The fifth edition of HRH Prog promised a rollercoaster ride through the genre’s rich and varied history with seasoned headliners and fresh new blood jostling for position at Camp HRH. HRH Mag’s Garry Willey charted the best of the Day One action:
Jump Start For HRH
And so we began, with the loveable Jump handed the task of launching Thursday’s “Pre Party” night and warming an ever growing crowd.
Front man John Dexter Jones – looking sharp and chic in his shades – likes a natter. He’s got a nice line in the slightly ‘cheeky chappy’ routine and after more than 20 years leading the band, he’s warm-bath comfortable and still lapping up every minute on stage.
Behind him, Jump rocked out a punchy, upbeat and easy to like set with Ronnie Rundle’s fret work the hands-down highlight. The man plays like an angel. Subtle or spectacular, the solos were excellent and gave the band their finest moments.
The closer Johnny V, a touching tribute to the character who introduced a young John to the wonderful world of vinyl, was a fitting climax.
Three Is The Magic Number
These are changing but exciting times for The Enid, one of the genre’s giants newly re-birthed since illness saw the legendary Robert John Godfrey end five boundary-pushing decades at the helm.
Now the future rests on the shoulders of three talented young musicians, with HRH Prog marking the new line-up’s festival debut.
But if Zachary Bullock, Dominic Tofield and Jason Ducker were feeling the pressure, they hid it well.
Staying true to their founder’s principles, the guys were uncompromising and bold from the dystopian opener onward.
Not everything worked. Not everything gelled. But plenty did and the invention, courage and sheer technical ability that shone through the set suggests RJG’s amazing project is in safe hands.
The rousing ovation was richly deserved.
The Generation Game
You are never too young to prog, so HRH was thrilled to see a decent smattering of young ones at the opening night.
In truth, you could argue any parents keeping this grand music from their issue needs to take a long hard look at themselves.
Skipping (do children still skip??) into the nursery yard with tales of the genre’s great and good is surely a mini-motorway to cool.
So huge respect and feathered-hats off to those who brought sons and daughters to the party.
HRH even spotted one tiny babe in arms, complete with ear protectors, getting the earliest of introductions.
They will all thank you in time.
Kings Of The Prog Castle
With the atmosphere bubbling, the bars on overdrive and the night still young, it was time for the ever-classy Pendragon to really turn up the burners.
Here was a seasoned outfit you could be confident would match the moment and, no surprise, they delivered in style.
Still at the top of their game, Nick Barrett and Clive Nolan swapped the spotlight to solo with an understanding suggesting something close to second-sense, adding the dazzle to the harmony-rich anthems that studded the band’s dynamic set.
Feeding on the crowd’s response, the boys threw a heroic amount of energy back from the stage.
An excellent The King Of The Castle was an early highlight but, in truth, Pendragon never missed during 90 polished prog minutes.
Going Going Gong!
If HRH was to be honest, there were nagging misgivings about the closing spot going to one the genre’s most musically unpredictable and downright eccentric bands.
The sad loss of leader Daevid Allen only added to the feelings of foreboding.
But then Kavus Torabi launched himself on stage and, wow, all was well with the prog world!!
Kavus was surely born to be a frontman, a talent so natural you could weep. And he was a riveting, high octane mega-presence from the get go.
The music was brave and brilliant. One moment controlled chaos, the next a shimmering soundscape or a great, gorgeous waft of psychedelia, with lead Fabio Golfetti conjuring noises a fret board has no right to deliver.
Gong were simply relentless and a quite awesome surprise.
Of course, they blew the hall away. Shame on HRH for ever doubting!
*Exclusive Images By HRH Mag Festivals Photographer Simon Dunkerley