Tag Archives: The Enid

What next for The Enid?

Max Read with The Enid at HRH Prog 3

Following on from the recent departure of vocalist Joe Payne, guitarist Max Read and drummer Dave Storey are now leaving the bamd.

The loss of half the band suggests that The Enid are in disarray, though the statement from Robert John Godfrey quoted in Prog Magazine is a little more upbeat.

“Big seismic events, such as those which have been going on within The Enid, always lead to changes in the landscape. These destructive upheavals are just a reflection of life itself. There is always a future in the aftermath and the unexpected nearly always happens.

“Dominic was due to take over from Dave at the end of the year. Unfortunately Dave’s planned hip operation was rescheduled, leaving him un able to do the gigs planned. Dom Tofield is now The Enid’s drummer.

“Max has decided to follow my example and step down from appearing on stage with the band.

“My personal goal is to help The Enid find the next generation of music fans who are passionate about change and could relate to The Enid as it goes forward with its plans.”

With mainman Robert John Godfrey himself stepping down from active duty a year ago, The Enid were always going to be navigating uncertain waters without him at the helm.

There is nobody else quite like The Enid, and their ambitious symphonic music is, in a sense, the very definition of Progressive Rock. Let us hope these “big seismic events” represent a new beginning rather than the beginning of the end.

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When does a band become a tribute act?

Quite a few veteran acts touring with just one or two original members get accused, rightly or wrongly, of being glorified tribute acts. Yes are a case in point; since the untimely death of Chris Squire the band have been touring without a single founder member, and just guitarist Steve Howe remaining from the early 70s band that made their reputation. There is a noisy faction of their ‘fans’ who refuse to accept the existence of the band without Jon Anderson, going to the extent of creating a Facebook group called “2/5ths of Yes is not Yes”. Given that Yes have gone though many personnel changes in their long history, that attitude is rather silly.

But what about AC/DC? With Phil Rudd in trouble with the law, and first Malcolm Young and then Brian Johnson forced to step down due to ill health they’re down to Angus Young and a bunch of hired hands. The Guardian’s Michael Hann has made a good argument for the band to call it a day after finishing their tour, and I find it hard to disagree with that.

There are plenty of bands on the nostalgia circuit for whom the label “glorified tribute band” is entirely appropriate. Bands who have been playing the same greatest hits sets for the past twenty years with diminishing levels of passion, and have either stopped recording new material altogether or release forgettable albums that add little to their legacy. But that has little to do with how many original members remain. One might even put The Rolling Stones in that category.

But there are others for whom the opposite is true. Look at Hawkwind, for example. Dave Brock spends much of the set sitting down, plays a bit of rhythm guitar, and lets the guys who weren’t even born when he started the band do all the work. But it’s his presence on stage that makes it Hawkwind in a way the rival bands featuring assorted ex-members are not. And what about The Enid, set to continue without mainman Robert John Godfrey with Robert’s blessing?

And how do you classify Zappa Plays Zappa, led by Dweezil Zappa and playing the music of his late father? Early incarnations of the band included Zappa alumni Napoleon Murphy Brock and Stevie Vai, though more recent lineups are made up entirely of younger musicians who weren’t part of any of Frank Zappa’s bands. But the spiritual connection is obvious.

As death or ill-health claims more and more of the classic rock generation it would be sad if their music stopped being performed live. The dividing line between tribute acts and original bands with no original members is likely to become increasingly blurred; a lot of it depends on whether they revolved around larger-then-life personalities, or whether, as in the case of Yes, the music itself is bigger than the performers.

In the end does it really matter? Is “authenticity” more important than the quality of the actual performances?

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Oh Robert…

Robert John Godfrey at HRH Prog 2 in 2015

Robert John Godfrey has been ruffling feathers again. This time, as part of an announcement of his retirement from The Enid, he’s been dismissing Steve Wilson’s music. And parts of the prog interweb have imploded. He has been accused of “talking out of his arse”.

