04. Extraordinary Returns…
Photo by Juri Hiensch
There aren’t many people who can say they stood rattling between the grungy walls of De Helling venue on a Friday night while The Crazy World of Arthur Brown played an extended version of “Fire” to a sweaty gobsmacked crowd, the very same song they performed in the Top of the Pops studio in 1968. A wormhole into another universe, the scene became a riot of dramatic costume changes while face-painted, and definitely stoned, English musical icon Arthur Brown acted like a Babushka doll uncovering one costume at a time: Japanese red-velvet kimono, a long Spanish dress, a full warlock-tale royal cape fashioned out of neon lights. TCWAB were the torchbearers for the days when psychedelic obsessives collided head-on with punk. At 73, Brown stepped out screaming, “I am the God of Hellfire!” and it’s that moment you remember he’s immortal, cracking the nut of his own wild possibility. “There’s a darkness between your thighs,” he said slyly before skating across the stage on invisible ice, dancing the backwards running man as agile as Usain Bolt, straight into a crazy fan flailing his arms about. It was hard to imagine a better way to experience this music – a body-banging, emotionally thrilling headfuck.
Then came the intriguing swirl of legendary 63-year-old Jamaican artist Dawn Penn on Saturday night at Rasa venue. “She overcome a male-dominated musical industria, and she’s still here, power to the woman!” introduced her excitable Atlanta cap-wearing keyboardist before she took the stage. The reggae glaze and propulsion of her set, all soaked in painterly covers – Cat Steven’s “The First Cut Is the Deepest”, Erykah Badu’s “On & On”, All Saints’ “Never Ever”, and Dido’s “Thank you” — made her 1967 hit “No No No (You Don’t Love Me)” still startling to hear. While Penn slipped seamlessly from a cavernous Marcia Griffiths-like howl into a vivacious Mary J.Blige lilt, she achieved an elaborate sing-along with the ecstatic crowd. While sashaying around the stage with her floor-length, thick dreadlocks, she reaffirmed she’s a genuine hard-living legend, whose oratorical singing and blunt dissection of Jamaican life is still a strange brew of poetic drive for the country’s reggae revolt.
This Venn diagram has a centerfold, and it’s the festival’s final day laureate of blended psychedelic funk, jazz, and pioneering synthesizer, Annette Peacock, and her freewheeling poetic rampage. Before the 74-year-old singer even appeared for this rare performance, people hovered around the lip of the stage ready and waiting. After taking LSD under the watchful gaze of Timothy Leary in the early ’60s, she persuaded Robert Moog (inventor of the Moog synth) to give her a prototype of a moog machine, which explains her youthful fury, authority, and wisdom on all embellished musical matters. Taking her seat at the spotlight piano center stage, “I love you too,” she responded to the crowd’s cheers, “and I don’t even know you.” With seductive synth surging through her expansive and simple piano melodies, the entire set was as burning and delicate as it was commanding and uncluttered. Forty years on, her music is of a future that hasn’t happened yet.