The Strange Daze '99 SpaceRock Festival was held over
the weekend of August 20-22 at Nelson Ledges Quarry
Park Campground in Nelson, Ohio, a beautiful park in
the northeast section of Ohio. While some "so called"
camping events (like the puzzlingly popular Woodstock
'99) don't allow folks to bring in any cars, food, water
or pointed objects, there was none of that here! For
the reasonable $55 ticket price you got 3 days and 2
nights of music with camping and a clear 35 acre quarry
lake to swim in. The lake was not used very much because
of the breezy fall-like weather and the partly cloudy
skies. Rain threatened on and off all weekend, but only
delivered one 15-20 minute light drizzle.
This year's line up listed 17 bands, a large number
considering that all bands get 90 minutes of stage time.
Absent was England's Hawkwind, the flagship of the previous
2 Strange Daze festivals. Invited to appear, they declined
the invitation. Dave Brock explained that there would
be a total eclipse of the sun, happening in their own
backyard just days before SD'99, and they wanted to
take advantage of this cosmic happening to play some
gigs at home. We wished them well!
Taking up the Hawk-slack this year was Hawkwind co-founder
Nik Turner appearing Saturday evening with the Los Angeles
space band Farflung. They are totally capable and were
a big crowd pleaser at SD'97! Friday's headliner Tribe
of Cro cancelled their US Tour 9 days before the festival
was to begin and Helios Creed was quickly moved into
Early Friday afternoon a crew arrived on site and began
erecting a large tent. New for this year was late night
ambient type music (so as to not disturb the neighbors)
in the tent after the main stage closed down around
11:15. Once erected, I took the opportunity to set up
the Strange Trips table (Strange-Trips.com) under it.
This saved my balding head from one ferocious sunburn!
Brian Feather, Strange Trips webmaster, and I manned
the table stocked with CD's, festival shirts and other
goodies. Thanks to Keith Henderson, a frequent writer
for Jerry Kranitz's Aural Innovations and Adam Strider
of Strider News, I had 2 different SD'99 Programs to
hand out with band bio's and day schedules. Keith did
a very nice black and white booklet and Adam did a large
folded page in full color, beautifully designed by Susan
Earlier I had taken more than 25 new Hawkwind CD's,
shirts and other items and had my brother Jerry (the
OTHER balding fat ass) mount them on a 4x8 foot piece
of plywood to raffle off at $1 a chance. This proved
to be a very popular item. As the festival went on most
of the bands donated their CD's, making it a very nice
package to win.
Since I'm writing this from the organizer's point of
view, I'm not really qualified to be much of a critic.
This piece is more about the event as a whole, rather
than a musical critique of each band. I may be biased
(chahh!) but I felt that all of the bands who played
did a very good job and added great Spirit and musical
skill to the festival. I would like to thank each and
every one of them for their time and effort!
It would be hard for any one person to do justice in
reviewing so many bands, as I don't think anyone saw
every band over the 3 days. The following band descriptions
are composites containing mine and Keith Henderson's
(a much more worthy music critic) observations along
with band descriptions taken from Adam and Keith's programs.
Since it's impossible for me to thank them every time
I lift something from them, I wish to thank them both
A sparse crowd had gathered in front of the stage and
under the tent when the music started on schedule at
4:00. Our old friend Thom the World Poet was doing emcee
duty. He would help keep things moving along the entire
weekend by doing impromptu poetry in between the acts
and with various bands. He was in fine form as he introduced
the first act. Oranj Climax (John Ortega, Charles Delozier
and John Pichardo) from NYC was new to the festival.
Their spacey sounding ambient music, with synth explorations
leaning towards Tangerine Dream, got the festival off
to a gentle start.
Taking Helios old spot next was Canis Minor (Thom Karshish,
Joe Silver, Billy Capozzi and guest Thom Marianetti)
also from NYC. As they took the stage I was beginning
to worry about Helios. He hadn't arrived yet and I kept
looking at the gate with the same sinking feeling that
General Custer must have had as he was looking for his
reinforcements to come. After burning one, my jangled
nerves were smoothed by Canis Minor's haunting ambient
electronic set and the lovely sounds of the Chapman
Stick. Billy's improvisational vocals were busily weaving
a magical spell around it all, putting all the right
words in all the right places.
