Beneath Brexit’s scarred face, unruly chemicals mingle;
The Portobello vein feeds the headspace as any good drug dealer
Knows. Running from its Notting Hill peak to the lowest
Ladbroke Grove basement, the famed antique market is a sinus
Stream to art’s nose. One can smell the ganja and gage, barbequed
Meat and the incense: as you walk down this road its time travel,
From Rachman’s first tenants down to the exiles that the blessed
Heathcote Williams housed; although smeared by bland film,
It still has a touch of the Donald Cammells about it;
There is something between shade and sunlight that means
Each precious new thing is allowed. This was the oppositions HQ;
From Hawkwind and Moorcock, to Greg Sam’s vegan
Innovations and Lee Harris’ shop, Alchemy, Portobello Road
Pumps strong blood; it was Camden well before Camden;
Scale its heights, find strange glamour, as Jagger reclines in his tub.
Traces then still remain and these are magicked back
In a moment as Youth launches his new record label
At the Mau Mau Bar, love is leased.
Over two days, years appear, from Euro tyros, The Gulps
– one of the new great bands in the making – to Nik Turner,
Lee Harris and Brian Barritt’s newly sourced frequencies.
Cecile, Eno’s niece, daughter of the exquisite Roger, Youth himself,
Gaudi, spinning frenzied discs, Flinton Chalk; Steve Hillage
Appears through bright sun, in his DJ guise, toning midnight,
As Indotransceltic fuse nations, mirroring this multi-cultural road
And time walk. This is to be a festival of the mind, finding its feet
Through dance music. As urban blues echoes and the spirits transcend
Painting breath. In this enclave, this sound cave, and in these
Saving graces, the lessons of the past find the future.
But it is the present they’re after, the present that remains out of step.
Youth and Alex Patterson of the Orb overture with their
Cosmic Oddysey soundscape, before Mycal One Dread infiltrates pulse
And groove. Greg Sams then reveals, interviewed that this shadowed
Road was once the founding path of the future, as he sourced
And created London’s first health food eaterie doors away.
This need to return to the pure has only recently become
The new lifestyle, ironically adopted by others, who after years
Of killing the planet have decided their own state is the first natural
Thing they should save. Mixmaster Morris furrows before heralding
Youth’s guru, Lee Harris, Poet and playwright, south African seminalist,
Mind, unlike those decades younger, still fuelled by vision,
Defining what it truly means to be free. Harris worked
With Jim Haynes, founding the Arts Lab in the 60s,
He arranged dates for Ginsburg and wrote and reviewed for IT;
He ran his shop, close to Sams, shielding the vapours
Before vapists, he was the first to publish Bryan Talbot
And counter cultural bible Home Grown.
Harris is the psychedelic Beatnik whose lessons on love and art’s
Understanding took him from working with Orson Welles to Frank Zappa,
After being one of the first Whites in Jo’burg to join the ANC:
Minds are blown. They do not make lives like this, not anymore;
That’s what’s missing. Harris reflects, each thought kissing
Some of the particular glories he’s held. He recants. He recounts,
He reveals, then sings poems that restore those lost moments
When this road and this city shone with potentials to which everyone
Of worth was compelled. He calls for questions. None come.
And that is one of the event’s only issues; that it takes place in a conclave,
That liked minded or not, avoids search. Where minds were blown,
Now they’re blocked by the constraints of appearance. Trends breed the trendy,
Something that’s exemplified by the road. People hang, but ghosts
Haunt and do their best to remind them, that some are still living,
And wish to remind the new of what’s owed; acts of proper Independence
And faith that fought to resist tightened systems and which sought
True communion through the thorough respect of each self.
Harris glowed like a gem on the dim-lit stage, I could see it.
With his pyschedelic T-Shirt as totem, his shining spirit
Granted language dimension, adding fresh flavour to the food outside,
And placing in both ear and pocket the positive exchange
Of mind wealth. But we do not know what to prize; Brexit’s other
Great danger: do we deserve the confusion and the disasters to come,
As All falls? Maybe Samuel Beckett was right, only a handful
Of stones has true value. The currencies we engender will burn us
Through our pockets along with the wracked market stalls.
