[With photos by Tony Colvill, Nigel John, Leo Trimming and Dave Glaves]
The Drill Hall, Chepstow – 2nd to 4th October 2015
As a warmer than average September ebbs away and the temperatures start to dip it’s time once again for the wonderful Summer’s End Festival, held for the second year running in the beautiful Welsh border town of Chepstow. Same town, different venue as the festivities move to The Drill Hall not far from Chepstow Castle, on the banks of the River Wye.
Chepstow itself is just about the perfect environment for a homely event of this nature. The scenic surroundings on the edge of the Forest of Dean accentuated on a bright day, such as the one that emerged on Friday. The town itself has history in abundance and plenty of hostelries to feed and water attendees, many of whom were noted wandering around and enjoying the surroundings during breaks from the music.
Now in it’s eleventh year, Summer’s End has become a highly anticipated event for the many familiar faces for whom it is an important date in the calendar, both socially and musically. There is a unique and friendly family feel that organisers Stephen Lambe and Huw Lloyd-Jones have done well to foster, roping in friends and relatives to help out in a number of capacities. It’s a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere that the musicians seem to revel in and always produces some of the best quality sound I’ve heard anywhere (Thanks Nick!).
The line up was an impressive one again this year with some old favourites and some bands previously unseen in the UK. Unfortunately, Magic Pie from Norway, who were due to headline the Sunday night, had to withdraw and were replaced at short notice by The Enid who had put on such a majestic performance at the festival in 2012.
But enough of the chatter, what actually went down this year?
Friday, 2nd Oct 2015
The Drill Hall in Chepstow bears many similarities with the Town Hall in Lydney, used for the festival on a number of occasions previously, and proved to be a very accommodating and pleasant place to be, handy for the centre of the town or a walk along the Wye with plenty of pubs and eateries close by. A little warm on the Friday evening after a sunny day, it settled down as the temperatures fell for a misty rest of the weekend.
Not a large venue, once inside you begin to see the charm of the place. With all the usual facilities available for food and drink, the decent sized stage may be a little low but with ample vantage points and chairs for those in need it was an excellent choice, not as spacious as last year in Chepstow School but compact and cosy. Being surrounded by a residential area, some concerns were raised regarding the possibility of noise complaints but this did not seem to become an issue.
Simon Godfrey was scheduled to be first on but due to venue-related confusion earlier in the day (they were still building the bar immediately prior to the start, sawdust evidence all around) and over running soundchecks, in true Summer’s End tradition things were running a little late and he kindly agreed to play on Sunday instead.
Abel Ganz (UK)
Leo: The Scottish Prog veterans prevailed despite technical problems in delivering an engaging and heartfelt performance, understandably dominated by material from their excellent eponymous album – possibly one of the best albums of the last 12 months or so. Tinged with folk influences and even Gaelic lyrics in Thank You Abel Ganz cast an atmospheric glow over the crowd to set off the festival. Some not familiar with their remarkable album seemed to prefer a more overtly ‘prog’ or angular style, which seemed to miss the point and emotional heart of this special band.
Mel: The honour of opening the festival fell to Abel Ganz. This could have fazed some but the band appeared relaxed and played an assured set although, for my tastes, I felt they were a little one dimensional and lacking some of the dynamics that I prefer in my music. That is not to say that there are no good songs here, indeed many in the audience enjoyed, Abel Ganz receiving a good reception with warm applause.
Rain Again / End of Rain
Denis Smith – Drums, Vocals
Stevie Donnelly – Bass
Jack Webb – Keyboards
Mick McFarlane – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Davie Mitchell – Lead Guitar
Iain Sloan – Guitar, Pedal Steel
Jez: Having enjoyed Abel Ganz at Summer’s End in 2008 and hearing good things about their latest album I was looking forward to seeing what Abel Ganz could do. My tastes have moved on somewhat in recent years and despite a solid performance their acoustic guitar-led music didn’t seem to go anywhere for me. They certainly have some nice songs but overall the sound was quite repetitive and one-dimensional despite some very pretty bits. I probably need to hear the album but it is unlikely that it will be for me but Abel Ganz certainly went down well in the hall.
