When I saw Hawklords last year, I pointed out that Hawkwind were a band I knew very little about but would probably like (a lot). Now it seems that I have a new hobby – that of seeing ex-members of the band play live in various spin-off bands.
Opening proceedings tonight were York-based Hawkwind tribute act, Do Not Panic. Not that I knew they were either of those things before the gig, as there seems to be a paucity of information about them on-line and their Facebook biography reads like a science-fiction short story. It was only through recognising a handful of lyrics that the fact they were a tribute band registered with me. One fact I did know about Hawkwind was that, in the early seventies, the live band included Stacia, a dancer who frequently appeared topless and wearing body paint. Do Not Panic, have their own version and she’s a brave girl. Walking out in front of the stage, hiding behind lengths of iridescent and voluminous fabric and dancing throughout the entire set, she didn’t perform topless but her choice of top did, in the dim light of Fibbers, give a slight impression that she was. With six musicians and an array of equipment, the stage area looked crowded. Visually, the band’s bass player could almost pass for Lemmy while lead vocalist Tom had more of a Roger Daltrey look about him. Without any reference point, I can’t say how accurate their renditions of Angels Of Death, Spirit Of The Age or Psi Power (and those are just the songs that I at least vaguely recognised) were but, as a live act, the band seemed more than competent. I certainly wouldn’t be averse to seeing them again.
Psychedelic Warlords have been put together by former Hawkwind bassist Alan “Boomer” Davey – the first bass player I’ve noticed playing bass in the style of a lead guitar – to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Space Ritual, widely regarded as one of the best live albums ever. Their Facebook biography states that the full album will be played live at these gigs – again, I can neither confirm or deny whether that happened. The line-up on the page also lists former Hawk Nik Turner as “always welcome”. Sadly he didn’t appear at tonight’s gig. The band did, however, have their own Stacia stand-in in the form of Demolitia, who also performed in front of the stage for the first song before retreating to the stage itself where she frequently disappeared into the dressing room between songs to change her costume and bring out various props (fans, rope, swords, a whip…) to use in her dances. Breaking up the music was Julian Slawinski who, bedecked in flying helmet, white scarf and gold flecked jacket, appeared on stage to recite science-fiction inspired poetry in the manner of Robert Calvert or, perhaps, Michael Moorcock (who, Andy knowingly advised me, was really known as an SF author…) These poetic breaks not only gave Demolitia the opportunities to change her costume but, at one point, saw her running off to the sound desk to pass on a message that Davey had been frantically trying to get across from the stage. This might not have been the same scale as the full audio-visual experience of the original Space Ritual shows but, between the music, Demolitia’s dancing – which, it has to be said, seemed a little strained at times, as though she was struggling to fit the moves into the small stage area – and Slawinski’s bouts on stage, which sometimes saw him just wandering around, glaring at the audience, there was enough to watch and hear to elevate it above the average live performance. The music, while echoed in the space-rock of Hawklords (whose set, I believe, included at least one song from Space Ritual), didn’t have the relentless intensity of the latter band’s gig and certainly wasn’t as ear-hammeringly loud which made this gig a slightly more pleasant one (even though the Hawklords gig was one of my highlights of last year). Having said that, the vocals weren’t always as clear as those of Ron Tree.
The inevitable encore saw Davey asking the audience, which seemed largely comprised of leather-clad, bandana-wearing bikers smelling faintly of patchouli oil, whether they wanted a “long one or a short one”. Stupid question, really, and whatever it was they ended up playing could only be described as brilliant, powerful and (in the case of this track) relentless, with the whole band giving it their all, including Demolitia who, by now, seemed to have worked so hard that her tattoos were in danger of running.
There is still no Hawkwind represented in my CD collection but, after tonight’s gig, the time is getting closer.