Friday, June 29, 2012

The Wind Is Rising

I think I use that heading every time I talk about Hawkwind. And I am now talking about Hawkwind, because I went to see them live recently. But first I must talk about Lemmy from from Motorhead (sorry, Motörhead). Because whenever I mention having been to see Hawkwind to people who are not followers, I am always asked one of two questions, viz. one or other of "Oh was Lemmy with them?" or "And were they any good without Lemmy?" The strong association of Lemmy with Hawkwind is understandable, given how famous he is in his own right, but it masks how marginal he was to the Wind. OK, so he wrote the song 'Motorhead' when he was Hawkwind's bassist, but he was never in any sense the leading member of that band. That honour goes to David Brock, obviously. And Lemmy cannot even claim to have been the second most important band member during his time with them, as Nik Turner and Robert Calvert (or even Stacia) must surely battle it out for that honour.

The concert itself was in the Button Factory, formerly the Temple Bar Music Centre. This was a good venue for the band to play - it has a nice big stage sufficiently large for an army of crusty old hippies and their young lady dancers to occupy without bumping into each other. And the venue is of a sufficient size to accommodate Hawkwind's Dublin fanbase - neither too big nor too small. Of the band themselves, I think David Brock would probably have been the only classic member, though the rest of the band were cut from a similarly ageing hippy cloth - no asymmetric haircut session muso ponces from central casting here.

The band played a selection of tunes (as opposed to, what, just playing the same tune all night? Though I suppose that would be just possible, given who we are watching), some of them old Wind classics but a lot of them more recent compositions. Oh no, the dreaded new song attack! Fortunately the new ones were also cut from a similar cloth to the old ones and had similarly spacerocky hard driving style, usefully combining synthesisers and guitars to create an all-enveloping sound. Added to this was the woaahhhh blimey visuals - projected images of a trippy nature intercut with pictures of revolt against the Man. Because say what you like about Hawkwind, they always retained something of a political edge, even if it is perhaps filtered through images of now largely forgotten conflicts.

And they also had the previously mentioned dancers. Back in the 1970s, Hawkwind were famous for Stacia who would dance more or less naked but for body paint, in a "careful love, you'll have someone's eye out" kind of way. I was not there but I think this genuinely was a bizarre avant-garde dance art thing rather than a case of the Wind going "Let's get a topless bird in to dangle her tits at the audience". That is partly the magic of body paint - it does seem oddly to clothe people without actually covering them with clothes. But times have moved on, and what would seem fascinatingly artistic in the 1970s would seem a bit crass and sexist now. So although Hawkwind had two women dancers now they were a good bit more covered than Stacia was, and while they were athletic young women I did not feel that there was an exploitative "for-the-dads" quality to their performance. And OK, so they were both women, I bet you are thinking, but I have seen previous performances where there were male and female dancers, so it is not like the band have some kind of opposition to prancing men.

But one thing the dancers did have in common with Stacia was unusual costumery. When they first appeared, one of them moved rhythmically at the front while the other was on stilts behind her, her form and face completely hidden by some strange insect deity costume. After that they became nature deities, silver machine robots, and various other things. Fascinating, but maybe you had to be there.

One final thing that amused me about the concert was the amount of civil servants that were there. I was in attendance with my friend Mr W----, who has responsibilities in a certain Department. But there were a load of people from my own Office there too. So is there something about space rock that appeals to the salaried servants of the state?

An inuit panda production

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