Tony: So more fiddling, wandering around the merchandise stalls, and the traffically challenged Abel Ganz took the stage. I had heard much of this band and in fairness I think they suffered a little from an unbalanced sound and perhaps the surprise at being first act. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed their set, but my managed expectation was higher. Should they fall within my sphere again they do get a second shot. Honest guys, you were not bad.
Dave Bainbridge’s Celestial Fire (UK)
Jez: An immediately impressive set of Celestial Fire mixed with Iona classics, Dave Bainbridge’s endearing personality shining through with the talents of the musicians gathered to perform the complex music of the Celestial Fire album. Drummer Frank van Essen doubled up on violin with assorted other stringed instruments also on display and, despite troubles with his amp meaning that Love Remains had to be re-started, bassist Simon Fitzpatrick excelled in a jaw-droppingly magnificent solo cover of Yes’ Roundabout which was just fantastic. He also added an impromptu version of Stairway to Heaven whilst Dave prepared for In The Moment underlining what a massive talent he is. Sally Minnear’s vocals were sublime and altogether this was a fabulously entertaining set. They may not quite have recreated the full wonders of the recordings but they did a bloody good job.
Mel: Celestial Fire, led by Dave Bainbridge of Iona, were the Friday headliners and despite not having heard any of their work prior to tonight I was pleasantly surprised. They played songs from Dave’s album with a selection of Iona favourites, all of which were full of melody and dynamism and performed with utmost skill. The highlight had to be bass player Simon Fitzpatrick’s solo performance of Yes’ Roundabout, not just the bass parts but Steve Howe’s guitar lines as well. A great set which was completed with an encore of another Yes piece, Soon. Strange to hear a female voice singing this, but such was Sally Minnear’s voice that it worked.
Kells Opening Theme
Over The Waters
Roundabout (Yes cover on solo bass)
Beyond These Shores
In The Moment
Soon (Yes cover)
Dave Bainbridge – Guitar,
Keyboards, Bouzouki, Shaker
Sally Minnear – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion
Dave Brons – Guitars, Mandolin, Backing Vocals, Percussion
Simon Fitzpatrick – Bass,
Chapman Stick, Moog Bass
Frank van Essen – Drums,
Leo: Dave Bainbridge of Celtic Prog rockers Iona brought his more rock inflected band along to headline the first night. They went down well with many in the crowd, and playing a fine version of Soon by Yes was an obvious crowd pleasing tactic for such an audience! Celtic style rock presented very professionally with the daughter of Kerry Minnear of prog legends Gentle Giant on vocals, but it felt rather predictable and for some reason did not connect with this reviewer, despite their evident proficiency and enthusiasm.
Tony: During the break, a few introductions and trying the ale while Celestial Fire set up. Dave Bainbridge’s band bring a touch of the Celtic with some really nice music and my spirit was lifted, Sally Minnear’s vocals giving reign to emotional and occasionally spine tingling sounds. A tight set but there were still a few of the sound issues that troubled Abel Ganz earlier. I did enjoy it enough to buy the CD, but so far the shiny disc has failed to meet the highs of the live performance for me. Right place, right time and I’m sure a little of that thrill will reappear. T’was dark, but wearily the way was made to the place of sleep.
Saturday, 3rd October 2015
Another first for Summer’s End. Arriving on time for Saturday’s opening act, as we settled in an alarm was activated and the hall evacuated. With everyone standing around the car park waiting for the Chepstow Fire Brigade to work their magic, conversation turned to what the day would hold – should we actually be allowed back in. Eventually an errant smoke machine was declared as the issue with no further danger expected and back in we all trooped, just in time for the considerably later than advertised…
The Fierce & The Dead (UK)
Jez: Always guaranteed to give an early afternoon audience a massive “Wake Up!” kick in the pants, Matt Stevens and his fellow Man-Bears (TM Phil Lively) leapt through a powerfully energetic set of TFATD classics and newbies. The band have developed a lot and are tight, well drilled and crammed with energy. Matt is a focal point but this is not to divert attention from any of the others, Kev’s bass attack kicking the door in for Steve Cleaton’s guitar to work its magic. At the back Stuart Marshall excelled on the rhythmic tour de force that is Flint, funky as fuck and guaranteed to get me smiling. The fire brigade should have been called back at the end, Matt throwing his guitar down to feedback amid the smouldering ruins of the Drill Hall stage after a thumping Landcrab.
