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System 7/Banco de Gaia (live at The Garage)

The Garage, London
5 October 2012

At the end of the day most venues are the same, there’s a bar the stage a mixing desk and a few nice lights (if you’re lucky). I had not been to The Garage in a long time but remember seeing some great gigs there. As I entered the layout was the same as it had always been, however, System 7 and their cohorts had got their hands on the venue and turned it into a cross between the UFO Club and the old Club Dog meets a Goa beach rave. Colours were everywhere, the ceiling hung with multi-patterned flower shapes as liquid projections danced around the walls. This was true psychedelia in a ’67 style.

Banco de Gaia enters the stage in a swirl of multi-coloured lights and stands behind his set up that includes two Apple Macs and various other gadgets. Somewhere out of the nowhere a lonesome train whistle howls in the distance and the chugging of its steam engine begins and we are all aboard the “Last Train to Lhasa,” one of Banco’s most famous pieces. This track has now taken on an even greater relevance as since it was written a train now does travel from central China all the way to Lhasa in Tibet as the Chinese stamp their authority over the ancient Tibetan culture and have caused the end for Shangri-la. Banco’s melody gives this train a melancholy, but somehow uplifting soundtrack. As his set moves on the tracks build in rhythm but also take on an air of the grandiose as well. Beautiful strands sound like the building of the ancient temples at Thebes as the exotic mixture of synth pads and world music voices blend together in an intoxicating brew.

At times the sounds were so lush you had to let them break over you in a wave and then the beat would kick in and the rhythm would make your feet move. He played a lot of his classics which were wonderful to hear with the great sound of the venue.  Banco’s set lasted an hour and for me he could have played for longer, but we still had the headliners to come.

The last time I saw System 7 was on New Year’s night at a tiny venue in Camden and my memories of this were/are slightly hazy. With a whoosh of keyboards that sound like a rocket about to launch and then a gentle drift of cosmic ambience, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy set off the System 7 engines. When the beats begin to hit in the dance floor explodes and a mass of grinning folk, not unlike some Pete Loveday cartoon, move to the rhythm of the band. When Hillage plays his first bit of bliss guitar, then the hands of the audience wave as if trying to hitch a ride from some psychedelic alien craft.

The set moves between high-octane dance numbers to space rock out-there cosmic wibble. The best thing you can do is close your eyes and let the whole sound seep into your mind as you are lifted higher with the positive energy of the music. Some of the guitar riffs are quite heavy, but then a subtle bit of lead drags you to the great Om riff and out into the collective consciousness of other worldness.

System 7 are certainly well worth catching especially if you have had a bit of bad week, as they will re-energise your soul with their music. By the end of the night I’m tired and exhilarated the good vibe of the evening spills out on to the streets and suddenly the normally shabby London town is a blaze of colour and light and maybe…just maybe….all venues don’t have to be the same – the bands can change them into their very own orbiting worlds.

-Gary Parsons-

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