Then came Helios Creed....NOT!! The only thing I will
say about Helios is that he didn't show up or even bother
to call. Not very professional of him. Artists that
pull no shows like this are only driving nails into
their own coffins. There were bands that really wanted
to play this festival and they could have been there,
adding their Spirit to ours, if we had a little notification.
We're all diminished by actions such as these.
Lucky for us Born to Go (Marc Power, Greg Florko, Louis
Boone, Mark McClemens and Carl Howard) was on site.
I had alerted them to be ready just in case. As they
set up on stage I went to check on my able bodied assistants,
Scott Kuti and Greg Stacko, who are running The Solar
Fire Lightshow. I had recently picked up some new slide
projectors (with zoom lenses and dissolve unit) and
received 140 new 35mm slides of space scenes and images
I had put together only 2 days before the festival.
I felt that the SFL had moved up in capabilities and
I was anxious to use them. Born to Go took off and so
did the lights!
Hard rocking as usual, these guys do bass heavy spacerock
reminiscent of DoReMi era Hawkwind. Great sci-fi lyrics
tell stories of robots on the rise, government murder,
cover-ups suppressing technology that would liberate
mankind instead of enslaving it, space mining and a
machine who falls in love with a human. Wait a minute.did
I say science FICTION? It's all happening NOW!!! Marc
Power, who looks like he could do a fair imitation of
the Penguin from the old Batman TV series, introduces
each new song as he tells you the story behind it. His
young daughter joined him on stage for Radio Calvert,
a tip of the hat to Hawkwind's late front man. They
ended their set with a 20 minute cover of Hawkwind's
Orgone Accumulator, much to the audience's delight.
As they jammed out the songs The Solar Fire Lightshow
was chugging and clanking away with swirling moire's,
checkerboard patterns, space scenes and more, washing
over the stage. Flanked on both sides by 16mm movies
of space travel, huge images were projected on the large
overhead screen in rapid succession. Alien civilizations,
travel through outer space, galaxies, flying saucers,
Earth, reefer, magic mushrooms, aliens, Stonehenge,
Jesus Christ, Buddha, Krishna, ***, space, space and
more endless space. Good heavens!! WHAT ARE THESE GUYS
TRYING TO SAY?..huh?.HUH?? A great light show even if
some of the images didn't exactly match Born to Go's
pointed lyrics. After all, these lights were to be for
TOC who have no lyrics.
Drumplay (Warren Levert, Tim Strelau, Matthew Abelson,
Brett Brandon and James Onysko) were the first in the
tent and started the pot cooking with their spacey take
on world beat percussion lightly flavored with xylo-marimba
and hammered dulcimer. Whether in performance, workshop
or educational presentation, no two Drumplay concerts
are alike. Thom the World Poet added his unique word
play in a brief appearance. Heating it up even more
was Insanity in Motion, aka Leather, doing some amazing
things with fire. Flaming tongue anyone?
Bionaut started setting up a huge amount of equipment,
too much work for such a small crowd. I told them to
do something lighter and I'll give them Born to Go's
old spot tomorrow to make up for the lack of audience.
They readily agreed and did a lighter set.
Saturday dawned looking like rain. The first band was
Quarkspace (Paul Williams, Chet Santia, Jay Swanson
and Dave Wexler and Stan Lyon). This has been "their"
spot for the last 2 years and it fits them well. With
their style of long, spacey, spontaneous jams and electronic
drums, keyboards, loops, and gliss-like guitars layered
over chunky bass lines, it wasn't hard to get everybody
up and moving in no time at all.
Light Bright Highway was to be next, but pulled a no
show on us without even a phone call! No problem. This
was a good opportunity to give National Steam, an off
shoot project of Quarkspace members Paul and Dave, some
stage time. They were a little different from Quarkspace
but that difference became less apparent as Chet and
Stan rejoined Paul and Dave on stage towards the end
of their set.
