HRH Prog Festival 2015 Full Review

The line-up for the third HRH Prog Festival (held this year at Pwllheli, North Wales) has been tempting and tantalizing us for weeks.

So we were bursting with enthusiasm to get this thing started!

This March, all the prog-related festivities were held down at the stage at the Mash & Barrel (over the railway bridge.) The place was magnificent. Lots of room to spread out, almost completely independent, with loads of services and amenities (food in the restaurant was superb) and a very large stage. The ‘other end’ of the site at the HAFAN Y MÔR site hosted the Sci-Fi Weekender.

The Osiris Club - came to the stage in eery silence &  played an intriguing set...
The Osiris Club – came to the stage in eery silence & played an intriguing set…

After the prog-quiz on Thursday, the show kicked-off with THE OSIRIS CLUB. This band came to the stage in eery silence, played an intriguing, almost mystifying, set, then left in equally secretive circumstances.

The Dream Circuit performed a superb and memorable 15 minute unplugged set in the Owners Bar.

Dream Circuit were one of the two acts that made dedications from the heart to prog inspiration Daevid Allen (Soft Machine) who sadly passed away this March.

Their syrupy licks of electric guitar sprouted the air, creating sunset streamers of sound. With peachy highs and the softest of bass sounds. They reminded us of vintage Wishbone Ash.

Many people we spoke at HRH Prog had made the pilgrimage to North Wales specifically for one band: Knifeworld. And, although they were 20 mins late to stage (so had to cut-short their set) the audience was not dissapointed.

“We are not cheap…” Said Kavus Torabi. “We will do a gig for a handjob and 1/16…” Knifeworld confirmed a load of live dates in the UK in May. So check their website for details.

The biggest revelation of the weekend (and one of the high points) was the great Lithuanian classic prog-band The SKYS.

The Skys - Troubling waters of dark sound, with ominous keys and pallid moonshine guitars...
The Skys – Troubling waters of dark sound, with ominous keys and pallid moonshine guitars…

It had taken them three days to drive to North Wales. But, oh boy, we’re glad they made the trip! Their sound is like all the best bits of the 1970’s era Pink Floyd juxtaposed with Jefferson Starship.

With that attractive male / female voice interaction that was found on Red Octopus. Just try their “Pyramid” for a taste.

“Colours of the Desert” rose from troubling waters of dark sound, with ominous keys and pallid moonshine guitars. Drizzles of luminous guitar then leaked through those thumping drums! Stimulating and nostalgic!

On Friday, after more magic from The Skys (they also played an acoustic set) we enjoyed Kitten Pyramid followed by Sanguine Hum.

Touchstone - fascinating “final show”
Touchstone – fascinating “final show”

Then we prepared ourselves for the fascinating “final show” from Touchstone. Kim “Elkie” Seviour is stepping own for health reasons.

Fortunately, the band from Hemel Hempstead offered some emollient to our anguish and sorrow — announcing some more ‘final’ performances. Phew!

Although we have seen Anna Phoebe many times before, she was new to many festival attendees. But they seemed impressed by her amazing violin-play and wonderfully woven, highly structured, compositions.

We heard remarks all over camp that that Anna was the people’s favourite discovery of the weekend.

We have been following THE ENID’S “Bridge Tour” [ you can check our full review here: http://rawramp.me]

Anna Phoebe - People’s favourite discovery...
Anna Phoebe – People’s favourite discovery…
Their fluid mixture of tantalizing vocals, classical mannerisms, skilled musicianship and consummate production left us breathless.

As did the grand and lustrous show from Mostly Autumn who performed two of our favourite MA tracks: Evergreen (1999) and Deep in Borrowdale (2010.)

Saturday, and the Springtime sun shone down on onto the heads of the gallant proggers who had made the journey to North Wales.

Agent, Black Peaks and Landskap entertained those brave-hearted souls who had chosen quality live-rock over early summer sun.

Magenta - award-winning band
Magenta – award-winning band

After taking in the rays, it was the immensely talented Manchester prog-metal band ‘Collibus’  who excited us the most.

Their vocalist Gemma Fox is an amazing singer. And their numbers were powerful, hard, heavy and pumping.

