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Anpu Smiles upon Him

A review of Nik Turner with Hedersleben and Stinkeye in Phoenix on 25 November, 2016

From the freshly scrubbed auditorium at the MIM with its often affluent, middle-aged clientele, to the tan bark and cigarette butt-strewn backyard of a combination bookstore and head shop in downtown Phoenix, Tour Press Force (TPF) covers music performances in all kinds of venues.

Unlike many of the bands that we cover, where photo and interview arrangements can be made weeks in advance, I did not even know that Nik Turner was playing in Phoenix until the day before the performance. Upon me letting her know of this fact, Monica moved quickly, and succeeded in making arrangements to not only photograph and interview Nik but also the opening acts Stinkeye and Hedersleben.

YouTube | Nik Turner -Adjust the Future [Official Video]

The setting for the performance was Lawn Gnome Publishing, the latter of the two venue examples mentioned above. Some of the greatest music I have ever heard had its origins in places as small and humble as this.

We set up on two of the small, folding chairs in the yard. I stayed put, while Monica roved around taking pictures. The opening act was the local band Stinkeye. They started up with a cool fuzz guitar riff, that got almost immediately interrupted when the guitarist Andrew Hosley “broke a motherfuckin’ string”. As luck had it, another guitar was on hand and the set continued. It was a hard-edged progressive sound, reminiscent of Here & Now from the ‘70s, with some infusions of the more recent New York band Weird Owl. Andrew, with his gold knit cap, reminded me of pix of Daevid Allen back in the day with Gong. This band is just starting out and is starting very strong. They have a timeless progressive sound (termed “hash rock” by Andrew) that can appeal to several generations of listener. Keep an eye (and, of course an ear!) on these guys. Check out their Llantera Demos!

Hedersleben, in contrast, is a much more seasoned modern Krautrock band whose membership has ties to older bands like Embryo and Brainticket. They offered musical enjoyment with a much fuller, diverse sound. Vocalist Alicia Previn (the daughter of pianist and composer André Previn) sang with unique timbre, almost seeming to channel the energy and power of Gilli Smyth and Dagmar Krause simultaneously. When not singing, she displayed her incredible prowess with the violin.

Even when their set was over, Hedersleben was not done. They were actually the back-up band for Nik Turner himself. As he approached the stage, memories of seeing his Hawkwind Space Ritual years ago in San Francisco came to mind. I could not figure out which was more amazing—seeing Nik again after all these years, or the realization that I saw him perform all of 22 years ago, and he’s still going.

This wasn’t technically Hawkwind—Hawkwind is another band in the UK that has been absolutely adamant in its dislike for Turner since his most recent departure from the band. Our own communications with the UK Hawkwind have demonstrated that their antipathy is still ongoing. This group performing in the small venue in Phoenix was Nik Turner and Hedersleben, but when they got together, it was as if I had put an LP of X-In Search of Space on the turntable and let down the needle. The sound was a dead ringer and it absolutely blew me away. Nik took this band and made it Hawkwind—the way Hawkwind used to be when they played venues just like this, amidst dirt and various kinds of smoke, back in the 70s. Now, just like then, they disappeared in that smoke. Punctuated by Nik’s poetry, the set was just incredible, and it became apparent to me just how fortunate I was to get the chance to hear his magick again.

The sound that I have loved listening to for so many years is still here. Nik Turner is now 76 years-old, but his spirit is still just as energetic and clear as it was five decades ago—I could see it in the brightness of his blue eyes as he spoke to us later during our interview about how his music and his art is meant to serve and teach others. He still has much to teach us. Rock on Nik—your heart is as light as a feather.

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