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Midwinter Madness In South London

Bands celebrate the solstice in style.

Following in the footsteps of August’s Resonance Festival, Midwinter Madness brings a day of live music in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support to The Bedford in South London.

It’s a small crowd throughout the day, and the fact that the event wasn’t listed on the venue’s website can’t have helped the attendance – heads should roll!

London’s The Far Meadow kick off with Dinosaurs, throwing some jazz rock into their prog. New vocalist Marguerita Alexandrou looks slightly stiff on stage, particularly during the lengthier instrumental sections, but she has an appealing vibrato in her voice. Flash Mob showcases their range with dynamic peaks and valleys in an ambitious arrangement that builds to a big rock-out. In a set of solid neo-prog, the quintet tackle Travelog, packed with engaging shifts in tone and intensity, and Mud from drummer Paul Bringloe and keyboard player Eliot Minn’s old band Blind Panic.

A Formal Horse are the most aggressively modern band on the bill, with a genuinely original sound. Vocalist Francesca Lewis offers delightfully random stage chatter. Musically, they do a roaring trade in angular riffs, odd time signatures and bursts of heaviness. They romp through the staccato breaks of Sexbooth and there’s excellent interplay between Lewis’ scatting voice and guitarist Benjamin Short in Fleeting Silkworm. They charge from song to song, even while Lewis slips off stage to complete a series of wardrobe changes, wrapping up with Dim and Rosensage, unleashing berserk instrumental breaks in both. Expect great things from these rowdy prog iconoclasts in the future.

Fittingly top of the bill, given that this whole event is the brainchild of frontman Mike Morton, come The Gift. Morton is a performer who throws himself into the music, although he’s matched for banter between songs by keys player Samuele Matteucci. The set includes the very British prog of The Willows and the ballad You Are The Song, which features just Morton, Matteucci and guitarist Stefan Dickers. You’d never know Morton has been recovering from laryngitis and he dusts off his flute (oo-er missus) for The Comforting Cold.

After just four songs, The Gift throw caution to the wind to perform all 45 minutes of their three-part anti-war epic Awake And Dreaming. It’s the first time they’ve ever attempted the entire work live but they carry it off flawlessly. After that marathon, they conclude with the Marillion-esque ballad Walk Into The Water. It’s a shame there aren’t more people sharing this pre-Christmas prog feast. Where were you?

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.