The world of grassroots prog is a small incestuous scene where everyone knows everyone else and the boundaries of artist, critic and fan are sometimes blurred. Over time every band will end up sharing the same festival bill as every other band at some point. It’s the reason we don’t have Oasis vs. Blur style feuds, and there isn’t room for professional gobshites like Noel Gallagher. Even when there is serious bad blood between musicians, they tend to avoid bad-mouthing each other or washing dirty linen in public; they will inevitably have fans in common that they can’t afford to alienate.

Robert John Godfrey is one person who pays no attention to this unwritten rule.

I remember his lofty dismissal of Mostly Autumn during a running order squabble fest over the Prog stage at High Voltage. “Can you imagine them performing with a full choir“, he said. Actually, I can imagine a Mostly Autumn gig backed by a large choir, and the idea has the potential to seriously awesome. I even once suggested that to a member of the band who has a lot of experience singing in choirs, who completely agreed with me.

Mostly Autumn and The Enid have shared the top spots on festival bills on several occasions in recent years, most recently at last year’s HRH Prog in Pwllheli, where both bands delivered superb performances. They are two very different kinds of band, who represent opposing corners of what Progressive Rock means in second decade of the 21st century. Both bands have devoted fanbases, and both bands have their detractors too, but both of them are very good at what they do.

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In 2012 it was The Enid. Last year it was Half Man Half Biscuit. Who will it be this year? Which cult band will succeed in mobilising their loyal fanbase and storm The Guardian’s readers’ choice of best album of 2015? Because it will be boring unless someone does.

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HRH Prog 3

Jessie May Smart of Steeleye Span at HRH Prog 3HRH Prog is now in its third year, and it’s second at Hafan-Y-Mor, the former Butlins holiday camp just outside Pwllheli in north Wales.

Pwllheli is a long way from anywhere, at the far end of a winding single-track railway line, and the train stops many, many times at little request stops where the train might only stop if you know how to pronounce the station. So by the time I finally got there after a whole day’s travelling I missed the opening band. But I did catch most of The Dream Circuit’s set, with a space-jam sound that owed a lot of Ozric Tentacles.

Knifeworld were the most eagerly anticipated band of the Thursday night. They opened with a brand new song which Kavus Torabi dedicated to his great friend, the late Daevid Allen of Gong. With his white and gold Gresch guitar, Torabi looks most un-prog, but with it’s Zappa-style horn orchestrations, psychedelic soundscapes and layered vocal harmonies the music is as progressive as it gets. There were one or two who didn’t ‘get’ what they do, implying they’re not “proper prog”, but it’s their loss. Knifeworld are the real thing.

Thursday headliners The Skys, hailing from Lithuania had a far more traditional prog sound, but were very good at what they did. They displayed some strong Floydian atmospherics at times, with a harder-rocking edge at others. They had a great keyboard sound with big washes of Hammond, and one guitar solo in particular was brain-melting.
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Resonance Festival, Balham

Resonance Festival

The Resonance Festival held at the very beginning of August was a four-day charity event held in The Bedford in Balham, featuring bands from all aspects of the contemporary progressive rock scene, everything from the traditional and the neo to the avant garde. I couldn’t get to the first two days, the evening only events featuring Mostly Autumn, Also Eden and Lifesigns. But I did attend the all-day events of Saturday and Sunday where the three rooms played host to a wide variety of bands.

The biggest room, the magnificent circular Globe was booked for a comedy night on the Saturday, but it was still available during the afternoon. So that became the acoustic stage for the day. First up was looping guitar maestro Matt Stevens, conjuring tapestries of sound from a battered acoustic guitar and an array of looping pedals. He’s a familiar sight on the prog circuit having opened for just about everyone, but he’s still an entertaining performer no matter how many times you’ve seen him.

After The Far Meadow, whose competent neo-prog was spoiled by terrible sound, it was back to The Globe for a beautiful set from Luna Rossa, the acoustic duo of Anne-Marie Helder and Jon Edwards of Panic Room. They’re not “Panic Room unplugged”, but a completely separate side-project playing their own material rather than Panic Room songs. With Jon on piano and Anne-Marie adding some acoustic guitar and flute, their beautiful set featured songs from the album “Sleeping Pills and Lullabies”, a couple of interestingly-reworked covers, and one new number offering a tantalising glimpse of their second album that they’re currently part-way through recording.

