To some it may seem childish and conceited but, to me, one of the highlights of The Resonance Festival was wandering around wearing an ‘Access All Areas’ laminated pass all weekend. One of the many fantastic, down to earth people I met, Graham Harris, says it best so I’ll let his comment get down to the heart of the whole event.
“I have a drawer full of laminates. Each one tells a story. But the Resonance one holds the best story of all.”
An amazing weekend of firsts, of hard work, of camaraderie, of great music and even better laughs but, most of all, a weekend that will stay with me forever. Yes, there were highs and lows but the highs outweighed the lows tenfold!
This is the story of the first Resonance Rock Festival, held at The Bedford in Balham, South London from July 31st to August 3rd 2014, nearly 40 bands over three stages across four days, a logistical feat that many would have thought insurmountable. Well, that doesn’t take into account the irascible, never-say-die attitude of a bunch of volunteers with a surplus of enthusiasm over knowledge and ability!
In this introductory first part of my article of memoirs we look into the whole ethos of how the festival came to be and we take a brief look at the venue and its quite colourful history.
The Resonance Rock Festival was an idea that germinated in the minds of Mike Morton and David Lloyd of UK progressive act The Gift. It was a joint idea between Mike and David. They had played DanFest3 in Leicester and really enjoyed it. Mike suggested to Dave, as they were driving back in their hired van, that they should organise their own festival.
Mikes Mother, Marion, was only three months gone at this point having died of cancer. David said that they should do a charity fundraiser and Mike agreed with him. They had both lost people to the disease so decided to do this for cancer research. Mike and David asked the rest of the band and the drummer, who is a vegan, said he didn’t want to support one that still used animal testing for research. So they picked Macmillan for two reasons. First, Mike’s Mother passed away in a Macmillan hospice and, secondly they do not use animal testing as part of their research.
At the end of November last year Mike and David decided to go ahead with it. It started out as a two day festival, Saturday and Sunday in a place called The Bedford, near where Mike lives. In January the venue encouraged them to think bigger and extend it across four days. They wanted to do a rock festival in the area. It was now a prog, rock and eclectic festival.
A lot of up and coming bands played the festival, those that have taken inspiration from the great bands of the 70’s. It was trickier to get the established bands to play but the addition to the roster of Swedish legends Änglagård and the popular psychedelic proggers Big Elf from California really added to the kudos and the good will.
The Bedford in Balham, South London is the history laden venue where Mike Morton played his first ever gig so there is a synergy in him using it as the location for the festival as it holds special memories.
Originally a hotel developed in the 1830’s, The Bedford has been the central community hub of Balham for its entire existence. In the late sixties and seventies it was a spit and sawdust live music venue serving as a springboard for early gigs by acts including The Clash and U2. It was also famously used as the courtroom for the unsolved murder case of Charles Bravo, upstairs, in what was then the billiard hall, which is now the Ballroom.
It has a patina that speaks of past glories, now gracefully ageing, especially the impressive main staircase leading up to the first floor. Comfortable, well worn leather sofas add a certain gravitas to the well worn ambience and shabby chic.
Dark wood panels abound adding to the atmosphere of faded Victorian splendour and nowhere is this more marked than in the incredible main stage area, The Globe, where a minstrel’s gallery enables the audience to watch the acts perform from above, adding a unique spectacle to the proceedings.
Being a resident of the area, Mike has good things to say, “Balham is a great area generally with so much going on and a real earthiness to it. I grew up in Streatham and in those days Balham was always considered to be quite gritty.
“Now it’s a bit more gentrified with lots of young people moving in and it’s got a real bohemian atmosphere with a great cultural and ethnic mix.”
So, there we have set the scene on what would one of the defining experiences in a lot of people’s lives, not least mine. Next, I will touch on the happy band of volunteers who gave their hearts and souls into making sure that Resonance went along without too many hiccups, part two is all about the Resonance Rock Festival Crew.
My journey to The Resonance Rock Festival and my subsequent involvement began many months ago when I first heard the promo track ‘The Willows’ from The Gift’s new release ‘Land of Shadows’. I became good friends with Mike Morton and, following an enjoyable, if rather lengthy, phone interview, Mike pestered me for a long time to get myself down to Resonance.
My intensive story about the whole weekend and the emotional effect it had on this hardy Yorkshire soul will follow later but, here I want to pay tribute to the many varied members of the volunteer crew from stage managers (intentional to reluctant) through keyboards techs and sound engineers to ambassadors, journalists, part time roadies (very reluctant) and general dogsbodies (just about everyone filled this capacity at some point during the weekend!)
To be fair, we did all have nominal titles and tasks associated with us from the start but they all soon went into the wind. There was no room for prima donnas or aloofness, if you were delegated a task you, basically, just got on with it with a smile on your face and a click of the heels (never did end up in Kansas though).
From walking through the door of The Bedford on Thursday afternoon it was obvious that this was going to be a humungous task. I was nominally there to work as an in-house journalist but the first thing I did was help Simon Thompson , Roger Marsh and Sam Holt to cart bass amps, and guitar amps up what amounted to be six flights of stairs, I don’t work this hard at home and Sam was one of the resident photographers not Bodge-it-and-Scarper Removals!
There was an instant rapport though, we all pulled together and got things where they needed to be. This was the continuing theme throughout the weekend, especially when things really got going from the Friday and Stage Managers Graham Stead and Simon Beever, keyboard guru and sometime Stage Manager Graham Harris, general ambassadors Danny and Tommy Mayo, photographer Sabrina Beever (Simon’s daughter) and self titled ‘Doorkeeper of Prog’ Stacy Doller joined the merry band of brothers and sisters. Saturday saw the arrival of long time prog festival organiser John Patrick who came up with the best line I’ve ever heard to describe organising one,
“If you like to see bands at festivals, go see someone else’s!”
Everybody got involved, mucked in and helped out. To me, being sentimental, it was like prog music’s version of the old blitz spirit. I’ll let Graham Harris put it in his own erstwhile words,
“What was it that made it a bit special? Nothing prepared me for what I found in the Bedford pub. A round room, rooms leading into other rooms, stairs, wood and panelling. It was a very unique and challenging venue and it was a bloody obstacle course too! It had charm and atmosphere though which counted for something.
The venue was simply not suitable at all for a 4 day festival. But that’s where the team came in. We gelled as a team and a natural order of command seemed to have evolved. Everybody got stuck in and defied the venue’s awkwardness to put some great music on. The results were in the music, the gratified band members and gratified audience.
Yes, I have worked at more organised and smooth running festivals, but this one was born out of a vision, determination and a feat from overcoming obstacles to get the bands on and deliver the best we could. We succeeded against all the odds and problems had a laugh and made some friends.”
At times the stages resembled a scene from apocalypse now, trying to get changeovers done in a swift and effective manner was nigh on impossible but, thanks to the skill and acuity of Stage Managers like Simon Beever the end results always seems to belie the chaos that had previously ensued.
“What can we say? Putting the music to one side it was how all the crew came together and got the job done. There were times when due to circumstances beyond our control, it was to say the least difficult, but everybody stuck at it. At the end of it all Sabrina and I came away feeling we had got an extended family.
From the music side of the festival, The Far Meadow were really good, John Mitchell was great, especially the guy that came on at the end of his set and Anna Phoebe was just brilliant. Änglagård I didn’t get at all, maybe it had something to do with their ridiculous setup and sound check time, but by that point my burger was calling. Bigelf just blew me away and they were so good to work with as well.
On the Monday Sabrina and I were waiting outside of the hotel and Bigelf came out. Damon Fox came straight over, shook our hands and thanked us for all our hard work. I then realized what all of us achieved that weekend, and that was one of the best prog festivals ever.
I asked Sabrina how she would sum up the festival, her reply was ‘EPIC!’, and I have to agree. “
It was very interesting to meet up with Danny Mayo and his son Tommy. Danny runs a festival called ‘Danfest’ in Leicester which is coming up to its fourth iteration and, if you remember, it was after performing at Danfest3 that Mike had his wiz bang idea for Resonance (so we can partly blame you eh Danny?) Both of them got stuck in to helping out, carting band equipment up The Bedford’s equivalent of the north face of The Eiger, directing artists and audience to, hopefully, the right destinations and quaffing the odd ale, which I am happy to say, I did join them in quite often!
In fact, after much head scratching and deliberation, it was Danny who solved the Hammond enigma that was even baffling NASA scientists, how to get it through The Bedford’s, admittedly, narrow doorways, picture attached! (The NASA reference could be pure fabrication but it sells copies!)
Danny recollects his experiences,
“After collecting Tommy from his home, we set the controls for Balham. Made great time and found the hotel after the sat-nav had sent us down a gated road. We caught the train and just one stop later we were on the festival stone.
The first few bands arrived for the evening so we all got stuck in to get them unloaded and to their point of storage. The next two full days of course were hectic but all in all, adrenalin fuelled us all to deliver a fine festival for all to see.
It was very emotional for me to be involved as I was there with the thoughts of my late father, friends, family and work colleagues plus everyone I know who are having treatment for this deadly disease. Thanks to all who attended, I made a few new friends which was a bonus. “
What came across over four days of grit, determination, humour, sweat and patience was the fact that people were happy to give all they had to help the cause but, throughout all this frenzied activity, many people (including audience and senior venue staff) were moved to remark how incredibly cooperative and calm the Resonance crew were, even when the proverbial hit the fan!
Little did they know that we were like the metaphorical duck, all calm and serene above but paddling like buggery below! But, if one person was the image of calmness personified it was the proverbial ‘Doorkeeper of Prog’ himself, Stacy Doller. He was in charge of tickets, wristbands, doors, guestlists, you name it! If it involved getting into the venue, paying customer or no, you had to get through the not insubstantial personage of Mr Doller.
Stacy gives us his thoughts on the weekend,
“”I’m really lucky because I had the best job of all at Resonance, being the first person most of the guests see on the way in, and the last person they see on the way out, which is great for me because I get all the enthusiasm and anticipation from people as they arrive, and then the satisfaction of a good time well spent as they go home again. I also get to speak to all of the artistes and performers, many of whom I know on first name terms from previous encounters, so the entire weekend is a conveyor belt of people I know, or new faces I can get to know.
