Three years ago, in May 2014, the first Trinity Festival took place at this very location, with three worthy cancer charities being grateful beneficiaries of the proceeds. After much demand, a follow-up event is finally here, with a six-band line-up benefiting those same charities.
The Assembly is a nicely appointed venue that’s mostly all standing for this event, though there are some small seated areas at the sides, which are eagerly snatched up by those fans who realise that things will soon get tiring on the legs!
First up at lunchtime are Southampton four-piece A Formal Horse, who start the day off by defining the word ‘divisive’. Their musicianship is superb throughout, but the combination of uncompromisingly heavy, angular prog combined with the clear, almost operatic vocals of Hayley McDonnell splits the crowd down the middle. Reminiscent of Annie Haslam guesting with Thumpermonkey, it’s brave, but it certainly isn’t easy listening.
Next up comes Dec Burke, formerly of Darwin’s Radio and Frost*, fronting his new band who, we are informed, are about to be christened Dusk. Burke’s guitar work is always excellent, and here he has put together a tight and impressive unit. Given a little luck, Dusk may have a bright future.
The afternoon session concludes with the eagerly anticipated debut gig from ex-Touchstone vocalist Kim Seviour and, judging by the way the crowd swells in number, this is the point where the festival starts to really take off for many. Upcoming album Recovery Is Learning is well represented, with the title track and lead-off single Chiasma particularly impressive. Seviour herself, resplendent with eye-catching red and black hair, seems more at ease and natural as a performer than she has ever been, suggesting that leading her own band may be what she was born to do. An intrusive feedback issue midway through fails to derail the performance, and the crowd responds enthusiastically as the first session ends on a high.
A two-hour interval allows fans some ‘shore leave’ to explore the fleshpots of Leamington, before returning for an evening session that’s kicked off by Ghost Community. Led by the ever-smiling Matt Cohen (who gives the impression he would remain cheery as his house burned down), the band’s other focal point is largerthan- life frontman John Paul Vaughan. In truth, they’re more of a classic heavy rock outfit with proggy touches than ‘yer actual prog band’, but they hit the ground running with powerful opener Rise Up, and by the time they get into their stride with Blue December Morning and the song Ghost Community itself, the audience is well and truly won over. Finishing with a cover of Marillion’s Uninvited Guest seems a little odd when they have more excellent original material up their sleeves, but overall this is a band who have grown massively in stature as a live act over the past couple of years, and look set to continue on an upward trajectory.
After a short break to get the charity auction underway, with Prog editor Jerry Ewing wielding the gavel, Touchstone take to the stage, showcasing their revamped line-up. Since their impressive ‘Mk II’ live debut last December, the band have improved still further, with Polish vocalist Aggie now commanding the performance in imperious fashion, while displaying considerable vocal prowess. Bassist ‘Moo’ Moorghen has settled into his increased vocal role extremely well, and they win over the audience immediately. The fan favourite Wintercoast has never sounded better, and closer Lights From The Sky, the title track of their current EP, is another highlight. For many people, they are the band of the day, and a resurgent one at that.
The headline slot is taken by John Mitchell’s Lonely Robot, who deliver a set that simply oozes class from the opening instrumental Airlock onward, with material drawn from both of their albums to date. By his own admission, Mitchell prefers the role of sideman in a band, but he leads from the front here with aplomb, despite wearing a rather warm-looking astronaut costume throughout! The pick of the set is a flawless delivery of the song Lonely Robot itself, but closer Sigma, from new album The Big Dream, notably has many fans singing it after the band finish their set. In all, with only a few sound gremlins to nitpick about, the day is a triumph, and as many of the crowd head for the aftershow party next door, there are no dissenting voices to be heard. With deserving causes also benefiting, what’s not to like?