Mel: The Festival was now running a bit late, but this is SE and we like a bit of tradition. The first act of the day was the amazing and exciting The Fierce and the Dead, and they certainly lived up to that. Short introduction and boom, straight into the most lively, energetic and powerful of starts I can remember to a Saturday at Summer’s End. With some humorous stage banter and announcements the set fizzed along like a crazed fire cracker, ending with Matt Stevens throwing his guitar face down on the stage and walking off leaving a wailing of feedback. What a brilliant start to the day.
Let’s Start A Cult
I Like It
Matt Stevens – Guitar
Kev Feazey – Bass
Stuart Marshall – Drums
Steve Cleaton – Guitar
Leo: The organisers of Summer’s End like to throw in a ‘left field’ band every year, and Matt Stevens’ incendiary instrumental rockers really woke up the Summer’s End crowd, opening the Saturday with an explosive set of guitar driven songs and conquering the crowd with their energy and intricacy. Credit to the organisers for stretching the boundaries of the festival, and credit to the band for taking the opportunity to ambush and overpower a ‘Prog’ crowd with their skill and impact.
Tony: Pottering start to a misty day. First on, The Fierce & The Dead. I was looking forward to this, more so having chatted with Matt Stevens the previous day. But wait, what is this? Entered the hall only for the fire alarm to go off. Even with the absence of a fire warden jacket the instinct kicked in and I “assembled” outside, surrounded by slightly bemused Prog fans nursing their first beer of the day (too early). Chepstow’s finest, the men in beige, turned up in their shiny red fire engine, checked the errant smoke machine and departed. Bit of a dramatic start and it did not end there as TFATD went full out to entertain and succeeded. Any cobwebs were dismissed. Shame they had to cancel the firework finale, but the Monmouthshire Fire Brigade were most insistent.
Light Damage (LUX)
Jez: One of the best things about Summer’s End is that it gives the opportunity for the UK audience to see bands who would otherwise not be able to get to play here. Case in point, Luxembourg’s Light Damage, a band I’d never heard of, who put on a well rehearsed and engaging set. I enjoyed it but other than the delightful cover of Steve Hackett’s Shadow Of The Hierophant it didn’t quite connect with me and at the end I was still wondering quite what they were about. In Nicholas Dewaz they certainly have an engaging front man and focal point and between them the band cover a lot of ground. Certainly worthy of further investigation.
Mel: Next up was Light Damage from Luxembourg, another band I was not familiar with. They proved an interesting listen, playing with energy and a sense of enjoyment. There appeared to be an occasional Pink Floyd influence in their music, as clearly demonstrated on the third song which began with the touches of the bass line from Echoes. Although played by the bass player it could almost have been mistaken for a sample before quickly developing into their own song. The set included a Steve Hackett cover which was excellently played and overall it was a very interesting set which will lead me to discover more about this band.
Shadow Of The Hierophant (Steve Hackett cover)
F.H.B. (For Helpful Buddies)
The Supper Of Cyprianus
Nicholas-John Dewez – Vocals, Guitar & other instruments
Stéphane Lecocq – Lead Guitar
Frédérik Hardy – Bass & Bass Pedals
Sébastien Pérignon – Keyboards
Christophe Szczyrk – Drums
Leo: A new band from Luxembourg, not previously known for its Progressive rock, worked hard to mine the more traditional ‘Prog’ seams, and followed the Celestial Fire tactic of throwing in a crowd pleasing prog cover by adding a Steve Hackett song. They played well and worked hard to build a rapport with the audience, but may need to develop their own style more rather than simply being pale echoes of more renowned bands of earlier times if they want to establish themselves.
Tony: If my mind is not too confused, there was a little Light Damage, I was quite sure. Interesting; a little bit Bowie, a touch of pastoral prog, and a smidgeon of Art Rock. Some songs held me, some I browsed the CD stall at the back of the hall.
