Tag Archives: Purson

2016 Cambridge Rock Festival – Part Three

This is the third and final part of my review of the five-day festival. The first two parts are here and here.

Sunday was something of a Ladies’ Day, with six out of the eight main stage acts featuring female lead singers. First of these were the seven-piece T Clemente band, who’s flown all the way from San Francisco at their own expense to play the festival. Their tight and polished West Coast AOR sound made a very strong impression for an opening act, and left the impression we’ll be hearing more of this band in the future.

Space Elevator

With a catsuited singer who goes under the name of “The Duchess”, Space Elevator had a very dramatic visual appeal, and had the music to back it up too, with a great hard rock AOR sound. Alongside original numbers about obsessive-compulsive disorder, being dumped, and love letters to Doctor Who, they threw in excellent covers of Thin Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe a Word” and Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator”. Perhaps their only flaw was their use of too much programmed keys rather than having a flesh-and-blood keyboard player in the band.

Making a welcome return after their superb performance on the same stage in 2014, Norway’s The Windmill were the most Prog band of the day; with a flute and a steampunk-dressed keyboard player their music is soaring, melodic and epic with the focus on symphonic composition rather than instrumental virtuosity. Alongside a lengthy new number their set drew heavily from “Continuum”, although sadly there wasn’t time for the 24-minute “The Gamer”. All heady stuff and ticks all the right boxes for the hardcore prog fans.

Heather Findlay

The Heather Findlay Band were eagerly anticipated. They’ve gone through some changes from the band that toured in April, with former Cloud Atlas man Martin Ledger taking over on lead guitar, Touchstone’s Henry Rogers taking over on drums, and the band slimmed down to a six-piece without a rhythm guitarist. From the performance they delivered you’d never have guessed this was the first live appearance of this full lineup. They combined highlights from Mantra Vega’s “The Illusion’s Reckoning” with older Mostly Autumn standards and a couple of rocked-up Odin Dragonfly numbers. Losing the rhythm guitar didn’t seem to leave holes in the sound; Angela Gordon’s keys took a bigger role, and Heather played acoustic guitar on some songs. On “Caught in a Fold” Sarah Dean took over on keys while Angela played the flute parts. One thing that’s notable about the various incarnations of Heather’s band is the way they totally reinvent the songs to fit the instrumentation of the current band. Martin Ledger proved an inspired choice as guitarist, nailing the guitar parts on both the Mantra Vega songs and the older Mostly Autumn material. One surprise was a very powerful “Unoriginal Sin”, which didn’t feature in the April tour, with Heather playing keys. An epic Carpe Diem and the spiralling title track of The Illusion’s Reckoning bought the very strong set to a close.

Purson seem on the cusp of far bigger things. Their take on late sixties psychedelic rock has long been embraced by the underground prog scene, but they’ve been making waves of late in more mainstream waters. They’ve a band with a look that exactly matches their sound, as if they’ve all stepped out of a time machine from 1969, complete with the right vintage guitars. Rosalie Cunningham on lead vocals and lead guitar is the focus, playing raw and dirty riffs and reeling off solos with heavy use of the wah-wah pedal. Despite the brief interruption of a collapsing keyboard stand, they delivered a very powerful set. It does leave you wondering how much longer we’ll still be able to see this band on stages like this.

It’s been a long, long time since Odin Dragonfly have played anything other than the occasional very short support set, so their appearance on Stage Three was a rare chance to see Heather and Angela together as an acoustic duo., the two of them playing their second set of the day. Compared to the rock dynamics on the main stage this was beautiful chill-out stuff with minimal instrumentation, and the emphasis on the vocal harmonies. There were moments when they came over a little under-rehearsed, especially the stripped-down take on Mostly Autumn’s “Evergreen”, but it was still an enjoyable set, with songs from the 2007 album “Offerings” alongside stripped-down versions of Mostly Autumn’s “Eyes of the Forest” and “Bitterness Burnt”, and a new song which might even end up on a long-awaited follow-up to “Offerings”.

Sonya Kristina

The clash with Odin Dragonfly meant I only caught the end of Curved Air’s set, but from what I saw it seemed like the tail end of a barnstorming set, with two of the biggest hits right at the end, “Back Street Luv” as the closer. With so many progressive-leaning bands with female lead singers on the bill over the course of the weekend it’s fitting Curved Air were one of them. Sonya Kristina is an absolute legend and still in fine voice. And they’re yet another reminder that progressive rock needs more violins.

Mostly Autumn are a fixture in this festival, having played every year since at least 2008, and the weekend somehow wouldn’t be the sane without them. Despite having seen the band more than a hundred times, they still retain the capacity to astound. They began as on their spring tour, with the instrumental “Out of the Inn” which starts as a celtic-folk jig centred on Angela Gordon’s flute, and develops into a hard rock workout, before Olivia Sparnenn made her customary dramatic entrance for “In for the Bite”, a song from the recently-released Josh & Co album. Much of the early part of the set was hard-rocking numbers from the recent albums since Olivia took over as lead singer, with “Skin on Skin” showcasing Alex Cromaty’s remarkable drumming. In contrast, the beautiful stripped-back balled “Silhouette of Stolen Ghosts” was a change of pace. The came a truly epic version of “Mother Nature” performed with an exceptional intensity even by their standards. The obligatory closer “Heroes Never Die” ought to have been worn smooth by over-exposure by now, but even that packed a powerful emotional punch.

