You need to read where this story starts, and you can do that here.
You then need to read where this story continues, and you can do that here.
The weather had not got any better but at least it was still not raining. I set off for my first steps along the Offa’s Dyke Path, and you can read more about that here.
I was following the same plan of action as I had the day before, so I got back to the Beeches Farm campsite, got changed, drove down to the Castle car park in Chepstow, parked up, and walked round to the venue, The Drill Hall. Even easier than the day before. I met David Elliott, my partner in crime in Bad Elephant Music, and we went to his car to get the rest of the merch. Simple. We were now all set and ready for the day ahead of us, and due to a change in scheduling it was going to be a long day for BEM because Simon Godfrey had been moved from the Friday evening to the Sunday evening, so now we had The Gift starting things off and Simon coming on just about when we might have planned to nip off for something to eat. Possibly a curry. Anyway, for now it was time to get in the zone, ready for The Gift. I knew Mike Morton and David Lloyd, of course. Would it surprise you to hear that I had been out for a curry with them ? You can read about that here. I also ‘knew’ Stef Dickers and Scott James from Facebook, so it was great to actually meet them for real at last before they all began to get set up with much assistance from Graham Harris, who surely has the most unenviable job in the world of trying to manage the whirlwind that is Mike Morton.
The band were ready and without any delays for fire alarms this morning we got off to a prompt start, with a very good sized audience immediately appreciating I Sing Of Change and The Willows, which was only to be expected because the type of prog The Gift play is perfectly suited to a Summer’s End audience. As is frontman, Mike Morton, whose engaging character has the audience eating out of his hand. He asks where people have come from and there is a cry of USA, then Norway, then another cry of Norway, and a third shout of Norway. “Norway wins !” says Mike. They continue with “something a bit more poppy, but don’t shoot me !” and Too Many Hands goes down very well, despite being pop. You Are The Song causes Mike to talk about his wife, saying “she likes this one. She should do, it was written for her,” and the crowd are silent for this wonderfully melodic and emotional ballad. “That’s the first time we’ve played that live for a long time,” says Mike as they finish, but he can rest assured that it did not show. “Old Michael walked past…oh, sorry, wrong band,” Mike continues, referring to his other musical string in The Book Of Genesis tribute band, and then suggests that some of the audience “might want to sit down” because The Comforting Cold is 20 minutes long. For all of his talk, Mike has still not mentioned one thing. “Plug the CDs,” shouts Mr Elliott from beside me behind the desk. Mike obviously thinks it is just a random nutter screaming something from within the crowd and nods politely; and it takes a lot more shouting before he finally gets the message and plugs the CDs and tshirts we have on sale. “Thank you,” says David, “you’ve made a happy man very old.” They finish their excellent, very well-received set with Walk Into The Water, featuring Mike on acoustic guitar, and as they leave the stage Stephen Lambe comes on to announce that Summer’s End 2015 is completely sold out, “which doesn’t mean we’re not completely skint !” and in an effort to make sure that Bad Elephant Music do not leave the weekend completely skint we being the process of herding the cats who are The Gift so that some excited punters can have their CDs signed.
You can see more of my photographs from The Gift here.
Introitus are from Sweden and they came on quickly because they had a ferry to catch ! This was another band from the weekend that I had not heard of before, and I liked them right from the start, with their wonderful mixture of influences and sounds, and particularly the Swedish folk base to their music. There was also a prog metal, symphonic edge alongside some softer, more melodic passages, and around all this flowed the wonderful vocals of Anna Jobs Bender. Actually, not just a wonderful, rich voice – her vocals were absolutely incredible and one of the best surprises of the weekend, even before she demonstrated a particular vocal effect which is used to call the cows home in the evening. Stunning. Speaking of which, mention must be made of Henrik Björlind, who managed to play keyboards, flute, recorder, fiddle, and guitar, as well as providing backing vocals through the course of the set. They went down very well with the crowd and surely made a lot of new fans on the day.
