Gig review: HARD ROCK HELL PROG – Pwllheli, 21-22 March 2014

The Flower Kings - Hard Rock Hell Prog, Pwllheli, 21-22 March 2014

Thursday 20 March

Amongst the highlights on the first night Synaesthesia only had a few gigs under their belts but gave us a great keyboard driven modern prog rock set. With most of their music being written by 20 year old Adam Warne, and already being tipped to make their presence known in 2014, expect to see more of them around the prog scene in the coming months.

The night completed with legendary progsters Credo and a definite crowd favourite.

Friday 21 March

First to tempt the eager prog fans this morning were The Custodian a relatively new band on the circuit but already with a decent debut album under their belt, a cool straight forward sound with some great guitar and bass runs and some great harmonies thrown in especially on ‘Other People Lives’. Quite Porcupine Tree-esque and definitely an interesting set.

The Physics House Band - Hard Rock Hell Prog, Pwllheli, 21-22 March 2014

The Physics House Band are definitely high energy, a 3 piece outfit with more effects pedals than a music shop and classic Moogs on the keyboard stands. Their sound is very prog/jazz orientated; highlight track for me was ‘Teratology’ which was a sublime mix of subtle keyboards/guitars/effects with explosions of pure madness. Maybe the best set on the prog stage for me all weekend!!.

I had seen Luna Kiss last year at Cambridge Rock and was suitably impressed and indeed they were one of my must see bands this time, with a nice modern guitar driven alt rock sound they pumped out a great set that received decent applause by the crowd.

The Pineapple Thief  have a career spanning 15 years and releasing their ninth album later this year they are well known in the prog/rock scene and have a great following.

Under atmospheric lighting they played an expressive and powerful set based mainly around their last two albums ‘Someone Here Is Missing’ and ‘All The Wars’.  Definitely a more modern Muse style of alt/prog as opposed to the oldschool space/ jazz/ prog sound of ‘The Physics HB’ we heard earlier.

Now as  the heavyweights of the night rolled out, in the form of Focus and Flower Kings, the room had pretty much filled up.

Focus - Hard Rock Hell Prog, Pwllheli, 21-22 March 2014

I doubt if you could have a true prog event without  Focus on the bill and Thijs van Leer and his battered Hammond steered us through a great set of classic pieces including the inevitable ‘Sylvia’ and ‘Hocus Pocus’.

Due to set clashes I only caught a few tracks of headliners The Flower Kings but  they certainly maintained the capacity crowd’s attention.

Deadly Circus Fire - Hard Rock Hell Prog, Pwllheli, 21-22 March 2014

It was the day closers Deadly Circus Fire that impressed most although their heavier more industrial style of prog may have confused the now dwindling crowd.

With sinister clown style faces and an energetic, manic, stage show they impressed with tracks like ‘Her Epitaph’ and ‘The Light Within’.

Crimson Sky - Hard Rock Hell Prog, Pwllheli, 21-22 March 2014

Saturday 22 March

September Code kicked off the day with a great set of more melodic rock and despite their Greek origin all the vocals are in English and a damm good set too.

Crimson Sky came out for an extended set.  Vocalist Jane Setter, whose striking red bowler hat and red feather shawl added some welcome style to the show, belted out great vocals.

Purson - Hard Rock Hell Prog, Pwllheli, 21-22 March 2014

More costume changes and Purson wouldn’t be far out of place in an Andy Warhol screenprint. Formed and led by vocalist and guitarist Rosalie Cunningham who had technical problems with her kit which did seem to unsettle her and the band for a few songs.

But, gremlins overcome, they delivered a great set including ‘Twos and Ones’ and they really got in their groove with fuzz and deep bass lines.

Hawklords formed back in 1978 but soon disbanded mainly due to contractual details.  Brock and others reformed Hawkwind and now Hawklords consists of various other ex-members of Hawkwind.

They started with ‘Master of the Universe’, ‘Time Split Vision’ and ‘Elemental Mind’ and their space rock just hit the spot even if vocalist Ron Tree seems to be in a transcendental state for most of the time.

The Enid - Hard Rock Hell Prog, Pwllheli, 21-22 March 2014

You could be forgiven thinking that The Enid are a new band as founding member Robert John Godfrey is hidden way back on the stage.

Vocalist Joe Payne has a haunting pure voice that’s fits well over Robert’s musical soundscapes and indeed the whole sound is almost symphonic in its structure.

Fish - Hard Rock Hell Prog, Pwllheli, 21-22 March 2014

For most people the highlight of the weekend was Fish.  Known initially for his work with 80′s melodic prog rock band Marillion but also for his solo work and indeed his many TV appearances and radio shows.

The set kicked off with the slowly building ‘Perfume River’  and then onto ‘Feast of Consequences’  before a huge audience cheer for Marillion’s ‘Script For A Jesters Tear’.

As ever with Fish there are stories between the songs which all add to the sense of occasion.  The finale of the set was a medley that included ‘Credo’ and ‘Fugazi’ and finished with ‘View From A Hill’.  A classic show by a true music legend and a great way to round off another successful festival.

Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley

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