Prog Night (Servants of Science/Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate/The Tirith) - Fidler's Elbow, Camden
13th May 2018 (with Jim Knipe)
This was my first visit to the Grade II listed Fiddler’s Elbow (the building dates back to 1856), even though it has been putting on gigs since the 1970s. It’s co-owned by Dan Maiden, a musician and promoter, and local businesswoman Nancy Wild who pride themselves on their professional approach, offering a platform for unsigned music and acting as a showcase for up-and-coming talent. It’s fair to say that both Servants of Science (based in Brighton) and Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate are relatively new to the scene; the former released a widely acclaimed album The Swan Song at the end of last year and HOGIA have somehow managed to put out three CDs since they formed: Invisible (2012); When the Kill Code Fails (2015); and Broken but Still Standing (2017). Their 2015 offering won plaudits from Steve Hackett but the writing shifted from post-rock towards prog on Broken but Still Standing, where the first fifteen minutes includes some stunning flute, putting it firmly in the prog category – they also featured on the covermount CD of Prog magazine (Prog 87) with Last Man on the Moon. The Tirith have been around since the very early 70s when they were called Minas Tirith and after going their separate ways (though keeping in touch), they reformed in 2011 and released Tales from the Tower, which included reworkings of some of their early material, in 2015. Shortly after their reformation, the three-piece (Tim Cox, guitar/keyboards; Dick Cory, bass/vocals and Paul Williams, drums) acted as support for Focus in Leicester but by the time of the CD release, Carl Nightingale had taken over on drums. They played at last year’s HRH Prog VI, where HOGIA also appeared, parachuted in to fill a slot vacated by Touchstone but I’d seen them previously, at the Resonance Festival in 2014, where I described them as a bit unadventurous; I’m not sure that it’s possible for a guitar-bass-drums trio to be prog, though Cox did elicit some interesting sounds out of his guitar and occasional keyboard.
On this particular Prog Night Servants of Science were first on stage, playing through The Swan Song in its entirety. The album is based on a few musical ideas from keyboard player/guitarist Stuart Avis which were bounced off and added to by bassist Andy Bay. Avis turned to long-term collaborator Neil Beards (The Amber Herd) to add vocals then through his studio connections he recruited Helena DeLuca on vocals when a female part was added to the story, drummer Adam McKee and guitarist Ian Brocken. The live recreation was pretty faithful to the album, with the Floydian Another Day and the mini-epic Burning in the Cold which best demonstrate the band’s prog-leanings, bookending the set. They even had time for an encore of Comfortably Numb, wearing their influences on their sleeves. My only complaint would be that with four guitars playing simultaneously the subtlety and sweeping cinematic feel of the record became a bit blunted; even Brocken’s solo during the encore was too low down in the mix, meaning you could barely discern it above the other players; the one instrument that cut through the wall of sound was the bass. However, despite being a bit loud for the venue, I did enjoy the performance and it cements the ensemble as a group to watch out for.
I didn’t get to see The Tirith play, requiring a very early start the following day and I nearly missed Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate, having to leave the pub to find some hot food. When I saw them at the beginning of the year Malcolm Galloway and Mark Gatland performed as a duo, supplemented with a rhythm machine, a small keyboard and lots of effects, which was still quite impressive. This time the band comprised of a trio, with Kathryn Thomas providing that amazing flute and backing vocals alongside Galloway and Gatland, though Thomas didn’t stay on stage for the whole set. It’s quite remarkable what the two or three of them can do with loops, effects and a drum machine and the performance was at a level close to that on the recent album; what you don’t get on the CD is the incredible punk-like energy Galloway and especially Gatland project. Opening with the dreamy prog of Vent/Almost Familiar HOGIA are another band who aren’t afraid to semaphore their influences and when it got close to the end of their slot, Galloway pulled off an excellent Gilmour-like solo on Last Man on the Moon. But however enjoyable their guitar-based music is, it’s the flute that I love the most!
This gig review was taken from the lost blog ‘Shhh, Peaceful’ originally posted on 19th May 2018