My personal Festival highlight was seeing Änglagård onstage after much head scratching and frustration getting the equipment to work, and the audience reaction to some of the finest musicianship I’ve ever experienced, and then directing 150 hot and exhausted guests into a beautifully ambient and air conditioned Ballroom to see I Am Your Autopilot perform their electronic sounds. It was a real urban Glastonbury moment and represented exactly what Resonance was all about, polar opposites of the musical genre working together to give audience members a unique and unforgettable experience“
Not only did Resonance attract musicians from overseas, it also brought foreign fans and journalists. I had the pleasure of meeting Dutch journalist and all round good guy Arne van Os van den Abeelen on the second day of the festival and rapidly became firm friends with him, His in-depth knowledge and love for all things progressive was seriously addictive.
Arne was quite happy to muck in and help the rest of us whilst occasionally slinking off to do his journalistic interviews and grabbing a beer. Now, one of the best things about this incredibly generous man was that he always brought one back for me! Yes I know I deserved it but, even so!
His is a friendship that will, along with many, many others, endure a lifetime and I was keen to get his thoughts on the weekend.
“To me the Resonance Festival is something very special, not only the exceptional music but, most of all, becoming part of a group of people whom I didn’t know but who became great friends and that in a few days. The warmth of that will stay with me.
Then there was the music with, as highlights for me, the amazing Lifesigns (they should have played a whole show), Anna Phoebe, The Enid, Henri Fool, Matt Stevens (and The Fierce and the Dead), The Gift, Änglagård and Bigelf. And I discovered some young and very talented bands! Halo Tora, A Formal Horse (best band name in years) and HeKz. I can’t wait till next year for the second edition!”
One of the things I was most looking forward to when contemplating attending Resonance was meeting up with so many people who I had become friends with through social media, not only the artists but people who I had got to know by a shared love of the music.
One of these was David Elliott, a warm hearted individual who may appear curmudgeonly sometimes but it is all an act. His knowledge of progressive music is second to none, hence my bestowal of the title ‘Prog Guru’ on his shoulders. David runs a small, independent label called Bad Elephant Music and some of his artists were performing at Resonance, including The Gift and Trojan Horse.
Mike had asked David to compere the Synergy Stage which was based, nominally in the Ballroom. I’ll go further into the conversation we had in my own recollections but, here are David’s thoughts on the whole shebang,
“Resonance was fun, hard work, but fun. Because I was ‘staff’ on one of the three stages I didn’t see much music apart from what was playing on those, but the quality of the bands on Synergy was unerringly high.
My highlight was probably the Saturday evening double whammy of Trojan Horse and The Fierce And The Dead sticking it to a packed room, but it was great to see new (to me) music from A Formal Horse, Moheir and I Am Your Autopilot. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend was Francis Lickerish’s set – a real treat, and a lovely, lovely man.
I’m strangely unmoved about not having seen any of the headliners (apart from Änglagård for ten minutes, lost in a sea of analogue keyboards). I think that says a lot about where progressive rock is at now – seems to be the smaller acts who are producing the really interesting music. Or perhaps it’s just me getting grumpily iconoclastic in my old age…Big kudos to Mike Morton for putting the whole thing together, a massive undertaking and undoubtedly a success at the artistic level. Here’s to next year!”
One of the unsung heroes of Resonance was the chief stage manager Graham Stead. Now, up until I read his email on his whole experience, I didn’t realise how much work he had managed to fit into such a short time, has this man got a blue Police call box? I will leave the last words from the crew’s perspective to Graham,
“Mike first contacted me on 6th June with regards to Stage Managing the event. First was a visit to the venue with Jon Patrick when it really hit me what a monumental task we had on our hands.
This is what I said to Mike after the visit – “If we pull it off and things run to time it’ll be a hell of a thing to have done.”
Next came the monumental task of trying to get a workable running order that would please as many people as possible and avoid too many clashes.
Friday started at 9am and then the madness began, to be honest most of it is a blur now. I remember asking Rich Harding if he’d manage the Jack Daniels stage for that night to which he readily agreed, from then on it was a torrent of answering questions from bands and crew, running my own stage, briefly meeting people various musicians, saying “you’re on now!”
Saturday started at 6.30 before heading off to pick up Jon Patrick, getting back to the venue just before 10 am to start the first full day. Memories are of meeting people I’d only spoken to on FB messenger, having various musicians say “So you’re the famous Graham Stead!”Watching Luna Rossa‘s first 2 songs and becoming close to tears. Meeting The Enid yet again and managing to get them squeezed on that stage and then having to get Henry Fool on that stage too. The evening was rounded off with driving back to Jon’s and dropping my sound engineer home.
Sunday was an early start again and then to the venue. Quick check to make sure things were rolling and then off with Jon and Roger Marsh for my 1st hot meal (breakfast) in 2 days. Then it really went mad, Globe running late, agreement for all 3 afternoon bands to cut to 45 minute sets. Ball Room running so on time I could sync my start times with finish times in the Globe.
I Asked I Am Your Autopilot to go on about 10 minutes before Änglagård finished so that people would hear a band playing in the Ball Room and go in and they said, “We’ll do whatever you want!” During their set I was involved in the organised chaos that ensued getting Bigelf on stage, still can’t believe we did it in less than 30 minutes!
After packing away the hired kit in the Ball Room I did manage to catch 5 minutes of Bigelf before going outside for the last 10 minutes of their set to get some fresh air and sit down. I was sat there as the audience began to leave the building and soak in the good vibes. Then of course it was the pack down of everything so that all the hired kit could be collected (the van arrived at 11.30pm). Once all done me and Jon gave all 3 sound engineers a lift home, I think it was 3.30am when we finally got back to Jon’s.”
There, in a nutshell, is what Resonance took to put together and it is testament to everyone involved that it went off so well. Blood, sweat and tears (and that was just me) cobbled together with insanely funny moments and events that were just life affirming. I think I am safe in saying that, to me and the rest of the crew, is what Resonance Rock Festival was all about.
Next we move on to the music, I mean, after all, it was a music festival wasn’t it? Thirty nine artists played on 3 stages across four days, I did try to catch all of them but, unfortunately, due to my inability to control the space/time continuum, I didn’t quite manage it.
The Festival Itself
The next dip into the many joyous memories of the festival is all about the artists, their performances and some of their reminiscences with an odd thought from a special guest thrown into the mix.
It is incredible now to look back and think that thirty nine artists played across three stages for four days in The Bedford!, in Balham! But it did really happen, a musical extravaganza and a cornucopia of progressive and hard rock for the discerning fans.
The venue was intimate which made for some electric performances and the possibility of watching some superb musicians from the vantage point of the minstrel’s gallery in the Globe room (Or Progressive stage, trust me, that confused quite a few people across the weekend, including me!) would leave even the most impassive fan drooling from the mouth.
To be fair Thursday had something of an inauspicious start. There was only one stage in use for Thursday evening, the Progressive stage and this, despite being the largest at the venue, did give cause for concern. The first act due on stage was Kalamus, which included legendary progressive rock musician Mont Campbell, and their eclectic collection of instruments including all sorts of bagpipes and other wind instruments.
Now imagine, if you will, the scenario as another legendary prog star, Robert Webb formerly of the band England, tries to get his instruments, including an upright piano and Mellotron, onto an already congested stage area! Well, after the piano is dropped on my finger, the ensuing spat between these two musicians, despite being exceedingly gentrified, left Mr Campbell departing stage left and the festival one band down already!
Well, we needn’t have worried as Robert Webb went on to deliver a masterclass in his songwriting methods and a brilliant demonstration of how a Mellotron works. For the progophiles in attendance it was musical nirvana as Robert treated a captivated audience to the benefit of his decades of knowledge in his unassuming manner. The admittedly awe inspiring venue with its history helped somewhat, seeing these great musicians perform in The Globe (almost ‘in the round’) was spine tingling.
This was followed by a performance of some classic England material from Robert with a few distinguished guests including Mike Morton on vocals and David Lloyd on guitar. It was brilliantly done, the whole experience could be likened to listening to the classic progressive music of the 70’s and it was warmly greeted by an appreciative and knowledgeable audience.
The headline act on Thursday night was the hugely popular Mostly Autumn who, after a cursory sound check, mingled with the audience outside The Bedford quaffing aleswhilst enjoying the ambience of a hot summer’s evening in Balham.
Whether this invigorated the band or not I don’t know but they went on to deliver an electrifying performance inside The Globe room. The ethereal and emotive voice of Olivia Sparnenn transfixed the whole audience and the powerful guitar playing of Bryan Josh drove the set along. Anne-Marie Helder added her considerable skill and the metaphorical house was well and truly blown away. There is no real alternative to seeing music played live, especially in the welcoming surroundings of The Globe, and a happy audience cheered the band off stage before billowing out into a warm South London night and making their way home with a definite jauntiness to their step.
Friday dawned bright, sunny and warm and the anticipation for the second day of The Resonance Festival was palpable as the afternoon moved speedily onto evening and the first, but definitely not the last, time I would wish I could be in three places at the same time. Friday night would see all three stages being utilised and a total of nine acts expected to play to expectant audiences.
In fact, the one and only no-show of the weekend would mean no Stella+, who were due to be the first act on the Jack Daniels Stage in the Tavistock Room. To this day, nobody knows what happened to them so maybe watch out for them in a future episode of Dr. Who playing the theme from a darkened corner of the TARDIS whilst all hell breaks loose!
The first act on The Prog Stage in The Globe was the outrageously talented John Mitchell of Frost* and It Bites fame who, along with keyboard player Liam Holmes proceeded to run through a string of superb acoustic tracks that harked back to the 80’s and kept the appreciative audience in thrall. Things got a lot more interesting when the superb voice (and hair!) of Nathan James was unleashed with a powerful, stirring rendition of ‘Gethsemene’ from Jesus Christ Superstar, to say the hair was standing up on the back of your neck was a complete understatement!
It was at this point that my hours of training on the stepper at the gym and my ‘access all areas’ pass became fundamental to my enjoyment of, and coverage of, the whole weekend. Utilising the back stairs at The Bedford I hastened myself up to The Synergy Stage in The Ballroom where compere David Elliott was in charge of proceedings and had already introduced the young Italian band Moheir onto stage.
