Tuesday, 14 May 2013


What follows is a purely personal view from my own 'Punters eye perspective' of the Celebr8.2 Progressive Rock Festival held on the 11th and 12th of  May at the Hippodrome, Kingston-Upon-Thames, organised by those House of Progression stalwarts Jon Patrick and Geoff Banks & their team.

OK, so I was "One of those blokes in the Corona shirt", you will have seen at least four of us, maybe more if your eyes were in any way a bit blurry with the beer of more likely the smoke from the smoke machine and the joss sticks! 

Having enjoyed a perfectly wonderful Thursday night at the Red Lion in Stevenage seeing a couple of bands, Lexi Scarlett and Hitchcock Blonde (Both of whom I can strongly recommend), on Friday, my Corona cohorts and I set off after a somewhat fraught morning at work to Kingston-Upon-Thames.
Why go so early?
Easy one, check in hotel, dump stuff, go to The Kings Tun, have lunch, go to London, go to Hammersmith, go to the Hammersmith Ram, meet friends, drink beers, go to the Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited gig, easy!
OK, as a lifelong Genesis and Mr. Hackett fan, this was the gig of the year so far for me, it was exquisite, sublime, truly awesome, you could say I enjoyed it somewhat.

The Steve Hackett Band

So, enough said about what preceded Celebr8.2, what about Celebr8.2?

Saturday 11th May 2013

Saturday kicked of with IO Earth complete with new singer Linda Odinsen, lovely, I loved the ethereal quality and clarity of her singing and the music was good too, I'm not sure about the fans (Not the people, the actual whirly things) that blew her hair around making her at times look more like a figurehead from Titanic (Mush to the amusement of the likes of a certain Leon Camfield and Kim Sevior whom I was lucky enough to share a hilarious half hour with, anyway, a great opening to the festival.

Linda of IO Earth
Next up I was dashing off to the acoustic stage to see the one and only Mr. Everywhere, Mark Spencer, and a blinding set he played too, I'm so glad I caught this one.

Next on the main stage was one of those bands that had been causing quite a stir and a fervour of anticipation, all the way from the US of A, District 97 featuring the American Idol finalist Leslie Hunt on vocals, OK, she looked very nice, the band were accomplished and tight, they should have ticked all the right boxes and obviously did for a lot of people but I did tell you this is my personal perspective, I did not like her voice, end of.

So it was time for a well earned stroll over the road for a pint I could afford before getting back in plenty of time to get to the acoustic stage again, this time for the stripped down Galahad, I love Galahad, have done for years, like them I'm a Dorset boy, not only that, local too and Stu Nicholson did a great job, lifted me right back up to that festival buzz.

One of the great things about Celebr8 is the people, the bands, the punters, the organisers, prog is like a thumping great family, somewhat dysfunctional at times but a family none the less, it was great to see old friends, put faces to Facebook friends and of course meet new people and become Facebook friends and real friends and blah blah blah blah............

Frost on the main stage, consummate performance despite most of Jem Godfrey's keyboards having been programmed so he could play one handed after almost chopping off a finger, not 100% convinced it worked and also not very happy they decided to do that instead of use the volunteered talents of the amazing Mr. Andy Tillison who thankfully got to play on Sunday, did I say I don't slag people or bands off here, seriously I like Frost, saw them at FrostBites last year and they were awesome, nuff said methinks.

Acoustic stage time again, and, Knifeworld. 
Knifeworld are another band I love and I (& several others too I suspect) was wondering how on earth they would cope with an acoustic set, well? Because they are led by Kavus Torabi, the absolute highlight of the day (So far), the manic musical mayhem that is Knifeworld is pure genius, a fantastic set.

Knifeworld, well six out of  the seven! 

And finally, Saturday was rounded off by the mighty, the magnificent, Threshold, Damian Wilson's vocals seem to get better year on year and at a Threshold gig I guarantee you'll be singing along and thinking, I didn't know that this was one of theirs! What a way to end Saturday, absolutely storming, by far the best band of the day for me, I bounced out of the Hippodrome on a high (a purely legal euphoric music inspired high).

As the Hippodrome turns into a bouncy nightclub early on a Saturday night with the bright young things swaying about wearing next to nothing and swigging back their alcopos it was a great opportunity to get together with friends, go out for meals and drinks and all that sort of stuff that one does at such festivals without having to slide through the mud back to a soggy tent, bliss, the warmth and comfort of the Travelodge awaited.

