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Starwood PDF Print E-mail
The Starwood Festival is a mind-bending alternative and psychedelic world in the heart of Amish country in upstate New York, just 5 miles from the border of Pennsylvania.


ACE [The Association for Consciousness Expansion] began this annual institution 26 years ago and for the past number of years there has been a growing and solid Didjeridu scene, centered around Buffalo Didjeridu player and Activist Jason Gazda and a tight knit community of other enthusiastic didjeridu and likeminded people. For several years I have had an annual email exchange with a connected string of Didj players and ACE members about the possibility of playing at Starwood and, in 2005, after a number of false starts due to my European tours at conflicting times, I was finally scheduled to play solo on the main stage at Starwood on the Saturday night, opening for Airto Moreira and his Jam band, who I also jammed with. I had an absolute blast on that occasion and was completely welcomed into the Starwood community, which I couldn’t begin to describe adequately here – so very many aspects and angles to cover. Best to go to their web page to find out more:

To my surprise and delight I was invited to come back in July 2006 for the latest Starwood Festival – this time with a band. Well, I haven’t been playing much with any particular band recently. My last few years have been dominated by a whole series of collaborations and involvements none of which really constitutes ‘A Band’.† So this invitation represented something of a challenge. Recently, however, I’ve played a couple of trio gigs with two of my long-term collaborators, Peter Valsamis and Geoffrey Gordon. It’s the first time that these two had actually played together and the chemistry was happening. Geoffrey, who was for years the percussionist in Jai Uttal’s band and in the mid 90’s played drums with me in Beasts of Paradise has more recently been spreading his musical wings into the area of vocals [Kirtan] and keyboards and Peter, who joined Trance Mission in 1997 as the drummer has been exploring live programming in a series of gigs with me over the past couple of years.

Together with the three of us we added cello virtuoso Rufus Cappadocia, who PV has known for ever, and Eda Maxym on vocals, who, of course, I’ve worked with for years in Beasts of Paradise and Trance Mission and who is now also embarking on a solo career. A formidable band. The proof of the pudding had to be in the performance at Starwood, since we were only able to have one rehearsal and that without Rufus who lives in New York, where the rest of us are Bay Area based.

So, during a day of pouring rain both Peter V. and I were able to give vastly different viewpoints on contemporary didjeridu in our two workshops: Mine was more or less a straight technique workshop, where Peter gathered about a dozen didjeridu players from the Didj Dome and conducted a very special performance of ambient Didjeridu minimalism on the main stage before the evening concerts began.

The concert of “Stephen Kent & Trance Mission” was a huge success headlining the Main Stage and leading into the Big Bonfire that is the annual highlight of the Starwood Festival [I am told that, after Burning Man, Starwood’s is the biggest bonfire in the USA]. We began our set with a shredding version of the Original TM classic “Chasing the Moon Rabbot” and followed that playing a sequence of jams featuring the four guys – Geoffrey, Peter, Rufus and Stephen – and mixing the cultural influences from all four directions. Then, after about 45 minutes, Eda joined us onstage and we performed songs from the back catalog of our work together, including:

Red Rock
Mind and the Fire
Working Wheel
Tomorrow Never Knows

And a version of the classic soul song “People Get Ready”, led by Geoffrey. I’d say this was the most successful “SK Band” gig in recent memory with all performers shining and kicking into an inspiring mix on all fronts. Hopefully this will be but the first in a series of outings for this ensemble over the next year or so. Already I am fielding requests for follow up gigs in the NE USA. Stay tuned.


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Contemporary didjeridu musician Stephen Kent ©2010 Stephen Kent. Photos by Mitch Tobias. Design by Pranamedia.