HAWKFEST 2003 SPECIAL
I'm sitting here trying to work out how to put my thoughts regarding hawkfest 2003 down on paper. Before we go any further I think that it is fair to say that the event will go down in hawkwind folklore as possibly one of their finest hours, which in itself has to be an achievement! (think about it, how many bands who have been going as long as the hawks could have such a claim laid at their door), but this is not only for the music but also the way the whole festival was organised. Sure you could make criticisms, the sound in the barn tent left something to be desired and personally I felt that there could have been more rubbish bins, but lets be honest for a moment, if that's all we have to moan about then there couldn't have been a lot wrong, so before we go any further a big thank you and a deserved "well done" to all who made this event possible.
So what about my own memories of the festival, well I bored, I mean told a lot of you who I met that my weekend was always going to be a little bit different to most of those at the fest, for those of you still none the wiser let me explain. When the dates for this years Hawkfest were first announced back in, if memory serves me correctly, March I was filled with dread. Having only earlier the same week negotiated a "night out pass" from Mrs Museum, you will understand the horror that filled me when I realised that the dated coincided with a mates wedding. For a while it looked as though it would be at least another year before I could be part of a Hawkfest (yep, I missed last years too!). However it seemed that lady luck must have been shining on me when the Irish low fare airline "Ryanair" announced that it would be staring up a scheduled service from Blackpool to London Stansted. After some deliberation I decided to go for it with the outcome being that I would drive to the festival on the Friday, get up early on the Saturday morning (05.45 to be precise) fly back to Essex for the wedding and then return to Blackpool and the Hawkfest on the Sunday morning (on this occasion it required me to be up and out of my hotel by 05.15). As you can see not one of the most relaxed of weekends and inn the process managing to miss the main event, still I guess it shows how keen, or as many would describe it (my wife included) mad I am.
So anyway what were my thoughts?, overall I have to say very positive, I've already paid compliment to those who organised it and have to say that at all times the site was very clean and due to the size of it there was always plenty of room to just chill out and decide if you wanted to mingle with people or if you wanted time for quiet contemplation, although saying that I would recommend that if you wanted to take the latter option the further you could distance yourself from the Polymorphic dance tent would give you the best chance of some peace and quiet, whilst not overly bothering me I do know that a lot of folks were less than impressed. Also whilst we're on the subject, apparently at least some of the Polymorphic crew were from my neck of the woods (Southend on sea, Essex) as I have since been told that it was very difficult to hire lighting and sound equipment in the locality as they had apparently taken most of it to the Hawkfest!
What of the bands that I did see. To be honest with you the main reason for me going was to meet up with people both from the boc-l and yahoo lists as well as many of the kind and generous folks who have donated so much to this web site so I'll be honest and say that not only did I not have a lot of form on many of the other acts but a lot of the time having the chance to have a chat with someone or other did in fact take priority. That said I was impressed with the overall quality of those who performed. For me Fridays highlight had to be Arthur Brown, I know that he didn't do it for all those it attendance but personally I thought his performance was stunning. Playing a set primarily full of covers but with the classic "Fire" thrown in for good measure, the "God of hellfire" launched into his set full of gusto. This guy really knows how to put on a show, his props are usually simple but in a subtle way enhance the songs, and that voice, I know some people find it a bit "screechy" but for me I'd describe it as a "classic British rock voice" up there with the Ian Gillan's and Percy Plants of this world. Mention must also go to his backing band for the night, Instant Flights who I'd never heard of previously and apparently had never played with Arthur before were incredibly tight taking all these things into consideration, with a healthy dose of Hammond organ as well as some nice guitar work they produced a sound that I would classify as 60's psychedelic pop. I should also mention that I caught part of the sets of both Mr Quimby's and Big Amongst Sheep who both sounded fine, but I have to be honest and say that I really don't know enough about these two bands to pass that much of a comment!