Anna Phoebe and her band were the first all-instrumental act of the weekend. With lead instruments of violin and acoustic guitar for much of the set, they were the missing link between rock and gypsy jazz. Anne Phoebe is a stunning virtuoso musician with a dramatic stage presence to match.

Matt Stevens celebrated his birthday by returning to the stage a second time, this time in electric mode with a full band in the shape of The Fierce and The Dead. They’re not an easy band to describe, but their instrumental sound driven by interlocking guitars with a raw sound comes over as a kind of punk version of King Crimson. It was intense and Earth-shatteringly loud, and the audience staggered out of the room wondering exactly what had hit them.

Saturday ended with the symphonic majesty of The Enid. Much like their performance at HRH Prog back in March, the set mixed older favourites with newer material from “Invictia”, ending with a mesmerising “Dark Hydraulic” and a version of Barclay James Harvest’s “Mockingbird”. There is nobody else remotely like The Enid, and they, perhaps more than any other band embody the spirit of everything progressive rock is about.

So ended the first day, and that was just the highlights; there are also honourable mentions to Unto Us, who bravely playing their set with a laptop replacing their ailing drummer, and the avant-noise of Trojan Horse, a band with feet in enough different camps they do supports for the likes of post-punk veterans The Fall.

Sunday’s bill was a day of clashes between the various stages, made worse by timings going awry which made it easier to wander from stage to stage seeing what sounded interesting rather than planning things too much in advance. Early bands included Rat Face Lewey, a very young power trio, at times verging on punk, at others playing some more melodic guitar lines, and Hekz with their strongly song-focussed prog-metal. Vocals are often the weak link in prog-metal, but Hekz’ Matt Young had quite a remarkable voice.

Maschine were the first band on the main stage, now in its rightful place in The Globe, and started late because of technical problems. Although to some extent they’re a vehicle for Luke Machin’s virtuoso guitar playing, there’s some solid composition behind all the flash. They’re the missing link between prog-metal and jazz-fusion. Quite a bit of their entertaining set was new, as yet unrecorded material alongside highlights from their début “Rubidium”. They’re not quite the same without Georgia, though.

King Bathmat were actually three-quarters of King Bathmat, since they were without their keyboard player and played as a power trio. In such a stripped-down form they sounded like a completely different band than they do on record, but nevertheless did make a strong impression, dominated by John Bassett’s psychedelic lead guitar. Because the two sets clashed I only caught the end of Synaesthesia’s set, but what little I heard it seemed like their set was something special indeed, a remarkable combination of youthful enthusiasm and compositional maturity well beyond their years.

Mr So and So turned out to be one of the unexpected highlights of the weekend, with a really powerful performance. They’re a band representing the song-centric side of things with distinctive use of dual male-female lead vocals. Their set was tight and intense with both guitar crunch and soaring melodies, with Charlotte Evans giving a very strong vocal performance, and some tremendous shredding from Dave Foster.

Former Enid guitarist Frances Lickerish threw a complete curveball and had to be the strangest act of the weekend. He started out playing some solo instrumental pieces on, of all things a lute, before being joined by vocalist Hilary Palmer for some genuine medieval songs. It seemed like folk’s revenge for Prog taking over Cropredy this year, and made Blackmore’s Night look like the Dungeons and Dragons parody it is. He even played a few bars of Smoke on the Water. On a lute.

At this point things started to go really pear-shaped. Swedish proggers Änglagård, making a very rare UK appearance were due on the main stage at 6:30. But despite already being allocated a two-hour setup time, they were nowhere near being ready to go at the scheduled time, and were ultimately well over an hour late, throwing the rest of the timings into disarray. I appreciate that a band relying so much on temperemental vintage gear (including two Mellotrons) might suffer from technical problems. But I was told the exact same thing happened last year at Night of the Prog at Loreley, which makes we wonder if a band like this should really be playing festivals at all.

