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Fusion 5: Day One

The Civic Hall, Stourport
Friday, 1st March 2024

The ever growing Fusion Festival was held at the beginning of March with attendees gathering from around the U.K., Europe and even the U.S.A., such is the growing attraction of this excellent and friendly event. The Progressive Aspect were there in force with their TPA live updates and final review.

(David Edwards)

Candacraig at Fusion 5

Fusion 5 kicked off well with the atmospheric, ethereal, folk-tinged progressive rock of Candacraig. Sharon Cannings and Martin Nicholls, hail from Lincolnshire and have been making music together for many years. However, it was only after lockdown that they released their impressive debut album, Thunder of Whispers, followed by last year’s Lit by Lightning. The duo showcased their music from both albums, starting with the recent singles, Gliding (pt 1 and 2) and Last Transmission (about the Voyager space probe).

They were able to capture both the folk aspect of their music with their cinematic soundscapes, progressive influences and dark twisted tales with the use of electric guitar and keyboards to complement the more minimalist, intimate nature of many songs. Ash Tree, Hero of Barnsdale and the M.J. James-influenced Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You all had a diversity and depth, with Sharon’s deep, haunting vocals and Martin’s electric and acoustic guitars weaving a quiet magic from the stage. The dark, avant garde, eeriness of The End of the World was very evocative, but the performance ended on a hopeful, elegiac and folky note with their post-lockdown anthem, We Will Sing Again, to end an enjoyable opening festival set (audience and dog joining in as well). An engaging new band to explore further, for sure.

(Richard Swan)

Ghost Of The Machine at Fusion 5

Second on the bill at Fusion 5 is the popular Ghost Of The Machine, who are growing in stature, with their high energy performance covering all eras of the prog genre. Starting off with the incredible Scissor from their debut album, they immediately demonstrate their skills as a tight band, Charlie Bramald taking the centre stage with great aplomb and acting out the various parts of the song a la the Genesis Gabriel years. There is tangible synergy as the guitarists Scotty Owens and Graham Garbett trade the lead guitar solos, all held together by Mark Hagan on keys and the rhythm section of Stuart McAuley on bass and other bass-y stuff and Andy Milner on drums. They move seamlessly onto Mountain and Just For Reference from Scissorgames and the crowd is enraptured by the skilled musicianship, clearly way ahead of their current profile of the circuit.

Their new track, After The War, was a delight, giving a taste of what is to come in their follow up album. I’ve heard some demos and once this is finessed, it will garner significant attention from the prog community. Charlie really is an exceptional singer with an enormous range in predominantly tenor vocals. Dare I say it, but he could give up his day job…

They close with Mercury Rising, a crowd favourite, full of atmosphere, dripping in symphonic prog before launching into classic rock, with all band members given their chance to shine. It’s been an all too quick performance from this growing band. They benefit enormously from having two lead guitarists and the band gels together, punching way above their weight.
They were one of my most anticipated bands of Fusion 5. I’m SO glad I’m here… and we’re only on Day 1…

(Owy Thomas)

Mad Fellaz at Fusion 5

I have to admit, I’d never heard of this band prior to Fusion. The nomenclature didn’t particularly conjure connection and inspiration, but then, I always thought Led Zeppelin was a crap name, so such initial impressions only go so far. When I knew I was doing a TPA mini writeup, I checked the band’s Bandcamp page, and was pleasantly impressed. So my initial pre-set expectations were duly amplified.

So Mad Fellaz take to the stage, evidencing a slightly off kilter jazz funk feel. The first few tracks offer a jazzed up Solstice-esque style. Then things switch dramatically. Suddenly we are in hard fusion territory, with weaving rhythms, and Crimson-esque guitar stylings. Instrumentation expands from twin keys, twin guitar, bass and drums to include flute. What follows, as things develop, is some of the most wigged out mind melting fusion I have heard in some time. Remarkable. I wasn’t expecting this. Reference points springing to mind include Brand X, Fire Merchants and (when the vocals re-join) Finneus Guage.

Overall, a totally superb set. After they were finished, I headed over to the merch desk and bought all 4 of their CDs. You can’t say fairer than that.

(Roger Trenwith)

Henge at Fusion 5

Dancing at a prog gig? Actual dancing, not shifting weight from one leg to the other, so I’m told. A drum solo starts the set, or is it a soundcheck? Synthesised voices too. It was a soundcheck by the way, the band in lab coats. Ha! This looks like it might be… weird.

Henge at Fusion 5

And it is! A thoroughly entertaining romp through the surf sounds of Aldebaran. These are psychedelic space aliens visiting Stourport, praising the delights of Marvellous Molecules, and why not?

Henge at Fusion 5

Yes, feet were moved, grins were ‘grun’. Get down to the interstellar groove baby!

Photographs courtesy of Progpics By StanS (Stan Siarkiewicz) used with kind permission.

(Please note that this collective review was adapted from TPA live social media updates posted during the festival. They have been collated and slightly edited here by Leo Trimming.)

FUSION: Music Without Boundaries
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