Well.we'll leave Saturdays proceedings, not only because I wasn't there but also Hawkwind sounded awesome from the reports that I've heard, so for obvious reasons I'd sooner not dwell on that! My Saturday night it has to be said was somewhat different, although I'm sure if I'm honest no less enjoyable than the fun that the guys and girls lucky enough to still be at Hawkfest were having. What was less pleasant however was the night that I spent in the hotel near to where the wedding took place. I have to say that it is without a doubt one of the most amazing nights I have ever had (and no, not for those reasons!!). There's only one word I can use to describe it and that's "sauna", I'd hate to think what the temperature was in this room but you literally had to have a towel next to you all night just to keep wiping the sweat from your brow, most unpleasant and in consequence I think I can say in all honesty that I didn't get any more than an hours sleep all night so by the time I got back to the site it had to be said that I was feeling a bit knackered. That said Sunday turned out to be a good day, although you couldn't help feel that there was a feeling of "anti climax" in the air as people had been so blown away by the previous evenings proceedings. Bans I caught included Alien Dream featuring the keyboard wizard that is Tom Byrne. I'd spoken to Tom on a number of occasions on the Hawkwind chat room so it was not only good to meet him at the fest but also to lend a bit of support to him. It had to be said that he appeared quite nervous before his performance (sh**ing himself would be another apt description) but both he and his cohort Michael Blackman acquitted themselves more than adequately although it had to be said audience numbers were a little disappointing, but remember lads even the Rolling Stones and U2 had to start somewhere. Together with fellow webmaster Steve starfarer we managed to have a word with them afterwards and both said that they enjoyed the experience, this combined with us taking a few snaps of the two musicians together only moments after leaving the stage and in a somewhat ironic way giving them the full "rock star" treatment, which I think deep down they quite enjoyed!. Following the "mighty Dream", Assassins of silence were up next and they proceeded to put in a solid display of Hawkwind covers. I'm not a fan of the whole tribute band thing but that said they should be commended for primarily playing tracks that the real Hawkwind are "resting" at present, add to this the fact that it was apparently both the guitarist and sax players first shows with the band then it has to be said that a hearty pat on the back is well in order. From where I was the only real let down was the version of Hurry on Sundown, which was far too lumbering for my tastes. In my opinion where this song excels is in it's pop sensibilities, it's not space rock and just for the variety that it gives should be left as it is, but hey that's just my opinion! I did catch bits and pieces of other bands including Stereo Vaccine who came across as an Orbital twin keyboard / synth act and Only One Mammal who must be complimented for no other reason than the guitarist had a really great sound, oh and they had some pretty catchy tunes. I did hear drunk in public from a distance and if acoustic Levellers are your thing (must be honest and say that they're not mine) then I'm sure you had a fine time. That said I would argue that they probably had the hardest job to do of all the bands that played that weekend, with no Hawkwind heritage behind them and occupying the same slot that 24 hours previously was seeing the Hawks rocking up a storm you have to say that they were always going to have an uphill struggle, all the same from what I could hear the folks in the tent seemed to be having a good time. One last thing that I would like to add is the catering. The two cafe's that were on the site were fine, although if I'm honest some meat content would have been nice, but I must make special mention of the ice cream vendor. Unfortunately I only discovered this on the Sunday night but not only were his ices rich and creamy, the real treat was the topping that he had on offer "is that lemon sherbert?" I asked "yes sir" he replied, wow that was good s**t and probably the best mind altering experience of my weekend.
Departing on the Monday morning in torrential rain, I made my way southward via a number of stops as I have to say that by this stage in the proceedings the previous 72 hours and well over 1100 miles of travelling using both car and plane were now starting to take their toll, put it another way I was knackered. So what are my thoughts now I've had time to digest the whole thing. First and foremost all those involved should consider it a success on both an organisational and artistic level, however as far as I am aware, and I stand to be corrected the event was not a sell out. Quite why this is, I'm at a bit of a loss to explain. Speaking to those who were at the first Hawkfest last year said that 2003 was definitely busier so I hope that the band keep with it. It has to be said that some of the feedback that appeared on the news lists were less than complimentary about last year and I feel that this will have put a lot of people off. I'm sure that this year will attract a lot more positive press and hence this should encourage greater numbers next year, assuming that there is one. My only other gripe, and yes I do realise that I have my own agenda here is where the festival is held. So far they have both been held in what could be termed extremes of the country, meaning that many folk will have a long and arduous journey just to get their. How about next year trying to find a more central location in the midlands, I know it doesn't sound that inviting but it would mean that most folks probably wouldn't have a journey of more than 3 hours regardless of where they are coming from, add to this the region boasts excellent road rail and air links and I personally think it would encourage more people to attend!
well done one and all
ROLL ON 2004
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