12th October 2002 – Megalithomania – Conway Hall, London, UK
- Drip Drop.
This gig was actually announced as early as April 29th 2002.
Exclusive gig; debut performance of “Drip Drop” The song often circulates under the title “The Universe is a Haunted House,” but to avoid confusion with the song from the 2000-06-17 Sonar Festival gig, the fact that the song uses raindrop sound effects, and the fact that the backing projection of the song represents water drops falling and rippling, the song will be called “Drip Drop” in this listing. This version is significantly longer than all other versions; said shorter versions would replace “Lake View” in the tour’s typical set from this point on.
This was the first gig where Pierce and Massimo wore their full-body black fabric suits. I’m not sure if they took them off at any point during this gig, as they normally. The designs were conceived by John and Ossian and images of them were later used on the cover of Live Four. Part of the choreography from this point on had Thighpaulsandra and Ossian lead the pair onto the stage during “I Am Angie Bowie (Sine Waves)”, then take of the bottom and top halves of their costumes respectively off at the start of the third and fourth songs, resulting in total reliance on the backing audio track and John’s vocals for the first minute or so of each song.
John and Peter were apparently very distant during the gig. They broke their romantic relationship up a few days/weeks later. John’s behavior was more trance-like and intense than normal; at one point, he tore apart a stuffed animal rabbit (perhaps a premonition of his lyrics to “Unhappy Rabbits”).
The lyrics to this version include the following:
I am not here
I am there
I am not there
I am here
We will push it in your direction
We will push in your direction
Where’s my unlucky rabbit?
Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip…
We are not here
I am not here
Where’s my unlucky rabbit?
Look what’s happened to the world!
Push the sound into the world…
Look at my unlucky rabbit!
Why could you lie?
You know you could’ve asked questions
But why are you here?
Why are you here?
We are the alien
Despite Brainwashed saying otherwise, Danny Hyde says he did not in fact do the sound for this gig. The only time he did was 2002-04-27 Barbican.
Before the gig, the announcer says, “Ladies and gentlemen, excuse me, immense pleasure to introduce the audio-equivalent of the monolith from 2001: Coil.” The audience erupts into applause and immediately the rain sound effects begin.
Sten Silhead attended this gig. When asked about the quality of the performance, he said, “Megalithomania was OK actually. Was a day event about stone circles and ancient astronomies, Talks about weird ‘occult’ characters like Austin Osman Spare etc, Coil were just the evening entertainment alongside Mount Vernons Arts Lab if memory serves. As to the gig, Jhonn seemed to be in a foul mood to start with but warmed up as the gig progressed. There was a very strange atmosphere as I recall, maybe everyone was tired cos’ it had been a long day, but deffo one of the more full on performances I recall…at one point he tore apart a fluffy rabbit, was pretty funny (though unintentionally I’m sure).”
Terv Terran attended this gig. He remembers: “Next gig was later the same year at a festival called Megalithomania at Conway Hall in Holborn. A ritualised and magical performance, I remember a hand coming from between the stage curtains before the gig began to place a chalice of some steaming substance before us. Being in the front row, this was about four feet from me. Then began an hour of solid noise, one extended piece made for the occasion. Then Jhon lost his Balance and showed me for the first time how real his pain was by smashing a toy bunny rabbit repeatedly against an old school table whilst yelling ‘With my bunny rabbit!’“
Pete Greening attended this gig. He remembers: “[M]anaged to shake Balance’s hand at megalithomania and thank him for the decades of enjoyment his music had given me.”
Morgan Yew attended this gig and remembers: “Incredible night. I was also there and had made the trip to the UK especially for this day. I was about 19 years old at the time and tripped the fuck out on the experience alone from the back of the balcony. Before the live performances, I also remember a showing of a film called ‘Psychedelic Archeology.’ The director asked us to vocalize the frequency registered in a megalithic stone. As a setup to the sets that came later, it was a good way to generate a resonance in the room, that I didn’t feel either the neofolk group or Mount Vernon touched the same way Coil did that night. Possibly wishing this were a more ‘straight’ Coil gig, an audience member on the balcony through a beer can or something at John that ended up hitting someone else on the lower level. I seem to also remember David Tibet being at this gig, seated at the front, but I am not certain. I still have the poster from the gig, maybe some other ephemera, and my own recording to MiniDisc of aspects of the day – including talks and whatever else. I haven’t transferred it in all these years…I remember someone videotaping from the balcony as well – I might have even spoken to them that night. It’s a bit of a blur. That document is definitely missing from the epic story of their return to the stage. Hopefully they’re like me, carrying it from place to place and not discarding it at any point…The breakup would explain some of the weird energy in the room that night. John was somewhere else. Knowing nothing of what they were doing live at the time – it was an incredible, slow, deliberate performance, that seemed to spiral out of control leading up to John smashing the stuffed-rabbit.”
