DVD review: Deeply Vale
Festival - 40th Anniversary WeekendPete Feenstra
Get Ready To Rock
June 14, 2017
Steve Hillage the big headliner at the groundbreaking 1978 Deeply Vale
Festival describes the event as: "a legendary seminal event at an
important moment in the development of British music culture in terms
of free festivals."
He remembers "picking up the energy of the people". And its that energy
that the indefatigable festival co-founder Chris Hewitt continues to
pour into this landmark 40th Anniversary triple DVD set.
To say that Deeply Vale was a broad church is to underestimate the
shifting musical glaciers of the middle to late 70's, when psychedelic
/prog rock met punk and new wave full on, all within the free festival
parameters. The unlikely musical bedfellows means the 40th anniversary
weekend straddles folk, Christian rock, punk, blues, cover bands, acid
rock, techno and beyond.
Disc 2 notably sags under the weight of too many reformed hopefuls, but
on Disc 1 there's still some unexpected highlights, including the
refreshing Americana of the Crude Oil Inc, the ethereal sounds of
Shankara Andy Bole and even the spiky punk attitude of The Drones who
roll the years back with 'Persecution Complex'.
Best of all best of all is the splendidly preserved grey bearded Victor
Brox, who at 75 could give many blues musicians a run for their money.
He doubles on guitar and piano, tearing into a seminal 'High Heel
Fellow septuagenarian Nik Turner on sax is joined by percussionist Jaki
Windmill for a wobbly dip into his Hawkwind back catalogue, though he
later redeems himself in the company of Steve Hillage and electric
violinist Graham Clark.
"Guitar George" Borowski and Gaynor Wilson add some gorgeous harmonies
in a spirited set that finishes in anthemic style.
Chris Hewitt paints the historic context by telling us that the
festival grew exponentially over 3 years, building from 300 to an
incredible 20,000 plus, while co-founder Cliff Jackson notes the
significance of the festival to the careers of people like The Ruts
(who reputedly formed in a festival tent), Spizz, The Falls' Mark E.
Smith and The Drones.
The Rev.Mike Huck another rocking 75 year old, best exemplifies the
spirit of then and now with his reflective interview and his brand of
Christian rock with Movement Banned.
It's also good to see Andy Sharrocks still fronting Accident On The
East Lancs, as part of a festival project he was very much a part of
from the start. His closing song 'Salvation In Disguise, still hits the
DVD 2 carries less musical weight, despite a promising opening set by
former Cliff Richard acoustic guitarist (don't laugh, he's excellent)
Brian John Lewis and passionate singer-songwriter Teri Birtwistle.
The Things sound like a good club band who ran out of songs, while
Potential Victims build a big wall of sound to match their post punk
Mudanzas take their name from the Stray album and mine similar riff-led
rock, but with a prog feel.
Segs from The Ruts applies his seemingly photographic memory to events
gone by, but for the rest its provincial post punk fare, best
understood in the DIY spirit of the time, rather than in the
unforgiving world of 2017.
Disc 3 is for the big hitters and draws us into the contemporary techno
world as electric violinist Graham Clark and 808 State's techno master
Graham Massey set the template for the rest of the weekend.
Steve Hillage's System 7 initially finds his restrained guitar playing
bathed in echo, reverb and Miquette Giraudy's electronics. The techno
beats explore different moods and shifting tempos on an ever evolving
aural landscape. that includes a pre-recorded 'Love My Way' by The
Psychedelic Furs', on which Hillage invites the crowd to sing-along.
Guitarist Stephen Lewry - aka Steffe Sharpstrings - teams up with Gong
bassist Mike Howlett and drummer Steve Cassidy for a Here & Now
style set that at its most dense evokes acid rock (normally they gig as
a four piece with a keyboard player and are then known as Sentient) The
guitarist shreds, taps, bows and wrenches every last psychedelic nuance
from wall of sound punctuated by Cassidy's snare and Howlett's
intricate bass lines.
A final musical call to unity leads to an extended jam and enveloping
groove topped by anthematic rap.
Hillage returns to add judicious guitar noodles and bows his guitar
neck on the 'Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows'. Much like a musical chef,
he adds small but significant sonic detail to an extant pre-recorded
Techno and trance may be viewed as the logical extension of his
previous Gong and solo career, but given the choice between
Sharpstring's band set up and 2 anonymous characters subtly changing
the beats behind a psychedelic light show, I'd take the former.
You could saddle Hillage with the 'old wine in new bottles' tag, but
that would be to diminish his willingness to innovate. He's belatedly
joined by Turner, Howlett and Sharpstrings on a great jam of Gong's
'Master Builder' from 'You', which eclipses all that has gone before
and this track alone makes the DVD worth purchasing.
The box set is really about the 'can do' spirit that leads to Steffe
Sharpstrings to call Deeply Vale: "the most together festival of them
With over ten and half hours of music, interviews and a 24 page hard
back book for your £30, this is a true labour of love.
The book-ended archive clip shows the 1980 spartan festival site when
it had left the beautiful valley of Deeply Vale for the unforgiving
moorland of Pickup Bank near Darwen .But it’s good to know that the
enduring optimistic core values of the time still remain.