You can see more of my photographs from Introitus here.
I have to admit, I would love to have Credo on the Bad Elephant Music label. I came to them a little late, but from the first time I saw them at The Peel in November 2008 I have been hooked. It had been a while since I saw them last, so I was really looking forward to their set, and I was not to be disappointed. Credo are unashamedly neo-prog, but when they do it this well there will be few complaints. In Mark Colton they have one of the best frontmen out there and he keeps the crowd constantly engaged, which is no mean feat when all your songs are this long. Not that anyone minds about the length of the songs when Tim Birrell’s guitar work is so impressive, and accompanied so well by the absolutely brilliant Mike Varty on keyboards. The hooks and melodies just flow and flow and flow, in many places offering some element of comfort to the often stark lyrics in the songs. Mark Colton is not one to hold back. Keeping all of this in order is the awesome rhythm section of Jim Murdoch on bass and Gerald Mulligan on drums, and we are treated to a great selection of tracks from all of their albums to date. I was well up for this, the crowd were well up for this, and the band were well up for this, probably not least because, as Mark joked, it was the first time they had been booked in advance, despite this being their third appearance at the festival. A very enjoyable time was had by all, and I fully expect there will be a fourth appearance in due course.
You can see more of my photographs from Credo here.
And then we got to the moment that nobody had been waiting for, the return of Simon Godfrey to an English stage (although there is a possibility that at least part of the stage may well be in Wales). The delay since Friday evening had done absolutely nothing to increase the tension and excitement awaiting his return. As I am sure you are all aware, Simon left these shores to take on a starring role in the American documentary series, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, which also stars his wife, Stacy, and Danny DeVito, and now they were all over here for a holiday, with the exception of Danny DeVito, and Simon was taking time out of his busy vacation schedule to play this gig. He begins with the brilliantly lively The June Jar, although not everything is running exactly to plan as he apologises that “Mike Morton just distracted me there.” He tells us that he “came over here with nothing” (which turned out to be quite fortunate for me, as I am sure you recall from your reading of my blog about the Friday of Summer’s End (the link is at the very top of this page if you have not already read it – but now you are keeping everyone else waiting for the rest of this blog while you catch up…)) so now he was using an acoustic guitar he had borrowed from Matt Stevens, which he compared to “a wino stealing Beyonce’s Porsche.” He also mentioned that he had forefathers, and “that was an interesting night for my mother.”
Dust And Wires is “from an album I am going to promote a little bit later,” and sure enough, once he has finished that excellent song he produces an equally excellent piece of promotion, “Mike Morton’s album has sold out, so you’re stuffed !” He does mention his own album, Motherland, so the wrath of Mr Elliott is appeased. Now Simon was going to play the very first song he ever wrote, and to help him with that he introduced Mr Robert Ramsay, to great applause, and they proceed to play Tearing Up The Room, with some fine harmonica playing from Robert, who is not in costume for this one. Simon asks, “How long have we got to go, because I’m conscious of not upstaging Mystery,” before explaining that the next song is one “Robert and I have a deep dispute over,” and once he has given his side of said dispute he continues, “I’d love to give you the opportunity to hear Robert’s side of the story, but it’s my f***ing show” and they go into an old Tinyfish song, Driving All Night. Simon tells us a bit about Tinyfish, saying “it was just not prog enough, so we had this guy come on stage in strange costumes,” and as if by magic the spokenwordmeister appeared, wearing a hat, shades, and some sort of garish jacket, signalling to those in the know that the set was going to close with another Tinyfish classic, Motorville. It has been a typically ‘Simon Godfrey’ half hour, full of brilliant songwriting alongside fun, wit, humour and laughter. The only thing missing was the duck.
You can see more of my photographs from Simon Godfrey here.
