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Gong — Live at the Gong Family Unconventional Gathering
(G-Wave Records, 2006/2021, 2CD / DVD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-01-02

Live at the Gong Family Unconventional Gathering Cover art

Ungong 06 (full name: The Gong Family Unconventional Gathering) was a festival held in Amsterdam in 2006 at The Melkweg. It featured performances by a host of musicians with connections to Gong both direct and otherwise: Daevid Allen, Steve Hillage, Tim Blake, and Gilli Smyth in various configurations, Here and Now, Acid Mothers Gong, Cyndee Lee Rule, University of Errors, and more. The capstone, of course, was Gong itself in a decade-spanning lineup. Allen, Smyth, Hillage, and Blake were joined by Mike Howlett, Didier Malherbe, Miquette Giraudy, Theo Travis, and Chris Taylor to run through a selection of tunes bridging the band’s history. This document is available as a double CD set in a nice package with lots of photos and Gongian doodles.

There’s a great quote from Hillage in the booklet:

I don’t see this as a ‘reunion gig’. We can’t exactly reform because we never really broke up and have always remained together energetically, in fact you could say we never really formed in the first place.

Well, obviously that last is hyperbole, since someone released all those albums that many of us cherish. What we have is a wonderful set from a band that is in excellent form, taking us on a trippy journey to strange places. Classics like “Radio Gnome Invisible,” “Oily Way,” “Inner Temple,” “Outer Temple,” “Master Builder,” “A Sprinkling of Clouds,” and many others are rendered as if they were brand new, and the band’s energy is high and whimsical without being sloppy in the least. Any Gong fan should find much to enjoy in hearing this more-or-less classic version of the band working their magic together.

The DVD version presents all of the same music in a nicely done multiple camera shoot. The visual element of the show, with trippy lights and costumes, certainly enhances the experience. Daevid Allen is his legendary wigged-out self, and Gilli Smyth does her famous whispering. Hillage tosses off some great guitar work, and it’s clear what an anchor Mike Howlett was on bass, holding the madness together. Theo Travis only shows up in the second half of the set, augmenting Malherbe’s flute, soprano sax, and duduk with his own tenor sax and flute. Ideally, it would have been nice to have the DVD and CDs packaged together — as it is, they must be purchased separately. But for a Gong fan, it’s probably worth the cost to see Allen and Company in top form so many decades after they landed on earth, and such a short time before Allen left the planet.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases, 2006 recordings

Related artist(s): Didier Malherbe, Gilli Smyth / Mother Gong, Steve Hillage / System 7, Theo Travis, Gong, Daevid Allen, Tim Blake

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