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 later.

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 about it. 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 face.
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 Quilmes. 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 set.
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
War Heroes
A Part of Me
Gateway Middle (Widge solo)
Tatras/Quilmes medley (Widge solo)
Final Solution
The Overload
Days of Our Lives

Red (King Crimson)


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