From Aural Innovations #43 (October 2011)
Wow, what a triple bill treat we got in the USA this year! Cleopatra Records organized this tour featuring Nektar, Brainticket and Huw Lloyd-Langton that consisted of 13 dates, starting in New York City on August 17th and ending in West Hollywood on September 3rd.
I caught the show when it landed in Cleveland on August 28th. With pre-show interviews scheduled, I drove up from Columbus early in the afternoon, hoping to be able to sit down with Huw, Brainticket founder Joel Vandroogenbroeck, and Nektar's Roye Albrighton. Thanks must go to Jim Lascko, John Lappen, and Tom Farrell, all of whom had a hand in getting those arranged, and thanks to tour manager Che Albrighton for accommodating me while rushing around trying to get everything setup.
I was asked to arrive around 4:30pm, but always wanting to err on the side of a time cushion I got there 30 minutes early and noticed the tour bus had only just pulled in. So I got a choice parking spot and relaxed in a coffee shop to kill some time. At 4:30 I headed over to the Beachland Ballroom and standing at the back door smoking a cigarette was Tommy Grenas, who many of you will know from Farflung, Pressurehed, Anubian Lights, and the zillions of other projects he's been involved in, and who along with the rest of Farlung and Len del Rio was Joel Vandroogenbroeck's Brainticket band on the tour. We chatted for a few minutes and then Tommy took me in and introduced me to tour manager Che.
As I waited for the first interview I spoke briefly with Jim Lascko, a Cleveland resident who was handling the lightshow on the tour. Jim has been a space rock mover and shaker in Cleveland for years, having hosted the Strange Daze Space Rock festivals that ran annually from 1997-2001, as well as organizing many other great shows. Jim also headed up the Solar Fire Lightshow which provided psychedelic enhancement to many a concert I've seen. He now calls his lightshow The Phenomenon of Luminosity, which Jim describes as the Solar Fire Lightshow next generation, new and improved. And indeed it is! I could tell by the equipment Jim was setting up that he had taken a huge technological leap forward, and the results during all three sets were nothing less than stunning. When I later asked Roye Albrighton what he thought of the lightshow he said, "He's brilliant. Blows me away. It really is great." And that's an authoritative voice because Nektar were well known and respected for their lightshow in the 1970s. Furthermore, the original plan was for Jim to only do the lights on the east coast and midwest dates, but he ended up getting flown out to California for those shows as well. If you're a band who wants a seriously good psychedelic lightshow you can email Jim at email@example.com, or check out his web site at http://www.strange-trips.com
I also got to meet Huw's wife, Marion Lloyd-Langton, who was running the merchandise table and running around furiously trying to get everything setup. When I got to chat with her later Marion revealed that the bus had arrived 2 hours late, though I must say all the setting up in the ballroom seemed to be conducted in a relaxed manner. It all got done and the show started on time. I guess that's experience for you. It was a real pleasure getting to meet Marion as we had traded emails in the past and she is as charming a lady as you would ever want to meet.
I had been warned that doing three interviews was an optimistic goal, given the time constraints, and I fully understood that. But I did get to sit down with Joel Vandroogenbroeck, and then Roye Albrighton and Ron Howden, the two founding members that are still with Nektar. More on those bands in the separate Brainticket and Nektar articles linked below.
Time didn't permit an interview with Huw, but I did get what I most wanted and that was to see him perform. Huw has quite a history, having been in the original Hawkwind and having played with them off and on through the years. He was also in Widowmaker in the 1970s, a dual guitar rock band (Ariel Bender was the second guitarist) who released two albums. And he has several excellent albums with his own Lloyd-Langton Group.
Huw was looking a bit frail, which is understandable given the challenges he faced in the first decade of the new millennium. Huw contracted Legionnaires Disease in 2001 and didn't regain full health until 2007. Then in September 2009 he came down with food poisoning, causing septacaemia and renal failure. Amidst all this he completed an outstanding Lloyd-Langton Group album, Hard Graft, in 2010 (see review in AI #41), followed by an album of solo classical guitar music earlier this year titled Classical Guitar Tales (see review in AI #42). Marion reports that he also has an album of all solo Blues guitar coming out soon. Huw is a genuinely multi-faceted musician and for me an inspiring victory in the face of adversity story.
Huw was doing a solo acoustic set on the tour and when he took the stage he was marvelous. We were treated to Hawkwind songs like The 5th Second of Forever, Wind of Change, Hurry on Sundown, and Rocky Paths, plus a Kinks song and some others. Huw bantered comfortably with the audience and has a good sense of humor. It was a real pleasure getting to see him perform.
I had read varying reports on the internet about attendance at the previous shows, but they came out in force for Cleveland. I don't know about the other cities but the ticket price for this show was only $20, which is a paltry amount when you consider the luminaries that graced the lineup. The Beachland was packed and the crowd was enthusiastic throughout all three sets. And the merchandise table seemed to be doing steady business, which is great because the only way we're going to get more shows like this is if they are economically viable!