Nik Turner's Hawkwind / Witch Mountain / Hedersleben

The Palomino Smokehouse, Calgary AB, September 24

Nik Turner's Hawkwind / Witch Mountain / HederslebenThe Palomino Smokehouse, Calgary AB, September 24
Photo: Sarah Kitteringham
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Psychedelic, kraut and doom music straddles a thin, and very personally interpreted line between monumental, thunderous, and/or transcendental, and flat-out dull and seemingly formless. That juxtaposition was demonstrated in stark contrast on Wednesday night at the Palomino, when California act Hedersleben opened for Portland, OR's Witch Mountain, then joined the legendary saxophonist Nik Turner on stage to become Nik Turner's Hawkwind.

Hedersleben is a quintet that features obviously talented musicians who individually have impressive ability. Their vocalist/violinist's powerful wails particularly shone when trading off with the squeals and spacey riffs of their guitarist, but overall it often seemed like each of the musicians was playing without regard for the others. Yes, this is kraut rock, which plays with minimalism and improvisation to impressive effect, but tonight, at least personally, it missed the mark. That being said, this would have been much better suited to a psychedelic trip in the sonic church of the damned at the excellent Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands rather than a sobre Wednesday night in Calgary.

In contrast, Witch Mountain didn't miss a beat, and the only concern came from a sound perspective, as it was sometimes difficult to hear the vocals while standing at the front. Despite the fact that, or perhaps because they were three shows away from two members leaving the band, they were extremely tight. Drummer Carson was thunderous and metronomic, while the guitarists interlaced cavernous riffs and bluesy licks with Plotkin's simply gorgeous, bombastic voice.

With a set heavily focused on new material (three songs of five were from the new album), one could tell that the loudly appreciative crowd in attendance didn't know the songs, but certainly wanted to. Perhaps it was due to the band playing Calgary nearly a year to the day prior at the final Noctis festival, or perhaps it was the massive buzz surrounding them, but it was evident this was Witch Mountain's show, and in the end it was a fitting and fantastic goodbye to the current lineup, the best the band has ever had.

Once more, Hedersleben appeared on stage, this time with dresses (no matter what, the boob window will never make sense), sparkling face paint, and massive heels on their female members, and tie-dye shirts on the males. Nik Turner — who celebrated his 74th birthday on the tour — joined them shortly thereafter, and proceeded to play exactly what the crowd wanted: songs from across his discography, including multiple classics cherry picked from his days in Hawkwind, including the excellent rendition of "Orgon Accumulator" from 1973's legendary Space Ritual live album. The mesmerizing wails of his saxophone, the haunting flute, the strained rendition of Hawkwind's "Black Corridor" about the infinite, neutral, and emotionlessness vastness of space… it was perfect. Now Hedersleben were perfectly on point, and the music was pulsating and ethereal, while the interplay between the animated violinist and Turner was spellbinding. It was an excellent end to an already stellar evening.

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