Deserving of its status as one of the biggest progressive rock festivals in Europe, the second HRH Prog of 2017 gets underway with a low-key evening for the early birds in the sizeable main arena. The tasteful guitar of Dave Cureton provides the main highlights of IO Earth’s opening slot, with entertaining Hawkwind-influenced trio Krankschaft bringing the comedy and Mostly Autumn delivering the classy, beautiful show that we’ve come to expect from them.
The first day proper is a dash to catch snippets of newer bands on Stage Two between the more established bands on the main stage. London-based prog metallers Kyros (formerly Synaesthesia) are all good players, but fail to hit their stride until late in the set, by which time Edgar Broughton is delivering his familiar Marmite acoustic set.
While Third Quadrant are again proving to be tuneful and inventive, they suffer a mass exodus to see Heather Findlay, who is rapturously received for her simple but highly evocative set, and her heartfelt tribute to former Mostly Autumn bandmate Liam Davison, who died earlier in the week.
Over on Stage Two, L’Anima, Godsticks and Wheel all provide fans of heavier prog with punchy, intricate riffs and quirky melodies. The exuberant Godsticks in particular are thriving as they reel in an increasing number of browsers from the nearby stalls.
Harvey Bainbridge and his youthful Hawklords are exactly as expected, and fun to watch. Caravan dispatch timeless classics with a nonchalant wit and skill. Unfortunately, the overloud David Cross Band render much of their leader’s fiery violin work inaudible, thanks to an all-conquering Gibson Flying V.
The main stage closes with Uriah Heep unusually revisiting their 70s heyday for most of their triumphant set, while Stage Two ends with Glynn Morgan returning to front the UK’s premier prog metal exponents Threshold after a gap of over 20 years. Morgan handles material from all eras with nary a chink in his armour, even regularly picking up a guitar to complete trademark harmonies, much to the obvious enjoyment of bandmate Karl Groom.
Touchstone’s cancellation gives the early Stage Two bands uninterrupted attention, starting with the enjoyable reformed prog/AOR hybrid Multi-Story, tuneful neo-proggers The Tirith, and The Far Meadow, whose best moments are mostly instrumental.
Unfortunately some of the time slots on the two stages overlap today. Catchy instrumentalists The Fierce And The Dead are the first to suffer a small attendance as they clash with an inspired Magenta in the main arena, where stunning sound and a perfectly paced setlist leave fans happy and casual browsers impressed.
Similarly, superb, Rush-inspired trio Kepler Ten would have wowed more people if they hadn’t been up against Dutch legends Focus, the irrepressible Thijs van Leer and his troops having reached a level of performance that few others could ever reach.
The very impressive Ghost Community have a great singer in John Paul Vaughan, and melodic crossover potential, but across the road the day belongs to Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy. Along with classic tunes, interesting anecdotes and incredible drumming from the main man himself, this lot have recently added keyboard backing tracks to give some of the pieces added authenticity.
As the day winds down, Rob Cottingham’s Cairo seem to still be finding their feet, while Magnum play a great set of old and new tracks, with ex-Pallas firebrand Alan Reed rounding things off with a lively set that’s as bold and flowery as his guitarist’s suit.
HRH Prog continues to go from strength to strength, providing a wonderful on-site experience and a great showcase for both new and established artists.