I had seen Mystery at RoSfest in 2010 and really enjoyed their set, so I was looking forward to seeing them again here. Since then they had changed their lead singer, and I must say that Jean Pageau was excellent and really suited the band’s melodic, rocking style of prog. Their songs are so well crafted and it is always a pleasure to hear the guitar playing of Michel St-Pere, and those sublime riffs. There was a real power and energy to what they were producing here tonight, the two guitar attack being used to tremendous effect, the keyboards flowing into that and the rhythm section keeping everything sharp, tight, controlled, while Jean displayed a true presence on stage. This is a band who really knew what they wanted to do and they delivered, to great and well deserved applause.
And to follow that some members of Magic Pie came on stage. Tragic circumstances had prevented them being able to play here this weekend, but some of the band had made the trip over anyway (and Bad Elephant Music had shared a curry with them the night before, which you can read about here), and now it was being announced that they would be back for next year’s Summer’s End – great news !
You can see more of my photographs from Mystery here.
And so we came to the final band of the weekend, and nobody was looking to leave early. It had been a while since I had last seen The Enid at the Birmingham Town Hall in April 2010, which you can read about here, and there had been a few changes since then, the most significant of which was the arrival of Joe Payne. I first saw The Enid at the Hammersmith Odeon back in the 1980s and while they are a very, very different prospect now, even when playing some of the classic songs from that era, the essence of the band still remains. They dedicated their first two songs to Magic Pie, which was a lovely touch I have come to expect from this band over the years. They seem to constantly have their own troubles, and yet are always looking out for others. The set is an excellent mix of the old, the new, and the very new, and it definitely acts as a great showcase for the band, not that I think there are many in this hall who are not already very well aware of them. The audience is transfixed, enjoying every second. It seems to me that Max Read is the one directing matters on stage these days, and it is a very tight ship, undoubtedly honed during their recent very regular touring. The combination between himself, the piano of Robert John Godfrey and the guitar of Jason Ducker is sublime. David Storey has been around on the drums for more than long enough to know that he is a very trusted member of the group, and Dominic Tofield, who is another one new to me, appears more than capable on bass and percussion. Let me get back to Joe Payne – he has transformed the band with his outstanding vocals and dramatic stage presence. I might even go so far as to say they have moved from being a classical orchestral band to musical theatre, but make no mistake, when the output is as very good as this, I would be saying it as a compliment. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a revelation, and is sadly still so relevant. It is wonderful to see Robert John Godfrey performing on stage, even in a more subdued role, and long may that continue. His playing remains of the very highest order. I remember when Jason first joined the band and was thrust to the front of stage. To be fair, with all their equipment there was not really anywhere else he could stand, but now I look at him and see someone who has definitely grown into his role, certainly coming into his own during the stunning Dark Hydraulic. There was always going to be an encore, the audience would have demanded it even without the enthusiastic prompting from RJG ! And so The Enid brought the evening to a perfect end with a cover of Mockingbird by Barclay James Harvest, and we were all set to go home happy.
You can see more of my photographs from The Enid here.
And so Summer’s End 2015 came to a close, but not before the raffle was drawn, with the first prize winner choosing to take the bundle of CDs from Bad Elephant Music. We hope they have not lived to regret that decision… A huge thanks must go to Stephen Lambe and Huw Lloyd-Jones for yet again bringing together such a brilliant set of bands over the weekend, and a special thanks from Bad Elephant Music for putting on The Fierce And The Dead, The Gift, and Simon Godfrey. We will keep our fingers crossed for next year. Thanks must also go to everyone who helps out behind the scenes, to those who deal with the sound and lights, the stage hands, the people on the door, in the kitchen, behind the bar, the list goes on and on. Without them, none of this happens, so thanks to them all ! Thanks to the bands for all putting on such great sets, and to the people who dealt with the merchandise. Thanks to everyone who made this a sold out weekend because, again, without you, none of this happens. I am already looking forward to seeing everyone again in 2016, and the return of Magic Pie.