Paul Quinton’s Irregular Look At The World Of Progressive Rock
The big news in the wonderful world of Prog in the last few weeks was the first ever Classic Rock Presents Prog awards. Held in Kew Gardens, no less it was hosted by TV presenter Gavin Esler. Prog Magazine Editor Jerry Ewing said, the event was designed to highlight not only the legends that built and illuminated the genre in the first place but also the younger musicians, who continue to carry the torch into the 21st Century, and, as this column will never tire of saying, making music as brilliant and thought-provoking as anything in what is now Prog’s illustrious history – there was even a small piece on BBC News the following morning. Naturally the Beeb couldn’t resist inserting its usual clichés into the coverage, but even so, acknowledgement that this whole scene actually exists is a huge step forward. (Now, what about a proper Prog show on BBC6, or is that much too much to ask for?)
Some of the awards were decided by committee, some were voted on by the public, so step forward Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks (Lifetime achievement), Peter Hamill (Visonary), Steven Wilson (Guiding Light), Rick Wakeman (Prog God), Carl Palmer (Virtuoso), Squackett (the award for the Anthem of the year for ‘A Life Within A Day), Rush (Album Of The Year), Anathema (Live Event, for their concert at the Union Chapel in London), EMI and Pink Floyd (The Grand Design Award for the Immersion series of reissues) and finally TesseracT, who beat off some very serious competition in the New Blood category. Nobody could seriously argue with most of these, although one or two do seem a little interchangeable, if you’d swapped the winners of the first four awards around, would anyone notice? If these awards are to become an established event, I hope that it won’t just be a way of honouring the past, but a way of encouraging, highlighting and rewarding the music being made in the present day. The Classic Rock Legends Awards have been televised by Sky Arts in the past, here’s hoping that the Prog awards get the same treatment in the near future.
Last month, Timeless Wavelengths highlighted a couple of prog-based festivals that had taken place in the UK during the summer, and no sooner had these gone by than a number of others were announced. The biggest of these is the HRH Prog Festival, due to take place on the weekend of April 6 and 7th next year. As the title suggests it’s being organised by the people who run the Hard Rock Hell metal festival every year, and is easily the most ambitious. For a start, it’s run alongside an AOR festival, and is in the spectacular confines of the Magna Centre in Rotherham. There are still a lot of bands to be announced, but so far we have Arthur Brown, Caravan, Mostly Autumn, The Reasoning and Hawkwind, not to mention Classic Rock Prog New Blood Award winners TessaracT.
Back into the Midlands, and the Musician in Leicester are organising a second two-day event on November 23rd and 24th. Entitled Danfest 2012, it features a high quality bill, including Magenta, Landmarq, Galahad and Also Eden, among others. Well worth a look and at 15 quid for the Friday session, and £22 for the Saturday, not bad value, either.
Originally in this column I intended to speculate on why there isn’t a Prog equivalent of Firefest (at which the mighty Royal Hunt are due to appear this year, and which is completely sold out). But having looked into this further, it seems there are several events planned over the next year or so, all over the country and with the prospect of some excellent music at each and every one. Please feel free to check out Proguphoria in Poole this very month, the Y Prog Festival at Sheffield Corporation, featuring It Bites, the Enid and the awesome Riverside, among others, on March 15-17th next year, and there’s also a second instalment of the Celebr8 festival in Kingston on Thames next May. The name still makes me shudder, and the cost of travelling to and staying in London is always a large hurdle to overcome, but next year’s bill includes Threshold, who’ve just released one of my albums of 2012, so who knows?
Meanwhile, even if you can’t wait for all this festival action, it’s not like there isn’t a wealth of live music around these parts between now and Christmas. The undoubted highlight of the next couple of weeks will be the joint headlining tour of Touchstone and The Reasoning, which reaches the Robin on 15th October. When Timeless Wavelengths reviewed a triple band bill of Also Eden, Mr. So and So and Crimson Sky at The Robin recently, I applauded the idea of multi band bills as a way of giving value for money and enticing more punters. This is a perfect example, these are currently two of the best bands operating in the UK at the moment, on one bill, not to mention a chance to hear the excellent voice of Riversea singer Marc Atkinson, who is third on the bill, and all for £12 in advance. It really should be a cracking evening.
Following on from that, Solihull’s finest, IO Earth return to the Robin, this time in conjunction with The Tangent on November 4th, again, an excellent value bill, and if classic early progressive rock is your particular cup of tea, the legendary Gong play a rare date at The Robin on November 6th. Featuring original members Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth, the band have publically stated their intention to go back to their grass roots to take back their music from the music industry by directly engaging with their fans. And talking about legends, Greg Lake brings his ‘Songs From A Lifetime’ show to Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre on November 19th. It’s described as an autobiographical journey through songs and music. Lake plays and sings solo, accompanied by backing tracks, running through his King Crimson and ELP years as well as covering songs that are important to him personally. It’s a rare chance to see someone of his stature in such a comparatively intimate setting.
However, these legends aside, the really mouthwatering show in Midlands Rocks territory is in November and takes place at Nottingham’s Rock City on November 12th. Coupling the Swedish giants Opeth with the wonderful Anathema, two of the most important and outstanding bands of the last five years, is just an embarrassment of riches on one bill, and as the theme of this month’s column seems to have been ‘Value For Money’, this is an absolutely perfect example of making an interesting show almost unmissable.
Finally this month, what I hope will be a regular addition to this column, a playlist. Some of the albums I’ve been listening to over the past weeks, that I think you’ll find worthy of your attention, and perhaps even your money:-
- Headspace ‘I Am Anonymous’. My album of the year so far, even in a year that has seen a new album from Rush.
- Threshold ‘March of Progress’. The UK’s answer to Dream Theater, it says here, although I reckon they have better songs.
- The Reasoning ‘Adventures In Neverland’. I’m still trying to unlock all the complexities of this album, but as long as the UK can produce bands and music this good, things aren’t all bad.
- Heather Findlay Band ‘Songs from the Old Kitchen’. Different arrangements of older and new material. Perfect for an evening in with wine and candlelight
- Marillion ‘Sounds That Can’t be Made’. They won’t like me saying so, but this is their most ambitious and downright proggy album in years. They still baffle me a lot of the time but this is starting to grow on me.
See you all next time.