Dead Man's Corner at The Whitstable Oyster Festival, 26 July 2015
"You get your visions through whatever gate you're granted" ... Ken Kesey
Amidst the corporate dreariness that the Oyster Festival has sadly generally descended
[yes folks, rent your stall at the harbour for £1000 each] ... something given freely soared
over all that 'festive' banality and boredom.
Yup ! A free open air gig from Dead Man's
very appropriately performed at the harbour from where they derived their name.
The sound was mixed superbly, and enhanced the band's ever growing organic integrity,
with each musician vitally contributing to the exciting, involving and evolving whole,
of their rocking hybrid music from beyond.
The weather had been stormy prior to the sun coming out for their set..."I put my trust in the
weatherman" sang Steve on the opening number, and that trust was justified as gulls
swooped in the light above the substantial crowd that had gathered to enjoy the show.
By Wond'rous Place they'd hit their elegantly visceral stride and there was a tangible
awareness of this gig being a very special event. The Harbour, Steve's magisterial song of
travelling through tribulation and of coming home to love was well received, and gained in
strength by being performed at the place of it's inspiration. Great to hear Steve's vocal high
in the mix, and each of the musicians breathing life into that new, yet ancient story.
All kudos to the fabulous drumming of Bryn Burrows on Souls Unknown and I Feel A
Phoenix Comin' On and throughout the gig.
There was no unnecessary drum raiser or light show in sight to big up his presence;
but his exemplary playing provides the power and subtlety that these songs with their many
changes of gear require.
It was also fine to hear and feel what an integral and essential part of the band Alan Cook's
tremendous pedal steel guitar playing has become. The inclusion of this world class musician
who in some respects is a different music world away from rock brings an intriguing and
soulful dynamic to their sound that richly rewards careful listening. It's also worthy of note
that Alan is Chris Hillman's [of Byrds fame] player of choice when touring Europe.
Justin Homewood aka 'Dust' along with considered and uplifting bass playing brings a
wonderful joie de vivre to the band, while providing a rock steady foundation to the
intricacies of the band's music.
At the heart of Dead Man's Corner, Steve 'Boltz' Bolton travels ever further out there as he
gives us his skillful all. His guitar tone was deep, affecting and vibrantly alive as Steve soared
with the aforementioned gulls upwards to the sky..."Birds fly eight miles high" he sang on
Six Million Bees and knock me down with a feather, one did at that precise moment...
[check the video] appearing to emerge from Boltz's head...it was that kind of a gig !
Children watching were fascinated by the whole performance, perhaps some will become the
musicians of the future.
Lest we forget even an idiotic stage invasion by a man in yellow shorts during I Feel A
Phoenix Comin' On couldn't put the band off their exuberant flow, deep in the zone of light
and creativity. A slow and moody Sea Of Heartbreak against the perfect backdrop of
Whitstable Bay in the late afternoon, with the rolling of Bryn's drums seeming to emerge
from that actual sea behind him brought us reflectively back to shore, and as it segued into
the shamanic drumming intro of I Walk On Guilded Splinters, the sky obligingly clouded
over to atmospheric effect, while Steve gathered it all up into a rousing other worldly
crescendo of a
performance that needs to be watched to be believed.
A long time ago this was what music
was for ... a powerful invocation of Spirit ... and then it was all over, the sun came out again, the
merchants carried on hustling and selling, normal routine nothingness was resumed.
But for a while a crowd had been transfixed and united, sharing a beautiful experience,
full of unexpected delights and zig zagging wonder. The whole show can be watched
here and Dead Man's Corner can be experienced in real time on Saturday September
at The New Inn, Whitstable. Do make it if you can ... it'll be one you'll be sure to remember.
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