Every so often a band comes to York that I know I want to see, but I don’t really know why. Case in point – Hawklords… They must be something to do with Hawkwind, right? Spin-off? Tribute? No idea. What I know about Hawkwind can be written on the back of a postage stamp with space left over – Dave Brock, Space Rock, Stacia and I once had a 7” picture-disc copy of Silver Machine. But they sound like a band that I should like and probably would like if I took the time to listen to some of their stuff. Anyway, Hawklords – I bought a ticket, then did a bit of research.
Turns out the band was a spin-off, back in 1978 (when Hawkwind disbanded for a bit) and have now sort of reformed, with two original members and a few other ex-Hawkwind members. Don’t you just love bands with simple histories…?
“What time is the support on?” asked Andy as we handed our tickets over. “There isn’t one. Hawklords are doing a two-hour set,” came the reply. So we headed off to a local hostelry for a quick pint and wondered whether that was the reason that Stolen Earth had announced a few days earlier that they would no longer be supporting. Nice to hear their Soul In A Jar played as part of the background music before the gig actually started, though.
And what a gig. Slightly reminiscent of the Ozric Tentacles earlier in the year, with a similar, perhaps slightly less mesmerising film show going on at the back of the stage. As well as light patterns that drew the eyes in, this one seemed to include clips from Soviet science fiction films from the 1950s as well as what looked to be a NASA promotional clip. It was hard to look away but, at the same time, it in no way detracted from the music. Unlike the Ozrics, who played instrumental space rock, Hawklords play songs. Ron Tree’s vocals are slightly punky in style, at times the delivery reminded me of Anarchy In The UK, at others Teenage Kicks but, despite my dislike of punk music, it didn’t put me off at all. Some of the lyrics hard a slightly hard edge to them, others seemed like they had been inspired by the writings of Erich Von Daniken or any number of “proper” science-fiction authors. Tree’s performance also had an edge to it – he punctuated songs with hand gestures, at times dancing as though he was coming down off a high (or perhaps still on one), his makeup running as the set went on, giving him a more and more macabre look. For one mind-bending song about robots he donned a blank-eyed mask and performed another from underneath some sort of space helmet.
Between songs, Tree and guitarist Jerry Richards regaled us with renditions of some sort of cosmic poetry. Richard’s microphone may just have had a little too much reverb on it for him to be understood (at the end of the night, I only just made out him saying that they had enjoyed playing Fibbers and wanted us to encourage the venue to have them back) but the cadence and alternating/overlapping vocals meant that the delivery was powerful and almost hypnotic. The electronics sound effects only added to the other-worldly feel.
The music itself was loud, bone-shakingly so at times. Yet tonight saw one of the best sound mixes I have experienced at Fibbers. No matter how heavy or chaotic the music got, you could hear everything – vocals and instruments all came through. Apparently, there should have been a second set of keyboards/synthesizer (Steve Swindells was not touring due to health reasons) – I’m not sure whether they would have been necessary. Harvey Bainbridge, looking like the rest of the band’s eccentric uncle, performed brilliantly on the one set, as well as providing vocals for one track. A large portion of the two hour set was comprised of songs from the band’s new album – including the title track We Are One, Digital Age, Time Split Vision and The Ancient Ones – hardly any of which were introduced but which were performed so clearly and cleanly that I recognised them when playing the album the next day. I’m told that a number of Hawkwind classics were also played, not that I recognised anything (but tonight probably added weight to the theory that I would probably like Hawkwind’s output). IF anything the set seemed to end too quickly, before the venue’s curfew – which led to what seemed to be an impromptu jam-session which provided the most mellow section of the evening. Of course, it could just have been another pre-rehearsed piece, so fluidly did the band perform it.
Some of the crowd were obviously hard-core fans. Most of the people in front of us danced for most of the set – apparently dancing to space-rock means flailing around like a demented astronaut in zero-gee and one particularly energetic woman seemed, at one point, to be trying to batter me to death. She apologised, I moved back a couple of steps…
This was probably the most intense gig I have ever been to. It may also have been one of the loudest – as usual, I didn’t bother with ear-plugs and my ears were still ringing the following lunchtime. Despite all that, it was one of the stand-out gigs of the year so far. I’m not sure whether psychedelic hippy-punk is an actual music genre. If it isn’t, it should be. And Hawklords could be the best proponents of it.