Martin Orford Band, August 4th, 2001
Whitchurch Festival, UK
By Red Sedan
The Orford Weekend
I was wearing sneakers, cotton pants and a polo shirt when I walked in the
tall office building in London. 'Gosh Red, you look sunny today', said
John R. when we shook hands. 'I'm just passing through, John. I've got
a couple of days off and I'm visiting some friends in Hampshire. I wasn't
feeling much like dragging a three piece along'.
While gobbling away large cups of coffee we ran through our agenda of the
meeting and by the time we headed for the pub for lunch and a pint I found
I had been appointed leader of the European e-Commerce team. But there was
much more exciting stuff ahead this weekend ....
When I finally reached Liverpool station - some dumb git of the Heathrow
Express had initially given me directions to the wrong station - I had
5 minutes left to catch the train to Southampton. If only the old geezer
in front of me would hurry up, I could still make it. He turned to be
almost deaf and took minutes to get a ticket .... for 5 days later !
F**k ! I needed a ticket NOW ! By the time I finally reached the platform
the train was long gone. Fortunately the next train left only 20 minutes
I was glad to notice that the southern lines had seemingly started to
invest in some new material. The train was brand new and much more
comfortable than the ones I had previously traveled in to Hampshire.
Shortly after arriving in Southampton, a white van pulled up to the
ticket office and a smiling Widge popped out. It seemingly was one of
those hectic days, and after dropping my stuff at the B&B in Bishop's
Waltham, saying hi to Chris and Jack Russel Pip, the early evening
found us driving down to the New Forest. Widge took an interesting
route past horses scratching their behinds against bushes and pigs and
deer wandering across the road freely. This place was probably the
absolute opposite of home ...
Arriving at the studio in Nomansland, on the estate of Steve Christey's
parents, where only weeks before the infamous Jadis Garden Gig had taken
place, we found Rob in the studio with some youngsters. This band wasn't
really called 'These Fuckers', as Rob introduced them, but something like
Bastion Four, performing music in the vein of Oasis.
While Bastion Four hit the road, Widge and I unpacked the keyboards for
the rehearsal, while the two cats of the Christey family roamed around
curiously. Before long Steve himself arrived and I helped him find the
pieces of drumkit between the dirty laundry in his car. About half an
hour later the Birmingham boys, John Jowitt and Mark Westwood, both of
Dirtbox fame, arrived.
'Feel free to make some tea or coffee', Rob said while he sneaked out
into the sunset, while the musical four where setting up their gear.
Before long the Martin Orford Band was running through the setlist of
the next evening. Some of the songs that had been rehearsed the previous
weekend sounded quite okay, but some other songs still sounded slightly
bumpy. In the meantime I was making myself a cup of coffee and admiring
Rob's lovely toys; I'd always wanted to be a sound engineer when I was
a teenager .....
Suddenly there was a knock on the door, and the familiar face of Dave
'Ace' Boland (Nolian keyboard roadie and leader of the band Hybrid)
popped in, grinning and yelling 'Beer break !', bringing in a box of
canned lager. After a short break Ace and me caught up on proggy news in
the control room while the band continued rehearsing the set.
Shortly after 10 o'clock they called it a day and we all headed for a
nearby pub, which seemingly was often frequented by Madonna as well,
for a quick last pint.
While driving back home Widge nervously said: 'I get the feeling this
whole Martin Orford Band was a wrong idea'. I told him everything was
going to be fine, but neither my comforting talks or the beers we downed
back at his place seemed to take away the tension.
After taking a walk through Bishop's Waltham and doing some reading into
the small town's history and some sightseeing, I headed back for Casa
Orford. Oggie, IQ's lighting engineer, greeted me when I walked in. He
was staying with Chris and Widge for a week during his holidays.
In the early afternoon the three of us headed for Whitchurch and Widge
obviously was still very tense. As a matter of fact, he was so tense that
he kept up the good old Whitchurch tradition of bumping the car into
something. Fortunately nobody got hurt and later we all had a good laugh
Arriving in Whitchurch we soon met up with John, Mark, Steve and Lol.
Seemingly the headlining act, The Flower Kings, were taking a long time
with their soundcheck. To kill time we grabbed a beer and some of the
tasty burgers that the festival staff were preparing.
When finally the time arrived to soundcheck we carried the gear up the
stage in the sportshall and before long the boys were running through
bits of the set while Rob and Lol adjusted lights and sounds.
In the meantime I had a chat with some old friends, among whom Sam Smyth
and Neil Durant, the latter not only known for his keyboard play in the
band Sphere, but also the former list-owner of IAPH !
Sphere was also the first band to kick-off the evening program of the
Saturday at Whitchurch. Although their music is still not my cup of tea,
I once again was highly impressed by the tightness of the band and their
musical skills. Well done lads !