Sunday 12th May 2013

After the delights of another mass progfan breakfast at Weatherspoons and a couple of cheeky early beers it was soon time to be heading back to day 2 which opened in wonderful style on the acoustic stage with the mega talented and all round lovely fella, Mr. Matt Stevens.
Lets face it, Matt is a genius, to some he is a god, to others like me, he's an extremely talented mate who makes his guitar do things with and without loops and effects that I bet you never knew anyone could do on or with a guitar unless and until you have seen or heard Matt Stevens, go hear him, go buy his albums you'll not be disappointed.

The multi talented Matt Stevens

First on the main stage on Sunday was Alan Reed and the Daughters of Expediency, another truly wonderful performance and one to say "I was there" at this the debut gig, Alans songs and song writing are exquisite, I saw him last year doing a solo acoustic set, he was brilliant then and he is now, a great mixture of old and new material, as someone quipped "You can take the man out of Palas but you can't take the Palas out of the man", maybe, but as far as I'm concerned that's no bad thing and anyway Alan and his work have moved on to something more personal and magnificent.

Back to the acoustic stage and the first appearance of the afternoon of Andy Tillison, what a great set, some Tangent, some old songs. Always meaningful and relevant Andy is one of the true pioneers of progressive music and a joy to watch and hear and as it happens, to spend some quality time with for a drink and a chat, given their similar backgrounds I was amazed to find out that Andy doesn't know Mark Astronaut!.
More about Andy in a short while.

Main stage, the much anticipated appearance of Harvest and no disappointment there either, I love Monique van der Kolk's vocals and I'd be lying if I didn't say I preferred her (Stage presence) far more than that American lass of yesterday, mmmmmm.

Acoustic stage again, Matt Stevens AND Andy Tillison jamming together for the first time ever, this was the unexpected highlight of the festival, what an amazing experience, they positively bounced off each other (Musically of course otherwise Matt would almost certainly have flattened Andy), it was surreal, it was sublime, mostly if not all of us who went to see them stood there like bloody goldfish open mouthed and dribbling! It really was pant wettingly good. 
The number of cries of "When are you going to record an album together" after they finished was something never before witnessed by this gibbering wreck, still somewhat gobsmacked.

Matt Stevens AND Andy Tillison

Local heroes haken (yes lower case 'h' and it rhymes with bacon) were up next on the main stage, I've got their first two albums and I like them and I've seen them live before so didn't watch the whole set as;
a) The sound balance wasn't quite right and the vocals were somewhat drowned out by the guitars and more importantly
b) I was bloody starving and thirsty, still out and back in time for the last couple of numbers before heading back to the acoustic stage and another highlight of the festival, Simon Godfrey (just in case you don't know, of Tinyfish and now Shineback), Simon did what Simon does, made us laugh, enthralled us, entranced us but, but. but, I do wish I hadn't seen his 'What goes through a guitarists mind when he plays Motorville' video as I couldn't get those images out of my mind when he plated Motorville, all in all an extraordinary, magnificant set.

So to the main stage, all the way from Canada, Mystery featuring the one and only Benoit David on vocals, musically the band were not just good, they were awesome, well perhaps not quite awesome but pretty damn good, despite some technical problems with the sound early in the set, no doubt this performance tickled the pants off many of the punters, is there a problem? Yes, only a personal one, for me Yes isn't / wasn't Yes without Jon Anderson and even less Yes with Benoit David, did I happen to mention I'm a massive Jon Anderson Yes fan?

A nice break between Mystery and the headlining band allowed plenty of time to pop out for food and refreshments, so suitably fed and watered it was time to return to the one band that on tier own would have made coming to this festival worthwhile, the awesome (I'm allowed to use awesome here) Arena such a pity things were running late and they had to cut their set down, I could have listened to another two days of Arena, they were absolutely fabulous and such a good choice to end what had been yet another great Celebr8 festival.

It was lovely to catch up with so many friends, I will not attempt to name them here as I'll miss someone and that would not be fair, you know who you are, all that remains to be said is thank you Jon Patrick, Geoff Banks, The Merch Desk, The House of Progression & all who made celebr8.2 such a great festival.

If you head over to the Merch Desk there may be a last chance to pick up a souvenir programme with the double CD which is already fast becoming a collectors item.

What's next, CRF 2013 if not before.

Until the next time, stay safe, keep rocking, cool runnings one and all.
Grant - May 2013

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