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WINTER'S END FESTIVAL, Stroud, Gloucestershire
13/14 March 2010

Day 1: Saturday 13 March

Thanks to GRTR! I found myself on Leamington Spa railway station at 7.00am on a crisp Saturday morning on my way to the inaugural Winters End Festival in the Cotswold town of Stroud.

The event was co-organised by The Classic Rock Society and the team behind the Summers End festival. The event was also supported by the Stroud town Council particularly "Rocking Mayor" Andy Read who approached festival organiser Stephen Lambe with the idea of a mini Summers End festival.

Arrived in sunny Stroud (apt for a festival marking the end of winter) at around 10.30am and after quickly finding my hotel made my way to the venue in plenty of time for the 12.00 doors.

The Space is part of The Art Centre, an impressive looking building next door to an equally impressive church, and the festival took place in an upstairs room which looked easily big enough to cope with a hopefully capacity 200 audience.

The room was well laid out with a good sized stage at the far end, bar and catering towards the rear, a very impressive collection of CD's and DVD's on sale by the progressive rock specialists on one side and the CRS stand and tables for band merchandise on the other.

All in all an ideal set up for what should be 2 days of great progressive rock, so on to the acts. One thing that impressed me above all others was the varied styles on display, progressive rock really does cover a wide range these days.

Eliza Tale, photo by Andrew Lock


A three piece which I would describe as pop/punk/prog kicked off proceedings, Eliza Tale played a set consisting mainly of up-tempo fairly short rock numbers with a touch of the Ramones including (think I got this title right) Get Away For the Weekend and Watch Your Corner. Being a trekkie the stand out track in their set for me was Captain Kirk with Shatner Star Trek original series dialogue as an introduction and a very catchy number it was, enjoyed the first set of the festival band they were very tight and also rather fun.


Lee Abraham and his band were playing their first ever gig and performing Lee's latest album Black & White in its entirety and in album order - quite an ask for gig number 1!

This band had an epic prog feel and as the album title suggests plenty of light and shade in the music, with scorching guitar solos and a strong vocal performance by Sean Filkins.

Lee Abraham, photo by Andrew Lock

After the restrained opener And Speaking of Which... we had the powerful Face the Crowd and my personal favourite of the set The Mirror starting with gentle keyboards, vocals and distant guitar and then building to full blown prog rock then returning to the gentle style and ending with a stunning guitar solo.

Celebrity Status next up had a light and breezy sound contrasting well with the rest of the material and to close the set the 2 title tracks Black and White, epic in every sense of the word including powerhouse drumming, swirling keyboards, great guitar and intelligent thoughtful lyrics.

What a first show and speaking with Lee and Sean after they seemed really pleased with how it all went.

Mermaid Kiss, photo by Andrew Lock


Another change of style next with the dreamy, folk prog of Mermaid Kiss with a truly haunting chilled out set, the beautiful rich vocals of Evelyn Downing a real delight, for me a little bit of Kate Bush in the sound but with a folk rock edge.

Great use of the wind instruments played by Wendy Marks on stage to add more layers to the material and two of the stand out tracks for me, the number described as their Cowboy song Ghost Rider and the beautiful Walking With Ghosts one of the best tracks from the Etarlis album.

A very clever suite of songs based around American cities was also impressive with LA, Seattle (which was a real show case for Evelyn as a solo vocal performance) and New York (with fabulous guitar picking).

Very much enjoyed the vibe of this band and not for the first or last time over the weekend made a dash for the merchandise tables at the end of the set.

James Hollingsworth, photo by Andrew Lock


Yet another change of style next with James a solo singer/guitarist full of charisma and star quality singing his folky/rock numbers in for me the manner of Cat Stevens who I am sure would have been proud to have written some of the material on display. Really enjoyed the up-tempo Way Down South and the very atmospheric Still Lights Up the Rain complete with the story behind the song, both from his 2007 CD Coming Home to Stay.

James combined rich vocals, excellent guitar and great humour between numbers, he played a strong set set finishing with 2 real gems Faster Than Light and the epic Mothership.

Moon Safari, photo by Andrew Lock


Next up one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend the first UK performance by the Swedish band Moon Safari with possibly the best harmony singing I have ever heard with all of the band involved.

The set started with Moonwalk, a multi layered, beautiful, full of joy instrumental from current album [blomljud] this was followed by Yasgur's Farm from the same album, a tribute to the famous home of Woodstock and another bright and breezy track.

As mentioned the vocals were amazing and in Pontus Akesson they also have a lead guitar player of real talent and this really showed on the 31minute Other Half of the Sky.

The band sounded great and looked stylish, interacted well with the crowd and the acappella encore was breathtaking, hope they visit these shores again soon.


Time for Saturday's headline act and as I expected they blew me away, had heard a few impressive tracks of theirs recently and they play my favourite kind of prog with the emphasis on rock. Tonight was a very special if sad show for the band as bass player Dan Fry's last gig and from his performance tonight he will be greatly missed, he is easily the most animated bass player I have ever seen bouncing over the stage like Tigger!

Magenta. photo by Andrew Lock

After a rocking opening number Speechless a catchy single released in 2007 the band unfortunately had an equipment problem so while being sorted it was over to vocalist Christina to entertain us with her great wit.

Problem sorted and back to the music, next up the first of several of the deadly sins from the Seven album in the set, Gluttony a track with delicate keyboards vocal harmonies and plenty of tempo changes.

The other sins on stage tonight were Lust, Pride and the exquisite Anger which began with Christina accompanied on acoustic guitar by the bands incredible lead guitarist Chris Fry sitting on the edge of the stage with the rest of the band joining in later in the track.

Other stand out tracks in the set were the delicate and powerful Demons, edited versions of the epic numbers from latest album Metamorphosis, The Ballad of Samuel Layne and the title track and what in a perfect world would have been a huge hit single the rock anthem that is I'm Alive.

Encore time and all tracks from the 2001 album Revolutions Man the Machine, The Warning and the superb The White Witch.

Loved this set and how I have missed seeing them live before I have no idea (shame they are having a small break now) Christina Booth is a sensational singer and front person, rhythm section tight as you would like and what an explosive talent they have with Chris Fry on lead guitar, showing all the tricks in the book.

Fantastic set and by now I seriously need a new bag to hold my CD's.

What a day 6 very different bands, one bands first gig another bands first appearance in the UK and the headliners last show with their bass player, Sunday has got something to live up to!

Review and photos by Andrew Lock

Part 2

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