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A Sunday In September

Sunday 10th September 2023

The Bedford, Balham, London

On a lovely sunny Sunday, we were treated to a very interesting musical afternoon. A mixture of modern, experimental, Rock; both legends and the younger proggers offerings were on display. In the air-conditioned room that is “The Bedford”, I sat back to enjoy all that was on offer.

The day started on a somewhat experimental note, with the duo of Matt Stevens and Kev Feazey. This was something that had taken, somewhat as it came. These were a series of experimental riffs and musical moments that can only come out of a live ‘jam’ session and truly magical because of it. I loved the use of tracks stored on Matt’s phone at various points, where he seemed to scrabble around his phone, looking for the relevant SFX, which he always found at the last moment and used his guitar pick up as the amplifier! This was all about the fact that sets don’t really have to include ‘songs’ when the playing is this good. Apparently, in their normal band, they do actually play ‘songs’!

After a short break and a quick pint, it was on to a slightly more, what I would consider, a Prog Rock set. Emerald Dawn is an outfit fronted by multi-instrumentalists Tree Stewart (predominantly keys) and Ally Carter (predominantly guitars) who both play an integral part of the sonic landscape they create. Behind them, Tom Jackson keeps the beat, while David Greenaway holds down the bottom end. These accomplished musicians have very varied backgrounds, but come together in this somewhat wonderous melange of sounds! As bassist David Greenaway puts it: ”It is dreams turned into sound” and I couldn’t have put it better myself.

They were they way I discovered Prog Rock: long, predominantly instrumentals, with many musical passages, but all melding together in a lovely soup of sounds, and all making complete sense. The only hiccup sonically was forgetting about Tree’s microphone when it was first needed. One of the only blips in a set that was otherwise an aural treat.

We also got treated to some wonderful freeform, saxophone parts from Ally Carter weaving in an out of Tree’s luxurious keyboards parts. Sadly, just as it felt like were getting going, time ran out, but it was a good time all the same.

And so to a band that I hadn’t seen since 1982 at the Reading Festival, but a band that I had actually seen, a few times before. Still fronted by Robert John Godfrey (!), whom I thought had retired from music due to Parkinson’s disease, but it turned out that three years later, a brain scan had revealed that he was clear and has since resumed his position at the front of the band! Now that’s determination!

Starting off with material that I had memories of, from the mid-70’s and early 80’s, I was totally impressed by Robert’s grasp of the band and Jason Ducker was great at the front, while Tim Harries was in charge of the bottom end! Alfredo Randazzo took second guitar duties while Karl Thompson thumped the tubs. Indeed, they had returned to the way I that remember them as a purely instrumental band. Robin may not be as mobile as he used to be, but he can still direct his troops. Sadly, he was left a little too much in the shadows for me, as far as the lights were concerned, but he was, without a doubt, still the leader of the band.

The five songs just flew by and as I couldn’t find a set-list anywhere, I will just have to savour the memories, but I can say that The Enid are back (if they ever really went away?) and that the Prog scene is in rude health right now.

After a little break for some fish-n-chips and another pint, it was time to have our butts kicked by the instrumental Progressive Math Rock band that is the Brighton based Prog-Math. This band seem to cover all the bases with their take on their ‘festival’ sound: sort of Prog-Funk-Punk. Pleasure everybody and offend no one! It seems to be a formula that works!

With a new album to promote: ‘Zenith’, it wasn’t a surprise that it featured heavily in their set. With at least three songs from the latest album, bassist Joe Branton kept things moving with his seemingly boundless energy, bouncing around constantly to the beat, while drummer Chris Woollison kept it all in check. Guitarist Tim Walters spars with his fellow saxophonist, whose name I missed (oops), and then keyboardist Josh Gesner glues it all together.

And so, to our American guests: District 97. Hailing from Chicago, this talented band, fronted by vocalist Leslie Hunt, prove that the new generation of young American musicians ‘get’ Prog Rock and want to take it forward. Having been around since the mid 2000’s, it was the great addition of this “American Idol” finalist on vocals, that took this band to another level and I can certainly hear why. Backed by Tim Seisser on bass, Andrew Lawrence on keys, Jonathan Schang on drums and Jim Tashjian on guitars, the band was on fire. Here, on a brief stop to promote their upcoming album ‘Stay For The Ending’; this was a real treat for the fans.

Opening with ‘Snow Country’ from the ‘Screenplay’ album, it moved quickly on to promote the new album. ‘Divided We Fall’ introduced the new material and it sounded good. This was followed by ‘Crossover’ and on to ‘Mirror’, ‘Life Cycle’ and ‘Deck Is Stacked’ which went straight into ‘Forest Fire’, also from the new album, showing us just how powerful they could be. As all this was probably the first time most of the audience had heard any of this material, and so it was as new to me as it was to them. But it was impressive, all the same.

We were then treated to ‘Bread And Yarn’ from the self-released 2001 album: ‘Screens+’ which quickly transitioned into another new track: ‘X-Faded’. We seemed to end the show with the appropriately titled ‘Stay For The Ending’, which would round the evening out. Sadly, there was no encore, but by all the smiling faces, you could tell that they went down a storm.

I have seen many a band play a set of predominantly new material and seen it go down like a lead balloon, but this did not! It’s a risk, but I think it paid off for them. Well done on taking that chance! And so it was off home to digest all the artists and music I’d thoroughly enjoyed throughout the day, both old and new. I think I have some listening to do…

‘A Sunday In September’ to remember; most definitely!

Tim Russell

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