Thursday, 11 August 2022

Sixties-style psychedelic ‘happening’ at Nettlebed

A GUITARIST who has played with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is staging a Sixties-style

A GUITARIST who has played with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is staging a Sixties-style “happening” at Nettlebed village hall next weekend.

The Nettlebed Esoteric Fayre is the brainchild of George Vjestica, who appeared on Cave’s 2013 album Push the Sky Away and toured in support of it.

Other artists he has worked with include Groove Armada, John Squire of the Stone Roses and KT Tunstall.

Earlier this year, however, George decided to put a new band together — recruiting former Hard-Fi bassist Kai Stephens and drummer Sammy J Stopford to form Bandante.

The trio’s “fourth member” is collage artist Timothy Shepard, who is charged with defining their visual identity — including in a live setting.

Bandante’s debut single Bang Bang is due out in October and to promote it George had the idea of staging a one-off gig at the village hall in High Street, Nettlebed.

The fayre runs from 8pm to midnight on Saturday, August 20 — clashing with the first day of the Rewind festival at Henley’s Temple Island Meadows.

But on this occasion George is more than happy to be providing an alternative to the rock and pop mainstream. He said: “We’re coming from an old-school ‘happening’ angle similar to what bands like Pink Floyd and Soft Machine used to do back in the Sixties.

“Alongside the band playing live, Timothy will be working Super 8 film and oil projections. We also have guest DJs lined up.”

George, 49, who previously lived in Henley and Watlington but today lives in London with his wife and two sons, said he had been struck by the venue’s potential when he attended one of the regular concerts organised by Nettlebed Folk Song Club.

“I saw Martin Carthy of Steeleye Span play there — I actually went down to see Martin Carthy and he was playing with Dave Swarbrick of Fairport Convention.

“What I love about that village hall is it’s got this English eccentricity to it but you’ve got these amazing folk events going on in there. It’s quite old school.

“With Bandante the influences are kind of Pink Floydesque. There’s also a bit of Elvis Costello and classic songwriting. So it’s going back to the old school kind of thing, when bands used to do these happenings.

“Fleetwood Mac used to do these things in Reading — pick these odd places to do a gig rather than just going round the circuit. So that’s what I loved about Nettlebed — it seemed such a weird place to put it on. It’s just great.”

In terms of the band’s influences, George notes that visual supervisor Timothy Shepard worked with the late psychedelic pioneer Kevin Ayers, formerly of Soft Machine, on the singer-songwriter’s 2007 album The Unfairground. The following year he designed the cover of Paul Weller’s number one album 22 Dreams.

For their Nettlebed happening, Bandante are planning to revive the liquid light shows that first emerged in the early Sixties as an accompaniment to electronic music and avant garde theatre before being adapted by psychedelic rock bands.

One leading practitioner of the period was Mike Leonard, a part-time college tutor who designed Pink Floyd’s early light shows. He devised light machines that used electric motors to spin perforated discs, casting patterns of lights on the walls.

George said: “Basically, Tim’s got the whole visual side going on, all those Super 8 projectors, and we use oils, real oils, so there’s nothing digital about it.

“Because the space in Nettlebed in the hall is so big you can actually do quite a lot of projections in there, like DJs, and we just want to make it a bit of a visual experience. We’re using the authentic Sixties stuff — its all old reel-to-reels with the old spools, the old film projectors on that, and then we’ve got the oils. So we’re using all those kind of old psychedelic blobs. And the space is fantastic — we’re going to have all these screens printed, put up around the room, so that you can project everywhere.”

Timothy Shepard, in a sense, is Bandante’s equivalent of Mike Leonard and legendary Pink Floyd album cover designer Storm Thorgerson rolled into one.

“Totally!” enthuses George. “This is what we talk about. He does take care of that side of things. Timothy is our Storm Thorgerson. I won’t say Roger Dean, as in the Yes thing, it’s more Storm Thorgerson — it’s that kind of Hipgnosis vibe.

“Six months we’ve been doing this. We’ve done a few gigs where we’ve just been developing it and building it up, but now we’ve got to the point where we’ve got more of an idea of how we want to present it. It’s a collaboration — it’s really cool.”

Paul Clerehugh, who hosts regular music nights at his Stoke Row pub the Crooked Billet, agrees. He said: “George is a phenomenal force who reminds me of David Bowie in his earlier years — but with Noel Gallagher’s hair. He’s performed at the Crooked Billet a few times with American actor Alessandro Nivola, but with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds he is truly remarkable.”

Tickets for the Nettlebed Esoteric Fayre are £10 and can be booked online at

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