Building on the success of the Hard Rock Hell and Hammerfest events, HRH Prog and HRH AOR ran in conjunction within the vast and impressive Magna Centre in Rotherham. It all started well, easy to find, easy to park and easy to get in, which for any festival veteran is a major plus point! I heard there were some larger queues earlier in the day but they seemed largely forgotten by mid afternoon.

After a good trek around, during which we ended up at the main AOR stage by mistake, we finally made it to the Prog main stage in time for The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. I've seen Mr Brown a few times and he's impressed and disappointed in equal numbers but today he is (literally) on fire! His band are superb, particularly Nina Gromniak on guitar and Lucie Rejchrtova on keyboards. Coupled with Brown's gesticulations and engaging banter they put on a really tight and theatrical show that goes down exceptionally well with the crowd. Not surprisingly the biggest cheers are reserved for a great rendition of Fire which begins with Brown sporting his traditional flaming head gear. It's an excellent introduction to HRH Prog for us and we head off in good spirits to the second stage.

Getting to the second stage takes some time as it's badly signposted and is a long long way from the main stage, right over the other side of the building and down several flights of stairs. Then when you get there there isn't actually a stage! The bands play on the floor in a small cube shaped area and on the rare occasions when the second stage got very busy, you couldn't see anything unless you were right at the front. It was also freezing cold all weekend. This was a shame as it did mean that with a few exceptions, crowds were quite small. One of the real bonuses of festivals is popping into a smaller stage for a few songs on the off chance and finding a great band you've never heard before. This just wasn't conducive to that and unfortunately some of the bands suffered as a result.

Logistics aside however there were some fine bands on the second stage over the course of the weekend. We only catch the very tail end of Order of Voices but we hear enough to get a feel for their harder edged approach and energetic performance. They are followed by Also Eden, a band I hadn't come across before but I'm wishing I had! With vocals very reminiscent of Fish they turn in an excellent set of well crafted songs with some lush chord progressions and some really anthemic moments. Unfortunately due to the restricted view it's hard to get the full experience but they are certainly a band I'll be checking out away from the festival.

Back up in the main arena the temperature is dropping noticeably (and continues to do so throughout the evening) but it's forgotten for a while as Mostly Autumn take to the stage. I'll happily admit that I've not been a fan over the years, I've always found them a little one paced but I'm tempted to give them another go on the back of this performance. They come across much heavier than I've heard them before and they play with real energy and bite today. They certainly seem none the worse for wear for the loss of Heather Findlay a few years back. Her replacement Olivia Sparnenn has a fine voice and when she doubles up with Panic Room's Anne-Marie Helder it's hard not to be impressed. There were a couple of songs that didn't quite hit the mark and some of the lyrics weren't great but overall I really enjoyed their set, as did the swelling crowd.

Being keen to check out The Strawbs we head back down into the pit of stage two but when we get there we are faced with the inevitable backs of heads instead of any kind of view and the fact that this is an acoustic set with all three members sitting down really doesn't help. The Strawbs set makes a nice change and their accomplished playing really does shine through (which is doubly impressive given that they were clearly sporting multiple layers of clothing against the cold!). They play a good mix of songs from their extensive back catalogue and win a few new friends tonight.

We miss the end of The Strawbs to head back up to the main stage in time for Hawkwind. We needn't have rushed as they go on a good twenty minutes late at least. We later learn that this was due in part to the small size of the main stage making change overs difficult. We also hear that they had to change their proposed set due to the stage being too small to use their dancers, which is a double shame as not only does it mean we don't get to hear much of the intended set from Warrior AT The Edge Of Time but the current dancers are the best they have had for a long time. That aside it's business as usual for Hawkwind, they are a tight unit at the moment and whilst it would be nice to see Dave Brock take back some of the front man duties from Mr Dibs, it's also good to see Tim Blake really come to the fore as he puts in a fine performance on keytar and theramin. There are no real surprises in the set, Masters Of The Universe, Southern Cross, Damnation Alley and the double salvo of Assault and Battery/Golden Void are all familiar territory but no less enjoyable. The highlight for me came with the inclusion of Utopia, an old favourite that was greeted like an old friend by the knowledgeable crowd. I have to admit that you don't appreciate how much the dancers add to the overall effect until they aren't there! Overall a solid performance and a good end to the day for us (alas we missed the last couple of bands as our host for the weekend wanted a quick getaway!).

