7 choices - a combination of editorial prerogative and the fact that I couldn't find two to leave out.
In cahoots, Band on the Wall, November 1987
Dreams wide awake! It seems beyond most Canterburyphile's wildest fantasies that you could get Hugh Hopper, Phil Miller, Pip Pyle and Elton Dean to perform in one band. Back then, from the point of view of a Canterbury novice, and in the context of the wilderness days of the late Eighties it was even more mindblowing. Hugh Hopper was immense, but the 'unknown' Steve Franklin threatened to steal the show with some vicious keyboard sounds. There was even an outbreak of dancing at one point, from a gaggle of opportunist teenage 'Arndale' girlies.
Hopper/Hewins, Miller/Baker - The Vortex, April 1994
Some months after the 'almost legendary' Facelift Miller/Baker gig in Manchester the same duo appeared on a double-header at Islington's Vortex. The Hopper/Hewins set was the highlight and bits of the concert would eventually end up on the 'Adreamor' CD. So stream-of-consciousness was the music that one friend maintains to this day that Hugh Hopper was 'playing his head'.
Gong 25, October, October 1994
Where do you start? Two days of utter gnomic bliss. The classic Gong line-up almost entirely revisited, but this was just as memorable for getting the likes of Short Wave and Didier Malherbe's Fluvius up on stage, or Kevin Ayers accompanied by Phil Miller, Daevid Allen or Hugh Hopper. A genuine one-off, although Gong themselves for me reached their apogee about 6 months later with an astonishing gig at Glasgow's Arches venue.
Kevin Ayers and the Wizards of Twiddly - live on Radio 1, January 1995
The Wizards' own unique brand of lunacy in the North West in the Nineties was so utterly invigorating that I've still probably seen them more times live than any other band. Their rather different incarnation as a Kevin Ayers backing band gave Facelift the perfect excuse to cover them more thoroughly - this breathtaking session for Mark Radcliffe saw myself and WAWS editor Martin Wakeling huddled in darkness in the artists' waiting room whilst a chilling 'Lady Rachel' was being piped through in full stereophonic glory, whilst on the other side of the glass Kevin and the Wizards were miked up to the eyeballs.
Mother Gong - on tour 1991, Ashton, Bolton, Leeds, St Helens
No one gig in particular (their appeal commanded me to attend 4 gigs) - but Gilli Smyth has never been in better voice, superbly backed by haunting saxophonist Robert Calvert, Harry Williamson , Thom the Poet and various backing tapes. A very special four-piece.
Caravan - Bedrock, Central TV Studios, Nottingham, July 1990
I never got to hear about the Gong and Hatfields shows, but this 'Bedrock' Central TV show, when screened, was probably the best of the three, boasting the band's original line-up. Plus it was the first time I'd ever seen Caravan - the intro to 'For Richard' (with flute) was every bit as jawdropping as I'd hoped.
Daevid Allen - Hummingbird, Birmingham, April 1988
Incense burning on the stage, acoustic guitar, tablas, violin and harmonium, plus a heady mix of mantras, Krishna chants and poetry - my first encounter with Daevid Allen was perhaps a little atypical given his later antics with a resurrected Gong. This was some way to catch your first glimpse of a genius - just back from 7 years of exile in various spiritual retreats. An intimate and unforgettable gig.
The Orb - Manchester Polytechnic, May 1989
A gig that changed my life - I'd gone along purely along on the offchance that Steve Hillage might be playing with The Orb, and was instead bombarded with pulsating house beats, sound effects and a wonderful sense of space. The immediate impact lasted for days, and opened so many new musical doors. It was the meeting of eras in other ways too - I can recall being surrounded by similarly inquistive old mates, but, looking back, it was my first sight of others I was to get very close to.