It's that time of the year again, a welcome return to Lydney in the beautiful Forest of Dean for what has become one of my favourite weekends.
Now in its ninth year, this is the seventh one for me - a big well done to the Norwegian contingent who've managed to get to all of them!
- and each year it seems to get better and better. I thought that the event as a whole would find it hard to top last year's
(the review for which sadly never materialised) which benefitted from a particularly strong line-up but Summer's End 2013,
though possibly not as impressive on paper, more than made up for it in the quality of the performances and the as expected friendliness of the welcome.
Huw Lloyd-Jones and Stephen Lambe have again managed to stage the best festival of its kind in Britain and they are to be applauded for their efforts.
After concerns last year regarding the financial viability of the event and worries that this year's edition may not go ahead it was a great
relief to see the initial announcement and, as usual, excitement built as bands were added.
And so here we are at the culmination of all this planning, the opening Friday night of Summer's End 2013.
Much in the vein of earlier years, festivities started later than anticipated and the delays of yore became a feature of the weekend.
In recent years timings at Summer's End had been much improved and the last couple had run closely to time.
This year it became apparent that, as well as his many other duties, Stephen was performing the role of stage manager
(their regular man not being able to do it this year) and this was clearly a stretch which led to timings being left a little more
to chance leading to significant delays and late finishes on every night. A shame but not one that spoiled the event for me in any way.
Time to grab a chocolaty pint of the FANTASTIC Big Big Train beer and start enjoying the weekend...
Friday, 4th October 2013
[Huw Lloyd-Jones (vocals), Dave Roelof (drums), Alex White (keyboard), Tom Ennis (guitar), Lee Blu-Sky (bass)]
It has become almost customary for Huw Lloyd-Jones's band to feature at some point in the weekend and this year Unto Us have the honour of being first band on,
and with a pretty good turnout for the start of the Friday evening.
The band has developed a great deal since their slot last year and performed with some style tonight.
As possessor of one of the best voices in U.K. prog Huw put it to good use and was, as always, an engaging frontman,
comfortable in his role and immediately getting the audience on side.
The band settled in behind him, concentrating on the music which is no bad thing, all of the songs delivered very effectively.
The music of Unto Us is melodic with excellent use of dynamic,
the pieces ebbing and flowing on fine performances as Huw expressively delivers the emotional messages held within the songs.
There is a powerful metallic edge which the band summon up when called upon to do so but melody is key.
Some of the songs were familiar but the band have a whole swathe of excellent new material and speaking to Huw later he confirmed that their debut album is
(finally) almost finished and should be out in the near future.
Based on the quality of the songs played tonight it promises to be a great release and I hope that we don't have to wait too much longer to hear it.
Drawing plenty of appreciation from the enthusiastic crowd, this was a great start to what would become a great weekend.
The band has a deep and complex style, which really sounded interesting.
However, Huw Lloyd-Jones has such a powerful, soulful and distinctive voice, sometimes the musical content slightly overwhelmed his contribution.
Setlist Unto Us
Towers of Babel
In a lifetime
The human landscape / These four walls
[Danny McMahon (drums), Chris McMahon (bass, keyboards, vocals), Paul McMahon (guitar, lead vocals),
Ceri Ashton (flute, whistle), Catrin Ashton (flute)]
As "last minute" replacements for the much anticipated DeeExpus who had been forced to pull out,
Haze came as a surprise to a number of attendees.
I'll admit to having been disappointed by this change as DeeExpus were one of the bands that I'd most
wanted to see and having been less than enthusiastic about Haze's latest album,
The Last Battle, I wasn't expecting to enjoy them.
That said, Haze arrived in Lydney after the long trip down from Sheffield and put on a very entertaining show utilising the best material from
The Last Battle plus some older material from all eras of their lengthy existence, including some World Turtle songs.
Initially sporting a massive wizard's hat and double neck guitar - and you can't get much more prog than that
- barefoot bassist Chris McMahon was the focal point for the start of the set,
the four piece band also featuring brother Paul on guitar and vocals with his 15 year old son Daniel on drums and Ceri Ashton providing occasional woodwind and flute.
Entertainingly Paul confided that they had had to pick the drummer up from school on the way to the gig!
