Madcap ‘space rock’ troupe and overlords of the universe Hawkwind headlined their very own ‘Hawktoberfest’ at Academy 1. Okay, ‘overlords of the universe’ may be a slight overstatement, but that’s the kind of impression they give off. Dave Brock’s apocalyptic opening spoken word passage reduces the crowd to minions, enslaved by the interplanetary gods on stage.
“IN THE FACE OF SONIC ATTACK, EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF.” “DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE YOUR LIMBS.” “EVERYTHING ENDS HERE.” It’s finally happened. Hawkwind have tricked 2000 people into paying a £22.50 entry fee to their own mass execution.
You get the feeling the creators of ‘Spinal Tap’ may have been to a Hawkwind gig or two. Cosmic dancers dangle from drapes on either side of the stage in an intermission of droning synths and space gun noises. The videos being projected onto the backdrop are hilariously bad—one involves keywords like ‘WAR!’ ‘POVERTY!’ and ‘9/11!’ all spinning with powerpoint-level effects atop pictures of various humanitarian crises. The colourful patterns that fill the screen for the next song look like a kid is playing around on Paint. But it’s old school and the people love it. It’s also forgiveable when you remember that these guys are pretty old and probably haven’t quite got the hang of the internet yet.
Aside from the supplements, the music is thrilling. From their huge back catalogue they cherry-pick a setlist that spans 30 years while managing to sound remarkably coherent. ‘Orgone Accumulator’ in particular, from 1973’s Space Ritual, sounds phenomenal (as does anything from that album, 40 years later). Their material from the 70s has aged so well, sounding as if catapulted through the time warps and galactic worm holes they always sung of. I can see this brand of psychedelic music coming back into fashion, in a backlash against a tide of vague introspective bands labelled psychedelic just because they use lots of phaser effects. This is truly bonkers psychedelia with a punk edge. Long live Hawkwind.
One more thing—to Academy 1: kudos on the new air conditioning system.