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ConcertsHRH Prog 2 @ Pwllheli, North Wales 03/21 & 03/22 2014

Posted on Tuesday, April 22 2014 @ 02:35:00 CDT by Dean Pedley
Progressive Rock Running across the same weekend as Hard Rock Hell's AOR 2 at the firmly established HRH base camp in North Wales, Prog 2 offered a mix of old and new prog artists from established festival favourites such as Fish, The Flower Kings and The Enid to emerging talent as showcased by Purson and The Physics House Band.

Ireland's Shattered Skies are at the heavier end of the prog spectrum and seem to have carved out their own niche somewhere between grove metal and djent. But no matter the description as the four piece deliver a confident set that meets with murmurs of approval from the assembled prog audience. September Code have made the trip to Wales all the way from Greece and are heavy on Queensryche influenced atmospherics with song structures that take time to build the tension before erupting with none too subtle bursts of twin guitar fury.

Luna Kiss have quite literally fly posted the entire festival with adverts for their new single, urging attendees to send the young band into the UK charts (prog back in the charts, whatever next!). Except of course they are not really prog at all but pleasantly inoffensive sounding modern alternative rockers with snazzy haircuts to match. Led by Richard Thomson of death metallers Xerath, The Custodian have been given warm reviews for debut album Necessary Wasted Time which owes much in its sound to Porcupine Tree. Their music translates well on stage and the title track is a sprawling epic of trademark prog rock excess that is lapped up. Have you ever asked yourself what kind of sound The Big Bang Theory science guys would make had they chosen the path of music instead of science during their formative years? Wonder no more because the answer lies in the form of The Physics House Band. For the first ten minutes the three piece are either tuning up, improvising or treating a festival crowd to a freeform jazz rock exploration. And a damn fine job they make of it with the end result a blur of inter-band dynamics and a remarkable sense of maturity from a band so young. One of the genuine surprises of the entire festival we look forward to hearing much more from them.

Purson draw an expectant crowd for their rich and colourful psychedelic trip back to the 1960's. It is unfortunate then that singer Rosalie Cunningham throws a hissy fit after the first song due to a malfunctioning guitar pedal. And what does she do with said offending item? Throws it into the crowd in an act that can be considered ill-advised at best. Musically they press all the right buttons with a blend of mystique and power set against some hypnotic and enchanting vocals but their performance was tainted by the on stage histrionics.

The Pineapple Thief continue to impress and it's remarkable to think they already have nine albums behind them. All The Wars has seen then step up to bigger and better things and this comes across in the live performance where their unmistakable class shines through. In contrast Panic Room appear to be going backwards and their pedestrian set never really comes to life. Anne-Marie Helder's unusual choice of headgear proves to be the main talking point as the band gives the impression of simply going through the motions.

Focus are old hands at these type of festivals and even if Thijs Van Leer grows ever more grizzled with the passing years they never cease to both amaze and delight. One does wonder what any attendees of the adjacent AOR festival would have thought had they wandered into Focus' set and been met with the sexagenarian blissfully yodelling away. Eccentric genius at work. The Enid are another band beset by technical gremlins courtesy of their EWI (electronic wind instrument). They are of course much too polite to do anything so rash as hurl gear into the assembled throng and during several delays Robert John Godfrey engages with the crowd in his own inimitable fashion with tales of feathers and loud music. Young vocalist Joe Payne has given the Enid a fresh dimension to their sound with his on stage theatrics sitting well with the pomp and ceremony that the band are renowned for.

A rare gig outside of the capital for The Flower Kings confirms that they remain a top-drawer live act even if they have never really enjoyed the level of success here in the UK when compared with mainland Europe. Roine Stolt and his bandmates immediately hit their stride and they offer more than an hour of music that is cinematic, melodic, symphonic, and at all times prog with a capital P.

And so finally the weekend comes to a close with genuine prog rock royalty in the shape of Fish. Revitalised and rejuvenated after a number of years in the wilderness battling health issues that threatened to curtail his career the burly Scotsman is once again performing with the fire in his belly of the 80's and 90's. It is notable that many of the younger bands that played earlier in the day are amongst the vibrant crowd for this is a performance to be cherished. Touring on the back of Feast of Consequences, arguably his finest album since Vigil, Fish offers a number of new songs alongside a majestic 'Script for a Jester's Tear' and biting 'What Colour is God'. Ever the showman he saves the best for last with a barnstorming medley last heard on the Sunsets tour that opens with 'Assassing' and runs the gamut through 'Credo' and 'Tongues' via 'White Feather', 'Fugazi' and 'View From The Hill'. Without a doubt Fish provided the outstanding set of the festival and his parting shot says it all – "When you see your friends…tell them that the Fish is back".

With the HRH brand now firmly established Prog 3 has already been confirmed for March 2015 with tickets and other information to be found over at https://www.hrhprog.com/

Words by Dean Pedley
Images by Rob Nankivell of Shoot Plymouth - http://shootplymouth.co.uk/
For more of Rob's images from the festival check out https://www.facebook.com/ShootPlymouth
Thanks as always to Claire, Jenny and all of the team at Chic PR & Festivals.


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