Next up were Widge and co. After Oggie signaled Rob with a flashlight
the intro of Fields of Fallen Angels was played and the band came on
stage. Whereas the band was still having problems with bits of the song
during the rehearsal and soundcheck, the tension of the moment had a
positive influence on them and the performance sounded great ! The
audience loved it and some of the tension seemed to lift from Widge's
Widge, who had taken center stage with his keyboards ('Otherwise it would
look like a band of which the singer had run off', as he said), was
dressed in a strange sort of pyjama coat thingy he had come across earlier
that day. It certainly made for a whole new image compared to the old
baseball cap, but I'm not quite sure if he and the audience had the same
image in mind. To me, it looked like he had just gotten out of bed ....
Next song in the set was War Heroes. I was very glad to hear that this
one was part of the gig because I had always found that track missing from
Widge's solo performances, and it is a fine IQ tune that isn't played
often enough. By the way, Widge had told me that he had attempted
to get Paul Menel (!) on vocals for the Martin Orford Band, because he
didn't really want to sing all of the songs himself. Unfortunately he had
failed to get in touch with Menel in time for the gig.
Some people would probably have expected John Wetton, who was among the
audience as well, to sing A Part of Me, as he does on the album.
Unfortunately this was not to be, but Widge did fine on vocals himself
and the track rocked ! The same goes for Fusion, another crowd-pleaser,
judging from the bopping and swinging bodies around me.
John, Mark and Steve left the stage and Widge performed solo versions
of Gateway (middle) and a medley of his classical tunes Tatras and
The band came back on stage and after taping a picture of Mr. Burns of
the Simpsons to Widge's keyboards, they continued with Final Solution
and an enchanting rendition of Evensong, with Widge on flute in the
intro. Next up was another surprise: Promises. This might be a poppy
IQ tune, but a damn fine one at that. I was pleased to hear them play the
extended version with the 'in your face' middle bit (as can be heard
on 'J'ai Pollette d'Arnu'). The spooky Overload (unfortunately Peter
Nichols could not make it to the gig to do vocals on this one) and the
accessible Days of Our Lives (with Widge on wind-synth) closed the main
The band came back on stage for one encore that the audience probably
didn't expect; King Crimson's Red. Mark was riffing away so
enthusiastically during this one that he suddenly lost his guitar strap
and send his axe swinging through the air.
And then it was over. It seemingly was an enormous relief. The audience
had loved it and backstage the band went for a group hug.
I have to say that the band did a great job, especially considering
the short time they had to rehearse. Especially Mark deserves both thumbs
up. He might have dropped the occasional note during the gig and he
obviously was quite nervous, looking down for most of the concert. Still,
he had to learn all the stuff from scratch, while the others had played
most of the songs before on Widge's album.
We quickly got the gear off the stage and packed the cars. Since none
of us wanted to see the Flower Kings gig - who were babbling on to the
annoyed audience for ages - Chris, Widge, Oggie and I headed back for
Bishop's Waltham where we arrived in time for the last two rounds in one
of the local pubs.
While Oggie nodded away on the coach, Widge and I continued looting the
Orford beer fridge.
Strange enough, next morning began with a slight hang-over. After a
relaxed breakfast and some reading I met up with the rest. After
entertaining the dog with Oggie and Chris we made our way back to the
New Forest for the second time this weekend. In the studio at Nomansland
a recording session for The Lens album was taking place.
We found Mike Holmes and Rob finalizing the drum track for Sleep Until
You Wake. Next, Mike laid down the fretless bass for the same song.
Then a MS2000 analogue synth was pulled from under a stack of magazines
and Mike started working out the bass throb for From the Sublime'. The
whole thing had a feel that reminded me a lot of Pink Floyd's On The
Run, and I'm anxious to hear the end result.
Still tired from the previous day, Widge, Oggie and I went into a big
yawning contest while hanging around the studio. Probably triggered by
the MS2000 throb, the throb in my own head seemed to return, so I took
Jowitt's fretless bass outside for some fresh air and experimenting.
Fretless bass turned out to be rather difficult, or should I blame it on
the hang-over ?
At the end of the afternoon we headed back for a promised barbecue. I
was very surprised to find the barbecue filled with just sausages !
I was explained that these were the best sausages in Britain and Oggie
had even made a little map with the position of all the different tastes
on the grill. And indeed, these were absolutely marvelous ! Best
sausages I have ever eaten !
To stimulate digestion we took the dog out for a walk through the fields
and to a pub half an hour walking. I was exhausted by the time we reached
it and I was glad to be able to catch my breath over a couple of pints
before we had to climb all the way back home. The evening was closed with
a great bottle of Widge's home-made wine (the notorious 'Widgey Brew'),
made of some local berries and sweetened with honey. According to Widge
it was the best thing he ever brewed, and after 3 or 4 glasses I could
only agree with him.
Thus ended another fun weekend in Hampshire. Widge was kind enough to
drop me off at the station in Southampton the next afternoon when he
headed for another Lens session ..... of which we will soon be able to
hear the results ......
P.S. For more pictures of this gig, please visit The Lush Attic.
The Field of Fallen Angels
A Part of Me
Gateway Middle (Widge solo)
Tatras/Quilmes medley (Widge solo)
Days of Our Lives
Red (King Crimson)