Lee Harris’ life and work created our counter culture.
Along with Brian Barritt, Tim Leary, Ginsberg and Burroughs,
Heathcote; they all ventured here. It was on this street they held
Congress, just as Youth does in the sunlight, as he gives thanks
And praise to Spring spirits: in the middle of the day; starred input.
Something is happening here, beyond the launch and introduction
Of music. With Youth as Gatekeeper, time is returned to mooned fields,
When all that seemed possible was, a feeling that the day’s
Remaining acts seek to echo, Robin Trieskele poet crooning,
Gaudi’s Dj set; to trance, yield. The second day colours in,
…………………………………………………………………….As the Cosmic Odyssey
(single d) extends and continues;
Anu and Violetta enchanting with sounds and sensation to stun,
Music Critic Chris Salewicz with stories of the Clash on these
Pavements as Youth reflects on the squatters that fell beneath
Coke and stone; of the sad fate of his friend. Wally B, robbing
Fruit Machines to be fruitful, only to have what was left
Of his natural state tested by a drug driven death; lost, alone.
And yet the valued Wordcash still flows as the memory banks
Are thrust open, with weed and citrus stung stories as Youth preserves
And paints the spent years; the music, the faces, the trips, the Mexican
Stand-off between J’s Coleman and Strummer, caused by a sellout
Scrawl on a poster that Strummer thought Coleman speared.
But it was Youth all along, with the J’s make up only coming years later,
In an airport lounge that fame gave them in yet another world
Far from here. Listening Harris and Samms’ sixties tales and this
Seventies update, one reflects in an instant on a more vibrant world
Than our wasted real; As we seem to have surrendered past stars
For the passing semblance of glitter only to fall through the spaces
Which society’s plastic dictates sincerely believe they have healed.
Brexit isn’t even the bath; its simply the stain of bath water,
The scum, as it rises, retains only the dirt and the sweat
That the bodies excrete along with shit’s tears through soiled rivers,
As even the image of England, and Crated Britain beyond
Warps through debt. What we do not know we can’t now, no matter
How much you teach us; with brains bred underwater,pale dreams
Of hope meet the wet. Meanwhile Nik Turner busks on the street,
The Pink Panther theme in glazed sunlight, sparse notes crest above us
As long won humour and the poetry of the past realign.
As Marcia Mello folk blues, Craig Samms bakes up Grove Stories,
Before Steve Norris and Cecile Eno with astral strains soon enthrall;
A minor sound issue taints but the sublime supercedes it,
For the rest of the day Norris suffers for the break in the saint
His hand called. But Eno angels above as Ned Scott keyboards and hostess
Lisa Azarmi sound poems, creating transcendence in this star fused space,
This heart hall. Flinton Chalk talks, hosting the lost Brian Barritt,
He speaks of their projects together, and of Barritt’s masterpiece,
Whisper, written with the present David Ball. 111hz is the sound
Of past rituals rediscovered; captured by them and directed,
It is part of a theme that rings clear:
Steve Norris, Cecile Eno, Ned Scott
……………………………………………………………………That we are all attuned to the wrong,
Its as if a tinnitus of the soul has infected, and now society deafens
To the kind of prophecies Barritt spun. As with Lee Harris, past time
Reappears bearing lessons, and yet we seek detensions because
We no longer seem to see or care about what gets done.
Whether in our names, or not. But here is a gathering quorum
Of teachers, informed individuals who could show us alternative routes
For each sense. For this is a Stonehenge without stone.
A back room Glastonbury, but with none of the mire, and excess,
And none of the commercial pretence. In fact, what seems to be happening
Here is a brief but compact 1960s, a magic air, light as jasmine
In which the redirection of fire can only influence and inspire
And dutifully ensure it can’t burn. Spirits collide, if just for a moment,
Summoned to be celebrated in word, deed and texture, each warmth
Kiranpal Singh, Chris Bowsher, Youth (in shadow) Toby Anderson
The heart’s gesture to an investment of faith we’d all earn.
