A pensive mood of valediction and and foreclosure hung over Hafan y Môr camp this weekend as we entered the seventh cycle of HRH PROG… the last one to be held in this mystical home… a land of granite cliffs, white-peaked mountains, crowned saints and swarthy Welsh standard bearers.
Pilgrims have crossed the waters for years to meet on this remote peninsula for an annual celebration of progressive, psychedelic, acid, jazz and folk rock that’s been billed as “the biggest residential Prog gathering on the Planet.”
But this weekend was to be the final time that the prog devotees would meet in Ordovician crags, due to ongoing construction projects that have interrupted proceedings.
As usual, the sound quality was amazing in both main arenas (all the festival was in the main zone, the Bong Wonga showroom off limits and partway through demolition.)
The congregating cognoscenti were treated, as usual, to a variety of intriguing expositions from unfamiliar, yet truly remarkable musicians; such as Leicester’s virtuoso ‘n’ Frank-n-visual Edgar Winterish GU-RU, Cornwall’s Time Collider, Yarmouth’s Mother Black Cap (who played a secret acoustic set, as well as a main show) Nottingham’s multi-faceted psych-rockers The Amber Herd and the expressive piano driven beauty of Liverpool’s consummate Exploring Birdsong.
The event started (for those that had paid for an upgrade) on Thursday night with the talented Brighton-rock prog vehicle: MASCHINE, as well as HRH Prog stalwart Arthur Brown and Jethro Tull’s most well-beloved guitarist Martin Barre.
Friday kicked off splendidly with Reading’s melodic progsters, Manic Whale who played a storming set that wouldn’t have been out of place on Stage One, perhaps alongside those Leeds neo-proggers This Winter Machine [who played one of several shows that earned standing ovations over the weekend.]
Meanwhile Sheffield’s leading 1980s progressive revivalists, the cultish “Haze” [the McMahon brothers] played a “40th anniversary” spectacular on Stage One.
This was followed by Dublin’s Celtic-rock heroes Leo O’Kelly and Sonny Condell [Tír na nÓg] who brought their expressive, imaginative and revered sounds across blue waters to take refuge on the banks of Laigin, in the kingdom of the Whitetooth.
On Stage Two we enjoyed the breathtaking spectacle of Swansea’s Luna Rossa [ Jonathan Edwards & Anne-Marie Helder ] whose new “ATROPA” album is bursting with talent [see below.]
Martin Turner [Wishbone Ash] combined a familiar brand of breezy, blues-based folk-rock with unexpected surprises (so, for example, “Warrior” from the enduring Argus album became, briefly, “The Lumberjack Song” … and Front Page News began as euro-dance hit “Barbie Girl”.)
We couldn’t help thinking that, perhaps, Turner’s final song, “Blowin’ Free” alluded to the “bomb-tape” that flapped and fluttered around the “crime scene” down by the somewhat devastated Mash & Barrel.
The sparkling joy of November sun greeted campers on Saturday morning, and the incredibly visual Goldray [main image] whooshed us into a bluesy maelstrom of psychedelia and an Art Deco elegance. Although, obviously, not everybody’s “cup of tea”, this band played an amazing show, with some brand new songs, and they provided a tremendous boost to the event.
Later the good ‘ole Strawbs took fans back to darker days with a series of sepia vignettes that culminated in a “Reader’s Digest version...” [Dave’s words] of the album “Hero and Heroine.” And who’d have thought that song “New World” was inspired by the tragic Bloody Sunday massacre? (However, we suppose the song must have been written before the incident, since the recording of Grave New World was completed in November, 1971.)
And after the delicious “Exploring Birdsong” we sat to enjoy the folk-rock jiggery and wind-milling fiddle-play of West London band Kindred Spirit, whose songs of devilry and purgation were on the better-side of progressive indie-rock, i.e. less balladic than Blackmore’s Night but more danceable than Lindisfarne.
Dave Brock (with a lifetime achievement award) and Hawkwind played out the festival on Stage One while the epic Gandalf’s Fist did their creative thing on Stage Two.
HRH 2019 is already gathering momentum with Gong, Pineapple Thief and Caravan so far announced, and the festival is “Empire bound...” with a new site at London’s O2 Shepherds Bush Empire.
Dates Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October 2019.
“HRH Prog has gone from strength to strength and already reached its seventh year,” said HRH’s CEO Jonni Davis, “Taking it into its eighth, we’re honoured to be moving the festival lock, stock and barrel to the iconic O2 Shepherds Bush Empire: a landmark site and legendary musical venue that’s showcased some of the best talent in the world.”
Words & Pictures: @neilmach 2018 ©