I can’t remember whether it was because the start time was earlier than we thought or whether our pre-gig pints didn’t going down quite as quickly as they should have done but Do Not Panic, the York-based Hawkwind tribute act, had already started their set. After what I assume was their first song, Lord Rich explained how they were all starstruck twelve-year-olds tonight and then, with the band down to five members since last time I saw them, dropped in a quick advert for a frontman as playing bass alongside doing vocals was “scary”. Afterwards Fahrenheit 451 segued straight into Angel Of Death, the former featuring some impressive guitar work while the guitar in the latter seemed a bit too loud, perhaps due to a problem in the mix. The next song (Motorway City, I think – my Hawkwind knowledge hasn’t increased much since the last time I saw Do Not Panic) was dedicated to former Hawkwind guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton, who died as the end of 2012. Once again, the band’s moustachioed guitarist seemed to be the quiet hero, standing towards the back of the stage yet playing brilliantly. There was more of an acoustic, “hippy” feel to the opening of Space Is Deep. It got faster and more powerful as it went along but never lost the acoustic guitar sound. It was also, unintentionally, their final song as, when it finished, they were informed that they had played ten minutes over their allotted time. I still can’t say how Do Not Panic’s versions compare to the Hawkwind originals but they remain a band which entertains and they are certainly respectful in their performance while still seeming to enjoy themselves. In fact, the only downside tonight, was the lack of Donna, the Stacia-stand-in.
Last year’s Hawklords gig stands out in my memory for being very loud and musically relentless and also for being quite poorly attended. At the end of that gig, the band said that if we requested it, they would be back but I doubted the crowd that time would make it worth their while. However, back they were and, this time, the crowd was a bit bigger, albeit with a few familiar faces (and dance moves) from last time. From the first track, Hawkind’s Master Of The Universe (again, I think) it was obvious that the sound was a lot quieter, less intense and with less of a punk-y nature. The random psychedelic images being projected onto the back wall at times gave vocalist Ron Tree a weird tribal makeup effect, his expressive hand gestures during Time Split Vision only adding to the image. That image suffered a little as Tree camped it up a bit during the mostly instrumental Elemental Mind. The next track had a very Dalek-like spoken introduction before a more chaotic overall sound, the driving rhythm of the previous songs being replaced by something so much more arrhythmic that even that dancers in the audience stopped to take breath. D.N.A. saw the regular backbeat, and the dancers, return before the ear-splitting introduction to the next song almost made me jealous of Andy’s ear-plugs. Clips from old, unrecognisable to me, science-fiction films provided a backdrop to a spoken word section that saw Tree switching between a serious American accent and an almost mickey-taking English one as the ‘Lords plundered their parent band’s back catalogue for Uncle Sam’s On Mars, with Jerry Richards’ electric guitar opening giving off a vaguely Spanish guitar sound. We Are One, the title track of last year’s album, followed and the feeling of a lower intensity, more playful gig than last year continued. That feeling was reinforced a couple of songs later when Tree started sporting something like a Maori fighting-stick, using it as a fake guitar over the best instrumental section of the night and waving it over the heads of the audience. This after he performed a set of staccato robotic movements after trading lines of a spoken introduction with Richards. Sadly, that intro was as unintelligible and incomprehensible as those of the previous gig, pretty much drowned out by the synths of Harvey Bainbridge.
The spoken word section of I Am The Wind was clearer, with Tree donning flight cap and helmet almost as an afterthought. It led into a much gentler instrumental which wouldn’t have seemed out of place on a standard prog-rock album, rather than one of its weirder space-rock cousins. It did, however, seem to come to an abrupt end just when it seemed to be getting somewhere. A similarly prog-like track followed after a bubbling introduction gave an underwater feel, while the backdrop was reminiscent of the 70’s Doctor Who title sequence. My attention was taken away from the music for the final song of the set – which I think was 25 Years, from the original Hawklords album – as the backdrop started displaying covers of pulp SF magazines and comics and my inner geek was drawn to images of Adam Strange and the Silver Surfer mixing with jet-packed and ray-gun packing heroes of yesteryear.
An encore was looking dodgy until the soundman made his way onto the stage. Then the band returned, Tree saying, “It looks like we can do one more,” meaning that the crowd got another song to enjoy, despite there being a tad too much echo on the vocals. If anything, overall, this was a better gig than last year’s. Something still needs to be done to make the spoken sections more comprehensible but that’s a minor quibble. The less intense nature of tonight’s gig, with the music being slightly less relentless and having just a bit more (appropriately enough) space in it making it more enjoyable. And, with the crowd growing, hopefully the Hawklords will be back again.