Well, knock me down with something light and insubstantial, I had my first mini-epiphany of the weekend. One of the things I was most looking forward to about The Resonance Festival was hearing such a large number of new bands that had never crossed my path before. Not knowing what to expect, I wandered to the front of the stage to be hit by a full on explosion of saxophone, guitar and drums that I was just not expecting.
This young Italian band took the stage by storm and their blend of funky, jazz led progressive music that just begs to be enjoyed with a huge grin on your face really blew the audience away. Like most bands, you have to experience them live to get the full picture and, what a work of art it is and, in frontman and sax player extraordinaire Alex Cardinale they have someone that adds a distinctive presence, not least in his classy ‘handlebar’ moustache!
It also seems the guys enjoyed the festival, bass player Marcello Gagliastro had this to say (sic),
“It’s not easy to explain the Resonance Rock Festival with simple words. It’s our first time in London and everything seems to be electric and exciting. We’re a bit nervous because we don’t get our instruments with us, so we borrowed from Fuzzy Nautilus and we are also on late (we get the wrong underground a couple of times, but we think it’s normal for a stranger). Then we arrive at the Bedford, we get acquainted with Mike, Fuzzy Nautilus and the rest of the crew and we begin to feel more relaxed. We feel like home even if we were miles away. Technical problems don’t lack but the smoke maker works properly: it’s the signal, we get on stage. We play. People is attentive, enjoyed the passages, odd times, the shouts, the sweat! Time flies, and we are down the stage: We left a piece of us on up there and people knows it. They say thanks to us, we are grateful to them; they support us and we cannot lose a picture with Fat Fred (Fred you took the best t-shirt, good job!). Meanwhile the pints of excellent beer don’t lack and the time to go home arrives, greetings are long, the love for the good music joined all of us tonight, but we’re sure it is not a definitive farewell. Goodbye London, Goodbye Bedford, Goodbye Resonance!”
This time gravity was my helper as I legged it back down the servants stairs to The Prog Stage to catch one of the (many) bands I was really looking forward to seeing, Lifesigns.
Lifesigns play a brand of pop infused classic progressive music that is really catchy and infectious and works incredibly well live. Keyboardist and vocalist John Young was on top form and his mellifluous voice captivated a rapt audience. The addition of Jon Poole (bass) and the irrepressible Niko Tsonev (guitar) to the live show has produced another dimension to the considerable grace and power that is a given when you see the band live and they did not flatter to deceive on this occasion. One of the best shows of the whole weekend brought the house down in The Globe Theatre as the knowledgeable audience gave John and the band a standing ovation from all around and above in the minstrel’s gallery.
I had an enjoyable conversation with John before the show and, afterwards, he had a few words about the experience (sic),
“Have to admit I was impressed with just the concept of being able to put so many bands on at the Bedford over a weekend so the fact that you made it work was a feat to be highly applauded.
We had done a little prep. We’d actually gone out and bought a new multicore and patchbay so we could use our desk for the show and in the end that worked really well. We were raring to go and from the moment Mr Shostakovich kicked off our set we were definitely on 11. Tried to get through the CD in record time so we could fit in one of the new tracks and that seemed to work really well.
Thanks to all those who came (especially those who sang along) and I do hope that Mike gets to put the show together again next year. Final well done to all those who helped out over the weekend. I’m sure there were some amazing moments to treasure … thanks a lot.”
A quick congratulations and shake of the hands and it was no peace for the wicked as I rocketed up the stairs to The Synergy Stage to catch the incredibly impressive Fuzzy Nautilus. Great band name aside, these young lads absolutely rocked the stage with their brand of high energy, punk, funk and rock inspired prog. If I remember rightly, this was their first live performance and, boy did they give their all. Another new band to these ears, they monster you with a huge wall of sound that hits you full frontal but leaves tantalising bits of melodies running round the back of your mind for ages. The Bowie tinged vocals of keyboard player Samuele Matteucci added a hint of 70’s sepia nostalgia to the whole experience.
Drummer Scott James (who also plays with The Gift) recounts his experience,
“What an amazing weekend, I feel very privileged to be playing alongside so many great musicians! It’s great to see Progressive music coming back onto the music scene, there are so many great bands out there just playing what they want to play rather than playing for what the masses want to hear or what they think will sell, people just playing great music because they love it, no ego’s, no delusions of grandeur, just passion, and a lot of practice!!
If I had to pick just two then my highlights for me this weekend were HeKz, so much talent in that band, they always put on a great show and are also some of the nicest and most humble guys you’re ever likely to meet, I really hope they go a long way as they deserve to, and also Anglagard who were just absolutely phenomenal, masters at work! I’ve waited years to see them and they didn’t disappoint.
There were a few teething problems but I think as a first attempt Mike and the crew did an astounding job, next year will be even better, bring it on!!“
Unfortunately I couldn’t catch the rest of the set as I bounded up the, decidedly narrow, stairs to The Jack Daniels Stage to catch the end of Red Letters set.
High energy pop punk that has its roots firmly in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Red Letters’ set was dynamic and powerful. This was the first time the band had played live in over 20 years but it didn’t show as they blasted out a superb set in front of packed room full of fans new and old and friends of the band ecstatic to see them play once more. Imagine The Jam but with a much more bullish attitude and you wouldn’t be far wrong. The whole band put in a humongous shift, so much so that I don’t think I have seen so many beads of sweat flying around in such a small space! A hugely enjoyable experience, I managed to soak up a little of the atmosphere before bounding down two flights of stairs to catch a quick part of Thumpermonkey’s set.
Quickly ducking into The Ballroom and The Synergy Stage, I had had conflicting reports about this band. Some people saying they are better on record than live and others vice-versa. To be fair, I only caught a couple of tracks but what I did hear was manic, high energy music with an eclectic edge that niggles at the back of your mind. I can understand why some people would not like it as it is wilfully unstructured and, at times, free-form in its nature but, to me, I could happily see myself bounding around the dance floor like a lunatic, well, if I was twenty years younger I might!
Fleet of foot as I am (honest, Usain Bolt has nothing on me!), I flew up the stairs to catch the headline act on The Jack Daniels Stage, Also Eden. I had listened to their impressive new album ‘Redacted’ a few times and was really looking forward to see them playing the material live. I’d had an enjoyable chat with bassist Graham Lane earlier and I think we had ramped up the anticipation between us. As it was, there was absolutely nothing to worry about. The band were exceedingly tight and played a dynamic and energetic set that had the whole room buzzing. The Jack Daniels Stage in The Tavistock was the smallest room but it lent itself to a superbly intimate venue and, when the room was full, the atmosphere was palpably intense. Diminutive frontman Rich Harding has a stentorian voice that belies his stature and it has a little edge to it that I really like, especially live. I left the room early to move onto the next act suitably impressed.
Graham kindly took the time to put these words together,
“I’d been looking forward to playing the Resonance festival for a number of reasons, not least because of the cause it was supporting. While I’m lucky enough not to have had cancer affect my immediate family, it has certainly taken its toll on friends, neighbours and work colleagues, so it was gratifying to be able to help in a small way. Another reason I’d been keen to play Resonance was due to its location. I was born and spent my formative years in south-west London prior to moving to Basingstoke in Hampshire as part of a ‘mass exodus’ out of London to the new satellite towns in the early seventies. Indeed, while looking out of the window of The Bedford venue, I spotted the block of flats that one of my late mother’s cousins lived in back at that time who, coincidentally, died of cancer a few years ago at the comparatively young age of 61. How fitting and poignant I thought…
All in all, it was great to see so many familiar faces at Resonance and to meet some new friends too, such as yourself Martin! I was excited about showing off our new keyboard player Andy Rigler and it seems our set went down very well. We managed to clear a reasonable financial profit and following a suggestion from our singer Rich, we’ve donated our profits back to the Macmillan cancer charity.
The variety and styles of bands was really impressive and I did manage to catch some of the other acts. As I mentioned to Martin, I do find it quite difficult to fully appreciate and focus on other acts when I’m due to play myself. I think this is probably due to a kind of nervous energy that builds up during the evening, which makes it a little difficult to fully appreciate what’s going on around me – it’s simply not the same as being a more relaxed audience member!
The sense of camaraderie at these events is also worth noting. It’s inevitable at festivals like these that there’s a level of compromise when it comes to the gear. For example, I had no vocal stage monitor, so who knows what my singing sounded liek out front! Also, I arrived to find no mains power plug for the pre-provided Orange bass amp as well as no connecting speaker leads. Cue Danny Mayo who, bless him, arrived with a brand new set of Orange leads which had obviously not quite made it to the backline gear itself in time for set-up! I also had full admiration for the crew, who did a superb job while being tasked with doing anything and everything to keep the bands and audiences happy.
A hot, sticky and above all memorable and enjoyable night. Here’s to the next one!“
I have been a fan of Giancarlo Erra and Nosound ever since I first heard their last studio album ‘Afterthoughts’. Their brand of thought provoking, emotionally charged music resonates deep with me and I flew down the back stairs in time to catch the second half of the band’s set. With more facial expressions than a Spitting Image puppet, Giancarlo is quite a demonstrative front man and his moody, melancholic vocals add an aura of intrigue and sensitivity to the already poignant music. An incredibly moving performance was topped by Giancarlo producing a violin bow with which he then played his guitar to dramatic effect. ‘My Guitar Gently Weeps’ has never been so relevant. It was a superb performance by an excellent band and, viewed from my later vantage point of the minstrel’s gallery, quite a visual spectacle as well.
After the gig an emotionally drained Giancarlo Erra left me with these words (sic),
“Well for us playing at The Bedford, sharing the stage with such great artists and joining such an important cause like cancer research was a combination of emotional factors quite powerful and unique. Our expectations were met and surpassed once we arrived at The Bedford, such a great and unique venue! It was an exciting experience, reactions from audience was amazing as well, and despite some technical problems we really enjoyed the show, that felt intimate and powerful at the same time. So..when next one?”
So, there ends day two of the increasingly monumental Resonance Festival, the whole experience was becoming quite unique and the huge endeavour of arranging so many artists to play in one venue was rapidly becoming worthwhile.
