An excellent weekend of fine Prog from HRH, their second event of 2017, and this one was up there with their best… no wonder these Prog bashes sell out every year with many attendees booking blind for the next year, even before the current weekend finishes! Take a read of the HRH Prog V 2017 Review for just a flavour of FFA’s thoughts on March’s excellent shenanigans.
First up, this reviewer is becoming rather evangelical about indoor winter rock festival weekends; it’s a continuation of the festival season – with all the best bits, but no mud, proper facilities, and a warm bed. HRH Prog ticks all the right boxes. The Hafan y Mor Holiday Park, in the beautiful Snowdonia National Park, is a great venue with everything on tap for a splendid weekend. There’s a wide range of accommodation options, enough eateries and bars, and various VIP goodies and dedicated events for that special winter rock treat. HRH Prog takes over the whole Haven resort for arguably one of the biggest dedicated Prog weekends in the world. There are upwards of 30 acts over the three night event across two main stages, plus the odd unplugged session around the site, and with VIP sessions and after-show parties throughout the weekend. The crowd is knowledgeable and love their music, but equally prepared to leave their prejudices at the door to savour the wealth of varied talent on show… and my oh my, what a show HRH provided. A big up for the sound and AV guys by the way. Pretty much faultless in both arenas’ to these old ears. ‘Prog’ is a broad church and the billing provided some stunning talent from Psychedelia to stadium classic rock bands. There was more than enough at HRH Prog to satisfy most palates… and so it proved.
Now all reviews are opinion; at HRH Prog we saw some cracking acts – we also missed plenty. If you were lucky enough to be there and FFA didn’t mention your personal favourite – then more fool us! We either didn’t see ‘em or constraints of space forced omission … but come on – who just wants a list? What is fair to say is that the overall quality of everyone we did see was extremely high – this was a splendid Prog bill with no space for fillers. Here’s just a snifter of FFA Highlights…
Set up Thursday belonged to Mostly Autumn. Isn’t music a funny old thing? You can see a band a number of times and not get a buzz and then one night it all just gels. You are left wondering how they passed you by first or second time round. So it proved with Mostly Autumn. Maybe it was FFA’s body chemistry or the band, but we thought Mostly Autumn were fabulous on Thursday’s showing, and up there vying for set of the festival. Olivia Sparnenn’s vocals were sublime and Josh’s guitar breaks excellent. Indeed the band set a marker for the whole weekend – the technical musical ability of many of the artists across the bill was exceptional. Wonderful Prog from this outfit.
Friday got off to a flyer with Edgar Broughton. FFA just luuurve singer-songwriters who can seamlessly weave tall tales in-between the tunes and Mr Broughton is a past master. Hugely entertaining and an emotional rollercoaster. Broughton brings a passion and fragility to his lyrics than can be downright disturbing. The frequent pitch change vocal style and muted acoustic guitar simply magnifies the intensity. ‘Six White Horses’ provided the highlight. A stunning rendition in a hugely entertaining performance. FFA caught Heather Findlay’s damned fine unplugged set including a moving tribute to the passing of Mostly Autumn guitarist Liam Davison before L’Anima hit Stage Two. Prog meets Spanish guitar… a heady combo. An interesting project and well worth checking out. Blimey – Hawklords! Some smashing spacey Prog from a wonderful outfit and what a charmer that man Jerry Richards is – excellent banter! Some wonderful guitar work, and alongside Bainbridge and young bassist Ashurst (who looked about 12 years old in this company), they laid down a wonderfully trippy rock vibe.
Oh Caravan – what can I say? In all my years I have rarely seen them better. Longevity in a band can be a blessing and a curse. Familiarity can breed contempt, laziness rules and the music (and the band) can become stagnant, corpulent and mechanical…. Or, the band can progress; they can work on all the little tricks and flicks. It’s not being showy or flash – it’s just striving for musical excellence. These guys excelled. Drummer Walker drove it all and the seemingly effortless multi-instrumental genius of Richardson was a sheer delight. Each and every band member was absolutely on the button. Tight as a nut, it was the outing of ‘Love to Love You’ that did for this reviewer. Another set of the weekend.
It’s all debate and opinion but for this ‘umble (gettit?) reviewer arguably set of the weekend had to go to Uriah Heep. What a bunch of accomplished old stagers this crew are. Heep are a hardworking, hard driving, classic rock outfit who just know how to work a crowd, pace a set, and get the crowd eating from their hands. A class act and similar to Caravan; tight and technically excellent. Some of Mick Box’s guitar playing was simply breath-taking. The man is a wizard and his playing mesmerising. As I said earlier; ‘tricks & flicks’ are not a sign of arrogance – rather an artist at the top of their game. Special mention to some brilliant bass technique from Rimmer, and what a star frontman Bernie Shaw is – and still in tremendous voice. The crowd were theirs long before a truncated Easy Livin’ capped a wonderful set.
Saturday commenced in fine style with the Floydeque polished Prog of The Tirith. Musically accomplished and a great watch, the band exemplified the high quality offerings Stage Two delivered throughout the weekend. Saturday also witnessed another fine lady of Prog with Welsh Prog outfit Magenta’s Christina Booth. The interplay with Fry’s splendid guitar work was excellent. With some lovely sweeping Prog keyboard courtesy of Mr Reed and you had, more or less, the definitive Prog band. A great set. Kepler Ten maintained the high standards of the Second Stage with a powerful musical statement – hard to categorise – and all the better for it, these guys are well worth a look. Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy more than pleasantly surprised. Firstly, there was no attempt to be simply an ELP copy band – Palmer is being is own man and the lack of a keyboard player in his trio somewhat proved the point! And secondly, after all these years, this reviewer actually enjoyed a protracted drum solo! FFA have mentioned technical excellence and ‘tricks & flicks’ elsewhere in this review – well what Box is to the guitar Palmer is to percussion. ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ witnessed Palmer pulling percussion stunts I’ve rarely witnessed before. What else but ‘Nutrocker’ to end it all with a bang. Excellent stuff.
Magnum rocked up to close the Main Arena Stage. A great rock outfit and a bouncing show – perhaps even surpassing Heep for crowd reaction. Arguably Catley’s voice has lost a little intensity, at least on this showing, but still a class act frontman leading a fine fine band. A great set of old favourites with a stunning ‘How far Jerusalem’ bringing the best out of Catley and featuring a splendid Tony Clarkin virtuoso solo. Over on Stage Two ex Pallas man Alan Reed closed the whole shebang with a high intensity rocking set. You could toast bread off the energy Reed and the band generated. Lovely to see musicians genuinely enjoy themselves on stage. A great good-time set to close the weekend in style.
There you have it. Another classic HRH Prog weekend with great bands and great people. No wonder many in the crowd are already planning their next pilgrimage to the Temple of Prog in 2018. See you there!
Article & Snaps by Barrie Dimond
Check out a full album HRH Prog VI 2017 Snaps HERE.