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The Hippodrome, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey
7-8 July 2012

The Hippodrome night club in Kingston became host of the first ever Celebr8 Prog festival organised by The House of Progression, whose regular home is the nearby Peel.

For the festival, the location chosen was the 2000 capacity Hippodrome night club; full of pillars, chrome stairways, alcoves, steps to levels a foot or so higher or lower than the previous one, and lots and lots of seating areas.

On a busy Friday night, full of drunk, sweaty, angst-ridden hormonal teenagers, I can imagine that there's quite an "atmosphere" in there, but I'm yet to be convinced that a night club is the ideal setting for a live music gig, let alone a two day prog festival.

However a big thank you should be given to Jon "Twang" Patrick and Geoff Banks for even attempting to run a prog festival when so many other events are falling by the wayside. The bill they put together could hardly have been bettered for a first foray into festival organisation.


Sean Filkins, photo by Bob Singleton

Kicking off the Saturday, a not too shabby 40 minutes later than advertised (hey, everyone is allowed teething troubles and 40 minutes is nothing in the grand scheme of things!) was Sean Filkins whose set included numbers from last year's "War and Peace & Other Short Stories", the first LP to be released under his own name.

The Tangent, photo by Bob Singleton

After a quick changeover The Tangent took centre stage, with Andy Tillison's synths as prominent as ever. For those who like their prog in a more classical, almost "old school" vein (think Yes and King Crimson), Tangent will not leave you feeling short changed.

The songs are epic and complex, layering synths over guitars and crashing symbals. Their set included, by way of a sound check, Kool and The Gang's 'Celebration' which was appreciated by the audience, but not as much as 'The Wiki Man', 'Where are They Now?' and 'The Winning Game'.

Pallas, photo by Bob Singleton

The penultimate act of the first day saw a band who were at the forefront of the mid to late 80s prog revival take to the stage; Pallas. Despite last year's release of XXV (musically and thematically a successor to 1984s The Sentinel), the set consisted of songs taken quite evenly from the whole of the band's history, including 'Crash & Burn', 'Monster', 'Rat Racing', 'Midas Touch' and 'Violet Sky'.

The headline for the Saturday was the mighty IQ, another band whose roots go back to the 80s prog and neo-prog revival. Not for them a foray into their vast musical back catalogue; instead their set was to be the whole of their 1997 magnum opus Subterranea.

A screen was placed between the audience and the stage whilst a film was projected during the opening songs 'Overture' and 'Provider'. Behind it we could make out Peter Nicholls, resplendent in a white suite, atop a stage upon the stage.

IQ, photo by Bob Singleton

As the track 'Subterranea' began so the screen was raised and Nicholls walked toward the audience, arms out wide as if to embrace them all. This was to be the only "Subby" show in the UK this year and it was clear that many IQ fans had made the journey to Kingston for this alone.

Given the curfew and the late opening start, at times it seemed touch and go whether we'd make it to the end, but as it turns out, there was enough time time for IQ to do an encore consisting of 'Frequency' and 'The Wake'.

Overall a great first day, and I'll never forget being privileged enough to see the Subby show in its entirety. Elsewhere, during the day, the acoustic stage (a shabby bar area next to the outdoor smoking area) had played host to Kerry Chicione, Gary Chandler and Matt Stevens. These three would return the following day, along with Alan Reed.

Jason Ritchie writes: Full marks to the organisers who arranged acoustic sets in the lull between the main stage sets. I caught a couple of songs from former Pallas singer Alan Reed's set. He performed 'Begin Again', his take on his Scottish heritage and a moving cover whose name sadly escapes me. Certainly worth investigating his solo work further.


Bob Singleton writes: Sunday kicked off with the Dec Burke Band (this time only about twenty minutes later than advertised, so the organisation was getting better) before the final ever live performance by Tinyfish (although new albums may be released in the future).

Tinyfish, photo by Bob Singleton

The banter on stage amongst the band members and between the band and the audience as they set up and line checked for the final time made the first song of their set, 'The Sarcasm Never Stops', an even more apt choice than usual.

Drawing most of the set from their most recent album, 'Big Red Spark', forays were also made into the two previous albums.

It's a real shame that frontman Simon Godfrey's tinnitus problems are such that he feels he can no longer carry on playing live, and all credit to the rest of the band for not wanting to replace him, but I shall miss not seeing Tinyfish on stage again.

This performance, tinged equally with humour and sadness, but most of all with great musicianship, was a fitting way to bow out.

Set List: The Sarcasm Never Stops, Rainland, I'm Not Crashing, Refugee, The Big Red Spark, Driving All Night, The June Jar, Nine Months on Fire, Wide Awake at Midnight, Motorville, Fly Like a Bird

Touchstone, photo by Bob Singleton

The next band on stage - Touchstone - are one of my current favourites, so I'll attempt to rein in my feelings to give you all a more dispassionate review of their set... were there a few technical difficulties? Yes. Was the sound not quite as crisp and clear as one would hope? Yes. Still, they were bloody awesome, and worthy of their New Blood nomination at the upcoming Progressive Music Awards.