Another bright and sunny morning dawned on Saturday as I made my way to the venue for the first, full day that would see afternoon performances added to the festival. A live comedy night would see The Globe’s impressive surroundings only being used for the afternoon’s Acoustic Stage and the evening delivering The Prog Stage in The Ballroom and The Synergy Stage in The Tavistock Room (hope your keeping up with me here!) and the Jack Daniels Stage put on the back burner for this day.
The first act on The Acoustic Stage was guitar virtuoso and looping expert Matt Stevens who, on his birthday, was putting in a double shift as he was appearing with his band The Fierce and the Dead as that evening’s headline act on The Synergy Stage. Matt had released his latest solo album ‘Lucid’ earlier this year and proceeded to run through a sublime set list of his solo work in his typical, high energy, high entertainment fashion. I won’t try and explain looping here but, it is a technique that Matt uses to tremendous effect and the brilliant sound he produces using it is quite awe-inspiring. The audience were seated, transfixed from beginning to end and Matt came off stage to rapturous applause, sweating profusely after giving his all.
Next up on The Acoustic Stage was singer songwriter Jack Arthurs. I’d met fellow Yorkshireman Jack that morning and his unassuming manner comes across on stage as well. His delightful songs are like a breath of fresh air and his gentle, acoustic guitar accompaniment was quite sublime and whimsical, with a more laid back approach than the ‘Kick out the Jams’ style of Matt Stevens. It was a lucid oasis in what was becoming a fast paced, incredibly high energy weekend and I lingered quite a while to enjoy a much easier pace of life before I would have to rocket off to catch the next act.
Jack hung around for a bit and sent me some interesting words about the weekend,
“Friday – Arrived from Newcastle at the Bedford in time to hear John Mitchell opening with ‘Message in a Bottle’. I felt instantly at home and an awesome appearance from vocalist Nathan James resonating the walls of the Globe big time – what a voice! Loved hearing Lifesigns play later on – highly recommended live.
Saturday – Greeted at venue by fellow Yorkshireman Martin and headed down to soundcheck… which in the end never happened! Great to meet Twang and friends, Matt Stevens and Anne-Marie and Jon from Luna Rossa. Really enjoyed playing Globe stage – fantastic acoustics and receptive listening audience. Tried out some new material from the next album and pleased how it went, Loved hearing Anne-Marie Helder’s voice live for the first time there with Luna Rossa.
Really enjoyed the social side of the festival, putting faces to names and having great conversations with loads of lovely folk for the first time; who I look forward to staying in touch with.
Hearty congrats to Mike Morton and the whole team, and everyone who came along for a truly memorable, wonderfully uplifting weekend in London.”
Then it was time to test out the quads again as I hauled myself up to the top floor to see the intriguing The Far Meadow on The Synergy Stage in The Tavistock (not the ballroom, remember?).
I had only recently been introduced to the eclectic delights of The Far Meadow and their modern edged prog with hints of Coheed and Cambria and Rush and was really looking forward to seeing them live. Line-up changes meant that the singer was now female (and very nice too) so it would be very interesting to hear how the material sounded without the original vocalist. Well, to put it bluntly, they were incredible, Marguerita Alexandrou’s distinctive vocals just adding to the sublime sound that this band produces. Blues, jazz, funk, soul, you name it, the influences were flying in from left and centre and, in a live situation, they just gel perfectly. It was just a shame that, in trying to hear every artist who was playing the festival, I only caught two or three of this up and coming band’s set.
It was nice to see the band members hanging around after the end of the performance and I had the pleasure of meeting bassist Keith Buckman who has this to say,
“Well what a fantastic and indeed inspiring weekend? I managed to get to three days, starting a few songs into John Mitchell’s set, never expecting Sondheim, and sadly having to leave just after Änglagård’s phenomenal first performance in Balham – who would have thought I’d be saying that?
We had a most enjoyable time opening proceedings in the Tavistock room on Saturday, the friendly reception from the wonderful Resonance crew, who did the most fantastic job throughout the event, being followed by an equally appreciative audience. It was good to make new friends, meet a few old ones, and enjoy the many impressive performances in the unique surroundings that make up The Bedford.
My personal highlights were Nathan James’s awesome ‘Gethsemane’, singing along with the amazing Lifesigns, experiencing the profoundly moving words and voices of Anne-Marie Helder and, later, Tim Bowness, that moment in ‘One And The Many’ when Joe Payne drops down from counter to natural tenor, discovering Thumpermonkey, Synaesthesia and A Formal Horse, Mike Morton’s stunning and suitably poignant performance, and the knowing smiles I was exchanging with our drummer Paul Bringloe during Änglagård’s delightful analogue-driven Swedish trickery. Truly memorable!”
Conflicting performance times and the arrival of some of the evening sessions artists and equipment meant I missed Guy Manning’s set on The Acoustic Stage but managed to make it to The Prog Stage to catch the amazing Halo Tora, everyone I talked to at the festival was impressed by this group of young Scottish lads who produced a sound that was as dense and gargantuan as a granite rock face. They delivered a soundscape so immense and raw that it made you smile with joy whilst your ears bled. There is a maturity to this group of young musicians that goes well beyond their years and gives their music a depth and quality that few manage with many years of playing and touring behind them. These guys really deserve to be huge, just like the amazing tapestry they produce, definitely a ‘larger than life’ performance from a band I predict will have a big future.
Unfortunately, I only managed to catch a quick glimpse of the afternoon’s last two acts on The Synergy Stage in The Tavistock Room. Triage delivered a quick blast of hard rock infused progressive metal, a power trio that majored on the word ‘power’ and are definitely worth further investigation from the little I saw of them and Unto Us delivered the bravest performance of the day. With their drummer out of action due to sickness, they had managed to track all of his drums onto a laptop so they didn’t let the festival down. Taking that into account and despite some technical issues with the aforementioned lap top, they managed to keep the crowd extremely happy with a thunderous performance of hard rock, well done indeed lads!
Due to the Comedy Festival taking place on the Saturday evening, the Acoustic Stage had to finish early and the last act to take to the stage were Luna Rossa. Featuring the delectable, and extremely busy, Anne-Marie Helder, who had already performed with Mostly Autumn, and Jonathan Edwards (both members of Panic Room), Luna Rossa proceeded to close the afternoon’s acoustic performances with one of breathtaking beauty and intensity. Never a ‘Panic Room – lite’, the sublime acoustic guitar and flute of Anne-Marie combined with Jonathan’s captivating keyboards to beguile the audience with songs of substance yet delivered with an ethereal, gossamer like quality of alluring grace. Quite a fitting end to the day’s acoustic delights.
A quick run up to the minstrel’s gallery and out through the main entrance to The Globe found me sneaking through the artists Green Room with a quick nod to the exuberant chaps from Halo Tora who were hanging around soaking up the atmosphere (and the beer but who could blame them?) saw me come out right at the front of the stage to catch The Tirith. Now, these guys are a cult rock band hailing from the 1970’s but, reformed as a three-piece, they are now rocking their blues tinged progressive rock in the 21st Century with not a little alacrity and skill.
Another band who I had never heard of before today, they belied their look of Rock Dad’s who have unwittingly found themselves front and centre on a musical stage to deliver some seriously catchy music that, whilst full of nostalgia, is bang up to date with the music scene today. Impressively energetic, this trio of skilled musicians left an indelible print on my memory.
Bass player and vocalist Richard Cory kindly agreed to contribute to this article,
“The Tirith really enjoyed playing at Resonance, it gave us chance to try out some of our newer material with a greater emphasis on keyboards than has been the case so far and among friends we knew people would listen, as they did.
My personal impression of the 2 days, I was there Saturday and most of Sunday, was a pretty well run slick operation and friendly people. My only criticism was maybe too many stages which split a limited audience especially in the quieter periods i.e. the afternoons, maybe 2 stages would have been about right.
The other impression I took away was the wealth of real talent there is in this country. I didn’t like every band but they were all distinctive and great really. I sit and watch ‘Later with Jools Holland’ and often I am less than impressed by the minor talents that seem to get a showcase on there, but I guess that is all about major labels promoting their latest hopes on to the show. It seems a pity that the Resonance artists can’t, for some unknown reason, be featured and get more exposure for the depth and breadth of true talent there is around. Let’s have more shows like this.”
Due to ‘roadie’ duties I missed Anna Phoebe but heard that they were quite spectacular with their violin fronted progressive rock music, maybe another time! At this point there was a short break whilst sets were changed, new artists were welcomed and yours truly had a well earned San Miguel and then buggered off back to the hotel for a shower and a rest before the evening’s fun would begin.
Saturday evening would see four artists perform over two stages. Impressive newcomers Trojan Horse would join the prog/not prog seasoned pro’s of The Fierce and the Dead on The Synergy Stage in The Tavistock Room and the acclaimed neo-prog of Henry Fool and Tim Bowness would play The Prog Stage in The Ballroom with none other than progressive rock luminaries The Enid. Excited? Me? Too bloody right!!!
Intelligently staggered timings should have meant being able to see a big chunk of every artist’s set but, you know about the best laid plans of mice and men right? I arrived back at The Bedford in time to grab a pint and commence my re-ascent of Mount Everest up to The Tavistock and The Synergy Stage.
Not surprisingly Synergy Stage compere David Elliott was on top form as the two acts performing were from his label Bad Elephant Records and promised high energy, electric performances. Well Trojan Horse hit a packed room with an out of this world performance of avant-garde hard rock masquerading in all sorts of musical fancy dress.
There was no let up in the hectic, relentless grating of guitars and keyboards and the audience didn’t know whether to join in the mayhem or run for cover. It was totally addictive, riff-tastic, grin inducing chaos and came to an end with am almighty crescendo that seemed to have left frontman Nicholas Wyatt-Duke comatose on the stage. Luckily a hasty prod with a boot found him still alive!!
The lad’s got together and wrote a few words for us about the whole experience,
“The whole experience of the festival was fantastic, it was a great festival that had a real spirit of independence. The whole atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable, but with a schedule that was respected and followed by all acts. Bands donated merchandise to a charity raffle as an incentive to raise as much money as possible for Macmillan Cancer Support, and it was nice to see so many bands participate. Upon watching the bands (in the time that I actually had), I realised there was a great mix of genres and attitudes coming from all directions. Overall, a brilliant experience, kudos to the organisers of the event.
