HRH Prog: Sunday - Magna Science Adventure Centre, Rotherham
Still reeling from the devastating Hawkwind-related blow inflicted last night, I return to the stunning Magna Science Adventure Centre for side two of this little slice of prog heaven. But the day gets off to an ignominious start as word gets around that due to an ill vocalist IO Earth won't be opening the main stage. More tea it is then.
The somewhat sleepy/hung-over/bored mood of the crowd is quickly swept away as Haken deliver a blistering set of classic prog, mighty riffs and damn fine tunes. Very much showcasing some of the best new prog, it is easy to hear why these guys have quite the buzz surrounding them. Certainly heavier than most of the acts around this weekend, they are not subjected to the same thinly-veiled apathy that has greeted their contemporaries from the more hard line genre purists.
They might have been around for a good while and lumped in with a lot of the more formulaic female-fronted prog bands, but Magenta confound my expectations and prove to be something of a surprise. Incorporating a much poppier element into the music (think 90125 without the ego or self-indulgence), their set is simply full of great tunes revolving around the interplay of guitarist Chris Fry and Rob Reed on the keys, all beautifully sung by the charming Christina Booth. A dive into the back catalogue is definitely on the cards after this performance.
A visit to the outer reaches of Magna brings us to the second stage in time for Enochian Theory. This tiny little space carved into a hole in the ground makes for a great backdrop, but alas proves more exciting than the band themselves. The three-piece weave gently floating snippets of thoughtful prog, but too quickly they rather merge into one slightly soporific drone. It is only the raucous finale of 'Singularities' that quickens the heart rate, and leaves you somewhat perplexed that they can't be as engaging more often.
The broad grin missing for the last 24 hours is well and truly back on my face as Caravan gently stroll through a magical set of the finest Canterbury prog. Playful and genteel, you can't help but laugh as they get the entire room to go "brwmbrwmbrwmbrwmbrwmbrwmbrwmbrwmbrwmbrwmbrwmbrwmbrwmbrwm" during 'In The Land Of Grey And Pink', whilst the traditional ending of 'Nine Feet Underground' demonstrates to all the young upstarts exactly how to piece together a masterful epic. All 44 years of experience are on show tonight, and the crowd absolutely love it.
Our weekend is brought to a blinding, if mighty chilly, close back on the second stage as TMF top tips Maschine demonstrate why we are all aflutter in anticipation of the upcoming debut. Five sickeningly talented musicians unleash an hour of heavy, emotive and frankly excellent music in sub-zero temperatures. 'Rubidium' is the highlight tonight, although 'Eyes' runs it close – once we finally get it; "the cold has frozen our backing track" is certainly a new one on me, and makes the jaw-dropping guitar and keyboard shredding going on here all the more impressive. Roll on the album!
A worthy addition to the festival circuit, HRH Prog is that next step up from the quaint local affairs that the scene has been crying out for. If the weekend wasn't quite perfect (the sub-arctic temperatures and gargantuan food queues removed some of the sheen) this was only a first outing, and at a brand new venue to boot. Just remember the thermal underwear next time.