A New Day Festival - Day 2
Saturday 21st August 2021
Mt Ephraim Gardens
If there's one story from the A New Day weekend that epitomises the ethos of this festival, then it was this. Our intrepid photographer JB went to buy a burger to build up some strength for Day 2's proceedings. When he went to pay, he had no money, thanks to those slidey new £10/£20 notes that always seem to hang out of your trouser pockets, given half a chance. But can you believe, someone actually handed the £50 in, and therefore John not only got his money back, but was also able to feed himself in order for him to carry on taking those brilliant photos that he is so well renowned for!
Anyway, on Day 2, Berkshire five-piece, The Paradox Twin, got the Progressive Rock ball rolling on Stage 2 at midday. Fronted by main songwriter and guitarist Danny Sorrell, Diane Fox on bass, Leland Freeman on guitar and Graham Brown on drums, they released their debut album, and seven-song conspiracy theory opus, 'The Importance of Mr Bedlam', in June 2018. Indeed, three songs from their 40 minute setlist were taken from 'TIOB', namely 'Gravity Time Dilation', 'Moonblood' and my particular favourite, 'Planeta'. They also played 'Prism Descent' and 'Sea Of Tranquility' from their forthcoming album in October. Just a mention for our dancer from yesterday, who again danced away today in front of TPT in a green outfit, although it was no match for the beautiful white dress worn by vocalist Nicole Johnson! Another great day ensues.
Kicking off Day 2 on Stage 1 were Neo-Progressive Folk Rock outfit Solstice, who were originally formed in 1980 by Andy Glass, of which Steven Wilson, no less, is one of their band's biggest fans. Praise indeed. Despite the passing years, the current incarnation is still led by Andy on guitar, alongside drummer Pete Hemsley, fiddler Jenny Newman, bassist Robin Phillips (who played with Clive Bunker in the 1996 incarnation), Steven McDaniel on keys and vocalist Jess Holland, who joined the band last year. Indeed, it was Jess with the energetic 'Shout', that brought to life a good sized, appreciative early crowd, in a hour-long set that also included 'Seven Dreams', 'Guardian', 'Cheyenne', very appropriately 'A New Day', 'Sacred Run' and 'Morning Light', the majority of which were taken from their album, 'Sia', released last year. A belting set and a perfect start to Day 2 on the bigger stage. Solstice are also playing The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes on Saturday 4th September.
As we made our way back to Stage 2, the heavens opened, however thankfully the rain stopped by the time The True Deceivers made their way on to the stage. No strangers to A New Day and festivals across the length and breadth of Britain, the band have been developing their own blend of Rootsy Folk Rock/Americana since their formation in 2003. Just before they launched in to the foot-tapping 'You Don't Want To Start From Here', they pointed out that this was just their second gig in 18 months - "Did anyone go to Wycombe?" Unfortunately, there weren't many affirmatives, but at least the decently sized audience were there to enjoy a 40 minute setlist, with a Slim Chance vibe, mainly taken from their latest album 'My Own Highway', that included the title track, 'Hell Or High Water', 'That Ship Has Sailed', 'You're My Reason', 'Writing On The Wall', 'Bloody But Unbowed', 'Tailspin' and 'Wishing My Life Away'. Indeed, a welcome return by the band consisting of Graham Firth (vocals/guitar), Nick Bliss (guitar/mandolin/banjo), Dee Coley (bass), Jamie Legg (drums) and Rupert Lewis (fiddle), that were well received by an appreciative crowd.
Next up on Stage 1 were Osibisa, the legends and pioneers of World music from the 70's, that took me right back to my (Secondary) school days. Back with a bang and a brand new critically acclaimed album, 'Unleashed (Live In India)'. Consisting of Gregg Kofi Brown on lead vocals and bass guitar, Robert Bailey on keyboards, Kari Bannerman on lead guitar, Angie Amra Anderson on percussion, Faye Jones on lead vocals, Paul Bilson on trumpet, Shagzy Olusegun on saxophone and Stephen Asamoah-Duah on drums, the band were duly unleashed in Mt Ephraim Gardens and I would defy anyone not to resist shaking their booty to this colourful troupe. Stand out for mine was 'Fire', where Gregg observed that hardly anyone in the crowd were wearing face-masks, and therefore insisted that if he said "fire", then everybody should shout "fire" back, which of course they gladly did, albeit with much more gusto than Basil Fawlty. Must admit, it wasn't a pretty sight, but this was the most I've danced around since I saw Santana at Hyde Park in 2018. Awesome.
We've all been there, done that. You go along to a gig to see a favourite band and discover another. Can it really be nearly sixteen years ago since we took in the Mad, The Bad And The Dangerous at The Blackheath Halls, with the stellar line up of Wilko Johnson, the much-missed Blues Rock of The Hamsters and singer/songwriterJohn Otway, infamous for falling off an amplifier during his Old Grey Whistle Test set in '77. Looking back, I was never sure whether Otway was the "Mad" or "Dangerous". but one things for sure, that I was never the same since. Following in the footsteps of the also much-missed Neil Innes, this musical comedy legend and dare I say, British Institution, arrived to well deserved cheers on Stage 2. Immediately introducing his roadie, "Deadly", who passed him his trusty guitar, his opener was indeed a microcosm of his hilarious 50 minute set. "When I do festivals there's often people who have never seen me before!" observed Otway. "Never!" was the response from the crowd. "Bloody hell", replied John "Imagine seeing this for the first time!" And with the delighted audience already in the palm of his hand, Otway went on to modestly explain that he was indeed a pop star with two hit records! Cue more laughter and his 1977 hit, '(Cor Baby That's) Really Free', with Otway explaining that his hit record collaborator Wild Willie Barrett was no longer around. "Don't worry - he's not dead" he hastily added, but I have replaced him with a fuzz pedal!" Premature applause from the crowd was admonished by Otway, "I haven't finished yet - I only have two hits and I need to make them last!" The highlight of the day for mine, you just have to see this guy to believe it.