Our set was played with 100% determination and passion, at first we played only to a crowd of a few people, but more and more poured in as the time went by. People were sat down on the floor with a staring gaze like they were hypnotized, deep in thought and clearly were enjoying it. The people at the back of the room who were standing were moving about, bouncing to the music and we received a fantastic response after every song. When you go to see bands, sometimes you’ll want to talk to your friend, or you’ll see others talking (which is quite rude), but when I looked out at the crowd, there was only silence. Eyes watching, and silence… until the songs had finished of course. The whole feeling after seeing people respond in that way truly amazing. We enjoyed every second of it.
As I finished playing, I removed my instruments and equipment off the stage, packed it away and ran downstairs to grab a pint. Just as I passed the Prog stage, I heard some sort of Jazzy music. I stopped and opened the doors and instantly became drawn in by Tim Bowness and Henry Fool. I even missed half an hour of The Fierce & The Dead’s set because I was so amazed at what was happening. When you come from a city which predominantly spawns Proggy/ Experimental/ Harmonic/ Psychadelic/ Mathy Rock, or mainstream shit that the majority of people listen to, you don’t have a chance to see something like that (I’m assuming they’re not from Manchester, like ourselves). Any way, they were a fantastic combination of musicians. I then went upstairs once more to catch the rest of The Fierce & The Dead’s set. Each time I see them play, they get better and better (as you would expect a band to). Being an instrumental band, I feel it’d be a lot more difficult to captivate a crowd, but to them this is child’s play. I’d highly recommend them to anyone else, a fantastic band.
After playing this festival and seeing what it has to offer, I (we) would love to play it again next year purely down to the fact that the atmosphere and environment itself made it an enjoyable experience. We were happy, the crowd were happy, what more could we want?
When we talk about the ‘Progressive scene’ within the UK, the main bands/ artists that instantly come to mind are ones like Kavus Torabi from Knifeworld & The Cardiacs, Matt Stevens & The Fierce & The Dead, as well as ourselves. We’ve had a collaboration with these two bands over the last few years and it’s definitely helped in the rebirth of creative, alternative and interesting music. It’s interesting how well received the new Kate Bush tour has been. Many music Journalists have been saying that this chimes with a resurgence of interest in progressive music. We think this is as a result of the rejection by a large minority of music listeners of ‘Coca-Cola Muzak’ and X-Factor crap that is spewed out every day. We (Trojan Horse) see ourselves as an antidote to this, by reestablishing and embedding writing, musicianship and incongruity into the music industry much like doctors would give a dying patient a blood transfusion. By any measure excepting the bottom line (i.e. Dollars and Pounds), the music industry is well on its arse.”
A quick bound down the stairs got me into The Ballroom in time to see Henry Fool and Tim Bowness launch into the opening track from Tim’s latest solo album ‘The Warm-Up Man Forever’. I rated the new album ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’ quite highly when I reviewed it and hearing this track live just accentuated that opinion. Perhaps a tad ‘nice’ or even ‘mild-mannered’ it still delivers a satisfying punch when performed live, progs musical equivalent of velvety dark chocolate? I, once again, left early so I could catch what would prove to be one of the highlights of the week, The Fierce and the Dead playing live.
Using my ubiquitous ‘access all areas’ pass I managed to sneak through the upstairs’ Green Room and come out at the side of the stage, with a nod to compere David Elliott, just in time to hear the first notes of The Fierce and the Dead’s high explosive, incendiary set. Matt Steven’s second performance of the day, after his morning acoustic antics, was performed to a backdrop of ‘Happy Birthday’ banners as he was the birthday boy.
Along with bassist Kev Feazey, guitarist Steve Cleaton and diminutive drummer Stuart Marshall, Matt manages to perform the musical equivalent of getting a quart into a pint pot. The heroically frenetic guitar playing and unfeasibly energetic drumming has touches of everything from Pink Floyd, through Yes, Led Zep and all the way to The Sex Pistols embroiled in a war of influence. The fact it sounds so bloody good is a testament to the skill of these musicians. Somebody once said that Matt doesn’t play the guitar as much as have a fight with it and he never loses, when you see him on stage, you can see it is an apt description for this amiable giant of a man.
It is heroically addictive and induces your facial muscles into all sorts of maniacal grinning as the music takes hold and doesn’t let go. It’s like being stuck in an industrial washing machine on full spin and coming out laughing and asking for more. David Elliott said they are one of the best live bands you can see and he is not wrong.
One of the lasting highlights of the whole festival for me was the astounded look on sound engineer Chris Hemy’s face when the last note was struck and normality eventually resumed, the dumbstruck crowd wondering what joyous hell they had just experienced as they wandered away for a much needed beverage.
Talking of beverages it was destination bar next for me, the band and some of my erstwhile fellow crew members. Well, it was Matt’s birthday after all and I had to buy him a pint didn’t I, might as well get one for me at the same time?
Matt reflected on the day,
“Resonance for me was all about the audience, they’re the real people who make the festivals in the prog type scene. We’re very grateful for their support especially as my stuff and Fierce And The Dead aren’t “proper prog”. I loved it, massive respect to Mike and the team for the vision and making it happen. Made me realise that I know most of the muscians in prog. A great do.”
After a couple of well earned, refreshing beers it was time to head up and catch The Enid, another band who I had heard a lot of but not had the pleasure of seeing live.
As I entered The Ballroom I was confronted by a packed out room with fans virtually shoulder to shoulder as The Enid delivered their unique take on traditional progressive rock. After five minutes of being in the room I was totally hooked. Their set consisted of a mixture of old songs and new tracks from their last album ‘Invicta’. Now, not being an aficionado of the band’s musical endeavours, I didn’t recognise any tracks but the performance was incredible and transfixed the audience in every way.
In frontman Joe Payne they have the embodiment of a modern day Freddie Mercury, his flamboyance and stage presence are entirely compelling and he has a voice that drips honey. Founder member Robert John Godfrey is as blunt and irascible as they come but with a huge dose of affection. To put it simply, they brought the house down and closed the third night of Resonance with style and aplomb, I heard more than one person say that nobody does it like The Enid.
I asked Joe for his thoughts on the experience,
“I have always been impressed with the way in which the Prog community pull together. These people really care, and you could plainly see at the weekend, this was not just about cancer support, and it wasn’t just about progressive music either. This event was also motivated by people’s vision for a better artistic future. Every event like Resonance provides life support for a rare standard. You can’t help but fall in love with the people behind it.”
So that’s three down and just one more to go, what would the fourth and final day of The Resonance Festival bring?
Awakening to another warm and sunny day, I was feeling a bit melancholy as this was the last day of what had become one amazing weekend. Sunday would see all three stages being used all day which would bring its’ own logistical nightmares to one and all. Artists started arriving early and it was looking like a hectic day.
First to hit The Prog Stage in The Globe were Maschine, a band often seen as a vehicle for Luke Machin’s talents. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth, whilst Luke is entirely blessed with musical ability, the rest of the band are certainly not lightweights and, technical issues aside, they really rocked the room with a maturity often only seen from older musicians. With the delectable vocal and keyboard talents of Marie-Eve adding a layer of svelte class to the set and their brand of metal tinged prog along with some superb jazz fusion was thoroughly enjoyable. To be fair, Luke’s shred worthy guitar work was rather awesome but it just added to the whole rather than dominating.
With all sorts of technical issues and sound checks running late, I missed Rat Face Lewey who, apparently, rocked The Ballroom and the next act I caught up with were the dynamic and, frankly, bodacious (to coin a Bill & Ted phrase) Hekz. I caught a couple of tracks from this energetic band of youngsters and spent the whole time with a knowing grin on my face.
A group of highly competent hard rock musicians with a hint of Deep Purple about them, the blue touch paper gets truly lit when Matt Young lets loose with his frankly amazing set of lungs. The band then turns into something quite dramatic, I couldn’t get the image of a rather mature version of The Darkness out of my mind. Hekz are a superb live band that everyone should see at least once.
I wasn’t sure if this group of young guys had wandered into the wrong room when they turned up, looking more like computer geeks, rather young computer geeks actually, than progressive musicians as they did. Led by the fresh faced Adam Warne and looking like they could be Gillette’s worst customers, Synaesthesia were a band I had heard good things about, in fact our own RJ Dunn had reviewed the debut album very favourably.
Fresh faced they might be but, as the saying goes, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough, and these guys proved it beyond all doubt. A rollicking set that took some traditional progressive styles and brought them back up to date was greeted warmly by the appreciative crowd and the high energy, guitar and synth driven music hit the spot completely. Again I had to cut my listening short as I ran off to try and catch another act that I really wanted to see but I was very impressed by what I heard.
Playing on The Synergy Stage in The Ballroom as I rushed through the doors was KingBathmat, playing more as a power trio as they were without the usual keyboards. This just seemed to highlight the hard edged, fuzzy psychedelia of John Bassett’s guitar sound which was deep and meaty enough to flay the skin from your bones.
They seem to deliver an in your face melodic hit of progressive/ junk rock fusion and John’s vocals are a perfect match for the music with that slightly nasal, burrowing delivery. A real wall of sound that Phil Specter would have been proud off, the band filled the room with aural explosions giving the crowd an immersive sonic experience like no other.
John recollected his experience,
“Yes, It was really enjoyable, I was slightly apprehensive as to how our set would be perceived as it’s a cut down and raw version of what you hear on the records, but I needn’t have worried as everyone was lovely. I was quite taken aback by the incredibly friendly atmosphere, you could tell straight away that this collection of prog music lovers are an enthusiastic and convivial congregation of individuals who love music for its own sake. And that’s nice to experience.
I was only there for most of one day, but from that short time I could tell that the atmosphere was supremely positive even in the face of logistical difficulties and the staff and volunteers could not do enough to help. I think Resonance Festival, if continued, could go on to become a big name fixture in the festival line up. There may be a more suitable venue than the Bedford, but it does have a unique atmosphere.”
With the timings all over the place I must give a quick mention to Babajack whose pared back blues rock was something entirely different and quite captivating, from what I saw and heard.