The delay did give the chance to check out the other two stages, with some in-your-face metal from Jupiter Falls, and an entertaining unplugged set from 70s veterans Gnidrolog. Änglagård finally did hit the stage very, very late with their largely instrumental and very retro classic prog sound. It was a swirling mix of flute, Hammond, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes, saxes and an array of percussion instruments including a massive gong. All very heady stuff, although there was always the nagging doubt at the back of the mind that this was all a Spinal Tap style parody of prog excess.

Headliners Bigelf came on very late, and played a truncated set despite the hastily extended curfew. But it all proved worth the wait, and they blew everyone away, sounding like a cross between The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and early Queen. Few people in the prog world have such a magnetic stage presence as frontman and keyboard player Damon Fox. He completely dominates the stage, playing a Hammond B3 with one hand and a Mellotron with the other while singing lead at the same time. With a setlist drawn heavily from “Cheat the Gallows” and “Into the Maelstrom” they bought the festival to a spectacular if somewhat belated close.

Resonance was an entertaining festival, and the variety of acts covered almost all corners of progressive rock’s increasingly large tent. The only failing was that the whole thing was probably a little over-ambitious with three stages and far too many bands to be able to see everyone. One thing that amused me was the way the bar kept running out of real ale; did nobody tell them what prog fans drink?

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First bands for HRH Prog 3 announced

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugHRH Prog 3 have announced the first bands, including The Enid, Steeleye Span, Mostly Autumn, The Enid, The Reasoning and Touchstone.

Not totally convinced by the SF and fantasy actors as part of the event, and wonder what message that sends and what stereotypes it reinforces.

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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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Cambridge Rock Festival 2011 – Part Three

Sunday began with wall of guitar rock and roll from Empire of Fools, who played some highly melodic hard rock, with plenty of light and shade, with a couple of Deep Purple and Free covers thrown in for good measure. Next up was Final Conflict, the first of many prog-rock acts on the bill. Nothing ground-breaking, but they displayed some tight musicianship with a good groove to many of their songs, and rocked out pretty hard by the end of the set.

Jebo weren’t quite as good; another melodic hard(ish) rock band they started well but soon got a bit predictable. Although good musicians with a great guitar sound, they suffered from weak vocals and a shortage of memorable songs. Crimes of Passion were a little better, but having seen Kyrbgrinder on Friday, their brand of 70s metal came over as very dated by comparison.

Credo, on the other hand, were a lot better. Again, there was nothing stunningly original about their brand of neo-prog, but they did it well. Their combination of very strong melodies, tight playing with a lot of fluid symphonic guitar went down well.

I enjoyed the John Young Band set too. I’ve seen him before as a support act, using just keys and backing tapes and was quite impressed. His full band including former Fish sidesman Robin Boult on guitar opens out the sound a lot more. He played another very prog-flavoured set, although this time more focussed on impassioned songwriting rather than showcasing instrumental virtuosity.

I was starting to suffer from neo-prog overload by the time Mr So-and-So came on stage. Yes, they too were good, but for me they suffered from sounding too similar to the preceding bands on the bill. One significant difference was the presence of Charlotte Evans on vocals, even though she largely sang harmonies and only sang lead on a couple of songs.

Good as many of the previous bands of the day had been, Mostly Autumn were in a completely different league, and it showed. This was the fourth consecutive year they’ve played this festival. Last year they’d headlined, though good, they didn’t really reach the heights that they’re capable of and special guests The Enid rather stole the show. Not so this time around. Now the band have finally manage some lineup stability they’ve been on consistently great form all year. Over the past year and a half Olivia Sparnenn has had time to grow into the role of frontwoman. Two weeks ago they owned the Classic Rock Presents Prog stage at the High Voltage festival in London and won over a lot of new fans; this performance had the same level of intensity, and finally showed the Cambridge Rock Festival just what this band are really capable of.