Jez: European bands regularly make it to the Summer’s End stage, less so bands from further afield so we were honoured to get three from North America over the weekend. The first of these was 3RDegree, a band I’ve enjoyed for several years now and it was great to see them in the flesh. Working as a quartet for this tour rather than the regular quintet they blasted into a double punch from the lovely The Long Division album but it wasn’t long before Robert James Pashman’s bass gave up the ghost leaving them scratching their heads about what to do. A call went out for a replacement instrument (the response coming from Discipline’s Matthew Kennedy and his 5-string) while Bryan Zeigler and George Dobbs endeared the band to the crowd with humorous asides and meandering anecdotes. This made for a fun five or so minutes and with them re-kitted out in the bass department they were off again, Pashman getting used to the new instrument as he played. The set was fun, interesting and rewarding and 3RDegree went down very well in the hall.
The Socio-Economic Petri Dish
You’re Fooling Yourselves
Life At Any Cost
What It Means To Be Human
The Best & Brightest
George Dobbs – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Robert James Pashman – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Bryan Zeigler – Guitar, Vocals
Aaron Nobel – Drums
Mel: 3RDegree followed after a quick turnaround, providing some excellent symphonic prog despite having problems with the bass. After a replacement was borrowed from Discipline’s Matthew Kennedy, while the tuning up took place they related a few funny stories regarding a hotel stayed at earlier in their trip and the horrors it contained. This was a great set for me, professionally delivered with great songs and, again, this is a band that I’m going to learn more about.
Leo: This American band were beset with technical problems but showed great tenacity and professionalism in presenting a solid and interesting set of off beat songs. They also showed great wit and comic timing when speaking with the crowd about the travails of touring life whilst those problems were being sorted. They deserve to be more widely heard and hopefully next time they will have a smoother ride technically, although the crowd were well behind them anyway.
Tony: 3RDegree, from New Jersey, gave a set that I felt thoroughly involved in. I could see the influences, or hear them to be more precise, and was held by the tales of their European tour. There were technical hitches, broken bass strings, stories of hotel horrors. Yes, fun, good music, not quite seduced enough to buy but some dark night an internet search will occur.
Jez: US band #2 and…just WOW! Discipline were band of the weekend for me, from the start they were enigmatic and breathtakingly powerful putting on a quintessential performance topped off with the quite wonderfully visceral vocals of Matthew Parmenter who lived every word he sang whilst channelling his inner Peter Hammill from behind his face-paint mask. The playing by all concerned was stunning, Parmenter at his keys using a good dose of piano which always sparks my interest, seated bassist Matthew Kennedy watching him throughout and pitching his performance at just the right level. At the back Paul Dzendzel was in awesome form and Tiles guitarist Chris Herin, acting as replacement for the absent Jon Preston Bouda, had acres of stage to prowl around given the peripheral positioning of the others, his natty blazer giving him the aura of a cool yet slightly geeky bank manager as he peeled off some wonderful guitar that worked in tandem with Parmenter’s keys. From my spot at the side of the stage near Parmenter it was a stunning experience to see this band in full flow and they didn’t disappoint in any way as they delivered tracks from Unfolded Like Staircase and To Shatter All Accord. Discipline are a simply stunning band which we’ll hopefully be able to enjoy on a UK stage again soon.
Mickey Mouse Man
When She Dreams She Dreams in Color
Canto IV (Limbo)
When the Walls are Down
Matthew Parmenter – Vocals,
Matthew Kennedy – Bass
Paul Dzendzel – Drums
Chris Herrin – Guitar
Mel: Now we came to the most eagerly anticipated band of the weekend, the mighty Discipline, and let’s put the cards on the table straight away, the performance of the weekend for me. What happened here was an intense, passionate and powerful performance intercut with moments of sheer beauty. The players were at the top of their game; even another short problem with the bass dropping out did not affect or detract from the majesty of this set. Matthew Parmenter’s performance was astonishing and mesmerising. Sat at his keyboards, face painted white which helped to emphasise his facial expressions as he put his heart and soul into the lyrics of the songs in an intense and passionate manner. How this band has passed me by I will never know but this set astounded and moved me – I am certainly a firm fan now. I would like to give my thanks to my friend Brian Watson who played a very important part in getting Discipline to play here.
Tony: Break time, a meal, a beverage, and possibly the most limited selection of ales I have found in a Wetherspoon’s. What I need now is some Discipline, and that is precisely what I received. Discipline from Detroit gave us a tight and interesting set of nearly two hours, theatrical, emotional and quite enthralling. Over far too soon, but the stage need to be cleared before Pallas.