On the old Wassonii blog, a few attendees offered their recollections.
The Shivering Manatee recalls: “Balance was particularly disturbed during this gig, and in fact stormed off, but not before Tibet left the audience prematurely. I think he’d been warned that JB was thinking of throwing a speaker cabinet into the audience….haha, I was glad I was sat upstairs.”
(Anonymous) recalls: “thanks for posting this one … i was at the show and, yes, jb did seem ‘disturbed’! almost like a tantrum. after a spell of repeatedly asking “where’s my rabbit?” over and over he disappeared backstage and later came back clutching a big white bunny toy which was then pounded until it broke apart. at the time it seemed an unsatisfying even disappointing performance but after, walking thru the streets everything seemed heightened and weird – perhaps an after effect of the tension? (btw, mt vernon astral temple were the support and were great).”
Wey Nagrom recalls: “I was on the balcony well, a few seats over from a guy who felt it was necessary to throw a beer can at Balance, but hit someone at the rails instead. He seemed to be provoking the audience with the existential question of “WHY ARE YOU HERE?” primarily directed towards one or two audience members to the left-side of the stage (from stage-pers). Before the show I was robbed of what little english pounds my bank at the time allowed me to remove while abroad (Credit Suisse, the fuckers) while trying to score some weed. But hell, I didn’t need it anyway. (the pounds or the pot) There was at least one camera at the center recording the event, and I made one using a minidisc recorder as well (of a quality that brings out a little more of the audience participation, I think). Thanks for the amazing archival site, by the way. Figured you’ll appreciate any input. _M.”
The following is a review of the concert (originally published here):
Conway Hall, London
Megalithomania was a day long festival organised by 3rd Stone Magazine and Strange Attractor, to celebrate standing stones and sacred sites, as expressed through folklore, history, archaeology, art, magic and music.
The organizers had put together an eclectic range of speakers discussing everything from Standing Stones in the movies, the Stonehenge Free festival to parish priests discussing London’s stones and Christian megaliths. It was that type of day where tie-dyed travelers, mixed with tweed-clad walkers, university lecturers mingled with pierced and tattooed individuals.
Having some renovation work done in our house meant that I missed most of the day’s activities. My first exposure to Megalithomania was Robert Wallis discussing English Heritage and Stonehenge and the need to strike a balance between ritual and archaeology. It was particularly interesting to hear how English Heritage in their arrogance tried to change the date of the solstice festivities.
The hall seemed particularly rammed for Iain Sinclair’s talk on his latest book, London Orbital. Sinclair’s vibrant piece dissected the “concrete necklace” that surrounds London. From Wren’s Temple Bar in Theobalds Grove, North London relocated from Fleet Street to architect Hawksmoor’s resting place in Shenley, Sinclair’s talk gave a beautiful and poetic overview of his latest book London Orbital where through walking the entire circumference of the M25 Sinclair reveals the secret history of suburban London. His talk was more compact than his performance a fortnight later at the Barbican. Time will tell whether London Orbital will do for suburban psychogeographers what his previous Lights Out For The Territory did for inhabitants of central London seeking strangeness.
It perhaps took him a short while to grasp control of the slide projector but Paul Devereaux’s talk about the simulacra of ancient landscapes and ground markings on sacred and magical sites throughout the world was fascinating. Deveraux’s an authority on geomancy, numinosity, consciousness and archaelogy and his illustrated talk was illuminating. It marked the end of the afternoon’s lectures, and signalled a short break for refreshments before the evening’s musical program commenced.
The evening opened with Brian Barritt, who I later discovered was a collaborator with Ash Ra Temple. Brian introduced a short documentary film recording movement of rays of the Equinox sun across the megaliths at Loughcrew in Ireland. It was accompanied by the vibrating tones of a special soundtrack of trance-inducing 111Hz.
The less said about Wigwam the better. Besides after a few songs I sought refuge in the bar. Gorodisch apparently fared better even providing a commendable version of ‘Gently Johnny’ from the Wicker Man, or so I’m told.