On form like this their mix of melodic hard rock with celtic-tinged progressive rock makes for a great festival band. The set was a mix of old and new, standards like “Evergreen” and “Heroes Never Die” alongside newer songs like “Deep in Borrowdale” and “Ice”. High spots for me were Anne-Marie’s flute solo in “The Last Climb”, and a very powerful performance of the former Breathing Space epic “Questioning Eyes”. Yes, I know I’m a big fan, and therefore biased, but I’ve seen them enough times to tell a great performance from a merely workmanlike one. That was truly memorable set, for all the right reasons.

Caravan, veterans of the 1970s “Canterbury Scene”, had also played an excellent set at High Voltage. Like Mostly Autumn before them, they were every bit as good as they had been two weeks ago, a superb set of jazz-flavoured progressive rock, keyboard-led with added violin, flute and spoons(!). They pulled off the seemingly impossible feat of sounding mellow yet full of energy at the same time, and lengthy instrumental jazz-rock workouts seldom sounded as good as this. Not that they don’t do pop as well, as the bouncy rendition of “Golf Girl” proved. High point had to be the lengthy “Nine Feet Undergound” played in it’s entirety.

And finally, headliners The Enid. Last year they played a mesmerising set focussing on their rockier material, and while not everyone really got what they were doing, some of those that did felt they were the band of the weekend. This year, accompanied by a male choir and a twelve-piece brass section they went for something a lot more challenging. For the first part of the set, Robert John Godfrey was behind the choir, visible on the large screens but hidden from view when you tried to find him on the stage, which was a little disconcerting. The sound was huge and symphonic, but came over as perhaps just too ambitious for it’s own good. I did get the impression it was the sort of performance, which while good, seemed to me geared more towards the dedicated fan rather than a festival audience. I can imagine a lot of people not familiar with their rather unique blend of rock and classical music struggling to make sense of it all. It certainly didn’t have the energy level than made the closing stages of last year’s set so exhilarating. Perhaps to compensate they closed with their famous “Dambusters March/Land of Hope and Glory” medley they used to play back in the 1980s, to end the set on a high.

And so ended another great festival, probably the best Cambridge Rock Festival I’ve attended to date. Although Saturday turned out to be by far the best of the three days bill-wise, there were more than enough good acts on Friday and Sunday to make the whole weekend worthwhile.

Although it’s never easy to estimate numbers, I thought attendance was well up on last year; certainly the main tent was very full on both Saturday and Sunday nights, and even Thursday night drew a big crowd. It shows a festival doesn’t need big-name headliners to be a success, and provided a far more enjoyable experience than a big corporate festival, a great example of the little niche festivals up and down the country that take place below the radar of the media. And while some may criticise the lineup for being dated and retro, that’s surely part of the appeal; a good festival is one that knows it’s audience. It’s got a great vibe; no rock star egos or VIP areas; you find many of the artists wandering around the site or watching other bands all weekend; I even spotted the lead guitarist of one band enthusiastically playing air-guitar in the front row at one point.

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High Voltage 2011

The High Voltage festival, held in Victoria Park in east London, is now in it’s second year. It’s focus is very much on classic rock, progressive rock and metal. Last years festival, headlined by ZZ Top and ELP was a fantastic weekend. This year’s bill has attracted some criticism for being weaker than last year, but still contained enough great bands to well worth attending.

For some of us at least, the weekend began on Friday with The Reasoning playing a packed Borderline in central London. The slimmed-down five piece incarnation of the band has gelled well now, even though the mix was little vocal-heavy with not quite enough guitar. Their set was an well-chosen selection of songs from their three albums with most of the classics accounted for, plus a couple of excellent sounding brand new numbers from their forthcoming new album, “The Omega Point”, and “No Friend of Mine”, which is apparently all about the pitfalls of social media. I just hope the lyrics are not about me! A great show, which turned out to be the first ever gig by a band I’ve known personally that completely sold out.