Then Magenta. Christina Booth and the other “Magentians” have been working on solo projects recently. So HRH Prog provided fans with a great chance to catch up with one of the best award-winning bands around. Their Metamorphosis is something to behold!

After an amazing ‘unplugged’ set, Maddy and the crowd from Steeleye Span regaled us with a series wonderfully evocative songs.

Some pieces were taken from their Wintersmith Album (fully reviewed here (https://rawramp.me/) and other fine offerings and curios were also unpacked from their extensive back-catalogue.

One of the best (and our favourite song) was “Long Lankin” (taken from the Commoners Crown LP 1975.)

The Mother-Folker Maddy Prior  here with Jessie May Smart...
The Mother-Folker Maddy Prior here with Jessie May Smart…

According to the ‘Mother-Folker’ Maddy Prior, when Elizabeth II once heard this number at a command performance she described it as “Jolly”. Well, Ma’am. I am sure that it’s not jolly. It is gothic, dark and very forbidding. Just like your kingdom can be (at times)…

The best was kept to last. Rick Wakeman took the stage with a grand piano. (No backing band.) It was a one-man show.

Rick chatted to the wider audience as if he were talking to a mate whilst muzzling ales in his local tavern.

It was friendly, intimate and jovial. With a whole host of jokes and some incredibly creative piano-play.

Rick explained how he always wrote at the piano (to start with) before exploring the sounds on synth. His one-man show was a journey through the centre of his musical career. And also a glimpse into the process of song-writing.

rickwakeman-4-hrhprog-revieOur favourite story was about how, one day, when Rick was desperately sparring with the keys to complete a particularly difficult moog solo, Ozzy Osbourne appeared and offered him some help. What you need, Ozzy suggested, is “To get some drink in you…” After several sherbets with Tony, Geezer and Oz at the pub opposite the studio — Rick returned to the keyboards (almost being knocked down by cars while trying to negotiate the busy road in his inebriated state)— then he put down one of the most memorable keyboard solos in history!

HRH PROG are now pre-booking for next year — Dates announced are 17th March, 18th March and 19th March 2016. https://www.hrhprog.com/tickets/

Words & Images :  @neilmach@ 2015 ©

7 comments

  1. Great review Guys. Yes I was there too along with my family, who had never attended anything like this event ever before. My wife and daughter loved The Enid and Anna Phoebe ( I was unable to see these due to my illness) but for me two of the biggest surprises were Sanguine Hum and Collibus. I do own SH’s debut album but immediately bought Now We Have Light , at the merch desk in the Prog hall and tried to track down a copy of the Collibus debut cd to no avail.

    Real shame, but totally understandable reason, about Kim deciding to leave Touchstone. She is a class act and those vocals will be missed.

    Great to see Magenta and Ms Booth back fully fit, I have followed this great prog band right from their debut release but due to my own illness have never seen them live before.

    Had to miss Mostly Autumn, Steeleye Span and Mr Wakeman due to my own limitations of health but can I say this was a really enjoyable event.

    Would it help if there was some kind of MC to keep the event flowing between the acts as it did seem to flag somewhat in between gear changes, just an idea ?

    Thanks for a great unbiased review, hope to see you there next year ?

  2. Richard – totally agree about an MC – and thanks for your kind words … Sorry you had to miss Grumpy Old Rick and the others – we hope things improve for you. And YES we will be there next year!! Thanks for getting in touch!

  3. Echo much of what you said, but my highlight of the weekend was Lifesigns. Can’t believe you failed to mention them. They really deserved a later/bigger spot on Friday. Their debut self titled album has to be one of the best debuts ever and live they are even better. The new tracks blended in well. Also really enjoyed Jump. MA did a great job with the one handed drummer – well if Def Leppard can do it!! will certainly be investigating a few of the bands i heard over the weekend. Totally agree about the need for an MC, it was flat between acts and all bands would have appreciated a big intro. I must mention the sci fi convention. i stood watching LIFESIGNS next to Batman and there were several other characters enjoying the prog. A fantastic weekend, superb venue and will certainly think about coming next year.

  4. Paul – Yes, fair points made. Ans it is true – Lifesigns were terrif! You are right about a later slot. Thanks for writing. See you next year!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.