Glasgow’s finest sonic explorer, Drew Mulholland aka the Mount Vernon Arts Lab aka Mount Vernon Astral Tempel as they were for the night were the first act to enliven the evening. I’ve been an avid follower of Drew Mulholland’s vintage electronica and sonic wizardy. Over the course of 5 albums they’ve collaborated with Coil, EAR and Project D.A.R.K and with members of Portishead, and Belle & Sebastian. In fact, a new release is imminent on Coil’s Eskaton label – if they can find the tapes!
At their previous UK show late last year in Glasgow, as support to Stereolab, the Mount Vernon Art Lab were a foursome. Tonight Drew Mulholland stood alone, a small nonchalant fellow with a sound contraption that oscillated wildly. He is an archetypal Joe Meek figure procuring sounds from all sorts of electronic gadgetry. In terms of sound this version of Mount Vernon Arts Lab was closer to their One Minutes Blasts Rising To Three and Diminishing release on Ochre (which incidentally was recorded in a decommissioned subterranean nuclear command centre). Their set, lasting exactly 20 minutes 02 seconds, was specifically recorded to commemorate the palendromic year.
Slides of Drew’s urban trespass adventures and sites of psychogeographic importance were displayed: abandoned nuclear bunkers, disused military sites. These avant garde concrete structures proved a fitting backdrop to the MVAL’s abstract sound constructions. It was more a case of concrete music than musique concrete.
At the end of the set a lucky handful of people managed to get hold of original pieces of the Wicker Man structure – or at least of the wicker stand-in still nestling in a cove in Burrowhead Caravan Park.
Coil are always such an enticing live proposition. Only two weeks earlier they performed a captivating set as support to Sigur Ros at the Royal Festival Hall, London. Augmented by the naked duo of Black Sun Productions they confounded those waiting for Iceland’s finest. The fact that tonight’s Megalithomania set was specially commissioned only heightened the anticipation.
There was already incence wafting across the stage before the curtains opened. As they were drawn they revealed three members of Coil crouched and almost hidden below their equipment. There outfits were starch white, and their heads closely shaven apart from Thighpaulsandra who was still sporting a Mohawk.
The music positively pulsated and vibrated. The screens displayed and continued to for the entire set huge rippling liquid effects. From the front of the stage floor Balance slowly appeared. Arms outstretched, he rose slowly from his parallel position hidden on the floor. Coil are masters of drama and performance and for something so simple this was so effective. “Everything fornicates all the time” proclaimed a Coil t-shirt on sale on the night.
Balance didn’t appear too happy though. He seemed restless and very edgy. Conversely the music continued to pound and throb in a lovely, warm way. Dripping with rugged sensuality.
From somewhere Balance obtained a large cuddly white rabbit that he begun to batter about, swinging it by the ears, eventually thrashing it off the floor, until it burst. The poor bunny now severely flogged and in several pieces was then thrown to the crowd. It was swiftly followed by water which Balance sprayed across the hall. Responding with a nice piece of audience interaction beer was quickly tossed back.
At some point, they could have been there all evening for all I know, two evil-eyed pointy gonk type beings appeared to flank the stage. Having only seen them naked I can only presume that this is what Massimo and Pierce of Black Sun Productions look like when they’re fully clothed.
‘Why are we here?’ he hollered. ‘What are you here for?’ he screamed at the front rows. One can only wonder what David Tibet seated yards from an irate Balance thought.
Picking up the monitor Balance began shaking it violently. Back and forth it swung. You wondered whether he could actually hold it that long. Back and forth it swung. Would he hurl it into the crowd? He pounced off the stage, towards the seated front rows.
What made Balance’s antics all the more bizarre was the apparent oblivious nature of Thighpaulsandra, Sleazy and Simon. As Balance appeared to unravel the other paid studious attention to their musical equipment. Their apparent sense of normality only made the events seem more surreal. This was Coil, or at least Balance, at their most aggressive, their most frustrated.
I must confess that I like most others were captivated, if slightly unsettled, by Balance’s behaviour. In hindsight it’s apparent that John Balance is experiencing a rough period. Let’s hope he can harness that energy into something more positive, something more productive. All too quickly it was over Balance bounded from the stage. Coil’s long swirling drone was over.
It is important that people respect these standing stones and sacred sites but, first and foremost, they are to be enjoyed. Congratulations must be given to 3rd Stone and Strange Attractor for organising a great day nicely balanced between lectures and music.
Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson.
Simon Norris (Ossian Brown).
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AUD #2 – Morgan Yew