When I was younger, in those halcyon days shortly after punk, there was a certain word that stuck fear into our very beings, that was only whispered in hushed huddles around the back of the Science block. We feared that, at the very mention of it we would be ostracised by our peers and left alone to slowly socially wither and die, our only company being that really tall moustached English teacher, who played these long and impossibly complex sounding things on his bass at dinner times, and who once wore a Genesis t-shirt at the school disco. That word was Prog.
These days of course, Prog is everywhere, and is no longer the social faux pas that it once was. In fact, prog had probably not been so in vogue with new bands and new music fans since its heyday back in the 1970’s . And, despite my programming as a youth, I’ve realised that I like a lot of it, too. Its just I don’t know a lot about it. In my defence I did, after all, want to be one of the hip kids, even if I never quite managed it. I spoke to the organiser Kris Hudson-Lee about the festival, Prog and life, to try and finally be able to say, with people listening – I too like Prog!
Tell us about the festival?
The festival runs from Friday 15th March to Sunday 17th March. Friday tickets are £20, Saturday and Sunday are £35 each, although there is a weekend ticket for £70 (in essence, but Saturday and Sunday, get Friday free!). This is the first year, although I have been behind festivals in some way for about 10 years now… cutting my teeth on Primed and then Rotherham Rocks.
You’ve got two stages on the go – any difference between them, or is it just so you can get more bands on?
Prog fans are quite a laid back bunch and they hate being rushed, and they like good quality festivals. Most of the best festivals have a nice laid back feel to them but this means that changeovers are long winded and can take an hour or more – during which time the punters get bored. By having two stages running alternately it means we can have nice big change overs, but keep the paying punters constantly enjoying their prog. Obviously, Stage 2 is the smaller of the two, but I hope we haven’t compromised on the quality of bands on that stage.
Do you think in general there is a lack of opportunities for prog music bands to play? Is this one of the reasons behind setting it up?
There are quite a few prog festivals throughout the year, but only one really stands out head and shoulders above the rest as being a really nice festival in a nice place with a good atmosphere – Summers End – in Lydney. I love the atmosphere of Corporation, and I think with the people there we can get something big started here.
Riverside – Celebrity Touch
You’ve managed to get Riverside across from Poland – How on Earth did you manage that?
I asked them… they said yes.
In It Bites and The Enid, you’ve got a couple of other big names on as well – Excited?
I have known It Bites for a few years now, and I have always loved The Tall Ships as an album – plus at the time I booked them they were on the cusp of releasing Maps of the Past. It was a foregone conclusion that I should have them. The Enid set off every prog/classical bone in my body, and that was my main reason for getting them – plus a number of my Prog friends worship them!
Who else are you particularly looking forward to hosting?
Mangrove, not just for their amazing music, but for keyboard player Chris Jonker’s incredible mirrorball suit. He has encouraged me to declare that Sunday is Fancypants day – with a prize for the person in the fanciest pants. I’m not sure what the prize will be yet, but I am sure there is stuff collecting dust in a store room somewhere at Corporation 😉
And your own band (Manning) are playing – tell us about them?
We’re a folky-proggy band, based in Leeds (although two of us are South Yorkshire based – me from Rotherham and our keyboard player from Sheffield). Guy Manning writes the stuff, we play it. He’s a great guy and I really can’t believe how much music he has written – we are currently recording album number FOURTEEN!. I have been with the band about 5 years now.
Where can we get hold of tickets for the festival?
Corporation sell them, as do most of their usual ticket outlets and on-line retailers. You can also buy them from the Classic Rock Society – another great organisation who have done a wonderful job helping promote the event and who have Stage 2 named for them.
Do you run other events/concerts over the year, or just the festival?
I book other stuff, whether it’s in my name, or just advising what works or not. Recently I was behind the Jadis gig held at the Corporation. They are one of my favourite bands and I was quite chuffed to get them in my favourite venue.
Any up and coming talent we should keep our eyes on?
Yes – absolutely – Knifeworld are stunning, bizarre, and have a BASSOON on-stage. Give them a spin. I saw them at Summers End and already have a gig earmarked for them later this year.
Knifeworld – Clairvoyant Fortnight
There seems to have been resurgence in ‘prog’ and the word isn’t viewed with so much distain as it was maybe a few years ago? Do you agree with this?
Absolutely. Prog audiences are dedicated too, and the same people who were listening to Prog in 1979 are still listening today. We have many words for it, be it Folk Prog, Neo Prog, Prog Metal – but it’s all Prog deep down inside and it’s all good.
What would you say to people who haven’t really heard much prog music?
Where have you been for the last 40 years? – Try some classic Genesis, Yes, and then slip across to some of the newer bands like Pendragon, IQ, Jadis, Sylvan, Echolyn, Riverside or Threshold.
If you were to pick three tracks that sum up the festival from bands that are playing, what would they be?
Now that is a difficult thing… I could name three tracks from the bands playing that are my absolute favourites – now that would be easier. Perhaps there is some deep dark meaning behind these, but I just like them:
1: Comedy of Errors – The Student Prince : It’s long, it’s in sections, and it’s epic… so a bit like Y-Prog then!
Comedy of Errors – The Student Prince
2: It Bites – This is England : Again, a longie… and somewhat patriotic (with perhaps a dark side)
It Bites – This is England
3: Manning – Charlestown : I know it’s my own band but this is probably the longest prog track ever at just over 35 minutes long and it tells of an epic journey, which through trials and tribulations does eventually come good. Y-Prog has been a trial, but I think it will be alright on the night and will come good.
You’re welcome… now everyone – buy tickets!
You can get tickets online here