True to my word Bionaut (Paul Eggleston and Chris Green)
was next. With vintage synthesizers up the yinyang they
played complimentary keyboards. Dense cascading sounds
created musical landscapes very familiar to fans of
spacerock's Architectural Metaphor, the other band Paul
is in. The set today, very trippy music reminiscent
of Klaus Schulze, was livelier than the previous tent
Around dinner time Alien Planetscapes (Doug Walker,
Mathew Block, Chris Attenhoff and Josh Gazes) explodes
on stage. After the laid back, synthesizer laden afternoon
it woke everyone up and got their blood boiling. The
sound percolated, bubbled and took on a life of it's
own as they showed everyone why they are America's finest
space/jazz band. Innovative cosmic free form jazz combined
with high energy instrumental rock. Although slammed
by recent health problems, they sure didn't let it show
as they ran through some great new tunes.
While the stage was being set for the main act the
raffle was held. One happy camper went home with about
35 spacerock CD's and other Hawkwind and Strange Daze
Hypnotic tribal space music started mixing with twilight
as Anubian Lights (Tommy Grenas and Len Del Rio) began.
With phat beats and definite middle eastern influences,
it is a very unique and sometimes mellow sound. One
Eye to the Sky samples Gong's Gilli Smyth, weaving her
distinctive whisper vocals throughout the song beautifully.
Other songs move faster and you find yourself involuntarily
moving your feet. As their show progresses and it becomes
ever darker, Rob Jacobs Midnite Sun Lightshow slowly
kicks in as folks are transported to the Middle East
with the rich tapestry of musical delights.
After a short break more people joined them on stage
and they became Farflung (Tommy Grenas, Dix Carbonic,
Gammaknife, Scott and guest Steve Taylor). Starting
out slowly, they built up intensity as the night progressed.
Sometimes sludgy and industrial sounding, they are also
capable of some of the best all out spacerock that the
US has to offer. The music starts to move faster and
faster as Rob Jacob's superb light show keeps pace with
the action. Computer generated images, captured on 16mm
film, look like a spirograph on acid as they fly around
the stage turning every which way. Soon a familiar saxophone
is heard winding it's way from the back of the crowd
to the stage. As astonished fans turn around they see
the unearthly vision of an astronaut flowing with lights
(Scott Kuti) leading a large red mantilian creature,
with lizard spikes sticking out all over it's body and
head, through the crowd. The legendary Nik Turner has
Hypnotized, the crowd can only stare as unearthly sounds,
standard spacerock fare, emerge from the speakers like
alien messages from distant galaxies. Mounting the stage
while still blowing the sax, Nik isn't hobbled by a
bad foot like at SD'97. He's in fine form and quickly
takes control as he starts out with his own take on
an old Hawkwind favorite, Sonic Attack. Indeed, Nik's
show tonight mostly consists of his songs from the old
Hawkwind glory days. Soon he launches into a wicked
Brainstorm as the band kicks into high gear and Spaceman
Scott joins him on stage with his glowing outfit. Psychedelia
rules as colorful explosions burst over the stage, moving
much too fast for the eyes to fully take in, but still
burning into the unconscious mind. An alien appears
on stage (R.J. Wyse) and curiously eyes Nik blatting
away on his sax as if he were some celestial oddity
from a undiscovered planet or perhaps even another dimension.
Slowing down, they do an unusual version of Free Fall
with Tommy doing the vocals. Anubis/Soul Herder follows
as the hypnotic drums and Nik's flute lead us into the
next world. Soon we hear the beginning of Watching the
Grass Grow as Nik intones "We ARE the survivors!
The Eternal Survivors. androgynous energies travelling
through time!" Another alien (Alicia Schlenkar)
soon joins her friend on stage along with the spaceman,
while pictures of growing flowers and other green things
(you know.the stuff that Man is trying his best to destroy)
are splashed onto the large overhead screen. This is
rapidly followed by the heavy and eerie D-Rider, the
ever popular Ejection complete with Star Fighters flying
across the screen, and a rousing Master of the Universe.