Leo: Most memorable sound of the weekend? The noise of a multitude of jaws hitting the floor when they first heard this band mesmerizing the crowd with a breathtaking performance of intense, dark and poetic progressive rock. Why this band isn’t more well known and highly regarded in Europe is a complete mystery as this was a stunning show of theatricality, musical excellence and dramatic musical art of the highest calibre. Matthew Parmenter is a hypnotic performer and was brilliantly supported by a highly skilled band. Almost certainly one of the best performances this reviewer has ever witnessed in a festival setting – sheer class. Quite simply the ‘Band of the Weekend’.
Leo: Following the majesty and impact of Discipline would be very hard for any band but Pallas, the veteran prog rockers from Scotland, showed their experience and worked hard to entertain the crowd as Saturday night headliners. Supported by a very enthusiastic Scottish following the band gradually won over the rest of the audience with some impressively played straight ahead rock, before saying an emotional temporary farewell to guitarist Niall Mathewson.
Mel: The headline act of the evening, Pallas took the stage almost on time. They were loud, punchy and direct showing how good they are at what they do, and this was reflected in the response of the crowd, but for me personally they suffered in the wake of the Discipline set. They may have won me over with less volume and fewer of the singer’s over the top rock star poses.
Cross and the Crucible
Cut and Run
Shadow of the Sun
Crown of Thorns
March on Atlantis
Paul Mackie – Lead Vocals
Graeme Murray – Bass, Taurus Pedals, Vocals
Niall Mathewson – Guitar
Ronnie Brown – Keyboards, Vocals
Colin Fraser – Drums, Vocals
Jez: I was in two minds about seeing Pallas again as they hadn’t blown me away the last time, and as they opened with some new stuff that I was unfamiliar with and didn’t grab me that did not change. Singer Paul Mackie has a fine voice but his persona is more rock’n’roll than prog, which sounds weird but I know what I mean! Not long in and guitarist Niall Mathewson was leaving the stage regularly due to not feeling too well, and as Mackie and drummer Colin Fraser also popped out the back it was all getting a bit weird. Mackie returned with whiskey to pour down the throats of Mathewson and bassist Graeme Murray and my bed was soon calling. It had been a long day and I decided to call it a night to rest up for Sunday. No disrespect meant, I enjoy Pallas and I’m sure they delivered in the end but the thought of another late night on the road home didn’t appeal.
Tony: Pallas came equipped with an entourage, “cheerleaders” to the front conducting the audience to enjoy. We did; Pallas provided showmanship, very different from Discipline but their years together showed, though I believe this is their third vocalist. It was a good way to end a Saturday night, a complete contrast from Celestial Fire on Friday but if you come to a festival you really are not going to want a litany of the same. Night all.
Sunday, 4th October 2015
Back again, the mist still hanging over the Wye, but inside conditions were just right for another fun day of wonderful music, starting with…
The Gift (UK)
Leo: Sunday opened with a very impressive set of Progressive rock from this London band with a charismatic front man in Mike Morton. Equally adept at epic prog rock pieces or catchy shorter tunes The Gift performed at the height of their powers, and certainly won a lot of new fans from a crowd which gladly accepted this gift from the organisers. Surely they will be back.
Jez: I’ve seen The Gift once before and enjoyed them but in a way that seems all to common amongst UK bands these days they didn’t really grab me. Singer Mike Morton is a great front man, engaging and with a fine voice, and the rest of the band seemed better rehearsed than last time. The songs are lovely, crammed with emotion and very personal, but they didn’t fully speak to me today. What The Gift need in my very humble and untutored opinion is a top drawer drummer to kick the music up a step or two when required. They are a band worthy of the effort and I’m sure they’ll continue to make forward strides so let’s see what they come up with for the next album.
Intro – I Sing of Change
Too Many Hands.
You Are The Song
The Comforting Cold
Walk Into The Water
Mike Morton – Vocals, Guitar
David Lloyd – Guitar
Stefan Dickers – Bass
Scott James – Drums &
Howard Boder – Keyboards
Mel: First up on Sunday was The Gift who, with a great front man in Mike Morton, put in a solid performance of good songs which have an almost pop/rock feel but are crammed with emotion. A good start to the day, but in my opinion they suffered a bit in the wake of yesterday’s opener, the mightily energetic The Fierce & The Dead. The crowd really enjoyed themselves though and that is, after all, the most important thing.
