Nik Turner/Witch Mountain/Hedersleben - Live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Nik Turner / Witch Mountain / Hedersleben

Live in Philadelphia (2014)

live show

Nik Turner stood on the stage of Philadelphia's Boot and Saddle, rolled his eyes to the back of is head, held out his hands like a Shaman, and declared in his famously deep, echoing voice, "You can save none but yourself." At his September 9 show, the former Hawkwind vocalist/sax player tore through a set of Hawkwind classics and new material showing that these guys really are pretty far out.

Turner, whose lyrics have merged reflections on the ancients with sci—fi storytelling for the past 45 years, looks fantastically otherworldly. As he performs, his body seems to be in a constant state of motion, he hands zipping around his body in such a rapid, fluid motion that it's as if his arms are more slack ropes than appendages. During the entire night, his hands were at all times pointing to the skies, reaching out the audience, or dancing on their own accord. Meanwhile, quite impressively, Turner's deep baritone is a rich and as full as ever. As he delivers proclamations about sonic brain—melts or flying off on space ships, his voice connotes authority, omniscience, and a slight degree of creepiness.

For this tour, Turner was backed by the kraut—rock influenced Hedersleben. With Nicky Garratt of the UK Subs on guitar, Hedersleben gave Turner a raw, powerful musical backing that is entirely fresh. Garratt himself impressively showed his range. For the harder Hawkwind tunes, he snapped down on the strings like the tunes were punk songs, giving a harder, more berserk edge than the studio recordings. But, when the music dropped to more ethereal, spacey music, Garratt quite masterfully switched to a more delicate, precise style, showing that while he's capable of blasting the room down, he can hypnotize with the best of them. Hedersleben includes two keyboardist, one which also plays the violin. Both young women, they would alternate between adding the necessary psychedelic, futuristic screeching to the songs and presenting a visual performance. At one point, they both got behind Turner and did a multi—arm dance originating from India. At others, they would mimic Turner's own movements in tandem, appearing like some sort of alien Greek chorus.

But, what made the show most impressive which how energetic, and frankly, how solid it was. Across a 95 minute set, the band blasted from song to song with no stop. Turner, who is now 74, showed no signs of his age, and maintained both his energy and timbre for the whole show. At one part, he started to wig out at one point in a combination shaman—hippie dance as the band spiraled behind him. In fact, Turner was so charged by the show that even after the band had to stop due to noise curfew, he kept blasting on his sax, playing a few standards before finally ending the show with a version of the sax—classic "Tequila." Far out.

Before Nik Turner, long running doom metal band Witch Mountain played a set of rumbling, riff heavy rockers. Vocalist Uta Plotkin was quite impressive with her wail, which bore both power and sensitivity. Sort of a cross between Ozzy and Janis Joplin, she didn't shy away from the blues and soul at the foundation of heavy metal, which helped the band break away from the common doom metal clichés. The band meanwhile, sludge through seven minute long rumblers which were big, lumbering, and slow, saluting the classic formulation of this kind of music.

The show opened with Hedersleben sans Turner, who started the set with an extended piece off a yet—to—be—recorded album. Influenced by bands like Gong and Can along with Hawkwind, the band created otherworldly, but structured pieces that were as exhilarating as they were complex. Masterfully, and perhaps unlike their inspirations, the band was wise enough to not wonder off into aimless jams, and instead, focused quite heavily on composition and dynamics, while maintaining the weirdness and experimentation which makes this genre so great. If anything, the performance showed that Garratt, who is a punk titan, that punk rock is a state of mind and not an adherence to musical rules.

—In order to get to the stage and weave through the packed audience, Nik Turner marched forward blowing on his sax randomly at high volume! This is always the best way to enter any room.
—Really, as great as Hawkwind is on the album, you really need to hear this music live to feel the full impact. Bad ass riffs here, far out sound effects there, some dude on stage singing about galaxies or quarks or something, two Dionysian dancers that look like they are mimicking human movements in an attempt to understand them, an avant—garde sax solo… what a mind trip!
—Not only are the two women in Hedersleben amazing musicians, but they are both complete knockouts! I fell in love… Twice!