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Gong - Live at the Gong Family Unconvention

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 22 / 8 / 2008

Gong - Live at the Gong Family Unconvention


Over forty years from first forming, Chris O' Toole finds psychedelic rockers Gong remaining a vital and mercurial presence on a live DVD filmed at the three day third Cong Family Unconvention at the Melkweg in Amsterdam

When Daevid Allen formed Gong in 1967 it is safe to assume he would not have predicted the events which unfolded at the Melkweg, Amsterdam nearly 40 years later. Denied entry to Britain following a tour with his then band, the Soft Machine, Allen decamped to Paris and formed Gong – what was to become his life's work. Here, reunited with the strongest Gong line-up since their original initial Parisian reunion in 1977, Allen announces his band remain a vital and mercurial force nearly half a century later. Flanked by Gong founder Giili Smyth – as well as such other musicians, poets and space whisperers including Steve Hillage, Tim Blake, Dider Malherbe, Mie Howlett and Miquette Giraudy – Allen delivers the definitive presentation of his band's manifesto. Lurching between their inimitable brand of cadenced psychedelic rock, slower virtuoso instrumentals, acapella cosmic chants and free-form freak-outs Gong run through their history in a little over two hours. Always at the centre of proceedings, Allen (largely performing on guitar and vocals) changes costume regularly - at times taking the guise of a wizard, an interstellar traveller and a wizard – conducting his rag-tag orchestra in ever more warped flights of fantasy. Opening salvo, the ten minute plus 'You Can't Kill Me' sets the scene with Allen hammering out a jagged baseline before being joined in short order by the gathered ensemble. 'Flute Salad' allows a bravura demonstration of the instrument, with subsequent tracks taking in a number of poetry readings and expansive, progressive jams. 'Master Builder', toward the end of the set is a highlight, with the occasionally bemused crowd warming appropriately to the bands finest work, before a twenty minute version of 'You'll Never Blow Your Trip Forever' closes the show. The Melkweg happening, a three day event, was the third Gong Family Unconvention (Uncon), following a one day event at the Glastonbury Assembly rooms in 2005 and a 2-day affair -featuring several Gong-related bands such as Here and Now, System 7, House of Thandoy and Kangaroo Moon – a year later. While the DVD document suffers from all the usual defects of the genre – shaky camera work, dubious tacked on visual effects – it is a strong statement from a band, while not in their prime, sounding close to it. It is unlikely to be the final statement from the mercurial travellers, but presents as close an approximation as one is likely to get of the history of the group in a single document.

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