Tony: Sunday, the end of days, breakfast, a trip out to Tintern Abbey, some culture, a few stray proglodytes in their band tees, self-included and back for more fun. I had heard of The Gift through Big Big Train’s Facebook forum, buying the album on recommendation (plus the first one on download) and exchanged banter with Mike Morton, The Gift’s wrapper (tee hee hee). The music encompasses a lot of what I like in prog music whilst not becoming an exercise in noodling. I got to meet the tall one too! (Nearly everyone is tall to me). I was not disappointed, it was a great little set. Mike is a showman, a good lead who engages the audience and I think many were drawn in by his stage magic.
Jez: Another European enigma for me, I’d heard a couple of tracks but didn’t really know what to expect. This Swedish band, centred around the family of keyboardist Hans Bender, delivered to a very positive reaction from the crowd, the warm voice of Hans’ wife Anna cutting through as the music frequently utilised the sounds of Swedish folk, accentuated by the instrumental additions of one man orchestra Henrik Björlind. It was a gracious performance, unusual and inspiring, that worked well on the Sunday afternoon slot and they certainly made a lot of friends.
Mel: Introitus from Sweden were next, and this was one I was looking forward to having had them recommended to me but having sadly not had time to investigate them prior to the performance. They played a very accomplished set of symphonic prog with superb vocals from female singer, their music coloured with Swedish folk influences. Excellent guitar, flute and recorder were used throughout, indeed all of the band members made distinguished contributions to a very enjoyable set.
Who Goes There
Mats Bender – Keyboards
Anna Jobs Bender – Vocals
Mattias Bender – Drums
Dennis Lindkvist – Bass
Pär Helje – Guitar
Henrik Björlind – Synth, Flute, Recorder, Fiddle, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Leo: Swedish prog band which gradually drew in and beguiled a curious crowd with its mixture of classic prog utilising traditional instruments such as recorders and a very versatile female singer. The musical dexterity of this talented band was demonstrated throughout and this was another successful introduction of a relatively unknown band to an open minded audience.
Tony: Introitus surprised me, but in a nice way. Great musicians, incredible singer and not at all what I was expecting. So good I nearly reached for my wallet, only prevented by the injunction not to disturb the moths this early in the day. Definitely on my see again list.
Leo: Long-standing proponents of Marillion styled neo-prog, these veteran prog rockers had the crowd eating out of their hands with a powerful set of classy songs. The classic double attack of keyboards and guitar was headed by impressive and engaging front man, Mark Colton. Not ground breaking stuff but definitely a very entertaining and skilled band that was very popular with the crowd.
Mel: Credo, making their third appearance at the festival, had singer Mark Colton joking that this was the first time they had actually been booked in advance and that they got lost en route, turning up at Lydney. They made a strong start and, never failing to deliver with some Marillion-like influences, were well received by the audience. Indeed, even though they are not the kind of band that I usually enthuse about I certainly warmed to them towards the end of the set.
From The Cradle to The Grave
Round And Round
Staring At The Sun
Too Late To Say Goodbye
Mark Colton – Vocals
Mike Varty – Keyboards
Tim Birrell – Guitar
Jim Murdoch – Bass
Gerald ‘Mully’ Mulligan – Drums
Jez: I’ve seen Credo once before, at Summer’s End in 2011, and they impressed. I bought the album which was out at the time and it was good but my tastes are moving away from what they do and as a result it hasn’t been played in a long time. That is in no way to suggest that Credo are not a good band, they are tight, professional and possess a great frontman in Mark Colton. The music certainly had its moments but I just find it a little samey these days. It is certainly emotional but doesn’t feature enough in the way of dynamics and invention to really draw me in. Another UK prog band that suffers from a common problem of not being prog enough for me. The songs are deep and hold meaning and they’re delivered with real skill but I crave a little off the wall excitement to really get the juices flowing.