He may be young but Daniel impressed behind the kit and drove the folk inflected songs along with plenty of energy.
Paul was in fine voice and with Chris settling behind his keys for much of the set, Ceri coming and going when called upon but adding much when on stage,
Haze played many of the older songs as a three piece.
The energy that the band put into their performance was palpable and the crowd didn't take much winning over,
joining in wherever possible and reacting positively at the end of every song.
For the particularly folk based Balder and the Mistletoe Ceri's sister Catrin appeared on stage to add additional flute with, much to everyone's surprise,
her and Paul's baby daughter strapped to her and sleeping soundly - this is very much a family affair! Balder and the Mistletoe
has become one of my favourite tracks from The Last Battle, a great folk number that benefitted from the homely family gathering that was happening on the stage.
The songs certainly benefit from the live interpretations, The Barrister And The Bargast being a case in point,
Chris and Paul swapping lead vocals in the tale of the two titular characters.
The band's mix of folk and classic rock is very engaging and the enthusiasm with which it is delivered was infectious.
An unexpectedly great, upbeat performance from a band I'd very much like to see again.
Perhaps the novelty act of the weekend, the McMahon family really entertained with their quirky style ranging from folk to hard rock.
I was not too sure about bringing a baby onstage complete with ear defenders while Mum played the flute but I guess you really do have to catch them young these days:
ditto the 15 year old drummer, Danny McMahon, who is another undoubted star of the future.
[Haze have put videos of their whole set on YouTube HERE - Thanks to Chris McMahon for the link]
The Last Battle
Over The River
Balder And The Mistletoe
The Barrister And The Bargast
Long, Long Gone
The Edge Of Heaven
The Red Room
[Marco Glühmann (vocals), Sebastian Harnack (bass), Matthias Harder (drums), Volker Sohl (keyboards),
Jonathan Beck (guitar)]
This was the second time that
Sylvan had played Summer's End,
the first being in 2010 when they really didn't do much for me.
That said I went into this show with an open mind hoping for an epiphany of some sort.
Sadly, it just didn't happen, the music of Sylvan being smooth, efficient and very professionally delivered but lacking in the dynamics that I enjoy.
The set clearly pleased the fans in attendance but I found it very one dimensional.
The focal point was bass player Sebastian Harnack who gave an energetic performance against the backdrop of the more rooted rest of the band.
Singer Marco Glühmann is engaging but his voice seemed to be suffering a bit tonight, as it did in 2010.
Unlucky if this was the case for both shows but for me he failed to deliver the material in a way that benefitted the band.
A big plus was the very recent addition of guitarist Jonathan Beck, who has only been with the band for 6 weeks and despite having very little rehearsal time played some wonderful solos that the crowd really responded to.
Given the lack of time to prepare for this show he did a very good job indeed.
With Harnack and the drums of Matthias Harder energising proceedings, the keys of Volker Sohl added much to the music, giving it more depth.
There is a solid rocky drive, atmospheric nuances and emotion in the songs but not enough peaks for me
and having never heard any of Sylvan's albums I'm sure that I must be missing something as it all seemed a bit safe to me and not fully
utilising the instrumental firepower on stage.
A shame but it seems that Sylvan are just not for me and with the evening now running very late
- past midnight and with a long trip home imminent - the decision was taken to call it a night during the last number of the main set.
Whilst most of the crowd were clearly enjoying Sylvan I found them anthemic but lacking exhilaration.
Sylvan, one of the bands I was most eagerly looking forward to seeing at Summer's End somehow did not quite deliver as I was expecting.
Their edgy, angsty brand of symph prog felt slightly two dimensional with singer Marco Glühmann just a little too static,
leaving only bassman Sebastian Harnack to provide any kind of movement.
However, Jonathan Beck did an excellent job filling in for recently departed guitarist Jan Petersen.
The Waters I Travelled
One Step Beyond
Pane of Truth
A Kind of Eden
This Word is Not for Me
Force of Gravity
Farewell to Old Friends
The Colours Changed
[Brian de Graeve (guitars, vocals), Erik Laan (keyboards, vocals), Rob Nieuwenhuijzen (drums), Gerrit-Jan Bloemink (bass), Daniel van der Weijde (guitar)]
Saturday opened with
Silhouette, the first of two Dutch bands appearing over the weekend.