The first thing to note about Sunday is that it was warmer. Not by a lot but enough to make a difference! The first band we catch on the main stage today is Uli Jon Roth (ex-Scorpions) but we hear that Haken were very impressive. Roth is a bit hit and miss today, it may be because of the cold but he just doesn't seem as fluid today as normal. It's all there but somehow he never quite connects and his band are left looking awkward for long periods whilst he attacks multiple solos. The highlights come with a couple of Hendrix covers and the obligatory song from his Scorpions days and whilst he's not quite on top form it's hardly a bad start to our day!

Roth is followed on the main stage by Magenta, who are another band I have never really heard. I didn't really know what to expect but to say I was pleasantly surprised would be a massive understatement. They are simply fantastic! They put on a great show and their songs are easily amongst the most memorable of the whole weekend. Guitarist Chris Frey is superb and clearly enjoys himself all the way through with constant interplay between crowd and the rest of the band. Vocalist Christina Booth works perfectly with their polished approach, her vocals adding some excellent melodies to the dark, brooding arrangements. The sound is spot on for them and they take full advantage with what was certainly one of the sets of the weekend. I talk to a lot of people afterwards that were similarly impressed. The only downside was the slightly shambolic ending when they seemingly had more time than they thought and launched into an extra track during which Christina didn't appear to know what was going on! It was a minor blemish however on an excellent performance.

Ah The Enid, Robert John Godfrey's long standing band of symphonic prog. I own several Enid albums but find them quite hard to get into and yet on the few occasions I have seen them live they have always impressed. Recent albums have seen them take a small step toward a more commercial sound and they have sounded all the better for it but even armed with this knowledge I wasn't expecting the performance they turned in today. Godfrey takes very much a back seat (literally) and it's left to singer Joe Payne to completely run the show, which he does with supreme confidence. Payne sings and acts like he's stepped straight off a west end stage! He prances and gesticulates and when he starts singing falsetto numerous jaws hit the floor. It's surely the performance of the weekend from Payne, you can't take your eyes off him and he milks every last drop. The rest of the band are incredibly powerful and so tight it's untrue. They produce an epic wall of sound that takes you on a real journey and prove to be easily one of the bands of the weekend.

It's fair to say that Caravan look like your Grandad these days but when they start playing the years just roll back! I was really hoping that they would deliver and I'm not disappointed as they play a superb set. They are far more animated than recent reviews had suggested they might be and it seems clear that they enjoy the positive reaction of the crowd. Frontman Pye Hastings still has the voice to carry off the classics and is there a better song to encapsulate the whole Canterbury scene than Golf Girl? When they go into lengthy extended jams it's clear to see why they achieved what they did, they are just a superb musical unit. I almost don't want it to end but when they finish on Nine Feet Underground it's the perfect way to go out, a real monster of a riff that builds to an intense finale. Brilliant.

We miss the Von Hertzen Brothers but all reports we hear later are that they were superb so we'd be kicking our own shins were it not for the fact that we went to see Maschine on the second stage. They are another to add to the list of bands I must check out later as they are excellent tonight. They play complicated yet engaging songs that belie their years. Luke Machin is an accomplished guitarist and his solo work really takes their songs to another level but you get the feeling that they are very much the sum of their parts. Again the view is not great down in the pit but the sound is good and Maschine impress. Well worth checking out.

Last band of the weekend for us is The Dream Circuit on the second stage. They suffer from being the last band on (a Sunday night) a remote stage and not playing until after midnight, which means they only get a small crowd but they don't let that stop them from playing out of their skins! They play a hard edged mix of psychedelic rock and prog that really engages and it's a shame there weren't more here to see it. They take you on a real journey with well constructed instrumentals sitting alongside lengthy multi-facetted songs and it's fitting that the last band of the weekend echo many of the others in being a welcome surprise. The crowd might be small but they are very appreciative and really get into it, certainly another band well worth checking out.

So that's that! The inaugural HRH Prog was by and large a success thanks to a very strong line up. It wasn't without its teething troubles, most notably the cold and the distance between stages but you live and learn and with HRH Prog 2 already booking for next year we are already assured of some improvements. With prog spanning such a wide variety of sounds there really was something for everyone on offer this weekend and the number of people in attendance suggests that this long overdue festival has plenty of life in it. See you next year.