This weekend was to see the first HRH AOR festival and the first HRH Prog festival. Uniquely both events were being held at the same venue on the same weekend. This sounded like a crazy idea at first, trying to run two events side by side, but the organisers had as it turned out, hit on a good idea. Fans could buy ticket to either the AOR event or the Prog event, or for a slightly higher amount, get access to both, and with lots taking that last option then the idea was proved to be a success.
The venue was certainly unique – it wasn’t a music venue, but instead was Magna a former Steel foundry in Rotherham that now operates as a Science adventure museum (think museum with interactive exhibits and fire). The AOR main stage and the PRog main stages were open all day, but it was only at the end of each day when the place closed to normal visitors that the festival opened up the second stages. The main AOR stage was in a good room – large and at a good temperature. The Prog stage however was rather different – this was in freezing cold part of the venue (it was actually colder than outdoors). Temperature aside, both main stages were pretty good (although Prog was a bit crowded at times). The second stage for each event was located in a different part of the building, and in the case of the AOR second stage this involved a ten minute walk through a huge hall with steel making equipment on display and an airship too (I’m not quite sure why that was there).
The weekend was always going to be a busy one for me as I tried to see and photograph as many bands on both the Prog and AOR sides. For me the weekend kicked off with Credo, the first band on the main Prog stage. They sounded very good, but in one respect were almost a caricature of how many non-Prog fans see the genre – never-ending songs. Speaking to a few of my fellow photographers, none of us actually heard a song end, so either they played one song that lasted for their entire set, or they just moved from one to the next without a pause.
Next up was Shattered Skies, who straight away showed how diverse this Prog festival is – they play melodic groove metal, and I have to say were very impressive.
Over on the AOR stage, Spill Sixteen were getting things underway. A local band from Sheffield, they certainly deserved a place on the bill – this was great stuff, and I definitely want to see these guys again.
Back on the Prog stage The Reasoning were up next. I hadn’t heard anything by them before but Rachel Cohen has a fantastic voice and the music was equally impressive. The band were one of the few on the Prog stage that genuinely looked to be enjoying themselves, with Rachel Cohen in particular spening the entire show with a huge smile on her face. A great band and I’ll certainly be buying some of their CD’s when I can afford them.
Then it was back to the AOR stage for some melodic rock from Daylight Robbery. Damn this festival was going great – barely three hours in and the standard of the bands was amazingly high. With Spill Sixteen having set the standard to beat, Daylight Robbery not only rose to the occasion, but did so with ease, taking things up a notch and going down very well with the crowd.
For me it was back to the Prog stage for some Prog Metal from Tesseract. The band have been making quite a name for themselves lately, and certainly didnt disappoint. A very impressive band, and fans who like some Prog with their Metal should certainly check them out.
Back to the AOR side (this weekend was to involve a lot of walking for me between stage), and Dante Fox were on. I’d been wanting to see this band for a while so managed to stay and watch the majority of their set. Dante Fox play melodic rock with female vocals and sounded great – another band who’s CD’s I need to add to my shopping list.
Next up came the best/worst part of the weekend for me – two bands I really wanted to see were playing at the same time – Romeo’s Daughter on the AOR stage and Crazy World of Arthur Brown on the Prog stage. I compromised by watching a bit of both, starting with Romeos Daughter. I’d seem them 3 times in the last year so knew what to expect – some fantastic AOR/Melodic Rock with their biggest hits from the late 80s alongside newer material from their latest album. As always they were in great form and I really hated to leave, but I’d never seen Arthur Brown before so off to the Prog stage it was, and that turned out to be an excellent decision.
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown turned out to be one of the highlights of the festival for me. With his technicolour face painting he makes a striking image on stage, and he leaps around and high kicks like a singer less than half his age – I can’t think of any other 70 year old who could perform with such energy. His set was very enjoyable, both visually and musically, but there was one song that everyone wanted to hear – Fire. After one song ended he was talking to the crowd before uttering the famous line – “I am the god of hellfire” and into the song he went. Happily he also brought out some flames for the song as his assistants placed a helmet on his head with flames several feet high leaping from it – which must have kept the rest of the band warm as well as looking spectacular.
After his set ended the second stages were opened, so it was time for a long walk to see Jettblack on the 2nd AOR stage. The second stage was pretty small, and with the crowd they’d attracted the place was full to bursting point with some fans having to leave as they couldnt see anything. Complaints from fans that Jettblack should have been on the main stage were definitely well founded.
Then it was back to the main AOR stage to catch the last few minutes of Danny Vaughn’s set. I’d have liked to hear a lot more of his set as it sounded great, but that’s the thing with festivals – too many good bands mean you get clashes and can’t see everything you’d like to.
Then it was time for more Prog – this time from Mostly Autumn, another band with female vocals, and another really impressive band (damn, my CD wish list keeps getting longer). After watching half their set it was time to go back to the AOR stage for melodic rockers FM. I’d seen them in December with Thin Lizzy, and their new album is great, so I was expecting a great performance from them tonight, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Back to the Prog stage next for Hawkwind. Dave Brock was clearly feeling the cold as he was wrapped up in a hoodie, but the cold didn’t affect their performance at all. With such a long career (like some of the other bands playing this weekend), Hawkwind have a large back catalogue to choose from when deciding their setlist, so I was happy to hear one of my favourites “Master of the Universe” included very early on in the set. After watching Hawkwind for a while it was time to head back to the AOR stage to see Tesla on one of their rare UK appearances. Tesla put in one of the best sets of the weekend in my opinion – they just made it look easy and sounded great.
After Tesla there were just two bands left for me – first up, Mia Klose. The petite Swedish singer based in London was over on the second AOR stage so had already started by the time I made it over there. She sounded great with her 80s rock sound, but her band didn’t seem to be on form and didn’t sound as good as they were last time I saw them unfortunately.
After Mia Klose it was back to the main AOR stage for British band Vega. I’ve been really enjoying their new album (What the hell!), so was looking forward to seeing them play live. Once again we got a great performance. Sadly the crowd had thinned out a fair amount after Tesla, but they still drew a good sized crowd and put on a great show – they perform like a band with many years of experience so are good to watch as well as listen to.
The first day at HRH AOR and HRH Prog was over and I was completely exhausted so it was time to return to the hotel for a good nights sleep (oh ok and a drink or two at the hotel bar).