Despite the loss of Prog legends Focus, due to Government Covid-19 protocols, the good news was that Mostly Autumn stepped in at short notice to replace them. Indeed, a hard act to follow, they originally formed in 1995, and have gained deserved recognition through heavy touring with their music taking inspiration from Genesis and Pink Floyd, with additional Celtic and Hard Rock elements. The Progressive Rock band released its last album, 'White Rainbow', two years ago, and with Bryan Josh on guitar, Iain Jennings on keys, Andy Smith on bass, Chris Johnson on rhythm guitar, Henry Rogers on drums, and the black dressed Angela Gordon (flute) and Olivia Sparnenn (lead vocals) both shining like crazy diamonds, the band's early days as a Pink Floyd/70's tribute band was clearly evident with a delightful 70 minute set that included 'Tomorrow Dies', 'The Last Climb' , 'Evergreen', 'Nowhere To Hide', 'Changing Lives', 'Into The Stars', 'Mother Nature', 'Heroes Never Die' and 'Forever And Beyond', showcasing the strength of their extensive back catalogue. Indeed, I don't think even Gareth Southgate could have made a better substitution on Stage 1!
Seeing the name, 'Razorlight', took me back to a beautiful Hyde Park, over sixteen years ago, when they supported Queen, with Paul Rodgers on vocals. That was one hell of a gig, that also included comedian Peter Kay, as his wheelchair-bound alter-ego Brian Potter, getting the entire crowd to sing along to the nowadays, no doubt, politically incorrect, 'Wheel Never Walk Alone' (geddit!). Anyway, I digress, as former Razorlight star David Ellis was next up on Stage 2. In fact, I can't believe that Razorlight have been around for so long, with guitarist Ellis being part of the class of 2017-2019. David’s sentiments hark back to the great songwriters of the 60’s and 70’s, inspired by Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and Donovan. Indeed, he maintains his focus passionately on the issues of the day and navigates his way through life through his songs, which came across loud and beautifully clear in his 45 minute acoustic guitar set. Opening with the title track of his latest 'Misty Heights' album, his chilled ten track set, comprising of 'Eyes To The Sky', 'Reality', 'Down In The Hollow', 'Dawn Star', 'Seas Of Tomorrow', 'Baby She Roam', 'If You Want To Sing Out', 'Find A Little Wood' and 'Paris Night', nicely complemented the early evening sunshine.
The first time we came across The Enid was at London's High Voltage Festival in Hackney's beautiful Victoria Park. It was a performance I will never forget for all the right reasons. In fact, it had to be seen to be believed. Ten years on and we substitute one glorious park for another beautiful setting, Mt Ephraim Gardens, as A New Day welcomes back Robert John Godfrey, previously known for his work with Barclay James Harvest, and his Grand Masters of Symphonic Prog including guitarist Jason Ducker. Warmly welcomed on to Stage 1 by the A New Day Festival faithful, it was a bit like High Voltage all those years ago, joyous, orchestral, traditional, British Prog Rock at its best, despite an inference of no set list or indeed, of not knowing the names of both the excellent drummer and bass guitarist. And if you missed them and you want to know what all the fuss is about, then, 'The Enid- Lockdown Live 2021 From The Bijou', is being released next Friday 3rd September. Anyway, I better not leave it another ten years to see these guys given Robert is now 73! Absolutely glorious.
Day 2 Headliners on Stage 2 were Epsom's Vambo. Having seen this four piece powerhouse perform on the tiny Orange stage at the Stone Free Festival, it was great to see their 70's inspired Rock once again. Frontman Jack Stile cavorted around the stage like a madman, blasting out powerful lyrics on a set that included a Led Zeppelin medley, as well on their recent singles, 'Fast Car' and 'We're Not The Same'. Drummer Steve Price and bassist James Scott keep the powerful groove going whilst axeman Pete Lance showed his awesome chops, not least of which on the closing cover of Deep Purple's 'Burn'.
For the final time on Day 2 it was time to head over to Stage 1 to see The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. To the uninitiated, Arthur is the God of Hellfire! Or so he claims at the beginning of his 1968 hit song 'Fire'! Despite the band being tagged as being a one hit wonder - is there a more iconic song from the '60s than 'Fire'? However, at the ripe old age of 78 he is still out there doing it. Not only were the crowd entertained by his 'Crazy World', including elaborate costumes, wild face-paint, strange headgear and scary masks, but they were also entranced by some really outstanding Prog Rock from Sam Walker on drums, Jim Mortimore on bass/keyboards, Dan Smith on guitar/keyboards, plus not forgetting dancer Angel Fallon aka Angel Flame. Indeed, the band sounded well rehearsed and executed the songs with unbridled passion and vigour! Despite being slightly mad, Arthur was on top form, fully energised and totally owning the stage with his mesmerising performance. A truly spectacular show full of weird and wonderful moments! What a crazy world indeed! Bring on Day 3!