High Voltage itself opened on Saturday lunchtime with Von Hertzen Brothers on the Classic Rock Presents Prog stage. Not a band I knew much about. They started off playing melodic hard rock; good, but I wondered what they were doing on the prog stage. But as the set progressed they began playing some more complex material with intricate harmonies that more than justified their inclusion. Tight, energetic and melodic, a good start to the day.

Next up, the much-acclaimed Amplifier, from the more avant-garde end of the genre. The opening moments sounded like The Fall, all atonal noise, but after a few seconds, actual tunes started to appear. Their set was dense and riffy with a lot of atmosphere. By no means bad, but I’m not sure I’ve completely got my head round their music. This lot may take more listening before I really appreciate what they’re doing.

Canterbury scene veterans Caravan represented the opposite end of the spectrum of progressive rock. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from them, but they far exceeded whatever expectations I had. They played a great jazz-influenced set, keyboard-led with plenty of flute and violin, including the bouncy pop-rock of “Golf Girl”, and ending with the lengthy workout of “Nine Feet Underground” from their seminal album “The Land of the Grey and Pink”. Excellent stuff, and I can’t wait to see them again at the Cambridge Rock Festival.

Liverpool’s Anathema are very much the prog band of the moment. They started off life as a death-metal band, but there’s little or no trace of that now in their atmospheric indie-flavoured prog sound. This is a band who have toiled away for years before getting the recognition they deserved. Their triumphal set, drawn largely from the latest and best album “We’re Here Because We’re Here”, was simply stunning.

Neal Morse turned out to be the revelation of the day. I’ve admired his work with Spock’s Beard, but haven’t investigated his more recent solo work. With an eight-piece band including electric violin and electric cello(!), he played with an incredible level of energy and enthusiasm. The music was a lot like earlier Spock’s Beard, quirky but hugely melodic, with a clear nod to Gentle Giant. The very religious lyrics were a bit hard to take, even for me, but if you focus on the music, it’s amazing and heady stuff, and it was impossible not to be moved by the sheer exuberance of his performance.

I was wondering just how John Lees Barclay James Harvest could follow that. But I needn’t have worried. I’m a late convert to BJH, loving their huge soaring Mellotron-drenched sound. Even without the late Woolly Wolstenholme, and now playing as a four-piece, they’re a great live band. Their distinctive stately symphonic rock culminated in the magnificent epic “The Poet/After the Day”, surely their equivalent of Mostly Autumn’s “Mother Nature”. They closed, as they always do with “Hymn”, which turned into a singalong.

After than it was a quick sprint over to the main stage to catch the hellfire and brimstone of headliners Judas Priest. Amazingly, despite owning a great many of their albums, I’ve never seen this genre-defining band live. Despite their age, the Black Country metal veterans rocked, and even at 60 years old Rob Halford has still got it vocally with those piercing screams. Their greatest hits set drew from right across their 40-year back catalogue, from their very early years to the title track of the most recent opus “Nostradamus”, which Halford sung dressed in a cape and hood. This is a band who really understand the art of showmanship, with Halford whipping the Harley-Davison during “Hell Bent For Leather”. Camper than Millets, but great fun. And what a setlist! Early epics like “Victim of Changes” and “Beyond the Realms of Death”, 80s hit singles like “Breaking the Law”, the controversial “Turbo” and more recent songs like “Judas Rising” from “Angel of Retribution”.

Sunday started with some old-school neo-prog from 80s veterans Pallas, who played an energetic and enthusiastic set, a great warm-up for the day. While much of the set came from their more recent albums I’m not familiar with, they ended with a rousing rendition of “Arrive Alive”.

There is no-one else quite like The Enid, led by keyboard wizard Robert John Godfrey. Not everyone gets what they do, essentially classical music played on rock instrumentation. Supplemented this time by a small choir and a four-piece trumpet section, their set was over far too quickly, ending with the medley of “Land of Hope and Glory” and The Dambusters March, which RJG took pains to suggest was being performed at the request of the promoters. All stirring stuff, and I’m looking forward to seeing them headline the Cambridge Rock Festival.