By now the ubiquitous Summer's End delays had started to creep in again and as a result of limited time to soundcheck Silhouette unfortunately
suffered with the poorest sound of the day. However, they carried on enthusiastically and delivered a set that certainly had its moments.
The five-piece band were very impressive although singer Brian De Graeve was a bit flat on a number of occasions.
It seems from what I've heard since that this resulted from technical problems brought on by the short soundcheck and Brian was unable to hear himself properly.
A shame as the music they delivered in their hour long set was very enjoyable, the bulk of it coming from their latest album,
2012's DPRP recommended Across The Rubicon,
with just a couple of tracks from their second album, Moods from 2009.
Grendel Memories is unusual in that it is, as you would expect, a song about a Marillion song and it went down very well in the hall.
Despite the issues with the sound the band performed well as a unit with additional guitarist Daniel van der Weijde making an impact and keyboardist
Erik Laan very impressive. Brian swapped from electric to 12-string guitar, varying things up to good effect, and performed well in the frontman role,
doing well to get the audience on side, particularly with his heartfelt "don't forget to buy our cds and t-shirts or we can't get home!".
The band received a good reception for their brand of melodic prog with the familiar influences of Genesis mixed with Pendragon and
the like making for an enjoyable set.
A shame about the sound but Silhouette deserved the applause.
The Dutch band provided plenty of bounce and energy with engaging frontman Brian de Graeve giving an animated display of singing, playing and pouting. The tuning was a little out in places, but Silhouette proved great curtain raisers for the day.
Silhouette tried hard to excite a lethargic post-lunch audience but were not helped by the worst sound of the day.
Their brand of progressive rock was too "by numbers" for me. A little dull.
Don't Stop this Movie
When Snow's Falling Down
[John Dexter Jones (vocals), Steve "Ronnie" Rundle (guitar), Steve Hayes (guitar), "Mo" (keyboards), Mark Pittam (bass), Andy Barker (drums)]
With a catalogue of over a dozen albums recorded in their 20+ year career,
Jump have plenty of material to choose from and filled their
70 minute slot with quality songs that, unlike many played over the weekend, actually had something to say in the lyrics.
Although, as they themselves would agree, not the most "proggy" of bands, Jump benefit from an intensity in the delivery of their
songs of social observation and reality centred around singer John Dexter Jones who is not only a great front man and focal point for the band, with a hint of Morrissey
about him, but also a fine story teller and comedian.
I, like many of those present, was not particularly familiar with Jump's material despite having been aware of the band for many years,
but this set certainly enthralled a good part of the audience, the stories in the songs unfolding with great meaning delivered
by a capable band that does not need to resort to flash.
I particularly enjoyed Bethesda from the On Impulse
album with three further songs coming from the 2011 set The Beachcomber.
Looking into the DPRP archives, we have reviewed seven Jump albums but noticeably only The Beachcomber since 2005
and although Jump may not be overly prog per se they were an easy fit into the weekend and served to increase the breadth of music that was offered.
As has been the case with previous editions of Summer's End, the scope of what can be fitted under the prog banner is always surprising and
of the 13 bands that played all were stylistically different and that's what makes prog, whatever the hell it is, such a fascinating genre for me.
In the case of Summer's End, I'm more than prepared to give everything they choose to include in the line-up a proper listen and although
I know that it isn't all going to be for me I'm more than likely to hear something that's going to blow my mind.
With time getting on and the draft running times now completely out of the window, Jump were graciously allowed a well deserved encore and returned with
The Sniper, a song that they had intended to play earlier in the set but dropped due to the overrun.
A fine set of entertaining and enjoyable songs from a worthy band delivered with humour and style: a fine way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Jump are an interesting proposition, as their range covers classic rock, folk, blues with a bit of Talking Heads and Dr Feelgood somewhere in the mix.
There are few better frontmen that John Dexter Jones, the consummate actor and storyteller, who prowls the stage with both a brooding menace and broad grin.
By contrast to Silhouette, Jump were anything but dull. Not pretending to have too many progressive "feathers" in their "cap",
they nevertheless provided an absorbing set of art-rock. Charismatic front-man John Dexter Jones delighted the audience with the impact of his singing,
his between-song stories, and the two lead guitarists were highly effective and enjoyable.