The crowd is left cheering for more as Nik bids them
Coming back on stage Nik, sans spiked hood for the
first time tonight, tells the audience "You are
the Spirit of Hawkwind" and urges them to not let
it die! They finished up the night with You Shouldn't
Do That, jamming it out until they had to end it because
of the 11:00 stage curfew.
An amazing show, Nik was absolutely electric in a blistering
performance while Farflung never missed a single beat.
As is his habit, Nik hung around on stage afterwards
bantering with the audience and playing his sax. People
yelled out requests for songs and then clapped and sang
along as Nik, all in good fun, stumbled through them
for about half an hour or so before saying good night!
Attention was then shifted to the tent where Scott
had set up The Solar Fire Lightshow and Circus Kaotica
(Terry Sindar and Sadie Wolfkitten) were beginning to
do their act. A form of sideshow, they performed escapes,
magic, fire walking displays and more, keeping up a
steady banter and entertaining the people as Canis Minor
set up their equipment.
Soon Canis Minor was playing their gentle, haunting
trance music for the second time this weekend while
Billy wrapped his vocals around it. It looked very eerie
when Scott started smoking the tent and spinning colored
beams of light through the London Fog like mist. Nik
Turner stopped by and joined in for a bit, softly playing
along with his flute.
One man met an unexpected friend as he lay there on
the ground listening. It appears that a large Tarantula,
one of Circus Kaotica's pets, had escaped from his box.
Finding this man while wandering around in the dark,
it curled up against his neck seeking the warmth of
his body. Feeling something odd he discovered the spider
and reacted with restraint, keeping a presence of mind
that was quite admirable under the circumstances. The
spider was captured (he really more like gave himself
up) and was returned to its owner unharmed the following
day. After this Sloterdijk (Mike Burro with guest Jay
Adcock) capped the evening off with his ambient music,
as electronic throbbing, voice samples and an occasional
stream of guitar cut through the dense fog.
The music started Sunday with W.O.O. Revelator (Bonnie
Kane, Ray Sage and Chris Forsyth) cleaning out everyone's
ears with some great improvisational and psychedelic
free form jazz/rock/space. Unique and a bundle of energy
with colorful hair, Bonnie played sax like a Nik Turner
Das Ludicroix (Larry Boyd, Carl Anderson, Ron Scott,
Doug Pearson, Doug Walker) is a group of musical acquaintances
who've communicated over the years. SD'99 gave them
a chance to finally jam together, resulting in an interesting
set that re-created the sound of early day Space Ritual
era spacerock. A strong performance from a band who
had, up till then, been linked more through cyber-space
than real life!
Closing the festival was Tombstone Valentine (Richelle
Toombs, Greg Toombs, Diane Hancock, Rick Wilkenson and
Randy Schwartz) a soft space/psychedelic outfit. With
outstanding female vocals and unusual instrumentation
giving their sound a unique character, they brought
a bit of the spirit of 60's psychedelia into the late
Good things this year - the raffle, late night tent,
and better sound. Bad things - bands who didn't show,
police stopping some people on their way to the park
- bad bathrooms again! SD2000 possibilities include:
3 nights - Thursday, Friday and Saturday with $20-$25
day tickets available, late night tent, better bathrooms!
Bands expressing mild interest in SD2000: Ozric Tentacles,
Mr. Quimby's Beard and Porcupine Tree. If you want them
there, let them know!
Attendance was down from SD'98. If you didn't support
all of these fine bands just because Hawkwind wasn't
there, shame on you! You missed a unique festival featuring
music that isn't just run of the mill, corporate trash.
We are THE alternative to the increasingly corporate
sponsored "alternative festivals" you find
Many thanks to all who were there and who helped! Like
a young child, we have to learn to stand on our own.
Hawkwind, as we have known and loved them over the last
30 years, won't be around for much longer. But the Spirit
of Hawkwind will live forever! Don't let it die within