Tony: Credo. Hmm, from my youth, a religious programme at 6:30 on Sunday nights where worthies seemed to spend 30 minutes boring me to death. Fortunately, this is not the same, not by a long chalk. In a hall full of hot sweaty bodies I did need a fresh air break, but on the plus side you can hear the band from the car park. The thing with any band is that there has to be a song or a musical passage that hits the right chord and, for me, Credo’s last song was it – The Letter. I enjoyed the lyric, Mark Colton’s delivery and the music that accompanied it. Oh well, that’s another band for an internet search.
Simon Godfrey (Acoustic) (UK)
Jez: Last years edition of Summer’s End benefited from the inclusion of an acoustic stage in the more spacious surroundings of Chepstow School. The Drill Hall does not have the facilities but this acoustic set, which was due to take place as the opener for Friday night but rescheduled due to the late start, showed how it was missed. The sparkling wit and endearing personality of ex-Tinyfish man Simon Godfrey excelled and it was a fun half hour, Simon accompanied by Rob Ramsey making for a surrealist double act of true quality. Great songs delivered with passion and a large helping of laughs. Lovely.
Mel: Simon Godfrey played a great acoustic set which was postponed from the Friday night. An energetic and lively set with a good dose of on stage banter and humour, thoroughly enjoyable.
The June Jar
Dust and Wires
Tearing Up The Room
Driving All Night
Simon Godfrey – Vocals, Guitar
Rob Ramsey – Harmonica, Spoken Word
Leo: Held over from Friday night Simon Godfrey opened proceedings on Sunday night with an engaging and witty set of acoustic guitar songs and repartee. A selection of Tinyfish and solo songs was lapped up by the crowd who wished Godfrey would hop over the pond from his new home in the US more often.
Tony: Right, a long break and back for the delayed Simon Godfrey et al. My plate of food let me down. Lamb ordered. Lamb off (in Wales, for Pete’s sake, land of wool mills, etc.). Chicken ordered. Pint drunk. Chicken arrived. Bother, missed first half of Simon’s set. Damn, because what I did see I really enjoyed.
Leo: Mystery were this reviewer’s personal favourite of the whole festival with a highly polished set of melodic prog rock and a powerful new singer who fronted a very skilled band with a particularly thunderous but deft rhythm section and some hard riffing guitarists. This was a diamond hard set in terms of flawlessness of sound and performance, the sharpness and clarity of their music shining through. However, with songs as good as these they have the right raw materials upon which to build their show – simply great.
Jez: Final transatlantic band of the weekend, the mighty Mystery flew in from Canada and delivered a bang on high energy set of powerful prog. Led by the sublime guitar of Michel St-Pere and with singer Jean Pageau replacing the departed ex-Yes man Benoit David, the sound was much riffier than I expected, St-Pere duelling and mixing it up with second guitarist Sylvain Moineau to good effect. The rhythm section nailed it and the keys padded out the massive sound to good effect making for a memorable set from a highly skilled and capable band. Recommended.
Shadow of the Lake
Until the Truth Comes Out
Travel to the Night
Michel St-Pere – Lead Guitar
Jean Pageau – Lead Vocals
Jean-Sebastien Goyette – Drums
Benoit Dupuis – Keyboards
Francois Fournier – Bass, Vocals
Sylvain Moineau – Guitar
Mel: The highlight of Sunday for me was always going to be Mystery. I have admired this band for quite some time and was looking forward to seeing them at last. Happily they did not disappoint, melodic symphonic prog rock which was given real power when required. The whole band played with a high degree of skill and the voice of new singer Jean Pageau fitted in well on the older songs whilst coming into its own on material from their forthcoming new album, Delusion Rain. I felt at times that they played the songs with a slightly harder edge than on the recorded versions but that did not seem out of place, maybe suiting the new vocalist’s style somewhat better. An excellent set and it was over far too quickly.
Tony: The Canadians up next, Mystery – and not one of them wearing a checked shirt or carrying a felling axe. So no songs about lumberjacks then? No, not even a little one. They were really good though, as entertaining as Discipline, less theatrical but really enjoyable. The new album is out shortly so that’s my excuse for not buying tonight. If you get the chance to see them don’t miss out.