Down Three Times
On Bended Knee
End of Days
Used to the Taste
Staring at the Rain
Free at Last
[Tarmo Simonen (keyboards), Janne Pylkkönen (bass), Alex Keskitalo (vocals & flute), Jaakko Kettunen (guitar),
Ville Sjöblom (drums)]
So far much of this year's Summer's End had been unknown territory for me and so it continued with Finland's
a band that I had heard many good things about.
From the off their sound was an intriguing mix of styles with the spacey vibe of Hawkwind or Ozric Tentacles never far away.
As expected the bulk of their set comprised material from their most recent album,
Of Sun and Moon with the last two numbers
of the set really taking things into space with the 15+ minute tracks Metaepitome and Dawn.
Elsewhere, the set took in straighter rock, jazziness and blues; an eclectic mix that worked a treat for me.
The flute of frontman Alex Keskitalo was very much in the Ian Anderson tradition and added a new dimension, Keskitalo himself being engaging and entertaining.
With fine playing from all the set flew by in a blur of styles that didn't flag at all.
When Overhead returned for a particularly well deserved encore they brought the house down with a rampaging chase through
King Crimson's classic 21st Century Schizoid Man, complete with some of the vocals edging into Death Metal territory,
all played at breakneck speed - I'm sure there were some sore fingers after that!
A wonderful way to finish a great set by a band that I for one certainly need to hear more of.
The Finnish five were one of the more pleasant surprises of the weekend, their atmospheric blend of prog and metal providing
some heady moments with vocalist and flautist Alex Keskitalo bearing an uncanny resemblance to Tim Minchin!
Finishing off with 21st Century Schizoid Man certainly won them plenty of new admirers.
Overhead were easily the most "progressive" of the four bands that I saw.
Their music ranged over a variety of styles - from space rock to heavy prog metal to conventional rock through folk-rock
- sometimes within the same composition. Their eclecticism was too much for some in the audience, who simply walked away after a couple of numbers
- "Ooooh, it's not Marillion...". Overhead were ably fronted by Alex Keskitalo, who must be Finland's answer to Ian Anderson with his singing,
flute and general larking about. I never did understand why the keyboard player would occasionally smoke his
pipe but that wasn't enough to spoil a great set, any band that can make the sprung Lydney town hall floor resonate has got my vote!
An Afternoon of Sun and Moon
...to the Madness
Angels and Demons
21st Century Schizoid Man
Ravens and Lullabies
with Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman
[Gordon Giltrap (guitar), Oliver Wakeman (keyboards), Johanne James (drums), Nick Kendall (guitar),
Steve Anderson (bass), Paul Manzi (vocals)]
In a wise move by the organisers, the headliners for both Saturday and Sunday were put on as the penultimate bands of the evening,
thus ensuring a full house remained for both sets which would certainly not have been the case otherwise due to the overrunning that was now becoming silly.
Tonight the crowd seemed full of fans resplendent in Giltrap t-shirts, there in force to support their man and ensuring that the band got a resounding reception.
An intriguing set was promised by Messers
Wakeman, who usually perform together in a duo format,
as tonight was their one and only planned performance with a full electric band under the Ravens and Lullabies banner.
The band, featuring Arena singer Paul Manzi, Nick Kendall (guitar) and Johanne James (drums) and Steve Anderson (bass) who form Threshold's rhythm section.
The band came out of the blocks in full "rock" mode and for the first part of the set Giltrap's acoustic was a little lost but this was rectified later on,
his playing, when you could hear it, quite beautiful throughout.
The set comprised the whole of the recent
Ravens and Lullabies
album interspersed with various other tracks including much from Oliver's back catalogue plus Giltrap nuggets such as Roots
from the Fear Of The Dark album.
The central portion of the set saw the band leave the stage to allow Giltrap and Wakeman to play some of the gentler material as a duo, about half a dozen pieces,
and this is when Giltrap's wonderful playing truly revealed itself.
Gordon also treated us to a solo section where he used a looping station to wonderful effect
to create a powerful tapestry of sound that was very warmly received.
The band were both professional and highly skilled and the performance was a credit to all concerned,
particularly in that it was the first gig they had played together, and they put the music across very well indeed.
