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Fusion 5: Day Three

The Civic Hall, Stourport
Sunday, 3rd March 2024
(David Edwards)

Monkey Trial at Fusion

Day 3 started out in a soothing and chilled-out fashion with the ambient prog and electronica soundscapes of MONKEYTRIAL. I’ve seen them several times and always enjoy the way that Clive Mollart’s Tangerine Dream-like keyboards and effects intertwine with Shaun Bailey’s soaring and extended Gilmouresque guitar flights of fancy.

Songs of Fallen Mermaids had a lovely hypnotic beat to it, while Viking at First flowed beautifully. A new track, Time Ships, started delicately and gradually built up in depth and intensity with lush synthesisers and light and shade amongst the trance-like passages. They describe their music as ‘soundtracks for imaginary locations’ and it was a very pleasant lunchtime journey to them.

(Owy Thomas)

The Room at Fusion

I’ve seen The Room once before at Summer’s End in 2019, and was impressed enough to buy their Caught by the Machine album, their new release at the time, and still their most recent album. Fast forward four and a half years, and here we have The Room, entertaining the Sunday early afternoon Fusion crowd, with some confident sounding, strident melodic prog tinged rock.
They have been away for a while due to a number of personal issues. Indeed they were due to play Fusion before but the Covid pandemic intervened, so it’s great to see them back. The songs are compositionally well-crafted, and the performances clearly well-rehearsed, the band feeling like a well-oiled machine to me. I also enjoy the expressive lyric compositions, featuring a mixture of intrigue, storytelling and raw emotion.

All band members are solid players and gel together seamlessly, with new man Simon Fisher turning in a great performance on guitar, fitting in like he’s been in the band for years. The whole band seem to be really enjoying themselves, which is always great to see as an audient. And the Fusion crowd certainly responded, albeit with an early Sunday afternoon sensibly paced restraint. I think we all like this. (Well, it sounds like the majority do). Overall, a great set, and I hope one of many more, with hopefully some new recordings and issues to follow.

(David Edwards)

The Mighty Ra at Fusion

Welsh melodic prog rockers, The Mighty Ra bravely battled a host of sound mix issues during their set in the early afternoon, but still showed what they were all about. Starting with the titular track from All Secrets Known, Andy Edwards on guitar and vocals, led Dave Rowe on bass, Rob Griffiths on drums and Rob Wilsher appearing on keyboards for the last time. A mix of melodic rock with prog flourishes, they moved through to the driving straight-ahead rock of Nothing Comes Too Easy and then things kicked on the galloping Freedom, with some keyboards flurries complementing Andy’s guitar soloing.

The title track from the Controlling the Burn EP had a nice dedication to the late Hairy Biker, Dave Myers, while a brand-new song, Mr Disingenuous had a nice funky swagger that led to a rousing finale. Seven Days was followed by their epic Floydian closer, Bigger Lie. At times the vocals, bass and keyboards all had variable levels and eventually a loss of bass affected the end. A case of what might have been at times – but enough highlights on show that bodes well for the band’s second album.

(Rosamund Tomlins)

The Hayley Griffiths Band at Fusion

It may have been freezing cold outside but, onstage, everything started to hot up as Hayley Griffiths’ band members catapulted themselves into their set, immediately captivating us with the drama of the opening song, Haunted, and building up to Hayley’s effervescent entrance. Wow! She strode onstage sporting an absolutely sizzling outfit – a glitzy nod to her days with Riverdance!

Hayley has two musical personas, Celtic inspired folk rock and pure anthemic rock; see her in a full gig & you’ll get both, as per her 2023 simultaneous album releases, correspondingly for the categories, Far From Here, and Melanie. Today, as it was a one-hour festival slot, we encountered solely the full-on-rocking gal, in pretty much the album’s entirety (the bonus track digi-pack version)!
Hayley’s commanding presence, the clarity of her high soprano vocals, with their strong belt plus soft timbre versatility, and her near operatic rock style, set her apart from many of her contemporaries, and few eyes could be torn away from her stunning performance.
Evocative videos on the backdrop served to both enhance & contrast with the music, portraying more than a hint of Hayley’s folk-rock style, but with a mix of pastoral & gothic tinges to them.

