Kula Shaker Newcastle Wylam Brewery 23 January 2023

kula tixI have wanted to see Kula Shaker for some time. When they emerged from the indie pop scene some 20 or 30 years ago, I was quite taken by their psychedelic/Indian/transcendental musical style. Imagine late 60s/early 70s Quintessence merged with Deep Purple and remnants of punk, pop and the Beatles, and you start to get the idea of the band. Now, the leader and front man of Kula Shaker is none other than Crispian Mills, son of child star, and a personal hero of mine, Hayley Mills. I still absolutely love the film Whistle down the Wind, where a group of school children find an escaped criminal in hiding and believe him to be Jesus. I still find the film mesmerising, and quite spooky in some ways. Now Crispian must’ve had quite a bizarre upbringing. Imagine having Richard Attenborough and Lawrence Olivia as family friends, coming around regularly for tea. Crazy!

kula1“One of his (Mills) earliest musical memories was “Puff, the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary, which he believes “summed up [his] childhood… However, it was hearing “You Really Got Me” by…The Kinks that inspired him to become a guitarist. “It was like walking into a temple, a moment when my life changed… Chung! This is your destiny! …I was a guitar worshipper.” Through the guitar, Mills also discovered Deep Purple, and has cited their lead guitarist Ritchie Blackmore as a major influence on his style. Later, Mills started to delve deeper into psychedelic music, and spent most of his A-Level years taking LSD and listening to The Doors. … but he soon realised that drugs alone would not bring him the enlightenment he sought.“ (From Wikipedia)

So, the scene was set for quite an enlightening and bizarre evening. The venue itself was a revelation. We took a road past the Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary, up into Exhibition Park and around a meandering dark road past a lake complete with swans into an old pavilion, now the Wylam Brewery. My carer Elaine and I were led into the hall, at the back of the crowd, surrounded by a full hall of a younger group (at least compared to what I am used to) of say 30/40-year-olds some clearly off their heads on drink, weed or acid. The kind people let us through down to the front, towards the side of the stage (there are some advantages of being in a wheelchair!) We were just in time to catch the last song of support act.kula wrist

After a short wait, at 9 PM prompt, Kula Shaker took the stage emerging from a mist of dry ice, everyone twirling their hands and fingers to the psychedelic vibe. We were situated towards the left of the stage right behind the keyboard player who had the most wonderful long, perfectly straight, mane of blonde hair, playing (what else but) a 60s Hammond organ. Over to his right we could catch glimpses of Crispian playing a series of Fender Stratocasters, each heavily painted with multicoloured psychedelic swirls, jumping in the air, shaking his head and blonde tassels of hair and waving his hand in suitable twirls. The songs were a mix of acid-tinged music, Indian influenced psychedelia, and heavy rock. Perfect.

kula2I even recognised several songs: the John Lennon classic “Gimme Some Truth” the lyrics spat out by Mills with appropriate venom, the Kula Shaker signature tune, “Tattva” and the Deep Purple (originally Joe South) classic and closer “Hush”. Along the way we were treated to songs with references to the 60s: “Grateful When Your Dead” and “Jerry Was There” (Jerry Garcia?) A compelling and quite bizarre take on “Ginger Bread Man” (yes, the lyrics were actually “Run, Run As Fast As You Can, You Can’t Catch Me, I’m the Ginger Bread Man”: just wonderful). Add some appropriate namedropping. Crispian: “I stole the next riff from George Harrison. I rang George one evening (you would, wouldn’t you, after all your mum is Hayley Mills) “Hey George, I hope you don’t mind I borrowed that riff from you”. George: “of course that’s okay, Crispian, but actually it’s not my riff, it’s Eric’s (Clapton, of course). Surreal., Then they were gone. It was almost 10:30 PM.

kula setThey were soon back for a trio of encores concluded with the wonderful “Govinda”, very similar to a Quintessence song of the same name. I loved every minute of it. Then things started to get crazy. A friendly guy, completely off his head, got me a set list (see image) from the stage. He then went on to offer to steal a guitar pedal for me.” No!” I shouted. He persisted “hey man, it’s cool”. I replied “it’s okay, I’m cool. The set list is just fine for me”. The guy gave me a couple of peace signs and disappeared into the crowd. Elaine and I made a hasty retreat through the crazy throng and got into our taxi, which was there waiting for us. The craziness continued, we drove through a tunnel where groups of young people were congregated making fires and settling themselves down for the evening, a couple of guys entertaining them with fire sticks which they were twirling around their heads.

I got home wondering if this had all really happened or whether I had somehow had acid strategically placed into my medication. But no, it was all real. Elaine and I caught up on Coronation Street and a Vivian Westwood documentary I had recorded. I soon drifted into a psychedelic sleep. “It’s All Too Much” as the Beatles said. “The Walrus was Paul”.

Setlist: Hey Dude; Sound of Drums; I’m Against it; Infinite Sun; Gaslight; Temple of Everlasting Light; Grateful When Your Dead; Jerry Was There; Gimme Some Truth; Ginger Bread Man; Beautiful Dreamer; Into The Deep; Waves; Taxes; Narayana; 302; Tattva; Hush.

Encore: Gokula; Great Hosanna; Govinda

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John on January 26, 2023 at 10:57 am

    Hi Peter,

    This sounds like a sixties “Happening” man! I hadn’t heard of Kula Shaker before. I will check Youtube for them now. Haley Mills seemed to be always acting in the films I watched in the sixties. But I missed seeing Whistle down the Wind – one to watch out for – for me. Cool write up!

    All the Best, John

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on January 26, 2023 at 12:43 pm

      Hi John. Great to hear from you. Yes the evening definitely had a 60s feel about it. Lots of fun! Whistle Down the Wind is a classic film. Happy days Peter

      Reply

  2. Posted by David Pallant on January 26, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    As always an excellent review, sounds suitably ‘left field’ and psychedelic!! I really liked Kula Shaker back in the day and was not aware they were still going strong. Looking forward to your next offering.

    Reply

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