Manzi was on fine form both vocally and in the banter between himself, Wakeman and Giltrap which helped instil a particularly warm atmosphere.
Oliver, stage left, took the lead as MC for the evening, introducing and explaining the ideas behind most of the songs,
Gordon chipping in when required from his seat stage right.
Oliver Wakeman has a wonderful keyboard touch but I sometimes find that his compositions, like some of his Dad's solo work,
can be a little 'chocolate boxy' and unashamedly romantic for my taste.
This however did not detract from a very enjoyable couple of hours in the company of seasoned professionals and a truly legendary
instrumentalist who is still a master of his craft. It was an absolute pleasure to finally see Gordon Giltrap play.
The encore, again more than well deserved, was the classic Heartsong from Gordon's 1977
Perilous Journey album,
apparently last played live by a full electric band at Glastonbury in 1981, and a fine way to close.
Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman are something of a dream team, Gordon being a great friend of and fellow musical collaborator
with Wakeman Snr. As he pointed out, Wakeman Jnr had dragged him kicking and screaming into the 21st century,
and well worth it it was too. Supplemented by Threshold's rhythm section and singer Paul Manzi, one of prog's most versatile showmen,
their electric show was a joy to behold. Here were an accomplished band of musicians playing at the height of their powers,
Giltrap in particular demonstrating his place in the pantheon of brilliant British guitarists and Wakeman, a real chip off the old block.
The music composed by Oliver Wakeman seems perfectly suited to his recent collaboration with Gordon Giltrap
and the pair's performance of their Ravens and Lullabies
album, backed by a full electric band, was well received, with vocalist Paul Manzi being on particularly fine form.
The longest track from the album, Is This the Last Song I Write is one of my favourites of the year and the band did it full justice.
Giltrap and Wakeman's semi-acoustic "solo" spot midway during the set contained some very pretty music.
Sometimes though, for all its technical wizardry, I feel that the music wanders into soulless territory.
Setlist Ravens and Lullabies with Gordon Giltrap and Oliver Wakeman
Don't Come Running
From the Turn of a Card
Anyone Can Fly
The Dodo's Dream
A Perfect Day
The Forgotten King
Wherever There Was Beauty
A Mayfair Kiss
Picture Of A Lady
Is This the Last Song I Write?
One For Billie/Ravens Will Fly Away
I Don't Believe In Angels
[Gédéric Byar (guitar), Vincent Barnavol (drums, percussion, marimba), Romain Thorel (keyboards, french horn), Claude Leonetti (Léode), Dominique Leonetti (vocals, guitars)]
performance at Summer's End in 2011 has been raved about by almost everyone who saw it - not myself unfortunately as I foolishly missed the Friday that year
- and they have been on my list of bands to make a point of listening to ever since. Due to tardiness on my part I have never got around to it but here they are,
closing out the Saturday night at this year's Summer's End - which is already running over an hour late. So, it's about half past 11 and they're just taking the stage...
...and what followed was one of the most stunning performances I've ever seen. It was gripping, fascinating, captivating and wonderful.
I don't think that I've ever been as blown away by a band that I'd never heard a note of before. Expecting good things I'd positioned myself stage left,
just by the speaker stack which spent the next hour and a half vibrating massively as the crowd also vibrated along with the music.
After the set I rushed out and bought both available albums and can confirm that, although they're both great albums,
they do nothing to convey the majesty of the live performances of this quite remarkable band.
Starting, unusually, with keyboardist Romain Thorel's muffled French Horn (and, no, that isn't a pun), the performance was technically superb and yet
filled with emotion as Lazuli perfectly conveyed their songs tinged with world music and industrial rhythms.
From my position in front of guitarist Gédéric Byar I had a perfect view across the stage and could easily take in what they were doing;
the looks, smiles and winks, the cues, the discussions of what singer Dominique Leonetti should say to the audience in his very limited English.
This is a band that clearly enjoy playing together and have great belief in the power of what they do in a performance that was completely engaging.
Highlights were almost too many to remember - experiencing the full power of Claude Leonetti's Léode which can summon up all manner of sounds seemingly
by the process of thought alone; the note-perfect high register voice of Dominique; the superb guitar stylings of Byar;
the rhythmic power of the songs driven along by Vincent Barnavol's drums and percussion together with Romain Thorel whose keys also provide the basslines.
