Summers End Festival
Magenta, Pineapple Thief, Steve Thorne
Galahad, Tr3nity, Also Eden
Saturday 17th September 2005
Gloucester Guildhall, UK
The Summers End festival was put together by a couple of prog aficionado's who were determined to salvage something from the cancellation of the Progsfest event that would have taken place in Chippenham this year. So stand up Huw Lloyd-Jones and Shaun Hunt and be counted - people with the determination and vision to bring prog to a wider audience and champion new bands are to be applauded.
First on the bill are Also Eden, a relatively new band with the lead singer being none other than the aforementioned Huw. And they were not bad at all. The opening slot at all day festivals is a difficult gig, but they seemed to have a decent turnout and gradually won the audience over, not just with their excellent music but with Huw and drummer Phil Legende's entertaining between song banter. Closing song Between the Lines was very impressive, and the band seemed genuinely surprised to be called back for an encore. I wasn't.
Next up are Tr3nity, a band who have been around for a few years now but one I have never had the chance to see until now. While they are excellent musicians, I felt that they had a tendency to drag things out and let some musical passages go on far too long. There were occasional looks between the band members as though they were not quite sure where or when to finish. Guitarist Rob Davenport seemed to be very low in the mix, and did try to remedy this a few times but it did not improve to any significant degree. I know how those sorts of things can affect stage performance, so I don't really think we saw the band at their best here, but I shall make a point to try and catch them again in the future.
And on to Galahad. These guys really blew me away at last years Progsfest event in Chippenham, and I had been singing their praises to friends for some time now. They don't get the chance to gig as much as they would like, but you would not know that from their extremely professional performance. They have a very hard edge to them, definitely not typical melodic prog. I hesitate to use the phrase prog metal, but they do veer into that territory at times. But it's the sheer powerful intensity of their stage show that impresses. I particularly admire keyboard player Dean Bakers contribution to the band because as well as being a very talented keyboard player, he also controls a lot of tapes, samples and various electronica that the band utilise in their set, so he's not just about soloing - though he can do that too when the need arises. Guitarist Roy Keyworth avoids standard guitar solo clichés and comes up with some very inventive chord sequences and riffs. The tall, imposing figure of bass player Mike Kneller cuts quite a stage presence, and singer Stu Nicholson has a slightly manic glint in his eye, which helps when he is called upon to portray some of the various characters in the set - which he does effectively without having to resort to make-up or costumes. Their song Sleepers is a mightily impressive behemoth of a prog epic, but it's the Year Zero (their current album) stuff that really does it for me, which thankfully they played a large chunk from tonight. We were also treated to a few tracks from their forthcoming CD Empires Never Last, which sounded excellent. I treated myself to a few more CD's from their back catalogue, which I shall listen to with interest.
A couple of hours break for a bite to eat, and we were back for the evening set. Singer/songwriter Steve Thorne was an unknown quantity to me, and I am not sure whether it was because he played to backing tracks, or the non-familiarity with his material but it kind of just washed over me and did not make much impact. I think with a full band and a headlining gig he would probably make more of an impact.
Pineapple Thief I had seen last year at Progsfest. I quite liked them then, and possibly liked them a little more tonight. In truth, they have more in common with bands like Radiohead, Coldplay and Smashing Pumpkins than prog, and I wonder if they would be more successful at more modern festivals like Glastonbury and V than events like this. They certainly seemed to divide the audience here, some loved them, some thought there was a little bit too much "shoegazing" going on. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I can happily listen to them live, but would probably not be moved enough to buy a CD.
And with a sense of déjà vu on to headliners Magenta. I say déjà vu because they have headlined a few festivals of late, including this years Rosfest and last years Progsfest. What made tonight special was the debut of new bass player Daniel Fry (yes, younger brother of guitarist Chris Fry). And he seems to have eased right into the fold beautifully, not a note out of place and looking relaxed and confident. And also with a slightly harder edged playing style, which adds an interesting dynamic to the overall sound of the band. We got most of the Seven album tonight, played impeccably as usual. Good to hear Anger, sung unplugged with just Christina and Chris Fry on acoustic, and also Envy which is not played live very often. What really impressed tonight was the medley from forthcoming album Home. Some of these tracks have been played at previous gigs, but in the same way as the band debuted and honed the Seven material live, after a few listens the hooks and melodies really start to pull you in the more you hear them - and that was very pronounced tonight.
It's interesting to see how their live set has developed over the years to achieve a perfect balance - now that they have a few albums and singles behind them they are able to alternate between out and out rockers like King Of The Sky, shorter and more accessible songs like the singles I'm Alive and Broken, unplugged intimate fare and the epic 20 or so minute songs from Revolutions.
Good to see all of the band having a great time up there tonight - Daniel became much more confident as the gig went on and started edging closer to the front of the stage with brother Chris - add Christina to the mix and that makes for a very interesting and visually exciting spectacle. Mr Rob Reed on keyboards orchestrated the proceedings with his usual aplomb, and played some darn fine keyboards too; second guitarist Martin Rosser got a few moments to shine tonight too and the whole thing was kept together by the formidable drumming of Allan Mason-Jones. And to finish off with, what else but the magnificent epic White Witch from the Revolutions album, which has become a huge audience favorite. I know it will probably not be played live for very much longer to make way for songs from the newer albums, but that's to be expected.
I know the organisers would have liked a better attendance for the festival, but they were up against an IQ gig a few miles down the road - however it was a decent turn out and the audience were enthusiastic and appreciative.
Lets hope there were enough in attendance to make sure it goes ahead again next year.