Five months ago Prog was a tiny part of a tie-dyed, patchouli-scented pack, grooving away to Gong a couple of miles across town at the Highbury Garage.
Undergoing treatment for cancer on the other side of the world, group leader Daevid Allen was present via backdrops and email. The atmosphere was ebullient, and Allen conveyed messages of love for the crowd and support for his bandmates.
In February, Allen decided to let nature take its course. In March, he was gone. Enormously painful as this was for friends, fans and the band, nevertheless the Gong Family gathered around and swiftly organised a charity celebration at the canalside eco venue, inSpiral.
We file into the intimate space decked with Gong flags, glass mandalas and lava projections. People convene, faces from the Garage gig in abundance such as Jez, a propeller-hatted pixie. Outside, Channel 5 talk show host Matthew Wright is at one end and a chap dressed as the Wizard Of Oz’ Tin Man is holding court at the other.
Inside, the Gong alumni Miquette Giraudy is DJing. Tonight’s first live guests are Mark Robson and Graham Clark, aka The Magick Brothers, bringing a hush with their delicate acoustica for violin and keys. A understated side-project, it’s a reminder of Allen’s participation in world of the serene as well as the absurd.
After a short break, a stripped-down Gong trio step up: Ian East on winds, Dave Sturt on bass, Kavus Torabi on guitar. They start to improvise – “letting Daevid guide us,” explains Torabi. At one point, a dashing older gent at the front gets out a flute to jam. He then takes the mic to explain how he got his instrument – an encounter with Allen at the Roundhouse in the 60s saw him chucking his job in and, on a plane ticket given to him by the Gong guru, jetting off to live on a cliffside in Mallorca. Eventually, tunes emerge such This Revolution, where Allen is with us again vocally, plus a large chunk of Camembert Electrique, prompting huge, cathartic singalongs of I Bin Stone Before and You Can’t Kill Me.
The night is still young as Steve Hillage fires up his closing DJ slot with Tomorrow Never Knows. RIP, Daevid.