Romain also doubled on drum duty when called upon whilst Vincent took to the electric marimba.
The Tool influence is clear and by the time they got to play a new song, no one was surprised when Gédéric starts to play his guitar using a screwdriver.
Dominique's performance was completely spellbinding, his voice cutting through the extraordinary sound whilst his guitar, mainly acoustic but ocassionally electric,
added so much to the overall sound. His gestures and the way in which his movements deliver the songs - all sung in their native French - was just masterly.
On Film D'Aurore Dominique deploys a hand held light to illuminate his face as he prowls the stage and for 15H40 he tries convincing us that is
20 to 4 in the afternoon rather than around midnight, even jumping down into the crowd to confer with our own Alison Henderson about the actual
time then staying to watch the rest of the band play! With three of the band looking like they are just back from filming Elf scenes for
The Hobbit and the other two resembling members of Boyzone it just makes the performance all the more extraordinary.
They just make a noise that you wouldn't expect yet fits them perfectly. They even furthered the Tolkien references by playing a snatch of the Lord of the Rings film theme!
The whole show was nothing short of magnificent.
Thorel's keys seem split in two - synths for the right hand, bass and assorted percussion to the left -
and this was utilised to brilliant effect in a keys solo that re-wrote the rulebook on how these things work.
I don't expect Oliver Wakeman was still watching but if he were I wouldn't be surprised if he now regards himself as obsolete and gives up the keyboards altogether.
The percusiveness and rhythmic intensity of Thorel's solo was just breathtaking with dance rhythms used to great effect.
In addition, with his keyboard leaning backwards at an angle you could see exactly what he was doing. Simple yet effective.
Unusually in prog there is something almost primal about the music of Lazuli and even a prog audience finds it hard not to dance to it.
The music is at once, melodic, accessible, interesting, powerful and delicate. These boys really have something here.
From what I hear from others in the hall it was VERY loud further back - which may have become an issue given the lateness of the hour
- but from where I was the sound was wonderful and fully conveyed the power of the band in crystal clarity.
It's one o'clock when they finish and thankfully Lambsie agrees that they can play a quick encore.
There would no doubt have been a riot if they hadn't so at the end of a slightly truncated set the band quickly drag the marimba to the centre of
the stage and perform their party piece - 9 Hands Around the Marimba with all five members playing it at once.
The tune is complex yet mellifluous and they even include a few phrases from Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill whilst smacking each other with their marimba mallets.
The perfect way to end really!
DO NOT miss this band if you ever get the chance to experience them live as they are jaw-droppingly good at what they do.
It is difficult not to fall in love with Lazuli, they really do have it all.
It was their performance as Friday night's headliners at Summers End two years ago which turned into a personal life-changing experience.
Very few bands have ever created a show as original and breathtakingly dazzling as that. Again, the Gallic five picked us all up and took us away to their magical land of music,
the journey encompassing old favourites such as L'Arbre through to 4603 bâttements in almost its entirety and introduced a brand new song.
They even managed to get me personally involved in the stunning 15H40 and the encore, Nine Hands Around The Marimba is the stuff of legend.
It was such a shame that time became an issue in the end and they had to cut their set short as a result. But being one of their biggest U.K. cheerleaders,
I would say that, wouldn't I? These guys are simply the best.
Dans Le Formol au Museum
Le Miroir aux Alouettes
Je Te Laisse Ce Monde
Une Pente Qu'On Devale
On Nous Ment Comme On Respire
Capitaine Coeur De Miel
9 hands around the marimba
Sunday, 6th October 2013
[Sean Filkins (vocals & guitar), Daniel Maher (guitar), Rob Edwards (bass), Andrew Daish (drums), Geoff Webb (guitar),
Dan Parratt (keyboards)]
I'd been looking forward to
Sean Filkins' set having missed a considerable portion of his show at
Celebr8 in 2012 due to delays in getting everyone inside the venue.
Today we managed to just get there in time - due to another late start. Sean and his 5-piece band made short work of material from his excellent
War & Peace and Other Short Stories album plus a couple of songs
from Sean's time with Big Big Train, namely High Tide Last Stand and Fighter Command from their 2004
Gathering Speed album which were wonderful to hear and particularly well received.