Alext Cromarty with Mostly Autumn

It wasn’t easy for headliners Focus to follow that. Like Curved Air they’re a legendary band who are regulars on the festival circuit, but with their two biggest hits quite unlike the rest of their material they can come over as marking time until the hits at the end. But Focus do what they do, and the chilled-out jazz-rock workouts like the lengthy “Eruption” deserved to be appreciated on their own merits. But after the slow start, “Sylvia” and “Hocus Pocus” came as expected at the end, and the festival finished in a frenzy of air-guitar and yodelling, and so it should.

This weekend turned out to a good candidate for the best CRF yet. The bill was a great mix of old favourites and new discoveries. The old favourites showed everyone why they keep getting invited back, and newer bands rose to the big occasion. The main stage bill across Saturday and Sunday was remarkable in its consistent quality this year; there are plenty of acts who’d played earlier years who would have seemed out of place this year.

While some higher profile festivals this year had bills heavy with heritage acts (HRH Prog and Ramblin’ Man, I’m looking at you), it was good to see representatives of the current generation of bands making up the bulk of the bill. It was also good to see so many women on the bill; can you imagine Glastonbury or Reading featuring six female frontwomen out of eight acts?

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Purson – The 100 Club, London

Purson are not the only band that have a charismatic fromtwoman with a strong visual image. But unlike many of their peers where the male musicians all look like they’ve wandered in from the street, whole band has an equally strong look. And they have a sound that matches their look. Purson do the late sixties vibe so well both visually and sonically it’s as if they’d just stepped out of the time machine from 1969.

They came to London’s legendary 100 Club on the tour to promote their new album “Desire’s Magic”, though the album itself isn’t out for another month. Not only was the venue close to a sell-out, but they attracted a wide range of ages; there were people there old enough to have remembered late 60s psychedelia the first time around, as well as younger metal fans whose parents might not have been born back then.

Opening with a song from the new record featuring, of all things, some kazoo, they proceeded to rock the house with an electrifying set. They drew heavily from the forthcoming album interspersed with highlights from their previous releases. Of the familiar numbers “Rocking Horse” and “Spiderweb Farm” from their début were early highlights. One standout from the new songs came close to the end, “Sky Parade”, a melodic and atmospheric epic with Rosalie on 12-string guitar. The encore of “Wanted Man” from the EP “In The Meantime” rocked out with a combination of wah-wah and e-bow, and a spectacular vocals-as-a-lead instrument.

Playing much of the lead guitar as well as fronting the band, Rosalie Cunningham is the obvious focus of the band, playing mean and dirty blues riffs, swirling psychedelic atmospherics, and reeling off solos with heavy use of that wah-wah pedal. Bassist Justin Smith was tremendously impressive with sort of riffs and lead runs you don’t normally expect from the bassist in a twin guitar band. Likewise drummer Raphael Mura treated his kit as a lead instrument, gurning like a guitarist and frequently channelling Animal from The Muppets. One unexpected moment was an impromptu world’s quietest drum solo while Rosalie dealt with an out-of-tune 12-string. Perhaps the only minus point was that the keys were too low in the mix; from the front they were sometimes barely audible over the sound and fury of the rhythm section.

But aside from that, Purson were firing on all cylinders tonight, the enthusiasm of the packed crowd adding to the intensity of the gig. The new material came over powerfully live, whetting the appetite for the new album when it’s released in April.

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Purson reveal cover artwork for “Desire’s Magic”

Psychedelic rockers Purson have revealed the cover for their forthcoming album “Desire’s Magic”. According to the band, “it sounds like it looks”.

Purson will be playing an album launch gig at The 100 Club on March 16th.

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Purson on tour

Purson at HRH Prog 2

Psychedelic rockers Purson are on tour in the UK throughout the second half of October, starting with a free gig at The Purple Turtle in Reading on October 14th, and endng at The Borderline in London on the 28th. In between it takes in much of the UK including Scotland and Wales.

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Purson – Death’s Kiss

New single from Purson, taken from their forthcoming EP ‘In The Meantime‘ EP out on 13th October 2014

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Purson – Danse Macabre

A teaser from Purson’s forthcoming second album, recorded using genuine prog trousers.

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HRH Prog in Pictures – Saturday

September Code at HRH Prog

The consequence of having a photo pass for a three-day rock festival is you end up taking an awful lot of photos; indeed I took over 900 on the Saturday. I’ve used a few to illustrate my review, and here are a few more, all from Saturday. Here’s Dim Koskinas of September Code, the opening band of the day.

Continue reading

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HRH Prog 2

Crimson Sky's Jane Setter at HRH ProgJane Setter of Crimson Sky

HRH Prog 2 is a residential rock festival held in this year the former Butlins holiday camp at Hafan-Y-Mor just outside Pwllheli in north Wales, following on from the successful first festival held in Rotherham a year ago.

It’s certainly a long way from anywhere, at the end of miles and miles of single-carriageway roads winding through the Welsh hills, or an equally winding single-track railway line, and it certainly wasn’t the organisers’ fault that part of the train journey was by replacement bus because the tracks had been washed away in a storm. There were complaints from some quarters that it was an inconvenient location. But it was an equal opportunity inconvenience; it takes just as long wherever you’re coming from. Continue reading

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Purson – The Contract

It’s going to take a while to write up my review of HRH Prog 2, so in the meantime here’s a video of one of the many highlights of the weekend, the psychedelic rock of Purson.

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