Mr So & So are a band I discovered through their last album ‘Truth, Lies and Half Lies’ and their melody heavy brand of rock is just as good live as it is on record. The male/female vocals are very impressive and, in Dave Foster, they have one of the most accomplished, and underrated, guitar legends out there, he really is that good. They played to a rapt audience in the intimate Tavistock room and really stole the show, Charlotte Evans holding everyone in sway, one of the most accomplished performances of the weekend.
With the dust spurting from my heels, Roadrunner style, I ran down all the stairs to The Prog Stage to see the afternoon’s headline act, and the whole reason for me being there, The Gift.
The culmination of months of planning for Mike Morton and David Lloyd, the festival was coming towards the end and it was their turn to wow the audience as part of The Gift. This was the performance I was most looking forward to, from the day I first spoke to Mike on the phone for an interview for Lady Obscure.
Unfortunately, due to the issues that had occurred during the day, the set had to be cut short and was only going to be the whole of the epic ‘Awake and Dreaming’ from the 2006 album of the same name. The first time its forty eight minutes would be performed live. Oh happy days, although I think Mike and the guys had a few nerves beforehand.
Well, they needn’t have worried, everybody nailed it and produced a performance that raised the roof. The Globe was packed, along with the audience there were a plethora of family and friends all eager to see the guys play live. Mike is a consummate performer and frontman, his experience as the lead in the Genesis tribute act, Book of Genesis all evident as he worked the audience with a thoroughly ‘over–the-top’ enjoyable performance. I, personally, was hooked on every word and gesture.
Backed by the incredibly talented David Lloyd whose guitar sang with an ethereal beauty and whose solos could make even the hardest hearted weep, it was amazing. Scott James was a monster on the drum kit and Samuele Matteucci tinkled the ivories to perfection. Stef Dickers was the calming influence on the bass, like a rock of stability at the back of the stage.
When the show came to a rapturous close the applause was deafening and there were many tears shed, not least from yours truly. It was a fantastic show to finish the afternoon before the majesty (and farce at times) of the final evening’s entertainment could begin.
The jokes have flown around since the end of the festival, don’t mention the words ‘gong’, mellotron’ or ‘Hammond’ to anyone on the crew if you value your life but, trying to get all of Änglagård’s equipment onto the stage was an absolute nightmare and I only just escaped with one of my fingers.
All of this meant that, over the next few hours, I ended up missing Jupiter Falls, Francis Lickerish, Gnidrilog and I Am Your Autopilot but managed to catch a quick part of A Formal Horse’s set.
I heard A Formal Horse described quite a few times as the best dressed band with the funkiest name and their eccentric English dress was quaint and totally in keeping with the band’s stylish music. New, regular, vocalist Francesca Lewis had to drop out due to illness but her duties were ably took up by Maud the Moth. I wished I had been able to stay longer as there infectious music is played with a breezy, not a care in the world attitude. The funky, raucous guitar note adds a staccato edge to the sound and it all just gels exceedingly well, another great surprise for me and I hope to see more of this cool band soon.
The band goes on to say,
“As young unknowns, you spend a lot of time hanging around the fringes of other people’s music, other people’s crowds, other people’s events, often with a fistful of flyers. And for sure, we took more than a fistful to Resonance festival. But straight from the off – or at least after we tracked down the impossibly hard-working Mike Morton – we were surrounded by like minds and buried in conversations about music.
Having spent Friday and Saturday making friends, we were pretty overwhelmed at the number of people who made the effort to see our set on Sunday, and even more so by the positive response that those people made efforts to share with us. So, even if we’re still on the fringes relative to the canon of prog greats, playing at Resonance has made us feel like part of a community. Bravo to Mike and the team for channelling that passion into a great event – and, fingers crossed, we’ll see you all in years to come…”
At this point I left the final positioning of the multitude of equipment, more arriving minute by minute, on to The Prog stage to A.N Other & Sons and hastily departed to the hotel for a thorough battery recharge.
Well, to say I returned to carnage is an understatement, I don’t know the total ins and outs but, suffice to say, Änglagård were still setting up and the natives were getting restless. This did, however, allow me to catch some of the mighty impressive Aeon Zen’s explosive performance.
Aeon Zen are a noted rising force in the British progressive metal ranks and their performance was full of raw, unadulterated, undiluted power and force. Their sound has a seriously deep, hard and heavy feel that really hits you in the solar plexus and knocks the breath out of you. Vocalist Andi Kravljaca (one of Lady‘s favourites) can hit every note with ease and his voice drips with bourbon and smoke. A band that are seriously going places if their high energy delivery is anything to go by.
After a very long wait that had seen the crowd muttering, Änglagård were finally ready to bestow their folk tinged, Scandinavian prog upon us.
The Globe Theatre was full to overflowing and the minstrel’s gallery was standing room only as these legendary Swedish proggers took to the stage. To be fair, you really had to be there to have appreciated the spectacle in all its majesty. Two mellotrons, keyboards, flutes, saxophones and a whole plethora of other instruments, including a huge gong, filled the stage to bursting and the sound that emanated from them was a haunting thing of sublime grace.
The audience were trapped in the spell from the first note, transfixed by the wonder of this eclectic band. It is a truly great prog experience that is totally unique and cannot be found elsewhere. From faint, humble beginnings, the sound would build and build and flare out into a symphony of majestic folk music with a life all of its own.
These five musicians worked as one to totally justify the perfection and time they took over setting up the stage and I am truly blessed to able to say I was there to hear it in all its grandeur. The crowd showed their huge appreciation with a sustained ovation and then the crew got to work to set things up for the final act of this ambitious occasion. Me, I buggered off to the bar!
I was pleased that Linus Kåse, keyboard and mellotron guru extraordinaire found the time to send me a few words,
“Resonance was a great experience. It was a very welcoming atmosphere playing there. The Balham has this intimate feeling and at Resonance the audience and artists are physically very close. It worked and that was really a cool thing. Änglagård met both new and old fans and I certainly made some new friends! This was the first performance by Änglagård in GB. I didn’t know what to expect. We gave it our all and the response by the audience was incredible! It certainly fuelled us in our performance. It was just a great feeling!”
Despite all the hold ups the audience were in a very good mood as festival headliners Bigelf cranked up the volume and launched into their slightly truncated set. As the last act it was up to these Californian psychedelic prog rockers to close the festival with a bang and they did it with aplomb and style. All the major players were in the audience to finally let their hair down after what had been a sometimes stressful weekend and main man Damon Fox really knows how to bring it on with rock star gravitas and style.
The sound just booms out of the speakers and blows everything over that gets in its way, Bigelf are in every way a force of nature of the music world and play music that just expands to fill every void and open space so that, eventually, you are just surrounded buy it as it takes over your whole being. The audience gyrated and danced as the band kicked out some of their best known tunes and were transfixed by Damon’s antics on stage.
Damon plays his Hammond with one hand and mellotron with the other which, occasionally, lends him to use his foot to help out, quite unique and a proper party piece if you ask me! His voice commands the room as he delivers his vocals with power and authority.
As Mike confirmed the curfew extension and the band broke into the final track of the final day of this amazing experience I felt a twang of regret that it was all coming to an end but said to myself “bugger this for a game of cards” and got down with the kids to help bring everything to a triumphant close.
I am extremely grateful that Damon found time to reflect on the whole experience for us,
“I love England.
As I walked up to the Bedford (a charming looking yesteryear corner pub), I saw my elven band mates talking to what looked like Resonance organizers and crew. Immediately I was welcomed with enthusiasm from the nicest chaps who had helpful hands to assist me with my bags and my suitcase Mellotron, yes I have one of those. I finally had the pleasure of meeting the chief of operations, Mike Morton. This is a great man, he really poured his heart and soul into this Cancer event to raise money and at the same time bring together so many different types of prog bands for such an excellent charity.
The main room? Well it was round, literally. Almost like the Knights of the Round Table were above you watching your band perform, I’d have it no other way. It was an amazing place, very unique with lots of history obviously.Between Nando’s, chatting with Ant Phillips from Genesis and applying some eyeliner…I was able to catch a few songs by The Gift. And frontman Mr. Morton really poured it on with a theatrical performance, very Greg Lake in the vocal department btw and it appears I’m not the only frontman who plays in a band with his son! Nice job by the keyboardist Samuel as well, lots of fantastic textures and superb sequences throughout the set.
After a what seemed like an eternity of sound checking and setting up, the prog kings from Sweden, Änglagård hit the stage. It’s great to see they’ve still got the goods. I’m hear to say, they’re as mesmerizing as ever. Hadn’t seen them live since the 90’s, and I heard it was they’re first show in Jolly Olde England, so hooray for them!
Since we just came from playing in front of 10,000 people at the Herzberg Festival in Germany just a few days earlier, I knew Resonance was going to be a more intimate offering and honestly I always prefer those kinda gigs. Real connections with people just a few inches away. I felt the audience pulsating, there was an excitement in the air, a longing to rock & roll…we instantly thrusted into our faithful opener, “The Evils Of Rock & Roll”. The crowd was with us from the first note, I could see some fans during the set singing the words to my songs. That’s always a treat, I never tire of it.
I was thrilled to be playing in London again, it had been 4 long years. After the show we took a ton of photos with friends and fans, which is always the best part of the evening. The night really couldn’t get any better until I heard there was another pile of Nando’s waiting at the merch booth to be devoured.
Long live England and may the prog be with you!”
So that was the final band of the thirty nine that started this epic journey and it was a completely intoxicating and mind altering experience for most of the people that attended but, this article doesn’t end there, the final reckoning of The Resonance Rock Festival will see me reflect on my own personal experience and then the last word will go to the giant hearted man who started it all, Mike Morton. Please hang around as I bring things to a close.
Final Thoughts and Mutterings
I really didn’t know what to expect when I boarded the train from Hull Station to make the journey to King’s Cross and start my Resonance Weekend. Mike had asked me to come down and report on the festival but, as I’d never done anything like it before it was quite a step into the unknown for me.
Stepping out of Balham underground station I set off to walk up to The Bedford and, upon stepping through the door, the experience really began.