Curved Air are another band I was looking forward to seeing. Like Caravan, they’re a classic 70s band reformed in recent years, and like them, they’ve still got it decades later. Sonja Kristina was on excellent form vocally, still looking glamorous despite being a grandmother. Apart from their hit “Back Street Luv” and “Vivaldi”, both of which they played, I knew nothing of their back catalogue. They’re very much at the jazzy end of prog with electric violin central to their sound – this is certainly a band I want to see again.

Then it was fingers crossed for Mostly Autumn, for what was a very high profile gig for them. I know I’m a huge fan, and likely to be biased, but it was clear this was something out of the ordinary, even by the high standards of their shows this year. It was one of the performances of their lives. They completely owned the stage, with a mix of energy and emotional intensity that few bands can match. They deserve to pick up a lot of new fans on the strength of performances like that.

Spocks Beard were, for me at least, the sole disappointment of the festival. Maybe it was because I was watching them from further back, maybe it was because they had to follow Mostly Autumn’s stunning performance, maybe having Ted Leonard standing in for the unavailable Nick D’Virgilio on lead vocals sapped their energy. Despite playing a set drawing heavily from their earliest and best albums, they just failed to engage me at all. It all seemed flat – there was none of the jubilant enthusiasm of Neal Morse’s set the day before. I left before the end to catch Black Country Communion on the main stage, so missed Neal’s appearance at the end of the set – maybe that finally brought things to life.

Black Country Communion, on the other hand, absolutely rocked with the sort of performance that’s in danger of giving supergroups a good name. I’d seen Glenn Hughes fronting his own band last year, which was good, and proved his vocal chords are still in good working order. But when he’s sharing the stage with genuine rock stars rather than journeyman musos, BCC are in a completely different league. Joe Bonamassa is the axe hero of his generation, and is the perfect foil for Hughes’ still-superb voice. Jason Bonham is a chip off the old block on drums, and Derek Sherinian added huge depth to the sound on Hammond organ. They ended with an absolutely barnstorming cover of Deep Purple’s “Burn”.

I only caught the last few songs of Jethro Tull, so I can’t really give a thorough appraisal of their set. But I did see rousing renditions of “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath” with Joe Bonamassa guesting.

Finally, festival headliners Dream Theater. Even if their brand of intensely muso prog-metal isn’t your cup of tea, every band on the prog stage owes a debt to them. More than any other band, Dream Theater are responsible for putting progressive rock back on the map, and without them many other bands wouldn’t be there. This was a high-stakes gig for them, marking the debut of new drummer Mike Mangini, replacing the much-loved Mike Portnoy.

This is a band who have always been far more about the musicians than the singer. In theatre-sized venues where you can actually see the band members hands, they’re actually quite exciting to watch, fingers flying up and down fretboards. But in a large arena where you can only really see the band on the big screens at the sides of the stage, that effect gets lost. Vocalist James LaBrie was actually on quite good form for once – while he’s never going to be one of my favourite singers, this time his vocals weren’t nearly as bad as I feared they’d be.

While there’s no doubting the band’s amazing technical skills, there was little of the showmanship we’d seen with Judas Priest the night before. The music was great, with a dense complex tapestry of sound. But it clearly didn’t appeal to everyone, and I noticed people were leaving in significant numbers before the end. Still a good performance, but in a weekend that had seen several outstanding ones, by no means the highlight of the weekend.

And so ended the festival. A weekend of amazing music, and a great gathering of the rock tribes. Loved the way I kept bumping into friends all weekend, not just fellow fans but people like Kim Seviour from Touchstone and Ian Jones from Karntaka. Having spent most of the weekend in front of the Classic Rock Presents Prog stage, the sheer quality and variety of the music says it all about why I love progressive rock as a genre. Amplifier are nothing like Mostly Autumn who are nothing like Anathema who are nothing like Neal Morse. Need I go on? Got to an indie festival and all you’ll get a slew of bands drawing from the same limited musical palette, all playing the same predictable chord progressions.

I’m now counting down days until the Cambridge Rock Festival in less than two weeks’ time.

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