Touchstone are on the ascendancy and rightly so.

Jason Ritchie

Kicking off, as they so often do these days, with 'Wintercoast', the set included songs from all three of their albums, plus (one of the highlights of the show) their own unique take on Tears For Fears' 'Mad World'. I'm looking forward to hopefully catching them again later this year when they do a double header with The Reasoning.

Set List: Wintercoast, Joker in The Pack, These Walls, Curious Angel, Half Moon Meadow, When Shadows Fall, Zinomorph, The City Sleeps, Mad World, Strange Days

Magenta, photo by Bob Singleton

Next to take the stage were Magenta who over the years have slimmed down to a trio (Christina Booth, Rob Reed and Chris Fry) along with Godsticks' Dan Nelson and Steve Roberts providing the rhythm section for live performances.

Opening with 'Glitterball', Magenta took us on a journey through all five of their studio albums, the highlight for me being the use of the piano section of 'White Witch' from 'Revolutions' to link between'Red' (from Chameleon) and 'Anger' (from Seven).

The trio, ably assisted by the rhythm section, were tight, and Christina Booth's vocals were as good as I've ever heard her. Without a second guitarist, Chris Fry is now truly able to show what a great guitarist he is. As for Rob Reed... what can one say? His keyboard playing has always been majestic, and he's never been frightened to acknowledge, with a flourish here or there, the greats of prog who have gone before him.

Set List: Glitterball, Gluttany, I'm Alive, Red, Anger, Demons, Metamorphosis, Pride

To bring the festival to a close, there could be no better band than It Bites, early pioneers of the neo-prog revival, who, having tasted albeit limited early success, split up, and after a suitably lengthy interval, reformed. Subsequent and multiple personal changes, however, mean this is a very different line up to the one I first saw in The Union Chapel some nine years ago.

Again, like most of the artists before, It Bites offered us a selection of songs new and old taken from their first album in 1986, 'The Big Lad in the Windmill', right through to this year's 'Map of the Past'.

It Bites, photo by Bob Singleton

Even a song from 'Eat Me in St Louis' made the set list! Earlier in the year, the band had concentrated on playing songs from the new album, but tonight was a night to kick off the shoes, settle back and enjoy not only the present but the past.

Included in the set were old favourites like 'All in Red', 'Old Man and the Angel', and, as an encore, their top ten hit 'Calling All the Heroes', all interspersed with newer songs.

The set started with 'Ghosts' and 'Oh My God' from the 2008 album 'The Tall Ships', and 'Meadow and the Stream' and 'Last Escap' from their newest album featured. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed this blend of the old and the new, and although by the end of Sunday night the numbers weren't quite what they were on Saturday, the roof was well and truly raised by the cheers and applause that greeted the encore. A superb ending to a great couple of days.

Jason Ritchie writes: It Bites set tonight was a radical departure from last month when I saw them where they played the whole of their new album 'Map Of The Past'. The set started off with 'Ghosts' and 'Oh My God' from 'The Tall Ships' album. Only a handful of songs from the new album appeared tonight including 'Meadow And The Stream' and 'Send No Flowers'.

'Cartoon Graveyard' was the band's single and John Mitchell also informed the crowd they had just finished recording a pop video for its release, the idea being to gain airplay on BBC Radio 2. With its jaunty riff and instant chorus hopefully it can make the playlist.

The moving 'The Last Escape' they dedicated to a fan that was featured on the Terry Pratchett TV programme on euthanasia.

Fans of Francis Dunnery era It Bites would be in seventh heaven tonight with 'All In Red' (loving those harmonies), 'Underneath Your Pillow', 'Kiss Like Judas', 'Old Man & The Angel and 'Midnight' all had an airing. Encore time we even has the band's biggest hit 'Calling All The Heroes', which needless to say went down a storm.

Set List: Ghosts, Oh My God, All in Red, Send No Flowers, Meadow and the Stream, Underneath Your Pillow, Cartoon Graveyard, Last Escape, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Old Man and The Angel, Midnight, Screaming on the Beaches, Kiss Like Judas, Calling All The Heroes.

Bob Singleton writes: Overall impressions were of a good job well done by Twitch and Geoff. There were very few hiccups throughout the festival (and what festival ever runs dead on time?) and the mix and balance of the acts booked was perfect.

The only downside was the venue itself. I know (from my other work) how difficult it is to find suitable venues for anything these days, so I won't judge them too harshly.

I can understand that with The Peel being their base, they wanted to keep the festival Kingston based. However, a nightclub that has so many pillars and staircases to muffle and bounce the sound, along with a rather small area in front of the stage for the crowds to gather did concern many of the festival goers.

As a photographer, I would also have to take issue with the lighting... reds, greens and blues really bugger up skin tones, especially when it's either one colour only that's being used.

Overall, as a first effort, I'd give this festival an 8/10 If you missed it this year, make sure you clear your diary for next year.

Review by Bob Singleton

Additional reporting: Jason Ritchie

Photos by Bob Singleton

Interview by David Randall

The full interview will be available shortly as a Podcast

First broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, 1 July 2012

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