Now, despite the fact I had conversed with Mike Morton over the phone and on facebook many, many times, I had never actually met the fellow but, as he took me into a huge bear hug, there was an immediate connection and, added into the general greetings from the rest of the crew present, I knew this could be the start of something special.
It was at this point that I realised this wasn’t just going to be a weekend of listening to, and writing about, music. It was going to be a whole lot more including the start of many friendships that I am sure will endure.
Talk about straight in at the deep end, one of the festival’s main sponsors, British music equipment supplier Orange, had supported Mike by supplying him over £10,000 worth of amps, pre-amps and assorted other bits and pieces. The room where this equipment was stored soon became known (thanks to yours truly) as ‘The Orange Room’ for obvious reasons. First job for myself, Simon Thompson, Roger Marsh, Sam Holt and a few others was to get the majority of this equipment to the stages in the three rooms. Now that may not sound like a lot but, when you consider that the top room was up six flights of stairs and the bass amps weighed in like Giant Haystacks, this was no small banana!
Two hours later, and sweating like the proverbial, I grabbed myself a beer only to be accosted by the roadie from Mostly Autumn who was trying to find Mike. This provided the first comedy moment of the festival as I was calling mike on his mobile only to find out he was sat round the corner!
Other highlights of the first day included meeting Robert Webb and helping him get his gear on stage without losing any fingers, having a great chat with Anne-Marie and Brian from Mostly Autumn outside The Bedford over an ice cold beer but the seminal moment for me on that first day was meeting the amazing (and amazingly humble) quiet man behind the ebullient Mike Morton, David Lloyd.
I had many chats with this amiable fellow over the weekend and he is one of the nicest and most self-effacing men I have ever met and he plays a mean guitar too. I had the chance to interview David and that will be appearing in the future. David, Mike and myself had a great chat over a few drinks whilst the band was playing despite being interrupted by some drunken oaf who you would have thought had stumbled into the wrong venue as he tried to vent his spleen at us before wandering off in several directions at once.
To end the night I had a wander around upstairs with Mike and a few others, taking daft photos in the ‘thrones’ before happily wandering back to the hotel, decidedly tired and decidedly content.
Friday dawned bright and sunny and it was a quick walk back to the venue as the bands started arriving and the hard work began again. Helping the bands get their gear to the appropriate stages and running further errands. It also heralded the arrival of further members of the crew including Graham Harris, Graham Stead, Simon and Sabrina Beever and Danny and Tommy Mayo.
We had some great laughs shifting the equipment about and it was this afternoon that saw the ‘Hammond Enigma’ previously mentioned in this article where we tried to get the Hammond organ through a doorway that wasn’t wide enough. After foxing the combined brains of a few Neanderthals (me included) Danny finally solved it by suggesting we take it out of the box first, good lad!
Friday afternoon saw the arrival of one man who would become a great friend throughout the rest of the festival and a great beer drinking mate. Whenever I seemed about to get to the end of my tether or run out of steam, he would suddenly arrive, San Miguel in hand! I am talking about the great and incredibly enthusiastic Dutch journalist Arne van OsvandenAbeelen.
I also got to meet one of the most fervent music heads I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know for the first time too. David Elliott (The Amazing Wilf or, his newest moniker, Simon Cowell) has a passion for music that goes back a long way and it is incredibly infectious. He runs his own label, Bad Elephant Music, and we have had many a long debate regarding bands past and present so, it was great to finally catch up with him in the flesh.
Friday’s highlights were the incredible sets from Lifesigns and Nosound, hearing the incredible, fresh new sounds from Moheir and Fuzzy Nautilus and hearing a band I have had been a fan of for a while, Also Eden (having a great chat with bassist Graham Lane whilst I manned the door downstairs beforehand was nice too.
John Young of Lifesigns was as nice and accommodating as I imagined he would be and I had a good long conversation with him too as well as Giancarlo Erra from Nosound. In fact, I spent the whole weekend meeting some of musical heroes, not bad eh?
Once again I left the venue quite knackered but exceedingly happy and dropped onto my hotel bed with a contented sigh.
Looking back on Saturday and Sunday, I wonder how we fitted everything into that timescale, I woke up to a bit of a murkier morning outside and headed up to The Bedford for what would turn out to be a decidedly hectic and manic day.
The bands were already turning up, most of them on time, if not downright early!! Don’t these musicians appreciate the irony of them actually turning up on time and debunking the stereotypes!
There was a plethora of musical equipment to get here there and everywhere and the musicians were gearing up for line and sound checks. What made today different was the acoustic stage downstairs in The Globe Theatre, a bit more chilled out than the usual fare.
Brain child of the chief stage manager Graham Stead, it was a chance to chill for a bit amidst the mayhem going on around us. It was great to meet up with guitar virtuoso Matt Stevens at long last having been a big fan of his for quite a while and Jonathan Edwards and Anne-Marie Helder of Luna Rossa as well as fellow Yorkie Jack Arthurs, now domiciled in Newcastle. It was also Matt’s birthday which would be celebrated later (more on that soon).
Again, a mad afternoon ensued running around after water and all sorts of other supplies (it was always extremely hot in the venue) and the mad warren of rooms and stairs around The Bedford came to the fore as it enabled us to get to places a lot quicker (and also to get lost, very frequently. I think the chef wondered what the hell was going on most of the time).
At some point in the early afternoon Mike turned up with the Swedish progressive folk masters Änglagård who had flown in from Finland on a Danish flight, if I remember correctly, which provided much hilarity when trying to explain it. These very unassuming musicians were passed off into my care as Mike went off to do things that festival organisers do and I spent a pleasant hour helping them get something to eat and drink and settle in. I still ask the question now if Boddingtons really goes with fish and chips but you will have to ask keyboard player Linus Kåse for the definitive answer!
It was great to see up and coming bands like the excellent Halo Tora mixing in with veterans The Tirith and catching part of The Far Meadow’s set. Then it was all hands to the pumps as The Enid arrived with their rather large selection of instruments which needed taking up o the first floor. At this point my tired and grimy self needed to head off back to the hotel for a spruce up and re-energise before I returned to one of the most energetic and electric evenings of music I’ve ever experienced.
One of the people I had been looking forward to meeting was the music journalist Alison Henderson who, amongst other things, writes for the well respectedand renowned website DPRP.net and I had the chance to have a long chat with her about our shared love of progressive music and writing about it. Alison is a superb writer and, for her to compliment me on my writing, was amazing and left me feeling rather proud of myself.
Having such an excellent journalist at the festival, it would have been remiss of me to have not asked Alison for her thoughts and she gratefully accepted,
“I have always thought prog was one of the few musical genres where everyone – bands, fans and organisers alike – unite under one banner and this is the lasting impression I shall take away from Resonance.
The Friday night and Saturday bills offered plenty of variety and styles. Hearing Nathan James deliver a spine-tingling rendition of Gethsemene with John Mitchell and Liam Holmes was a highlight, along with seeing Lifesigns continue to grow as an emotionally-charged live experience.
Other personal favourites were the brilliant, dynamic violinist Anna Phoebe; Unto Us, whose singer Huw Lloyd-Edwards has prog’s most achingly soulful voice and the full-on Trojan Horse who were manically energetic and totally bonkers.
As ever, The Enid raised the bar with their intensely beautiful, personal compositions, Joe Payne a real superstar in waiting. The only downside was their appearance in the Ballroom rather than the galleried main stage limited the view for those at the back.
The imposing Victorian venue was instrumental in giving the festival a slightly off-beat, quirky atmosphere. So a special mention must go to the tireless, cheerful efforts of the “roadies” and stage managers in getting the veritable tonnage of sound gear up and down its challenging staircases.
Above all, big thanks to Mike Morton for having the original vision and for making Macmillan Cancer Support the beneficiary of such an entertaining extravaganza.”
Upon arriving back I spotted Ian Jones and Çağrı Tozluoğlu from one of my favourite bands Karnataka, here as interested observers this time. It was fantastic to meet these two brilliant musicians at last and we had a very good chin wag before I headed upstairs to catch the incandescent Trojan Horse, a blazing musical highlight of the weekend which would only be topped by birthday boy Matt Stevens on his second appearance of the day with his band mates in the superbly over the top The Fierce and the Dead.
I am grateful to Çağrı for writing a few words about his experience,
“There aren’t many music festivals which are organised solely for the passion of music and for creating a space for musicians out of the cog wheels of profit chasing music industry cartels. Resonance is one of the few and you could see how people gathered around this circle in a modest venue in Balham the time you get in. Thanks to the organisers for the hard work they put in for the prog fans! The venue was a hive of talented bands and musicians, it would be unfair to name one or another. Watching Änglagård for the first time was a magical moment for me like many other UK fans of the band, I appreciate their musicianship and stylistic approach to prog. I had amazing time meeting and chatting with a lot of people who are sharing same love of progressive music. This is one of the greatest things about a music festival compared to your everyday isolated commuting headphones.”
We headed down to the bar to celebrate Matt’s birthday in a more suitable style before the night was finished off by the brilliant The Enid and it was great chatting to Joe Payne and Jane Armstrong after their superb set before trying to set the musical world to rights in a veritable drunken stupor with Mike and Arne, oh happy, heady days indeed!
What followed next was another completely surreal moment from the weekend. As I got in the lift back at the hotel, tired and just ever so slightly drunk, a in walked a guy who could only be described as the epitome of a rock star, long black hair, beard and black eyeliner, very slim and with an American accent. Upon seeing my Resonance laminate, he asked me if the festival had been going okay, it was only then that I realised it was Damon Fox from Bigelf, In a Travelodge elevator with me chatting away like no-one’s business! Anyway, we said goodnight and parted ways and I went off to bed.
The final day of Resonance began with the usual wander up to The Bedford, grabbing a bacon sarni on the way, before heading head first into the usual melee of instruments and artists turning up. To be honest, most of the day flew by in a mad blur but I’ll try and pull some highlights out of the musical hat.
One of the great highlights of that last day, and of the whole weekend, was meeting Mike’s original collaborator and guitarist on the first album by The Gift, Leroy James. I’d heard Mike and David speak a lot about Leroy but the man exceeded any expectations I may have had. Much like David Lloyd, he is a very humble and unassuming man with a wealth of knowledge and is brilliant to talk to. All through that final day we had some great discussions about music past and present, as well as a few beers too!