The Enid (UK)
Jez: And now, the end has come. The final curtain should have fallen with Norwegians Magic Pie but due to a family-related incident they had to cancel. Now if you’re going to get a last minute band to close a festival such as this you wouldn’t believe your luck if you managed to get The Enid. As has been said many times, they should close the festival every year. Just brilliant and completeley unique, The Enid reach parts that other bands just cannot reach. The first tears in the eyes moment for me, a poignant set given the health concerns over talismanic Robert John Godfrey who still has a mesmerising piano touch. With singer Joe Payne out front The Enid is reborn. Payne has a spectacular range which he uses to astonishing effect and with the orchestral sound filled out with synthetic choirs and brass alongside real life timpani this is a sound like no other band. Payne dedicated the first two songs to Magic Pie, some of whom were present in person, which was a nice touch. As the set concluded to rapturous applause, RJG was leading the applause and encouraging more for the young band that he hopes will continue The Enid legacy. And I hope they will. It was a privilege to be able to shake his hand after the gig and thank him for what he has achieved from the unlikeliest of situations. Barking. Bonkers. Unique. Quintessentially British and prog the way it should be.
Someone Shall Rise
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Who Created Me?
One and the Many
Robert John Godfrey – Keyboards
Joe Payne – Lead Vocals, Wind
Max Read – Keyboards, Guitar,
David Storey – Drums
Jason Ducker – Guitar
Dominic Tofield – Bass, Percussion
Mel: The Enid were late replacements due to Magic Pie having to withdraw for personal reasons, but we were not to be disappointed as they closed the festival as only they can. They dedicated the first two songs to the members of Magic Pie and proceeded to weave their unique brand of music through a majestic and magical set full of deft touches, emotion and power. The vocal prowess of Joe Payne was at times astonishing, fitting in so well with the music. It was wonderful to see Robert John Godfrey enjoying himself so much, at the front of the stage at the end of the set encouraging the audience to call for an encore, and what an encore we were treated to, their version of Barclay James Harvest’s Mockingbird. Wonderful stuff, and to top off the night we got to shake hands with the man himself, Robert John Godfrey.
Leo: Replacing the sadly absent Magic Pie (due to family issues) it could have been hard for The Enid to follow the sparkle and spectacle of Mystery, but they were a perfect end to Summer’s End and should perhaps end every Sunday night! A crowd that was tiring after three days of standing spontaneously broke out the chair supplies for much of the hall and settled back to take in the classical orchestral prog rock of this newly invigorated band. Vocalist Joe Payne was outstanding and charming, and with a slick and well honed band behind him they built cathedrals of sound to soothe and amaze the audience in equal measures. The perfection of a cover of Barclay James Harvest’s Mockingbird ended a wonderful three days of music and camaraderie in a wonderfully friendly atmosphere.
Tony: The final act was The Enid. I really like The Enid but I bailed, my eyes were tired, my feet were tired, and my desire to get home was greater than watching Joe, Max, Robert et al again. I knew their particular brand of prog would delight but my choice was the car, Invictus and a safe journey home.
A summing up…
Leo: Prog rock festivals do not get any better than Summer’s End… Roll on 2016!
Mel: A great weekend with a range of acts to suit everyone. Band of the weekend for me were Discipline, with The Enid and Mystery in joint second. Roll on next year. Will I be going again? You bet.
Tony: Summer’s End, a delightful weekend with old friends, new friends and bands you can talk to. I like the atmosphere of the event, organisers Huw and Stephen have done a very good job, and Mrs Lambe sold me draw tickets, twice. Nice prizes; I didn’t win. I’ll come again…if you don’t change the locks.
Jez: Summer’s End is a very special festival for an awful lot of people. It has real heart and all those involved in putting it on every year do so because they really care about the music. There is always a great vibe and everyone present enjoys each others company, as well as the wonderful sounds made by all the musicians, whether familiar or not. Prog being prog, there are nearly as many opinions on the bands as there are people in attendance, but that’s fine, and the beauty of Summer’s End is that more often that not the bands selected to play are a revelation. For that reason you can happily take the ones that aren’t to your taste in your stride and I for one am more than happy to let Huw and Stephen decide if a band is worth listening to, I’ll still turn up whoever it is as the event now transcends the line-up. And what’s more it actually sold out this time! As always then, a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone involved, see you next year.