At this past summer’s Hellfest, I struck up a conversation with two Australians while waiting for Hawkwind to go on. Now, of course, these guys knew nothing of Hawkwind and were only there to secure good spots for Kyuss Lives!, who were playing immediately afterwards, so I took it upon myself to educate them somewhat on what Hawkwind were all about. As we spoke, a mysterious Norwegian emerged from the crowd, looking vaguely like a wizard with his long, whitish blonde hair and his hoodie pulled up over his head. “If you like space rock,” he said in a conspiratorial tone, “You should check out Ozric Tentacles.” Shortly thereafter, he disappeared into the crowd … as if he had never been there at all. I made a mental note that day to take him up on his sage advice and check out Ozric Tentacles. After all, this dude may have been a wizard.
Ozric Tentacles have been around since 1983 and made their name on the UK festival scene, becoming known for their spacey, psychedelic instrumental jams with a heavy electronic element. Led by founder Ed Wynn, the band were back in Toronto after who knows how many years, playing for a crowd of dedicated prog aficionados. And fans of opener Squid Lid.
Yes, Squid Lid, a Toronto electro/industrial group were the openers for the show. In many ways, they made sense on the bill – both acts have a lot of electro elements – but in other ways, I’m not sure there was that much crossover between the crowds. I get the feeling that the guys in Squid Lid are maybe fans of Ozric Tentacles and wanted on the bill, or perhaps someone just thought it would be cute to have a band with “squid” in their name opening for a band with “tentacles” in their name. Regardless, they played a decent set, albeit one that was in my opinion, too long by about 20 minutes. After a couple of instrumentals, they brought out a female singer who started out with a cover of Tom Waits’ “Clap Hands,” which sounded kind of cool and unique. Their later attempt at a cover of Bowie’s “Fame,” however, was less than stellar. The singer had a pretty good voice and also seemed to add a bit of sex appeal to their show. After all, two guys in Mad Max-esque costumes with facemasks and squid hats don’t exactly scream sex appeal … unless you’ve got a Cthulu fetish.
Finally, the Ozrics took to the stage, much to the delight of all the prog fanatics up front and pretty much ended being all that I’d hoped they would be. They often fell into the kind of propulsive, repetitive groove that Hawkwind is so fond of and also had a spacey, dubby vibe at times. While there were lots of guitar heroics and hot synth action on display, the bass was most noticeable much of the time. I know I just used this phrase recently in relation to Absolutely Free, but I think the term “cosmic odyssey” would also apply nicely to Ozric Tentacles as well. This was a pretty satisfying concert experience. Despite not really knowing any of their songs, I became totally immersed in the vibe of the whole thing (That sounds sooo hippy … I’m sorry) and would now count myself of somewhat of a fan. So thanks, mysterious Norwegian guy … thanks for everything.