My friends from Änglagård turned up to instigate the first minor crisis of the day, and Mike’s only ‘Diva’ moment. With no transport and most of their own musical equipment still at the Hotel, I was politely asked by Tord if it would be possible to get it from the Hotel to the venue. When I presented Mike with this small problem he insisted he was preparing for The Gift’s performance and I was delegated to sort it out and come up with a solution!
Cue much scratching of heads before a driver (Thank you Paul, you know who you are!) and vehicle were co-opted to save the day, problem solved and crisis over.
I have been asked what my absolute highlight of the weekend was and, on that final day, it happened to be a walk back to Mike’s house to gather food and other things that really stood out. Along with Mike, there was his son Joe and we had a real in depth conversation about life, love and religion, hell, Mike even asked for my advice on matters of sartorial elegance, it doesn’t get better than that, believe me and I will cherish that conversation for the rest of my life.
To put it in perspective, the whole point of me coming down to the festival had been to see Mike and The Gift play live so, in fact, the one thing I was looking forward to most the whole weekend was their performance. It was great to see Mike rehearsing his flute backstage performing a passing resemblance of the Pied Piper as it got closer to the time for them to take the stage.
The lucid moments come and go but, standing outside, chatting merrily away like I’d known him for years, with Damon Fox was a definite highlight but, all bets were off as The Gift began.
It will be a performance that will stay with me forever, I will see them play many more times in the future but, that first time in the setting of The Globe and after all the highs and lows, it was just phenomenally emotional and amazing. Tears flowed freely as it just brought the whole point of the weekend sharply into focus. Yes, there were issues with sound and the set had had to be cut short but, for everyone present, it was just an outpouring of relief and emotion and, as performances go, it wasn’t half bad.
The fun and frolics of trying to get all of Änglagård’s equipment on stage are behind us now and the evening was another magical experience. They played an astounding set and, after Bigelf closed the festival with a huge bang playing their brand of psychedelic prog, it was time to start winding down.
After helping to clear some of the equipment away it was time for a few celebratory beers with Änglagård, Arne, Mike and some of the others. The camaraderie that I felt over the weekend really came into focus at this point. Damon got his Nando’s delivered and joined us for a while at the merchandise desk, chatting, signing autographs and having his picture taken (yes, even with me).
The night finished on another quite surreal note as Mike, his cousin Sandy and myself ended up stood in the street outside talking to the bass player and tour manager of Bigelf, drinking beers from the stash in the tour van and talking absolute rubbish until three in the morning!
A weekend that was just so huge and amazing that I will always cherish it and remember it with a smile on my face. The next day, before I left to come back to God’s own country, myself and Arne headed back to The Bedford to say a farewell to Mike. It was quite melancholy to enter and see the staff cleaning up, bringing The Resonance Festival to a most definite close. Oh well, there’s always next year but Mike, please, no bloody Mellotrons and no bloody gongs!
So, that was my Resonance experience but, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t leave the final words to the giant hearted man who really organised it all and took all the issues on the chin to deliver an amazing musical extravaganza. Step forward Mike Morton, the stage is yours and yours alone.
“I’ve spent the last ten days just coming out of shock, a good shock. It was heaven and it was hell, the heaven was more pronounced than the hell. We pulled it off, it was a really joyful event and I couldn’t believe all the people I met. We managed it against all odds and all the setbacks. The crowning glory was Steve Hackett coming along and chatting to him and, also, Anthony Phillips saying he loved The Gift. I was on cloud nine, it was a little bit of a dazed, confused and slightly unreal feeling all of last week.
Then I had to get back to work, I had to go back to the venue quite a few times to sort out collections and deliveries to people. Last week was really about getting over it and the downsides of being slightly out of pocket and some of the stress that it (the festival) engendered.
This week was about doing normal things, being a Dad, getting the The Gift backon track, all sorts of normal life things and thinking about next year. I am definitely going to just get funding, get the line-up sorted once we’ve a budget for them and then I’m going to delegate it. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to be involved but I don’t want to do logistics, it took seven months out of my life.
We’ve learnt a lot from it and, although I will be less involved, I think the machine will run more smoothly (next time). What I mean is, I don’t want to do the donkey work and I don’t want to take any financial risk!
It was an amazing vibe over four days and I was floating around on fluffy clouds for the week after, as you (Martin) said, I have never worked so hard over four days and the evenings, for me, were always the payoff. During the day I was always running around after bands and sorting stuff out in the background, it always felt as if there was too much to do but, about seven o’clock every night, I kicked back, started drinking and really loved the evenings.
The last evening we were well out of it, weren’t we with Bigelf and the like? I don’t remember being really drunk at the time but we must have been. I can’t remember what happened after Bigelf came off until three o’clock in the morning! I know we did a lot of drinking and I was kissing a lot of people, I think?
The way I deal with all things passing is to say, don’t mourn that, just set yourself a new target. That is why there has been all the chat on Facebook about the next one. The venue is sorted (The Bedford again) now it’s just about the line-up. Great as The Enid are, I think we need to give people new stuff. Great as Änglagård are, Bigelf and all the big draws, we need to give them something else. At the very top reaches of the line-up we need to present something totally fresh.
You (Martin H) were a diamond. I was touched about what you talked about when me, you and Joe walked back (to my house). We had a, quite short, conversation about love, life death and God and it’s interesting that it was a kind of defining moment for you, I was touched that it meant a lot to you. I really enjoyed your company and I really enjoyed Arne’s company too. You were both really positive and I felt I could go to you for a smile when people were losing their marbles!
Another guy who was unshakeable was Stacy (Doller), he calmed me down when I was flapping about guest lists and the like, he was cool. He also came with me to Gatwick on Saturday morning when I went to collect Änglagård, which he didn’t have to do.
Damon Fox talking about issues with his hair was so funny, his son was a bit quite but, he was great value and the Finnish bass player, they were just utterly professional when it came to it. We had all those issues but they did a sound check in half an hour. You talk about my ‘Diva’ moment but Damon Fox had one half an hour into Änglagård’s set, he came up to me and said “Mike, I need Nandos”, I only saw the first three songs and then the end!
I came back and Damon came up and said “Come here Mike, you gotta hear this band!” and was hugging me. It made me think of my mate who, a few months before, had said “You won’t get this off the ground Mike” and I just thought, ‘fuck you’, in a really nice way. And I realised I’d done it, I’m a huge fan of Bigelf, they were the first band that I put on my iPod and I told Damon this and, there he was, talking like a buddy. It doesn’t get any better than that does it?
Playing the festival with The Gift was like a homecoming for me because, for me personally, ‘Awakeand Dreaming’runs very deep, it took three years to create it and it’s never been played in its entirety live. When we had to cut our set we were gutted about that because there was no space for ‘Land of Shadows’ and all of ‘Awake and Dreaming’.
We made the decision to do the older thing, which I felt was unfinished business for me. It is so much more than a piece of music to me because it will be forever linked with my Mum. She was so enthusiastic about it as I’d never done anything that big before, I wanted to get closure with it, honour that time of my life and honour my Mum.
Playing it was brilliant. I was distracted by other things, up until ten minutes before we went on, that I just didn’t have time to get nervous. I just got on it and played it and my wife said that was the best I’d ever sung. For me and The Gift it was unfinished business and it was cathartic. It was probably a missed opportunity that we didn’t do ‘The Land of Shadows’ stuff but I’m just putting it down to experience.
How did I see the festival as a promoter? Well, first of all, it is the first time I’ve ever done it so the learning curve was almost vertical. I had to learn about negotiating with agents and that’s tough. I had to lose my naivety that big bands would play for expenses or nothing just because it’s charity, because it’s a business for them.
I learnt that sponsorship is extremely hard to win if you’re a first-time festival. People want to see that you are a winning horse and, as it’s your first race, they are reluctant to back you. Sponsorship, which I am extremely grateful for, from people like Orange and Jaegermeister wassponsorship by barter and not cold, hard cash.
What I learned as a promoter was that enthusiasm and vision are fifty percent of it and planning and toughness are things I need to work on! From a promotional point of view, it put the band on the map, The Bedford are happy and they love the brand. The audience and the artists loved the experience but we need to be less ambitious and a bit more streamlined next year.
I’ve learned that I am good at getting bands to say yes. I’m a good salesman and I’m good at getting people excited at the cause. I am a bit too keen to say ‘yes’ to other people, because that’s the kind of person I am, I am an emotional extrovert. If someone’s enthusiastic I’ll say yes and we ended up with too many bands because I didn’t want to say no to anybody.
I’ve already got a couple of ‘big’ names coming to me and asking to play Resonance next year so we are establishing the brand. I think it might turn from having to sell it to unsure buyers to having to buy it from enthusiastic sellers. As the brand gets stronger the focus may shift from the band’s hands to the organiser’s hands.
I would stress quite enthusiastically that MacMillan will be the beneficiary next year as I want to give them more than we did this year and I think it is a good thing to do.
On a final note, my personal reflection of the weekend is, honestly, how amazing people are when their backs are against the wall. I don’t mean the punters and the artists, they had a great experience, I mean the crew. From gear-luggers to promoters, the thing I will keep with me is how brilliant people are and how co-operative and helpful they are when they’ve got a common cause.
It just felt like everybody really believed in it and I was so touched by that because it was my baby, my obsession and my preoccupation. I didn’t know, until it was over, how much ownership other people had. I was blown away by the fact that people behaved as if they just loved this festival.
The members of The Gift, even the most subdued and quite ones like David, were grinning like Cheshire Cats at the end of it. That for me is the barometer, even David Lloyd, who is a friendly and reserved man, was grinning like a fool by the end of it.
I spoke to David last night and asked him how he thought it had gone and he said, “Mike, there is no way that this festival can be measured as anything other than a success”, he is a more muted bloke and it shows that even the more thoughtful people were thrilled by it.
So, that is what The Resonance Rock Festival was all about, from beginning to end. I can only hope that this article will give you some idea of what it was like to be there but, believe me, there is no substitute for being at the festival itself so, next year, come and join me at Resonance 2 and see what all the fuss was about.