Monday, 24 March 2014

HRH Prog/AOR - Hafan y Mor - Pwllheli - 20-22 March 2014

From which country is Fish? Well I knew that one and sent an entry to the draw forgetting about it the next day. So five weeks later I got this email from Fleur HRH that I won runners up 6 tickets for this year's HRH Prog festival. I had 4 days to supply the names of people joining me. When I informed that it was too hard to get 6 people in Holland willing to commit to a long weekend Wales half a year later, HRH showed their flexibility while informing that by renting accomodation at the park we would also be allowed at the AOR and Blues festivals taking place the same weekend. This meant increasing the bands of interest and after Josie told me she wanted to join to see Wales, Hans and Mary plus Yvon and Rene informed they would like to join too and the caravan was booked. my first ever HRH festival in Wales so holiday feelings all around. Having three festivals going on for three days, means many bands and many choices. So instead of going chronological through the weekend I just pass by several impressions of this beautifull weekend in stone cold Wales.

The diversity:
What made this weekend so interesting to me is the wide variety of bands. As I like both Prog in its mellow to its loudest forms as well as AOR I had many options to go for. Unfortunately next year both events are seperated and one music form shall prevail during two seperate weekends. I think that shall result in more less interesting shows to watch and certainly less diversity. Although there might exist some Rivalry between the genres (Love/Hate: "so you are not in the Prog building, you  all choose the Music building") For me the opposites attract as usual. For something completely different there was also a slightly longer (and thus colder) walk to the Blues stage good for one beer breaks.

The atmosphere:
Going in the Uk to a show is definitely different from shows in Holland, since there is more interaction with the audience. Come the opening evening we noticed that half the crowd used the festival also for a weekend out to dress different. from Hawaian shirts, the Corona crowd, to Latex Police women who just made getting arrested an option or not. In the AOR crowd there were many eighties alike posers as well, who should 30 years ago just not dressed like that attend a Manowar or Thrash concert. I never understood the enemy search in such paralel music sorts and highly enjoyed the wide range of slightly off cliche dressed people. The audience was basically made up by people ranging 30-75 years old, so everyone could easily enjoy a warmish pint, or served ice cold in the optimistic positioned outside bar. The Halls were an adventure as such, since while the AOR stage was a proper concert hall the prog stage was improvised, which resulted in a lot of lights at the back and during the day rays of sunligh entering the hall. The Blues stage was mainly a seated experience with pooltables shovelled away.

The choices:
Many bands means you can not see all. As we also needed to eat something somewhere in the day also food was a contender. Josie prepared us two great meals, which on Friday cost us Chimp Spanner (Prog) and Pink Cream 69 (AOR) on Saturday we ate during Kee Marcello and Hawklords so those went out to start with. Further main choices were about supporting bands until Friday night came and we choose wrong. We is Josie and I, as we saw the Flower Kings 16 years ago in Rio, shortly after we met each other. In our memories that was a great show and I do have several FK CD's as well, which always show great musicianship. After a long sound check they started and went on and on without much happening. Their playing is of great level, but boring it looked and after a too long while we left. When Josie went to pick her coat in the AOR hall Tyketto was about to start their biggest hit. The roof came down, with the whole place jumping up and down and from a distance I could see Hans (who became 50 a week earlier) shouting along with Forever Young. Sorry wrong choice as Hans could confirm for him the best show of the weekend. At the end of the festival I missed Solstice playing against UFO.

The Headliners:
The bigger names I could not see all, since they would all play at the end of the evening. On Thursday Credo closed the Prog stage and I was too tired to make the full set, going to the AOR preparty the same happened with La Paz. On Friday I saw a bit of The Pineapple Thief, who did not impress me, missed Focus (a huge success according to Yvon and Rene) and already mentioned the lame Flower Kings performance. In AOR the main names were cliched Bonfire showing their German Rock, House of Lords who were great although lacking some old uptempo classics. Tyketto were brilliant as Hans told, but missed by me. By coincidence we did enter AOR when Robin Beck played her hit, but not my cuppa. On Saturday Prog gave us The Enid (strange and different, but no time) and Fish. Well Fish filled the Prog hall well and always dominates his crowd. Shorter version of the show I saw in Paradiso a usual highlight. In the AOR hall we had some veterans. Semi headliners Love/Hate got good reaction from the hall and in the evening I saw Graham Bonnet for the first time. As I was in doubt to stay full show or go to Fish I guess his performance made me move to Prog after half an hour, not very impressive how good the songs might be. UFO closed the festival and in spite of some debate on how long they were allowed to play they did so in style. Apart from several obligatory classics they also gave us several oldies who did not appear on Strangers in the Night or came shortly after that.

The winners:
Every festival shows some negative and positive surprises. I shall skip the disappointments and concentrate on the highlights. Some unknown bands to me made an impact like Tax the Heat, Arcane Roots, September Code (from Greece) and Welsh band Sankara. The Custodian played there first show ever and I was there. The absolute highlights, because they were new to me and very good or as good ads I hoped for were:
Lawless: Every yin has its yang and to me every complicated Cynic deserves a balls out straight forward Lawless. Original titles like Metal Time, Rock N Roll City, S.O.S., Heavy Metal Heaven and what a great band. In Black Widow Ladies they had the catchiest song of the weekend.
Logan: Unknown to me sympathetic band from Glasgow reminding me of Gun. No attitude just great songs and a band enjoying themselves so why did they not bring any CD's? Ordering one now.
Shattered Skies: Similar as on Progpower 2012 Shattered Skies were a highlight of the festival. It still is all about the energy Andrew. They even promised to release a CD later this year, now got a Tee as support for this great band.

Thanks to Fleur for the runners up, the organization and the friendly people all around from the car rental in Liverpool up to the Hafan Spar Hope to be back one day.

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