The band performed admirably with a particular mention going to guitarist Daniel Maher. Due to ill health Sean's regular keyboardist was forced to withdraw,
his place taken gamely at short notice by Dan Parratt who did a good job despite struggling a bit with some of the parts.
He seemed to be apologising a lot to his band mates but no matter as just about everyone in the hall understood the situation, the band getting enthusiastic support throughout.
A fine set, culminating with the mighty Epitaph For A Mariner, from a very impressive band. I look forward to Sean's next release with anticipation.
Prog's gentle giant was in fine voice for the Sunday opening slot. Sadly, his regular musical collaborator John Sammes had been prevented from playing due to ill-health,
but Dan Parratt stepped into the breach and delivered the complicated keyboard part most admirably.
The songs were all drawn from his lovely War & Peace and Other Short Stories
album but it was a sneaky move on his part to put in a couple of songs from Big Big Train's
Gathering Speed simply as a reminder of his previous tenure with them.
Setlist Sean Filkins
Intro - Are You Sitting Comfortably
The English Eccentric
Prisoner Of Conscience, Part Two
High Tide Last Stand/Fighter Command (reprise)
Learn How To Learn
Epitaph For A Mariner
1. Sailors Hymn
2. Sirens Song
4. Ode To William Pull
[Michael Woodman (vocals & guitar), Ben Wren (drums), Rael Jones (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Sam Warren (bass)]
In recent years the line-up for Summer's End has always included a curveball, a band who would almost certainly split the audience.
Last year Lambsie and Huw took the inspired decision to book Knifeworld who converted a good number of those in attendance to their cause with an fantastic set.
This year the "will they/won't they?" slot was taken by
Thumpermonkey who turned out to be one of my favourite acts of the weekend.
I was familiar with their latest album, Sleep Furiously
from which they played a number of songs but we also got a good mix of tracks from earlier releases too in a set that lifted the Sunday afternoon session
to wondrously unexpected heights.
The quartet performed their quirky stop/start songs with wit and intelligence, at times sounding like Guapo with a cheeky sense of humour.
The three man frontline were animated and fun to watch, the whole set being a bundle of energy, with fine lead vocals from Michael Woodman.
A-Levels have always had a place in prog but at times you'd need a degree to get the gist of what Thumpermonkey do and their music is all the more interesting for that.
The set contained a couple of as yet unreleased tracks which bode well for the next album and I know there'll be plenty of people who had never heard
of the band who'll now be looking forward to that.
For many attending, Thumpermonkey were the outstanding band of the weekend, but for my part, I had to sit this one out...
When Scouts Go Bad
Veldt (unreleased Song)
Untitled new unreleased Song (working title "Giraffes in My Front Vision")
[Tracy Hitchings (lead vocals), Uwe D'Rose (guitars), Steve Gee (bass), Mike Varty (keyboards & vocals),
Daniel Martin (drums)]
yet another band that I'd heard very little of over the years so was looking forward to seeing, concluded the Sunday afternoon session.
In Tracy Hitchings they have a singer regarded by many as one of the finest female prog voices in the U.K. but for me she seemed a little shrill at times,
her voice and interpretive movements bringing Kate Bush to mind, but she is certainly confident and engaging in her role fronting the band.
As for the music, the lengthy pieces were all very well played, the rest of the band generally happy to stay in the shadows behind Tracy and professionally
deliver their parts but unfortunately the music just didn't grab me. Their brand of melodic rock with a hard edge remained a little one dimensional.
The band are certainly no slouches concentrating on an ensemble approach which suits the music and Tracy makes for a fine focal point but, like Sylvan,
Landmarq are another example of a band with real quality that fail to ignite that necessary spark of enthusiasm in me.
As with Thumpermonkey, ditto Landmarq which is a band I simply do not "get" but I shall persevere.
Glowing (Pt. 1 & 2)
Mountains Of Anglia
Calm Before The Storm
i. Strange But Beautiful
iii. Into The Abyss
[Thijs van Leer (keyboards, flute, vocals), Menno Gootjes (guitar), Pierre van der Linden (drums), Bobby Jacobs (bass)]
To my shame
Focus are another band that have pretty much passed me by over the years, except for the obvious tracks that everyone knows,
and I had it in my head that the yodelling marked them out as a novelty act, their continued existence owing more to the acknowledgement of this novelty rather than true quality.
