were two occasions when the 
guitarist had been coaxed out of his shell and everything at last seemed 
to be building up to some kind of take-off and then they stopped, which 
made me think that they might only have so much time per track. The 
guitarist was quite frustrating in fact; he clearly had some chops but 
didn't want to hog the spotlight, so he'd do sixteen bars and then step 
back just as he was wearing into the break. And the drummer could fairly 
have been described as the band's anchor; without him they could not have 
improvised as much as their frontwoman claimed they were, but he was also 
holding them to one rhythm throughout each track, in which of course he 
was partly restricted by the samples. I figured that this was not going to 
be something that enthralled me on CD, though I'd certainly go and *see* 
them again.

 	Here'n'Now, however, were absolute monsters. There was no Steffi, 
which alarmed me slightly, I don't know why he's gone, but the guy they 
had was perfectly good. Keyboards and what would have been Steffi's vocals 
were being contributed by someone else I didn't recognise, apparently 
ex-Kangaroo Moon, and the drummer was new too since last I'd seen them so 
the only constant factor was Keith da Missile Bass, but that is some 
constant. He was himself in full force, and my only regret about the gig 
as a whole was that again, the PA wasn't up to what was being put through 
it, and Keith's vocals especially were swamped in white-noise feedback. I 
took much too long to recognise `Opium for the People' as a result and I'm 
not sure how much else they played I would have recognised even if I knew 
more of their stuff, but they did open with `Floating Anarchy' which is 
always good to hear. And they were *loud* and they were *fast* and they 
were spacy and tremendous. The absence of Steffi actually balanced the 
band out a bit; with no obvious lead player to front them the whole band 
became equal contributors and the overall effect was a swirling cauldron 
of bottom-heavy energy. For a few tracks, too, they were joined by Angie 
who dances for Space Ritual and ICU. Her costumes this night, for all that 
they've come under fire here before, were splendid, and there is no doubt 
that she can dance, and she was properly into the music, too, she wasn't 
holding back. When things were at their most hectic she was almost like a 
fifth instrument playing on the eyes instead of the ears, definitely part 
of the overall rhythm and not just an ornament. I felt properly wrung-out 
when they finished, but would have cheerfully had more, and I wasn't the 
only one; there was plenty of shouting for a second encore, though it was 
not to be. So, that was pretty good then. Maybe I wouldn't have been in 
shape to enjoy Hawkwind the next day anyway! Yours all,

"It's ridiculous, because everybody's coloured or you wouldn't be able
 	   to see them." (Captain Beefheart on racism, 1974)
    Jon Jarrett, Oxford, UK      jjarrett at chiark.greenend.org.uk

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