Most effective were tracks, Dust to Gold, and the finale, Melanie, with their uplifting pure pop/rock catchy choruses – Hayley having earlier tantalisingly hinted that the titular alter ego might well be tempted out to play!

Despite the sound needing heavy tweaking during the first few numbers, the band, hopefully oblivious to what we in the audience were initially hearing, were all on fine enthusiastic form with guitarist Mathieu Spaeter delivering super-shreddy solos, bassist George Price’s glam lit-up fretboard complementing Hayley’s costume and emphasising his deft playing, Rob Lindop’s fluid keys, and drummer extraordinaire Jimmy Pallagrossi (and Hayley’s hubby), like several during the festival, dealing quite calmly with the house drum kit requiring… ahem… ‘adjustment’. He also assisted Hayley in a nice bit of well-judged audience participation, which helped along her easy-friendly between-song chat to fully engage this most appreciative crowd at Sunday afternoon tea-time.

Hayley and her band certainly pulled out all the stops today, songs blasting forth thick & fast, and, before we knew it, it was time to push them all back in again!

(Graham Thomas)

Overhead at Fusion

Fusion event organizer, Steve Gould, assured the assembled crowd that Finland’s Overhead would blow us away, and he wasn’t far wrong. They were bold and dynamic, heavy leaning but with lighter moments of flute led magic. The accompanying visuals were stunning, with psychedelic animation coupled with dystopian futuristic film in the style of Bladerunner.

This was particularly effective during the lengthy epic Ghosts From the Future. The front man Alex Keskitalo was a very useful flautist as well as expressive singer. He also had a ‘Kaoss pad’ (portable electronic percussion set) apparently, and wasn’t afraid to use it! The set closed with another epic track Telepathic Minds, the title song from their latest release, which I proceeded to buy right after the gig from the besieged merch desk. A winning performance!

(Graham Thomas)

Rosalie Cunningham at Fusion

I’m breathless after another stunning set from Rosalie Cunningham and her superb band. Every member of this group played a blinder. Rosie’s eclectic blend of psych-prog is influenced by seventies bands but given a 21st century gloss and her own individual style.

The first airing of the Donny Trilogy went down well, being the first public performance of Part 3, Return of the Ellington. Duet features great vocals from Roscoe, and the finale Tempest and the Tide has great solo spots, none better than Claudia Gonzales Diaz on bass and flute. Throughout the show, Rosalie commands the stage with her glorious voice and guitar, and the songs speak for themselves. There have been some great performances this weekend, but this was one of the best without a doubt.

(David Edwards)

Magenta at Fusion

The final band of this wonderful festival was the awesome MAGENTA, who did not disappoint with a lovely set full of beautiful ballads, intricate prog moments and powerful musicality. Starting with Speechless, they delighted the audience with Gluttony (one of my all-time prog classic tracks). Christina Booth’s vocals were stunning, with Rob Reed laying down some lovely keyboards as the dynamic Chris Fry had the time of his life on acoustic and electric guitars. I’m Alive was wonderfully uplifting and the emotional Pearl from The Twenty Seven Club was deeply moving, not least for Christina herself.

Magenta's Christina Booth at Fusion

King of the Skies and the melancholic Anger was followed by a lovely segue of Towers of Hope and Demons (from Home). Dan Fry and Aled Lloyd maintained a powerful and dynamic rhythm when called upon, with great stage interplay. Warning was beautifully played, and Pride (the third selection from Seven) was a whirl of progressive and melodic rock that brought the audience to its feet. Just time for an encore of The Lizard King and a useful lesson from Christina on how to clap it too!

Magenta at Fusion

Exhilarating, emotional and cathartic, with big smiles throughout the band. Christina cracking jokes and bringing out the bananas and having a dance with the ladies at the front, with Chris entering the crowd spectacularly standing on the seats to play those incredible guitar notes – now that’s the way to bring a superb festival to a close!

Magenta at Fusion

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.)

TPA at Fusion Festival 2024

Special Thanks goes to Steve and Louise Gould of Fusion.

FUSION: Music Without Boundaries
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