Monday, June 27, 2005

Tangerine Dream 11.06.05 "Retro gig shock"

Well, the Awakenings gig on Friday was just the start of my weeken d of Electronic Music as Tangerine Dream were playing the Shepherd's Bush Empire on the following day.

The gig had been billed as the first live performance of Phaedra an album originally released 31 years earlier in 1974. As TD have quite a reputation for re-vamping older material, sometimes so much that it is virtually unrecognisable, it was all a bit up in the air whether this would be one of these Dream Mix gigs or something more true to the spirirt of the original music.

Steve Humphries came down from Manchester to my house just after lunch where we were joined by Pete Challoner, who had offered to drive us down to London. We made good time and got down to London in time to meet up in the designated pub for a beer before heading off to get a bite to eat from Subway, after which we decided it would be best to get a place in the growing queue.

Whilst queueing I handed out some Awakenings flyers and in doing so managed to avoid the TV crew interviewing fans in the queue. I wonder if Steve and Pete's comments will make the final cut?

After a while queueing we got into the venue and got ourselves some nice seats on the first level of the balcony, just behind Dave and Marion Horrod (EM's biggest fans). After a trip to the bar and a chat with Marion it was soon time for the gig to start.

Which it did with Edgar messing around on electric piano, having some fun with the piano intro to Ricochet part 2, after which he joined the rest of the band onstage in the classic 3 player formation, starting off with their backs to the audience then moving to face the audience after a few older pieces.

Onstage throughout the gig were Edgar on e-piano and synths, Jerome on synths and guitar and new guy Thorsten Quaeschning on synths, occasional percussion and e-pinao. They were joined early on by Iris Camaa on percussion and at various points by Linda Spa on sax and synths and Zlatko Perica on guitar.

They played a varied set of mostly older material, and mostly sympathetically to the original versions, though there were a few Dream Mix style pieces and one new piece. It was nice to see a few nods to their history, particularly the use of huge monitors showing the Arturia Moog Modular V software, though there is some question whether this was actually used. Also from my vantage point I could see that it looked like everyone was actually playing, but it was obvious that there was alot of pre-recorded backing which was kind of disappointing.

The other thing that was really disappointing was an over zealous security woman enforcing the no photography rule. It really spoiled my night. The ights were pretty good, the sound was pretty clear but seemed to lack a live dynamic.

After the gig it was time to hit the road, but not before a quick kebab to keep us going, especially Steve who wouldn't be home for a long time. How little did we know then how long!

Well, it had been a pretty good day so it was no surprise that something had to go wrong somewhere and for us this was heralded by a a strange flapping noise and a warning light on the M1 about 40 miles from Nottingham.

Luckily Pete had the presence of mind to pull over on to the hard shoulder and get out and have a look. To all intents and purposes, to us non-mechanically minded EM fans, it looked like his fan belt had come off.

Pete was all for taking a chance on driving off, but I persuaded him to call the AA to check what the risks might be. They suggested we err on the side of caution and wait for a patrol. Luckily we did, as it wasn't his fan belt, but the timing belt, unluckily it took over an hour and a quarter for the patrol to arrive, to tell us we had to be relayed back to Nottingham as it wasn't something he could repair.

That hour and a quarter, standing in the cold on the side of the M1 at 1 o'clock in the morning was incredibly bizarre. We were all a bit tired, more than a bit pissed off with our bad luck and getting quite cold. After we had finished totally dissecting the gig and deciding that TD were a rubbish live act we ended up making up silly songs about waiting for the AA man to the tunes of such classics as Autobahn and Cars.

I think Steve got home about 5:30 am and Pete was lucky to not do any major damage to his car. What a night - there's always something isn't there.

More photos here

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Awakenings 10.06.05 "It's dark in Leeds"

Well it's been just over 2 weeks since the last Awakenings gig, which was the first of this year's mini-festivals and featured 3 acts, 4m33s Extended, Omega Syndicate and Radio Massacre International. Organisationally this was quite complicated especially with John sherwood the main organiser performing as 4m33s, so I went down early to help man the doors and merchandise stand during John's opening set.

4m33s Extended

John started procedings around 5:15 if memory serves and produced quite a varied set, with much more rhythmic content and support on guitar from Steve munslow aka HyperEx Machina (hence the 'Extended'). highlights for me were some nice sequencing and leads from John and some tasty guitar from Steve. It all came together pretty well, considering the only prior collaboration had been by emailed mp3 files. They also performed some stuff from their 'ambient rock' project Cult of Ashand, which was different.

Omega Syndicate

Dave Gurr and Xan Alexander's set was only their second live performance and unfortunately was beset with technical difficulties, with mixer and sequencer problems. Whilst this made their set a bit disjointed in places, when things got going they produced some excellent music. They made a nice effort to dress up and brought a nice backdrop and lighting effects to enhance their set. Hopefully more gigs will help to iron out the bugs.

Radio Massacre International

Well, what can I say, RMI's set was 'different' to say the least and consisted of nearly 2 hours of continuous music, built up of drones, looped bass and guitar, cosmic synth fx and percussion. It ebbed and flowed at an almost tectonic rate with long almost unchanging sections gradually morphing together. It was also very dark and quite oppressive. Occasional sections of sequencing raised the energy levels but were far from the norm. As John said afterwards, "this will be a classic in years to come".

All in all it was a pretty successful night of EM, the audience was more than the last one and we had some famous guests in the guise of Ian Boddy and Paul Nagle.

Paul was somewhat out of it, but made an extremely astute comment after the gig, when told he was off to Bradford, he remarked, "I wonder if it is as dark in Bradford". Now there's a good name for the album if RMI release their set :-)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Gig report: Rose of England 04.06.05

Well, that was a strange one - there was I expecting to go on first as support to Dave Davies (ex-Shadowdancer), when out of the blue I'm going on last and there are some surprise special guests. So Dave went on first to do an experimental electronic set, accompanied by first guest, Dave Atkins (also ex-Shadowdancer) on acoustic guitar. This set had it's moments but came to an end all too soon.

Following this Dave D strapped on his bass, fired up his drum machine and did some Rush covers (Tom Sawyer, Spirit of Radio) and a old Shadowdancer song 'Secrets of the Sphinx. These didn't work too well for me without a proper prper band backing and Dave seemed at times to be struggling, unsurprisingly as he hadn't been able to bring a stage monitor.

Next up was second guest, 'Saltfish John', a local character, from Monserrat, who played (sang) a few 'tunes' (including the Monserrat national anthem and the Beatles 8 Days) whilst playing a snare, military style. Quite bizarre. He also did a couple of songs on acoustic guitar, OK I suppose, but not really to my taste.

After this Dave A did a short set of songs on acoustic. Quite mellow after John.

Then it was time for me to play. I was feeling particularly weird after all the strange goings on so started of with something nice and spacey, to counterpoint the surrealism of the preceding acts. This gradually built and evolved as I added sequences, mostly stuff from Leeds, but with some new layers and edits. I watched the minidisc to time the ending around the half hour mark.

For my second piece I was joined by Dave A on acoustic guitar, which I thought might be a bit of a gamble, but worth the risk. Unfortunately things didn't really gel until about halfway through, with it all going a bit chaotic in places, but I think we pulled it together by the end.

Davids Davies and Atkins

Photos courtesy of John Sherwood. More available from here