This event is a call to the arms and the heart where the hands to hold
Conjure for us, as Kiranpal Singh is now featured, accompanied
By Youth and Chris Bowsher. There are there to soundtrack Bowsher’s
Poetry, but soon this sacred trio combines to merge and blend
With each other; as a note ascends, Youth’s bass lowers,
And in the space between, words are freed. Ned Scott synth soothes
Beside, to be replaced by pianist Toby Anderson who is passing;
In the same song, the shared feeling, is pentatonically joined instantly;
Proof of the skill on display and of the day and of the magic unearthed
In a moment; in a separate world to our closed one, the message
Received sympathy. Singh plays for the gods that emanate from his fingers;
A santoor note is a movie, a film of sound, spurred by sun,
Which the bass duly frames as the synth chords reorder, the minds
Opened portals while the admission to bliss has begun.
Bliss reappears, as if called as Indotranceceltic feature.
The Godlike sprawl of Singer Kardik’s voice rises
From the darkened underground to spear stars. As the Dundun drums
Spread the hand dealt blow into dreamspace, tabla, guitar and percussion
Make an organic spacecraft from this bar. This is the music of change;
With sounds that represent freedom’s thinking: here are ecstatic phrases,
And rhythms that stoke and claim and charm flesh. If more people
Heard this they would assume and feel liberation; a shared theme
Of expression which would seek to quantify what comes next.
Which cannot beneficial, or ‘good’ in the acceptable sense,
Music helps us, if just for a moment it creates the kind of world
We’d all seek. A place between place that this musical collective
Has captured. The alternative to tremours that are gathering now,
At our feet. Indian musicians, French, Swiss, Europe sound fused
With the English, demonstrating in seconds what the racist thugs
Cannot see: that this is a metropolitan town, with virtually every
House its own Babel – until of course towers topple, and we,
Who prize humour fail to comprehend irony.
From still further shores, come The Gulps – exchanging bliss for song fire;
Five young men formed by legends and who chase a touch of that
For themselves. Proto punk Power Pop, with a refined form of song craft,
They’re a stadium act in the making who seem to have revived Rock n’Roll.
They wield such power, and grace, it sets them apart from their fellows,
For the lastest generation are actually still chasing dreams of the past.
No-one can now be The Stones, The Who, the Small Faces,
And yet The Gulps chase those glories, forming still, their shape bolsters,
Making them the kind of band born to last. They have charisma, and skill
And come with their own touring fanbase. The bar stage suddenly
Becomes Madison Oblong Garden, ripe with the scarred gold of screaming
And groupies that call for their grace. Guitarist Francesco’s Mother is there,
A tiny Sophia Loren, taking photos, as Singer Harry entrances,
Bassist Simon and Drummer Raoul power, while joint guitarist Charlie,
Full of Dave Davies thrash paints the space. The Gulps stem from
From Spain and Beirut, but they represent English promise:
Their love for the story and the substance of rock grants them home.
There are in one way the chance to remove the fault line of Brexit,
As the lessons of English music gives mission; after the sins
Have been struck, just atone. Ah, but will we? Unsure.
And so now a sense of elegy enters. Nik Turner appears
Through sparred darkness to repopulate cloud and crowd.
It is a long form piece, played with Youth and Ned Scott on keyboards,
Three or four note lines and phrases, that seem to complete some dream’s
Vow. All at once the air is distilled and the fervour of the young
Placed in context. True grace forms and rises, entertaining
The option that while rebellion is what’s needed, the sageness saved
From wise counsel and reflection too must be saved.
Youth plays bass and gong, heralding dawns and clouds moving,
Which in marking the face of those watching, are at one moment
Kisses, and bruises too, darkly stained. We are currently living under
The threat that Turner’s saxophone tries to answer; if we attend
To our own sense and reason surely we can avoid future pain.
At this time, nothing’s sure, but the artists at this festival seek solution.
Salvation, too, also rapture as Gaudi and Steve Hillage DJ.
Its clear we need a musical court, and the bussing of Parliament
Drowned by basses;
Only then will the Brentrance
Form to correct the fouled day.
David Erdos June 2019