How wrong I was, Focus were a revelation tonight and one that I will certainly follow up the next time I get the chance to see them play.
Led by madman/genius Thijs van Leer the band rifled through a selection of songs from throughout their career and delivered them all with panaché.
Guitarist Menno Gootjes was mightily impressive, filling in the Jan Ackerman role with style, but not overshadowed by his reverred predecesesor and
proving himself to be a truly great player. Drummer Pierre van der Linden, a member from the heyday of the band, was a ball of energy,
his jazz influences coming through as he drove the band along. His solo section could have been a little shorter, as is often the case with these things,
but it was indeed a fine performance. Despite all this the stage belonged to Thijs, his fantastic keyboard touch and deft flute marking the music apart.
His solo piece was simply breathtaking, bringing real classical beauty into the set and he also successfully got the crowd going with call and response vocalisations.
A great man and a true legend, Focus may be all about him but as a unit they can certainly deliver and deserved the headliner/Legend slot.
Thijs van Leer is one of prog's legends and proves conclusively that there is a very thin line between madness and genius.
Focus still continue to dominate their own special place in the prog firmament, their idiosyncratic, melodic, semi-classical style a timeless force
thanks to van Leer's tutelage. Pierre van der Linden continues to astound with his drumming and guitarist Menno Gootjes ever growing in stature as a formidable guitarist.
Some spontaneous displays of slightly arthritic dancing broke out in the audience at certain junctures, especially during the anthemic Hocus Pocus
and the evergreen Sylvia.
House of the King
La Cathedrale de Strasbourg
Fragile featuring Claire Hamill
[Claire Hamill (vocals), Max Hunt (keyboards, vocals), Oliver Day (guitar), Martin Clark (bass), Tom Dawe (guitar),
Russ Wilson (drums)]
As stated above, it was a wise move by the organisers to put the headliners on early and then close out the event with music that must surely be familiar to all those in attendance.
And what a way to send everyone home happy, a long set of Yes classics performed by
Fragile, a band that have real passion for their source material.
Currently fronted by the wonderful voice of Claire Hamill it was going to be interesting to see how the songs would work with a female singer.
And work they did as Claire has a voice of real class. Also included in the set were interesting versions of one of Claire's own songs plus a song from
Steve Howe's 1979 solo album on which Claire originally sang vocals, this incarnation of Fragile being the first time that the song has ever been performed live.
It seemed that a little more rehearsal may be required as Claire missed a couple of cues and elsewhere the band were not quite as sharp as I've seen them in the past but no matter,
brilliant songs well played leaving the tired but still enthusiastic audience to leave happy for the journey home to start a new working week.
Now here was an interesting proposition to close the festival. On the one hand, it was wonderful to have a whole hour, drinking in the best of Yes' canon,
fronted by the tiny Claire Hamill, blessed with a voice of great purity and power. However, I found myself in two minds throughout their set.
I did not know quite how to frame it as a lifelong Yes fan. But observing the audience, most of whom stayed to see them,
it was a shrewd move on behalf of the organisers to bring down the final curtain with such a showcase. Look out for a Pink Floydian ending next year!
Setlist Fragile featuring Claire Hamill
Your's Is No Disgrace
And You And I
Trees (from Claire Hamill's Love In The Afternoon album)
Look Over Your Shoulder (from the 1979 The Steve Howe Album)
Drum Solo/Gates Of Delerium (excerpt)/Soon
I've Seen All Good People
Roundabout/Time And A Word
So another wonderful weekend in the Forest of Dean. This event has a real heart and I thoroughly look forward to it continuing.
Congratulations and well done to Huw, Stephen and all of their willing helpers for making the event what it is.
As always the sound, certainly for the vast majority of the diverse acts, was very impressive as was the lighting given the size of the venue.
It is definitely the friendliest event of its kind that I've ever been to and if you've never been I urge you to consider it for next year as it has become
a must irrespective of who is on the bill. Hopefully the timings will be a little more, er, robust next time but that would be my only small criticism of a fantastic event.
Until next year...