HRH Prog returns with the third installment of this small but well crafted festival of all things progressive. Admittedly many of the bands on the bill this year were new to us but we embrace that and it’s part of what festivals are all about. Situated on the North Wales coast the setting could not have been better and the accommodation was certainly a step up from the old HRH venue at Prestatyn.

Thursday night kicks off on the main stage with Osiris Club; we were really enjoying their set of dark driving melodies and they certainly looked the part, dressed in black cloaks and medieval surgeon masks. For some reason they only played for about 20 minutes of their 50 minute set and left the stage rather abruptly. This left a bit of a gap before The Dream Circuit returned to HRH Prog following their performance in the freezer of Rotherham two years ago. Their set of hard edged psychedelic rock flew by as they mixed instrumentals with more traditional song based arrangements. The crowd seemed to get warmed up during the set, with the first dancers of the day emerging from their shells. A solid performance that seemed to win them a lot of new fans judging by the reaction and they set the tone for the rest of the day.

Knifeworld get a mixed reaction as their quirky off beat songs seem to divide opinion. It’s certainly an energetic and entertaining performance with Kavus Torabi leading the way. As you might expect, given their links to Gong and The Cardiacs, there are plenty of hints at those bands during the set. They certainly do their thing well and judging from the crowd, those that like them really like them.

The last band of the evening was The Skys; some of the band had driven for three days to get here from Lithuania! They certainly made the most of their trip as they delivered a more classic prog set that went down well. Some of the tracks were lighter and by their own admission a bit Eurovision but overall they proved a fitting end to the first day with the guitarist and keyboard player in particular impressing.

Friday began in The Owner’s Bar with three unplugged sessions. A few technical difficulties meant the stage was running late but that probably contributed to the audience numbers and it was standing room only by the time The Dream Circuit made their second performance of the weekend. By their own admission the unplugged environment was a new experience for them but they pulled off their three song set with aplomb. The transition to a largely acoustic format worked well and they received another great reaction from the appreciative crowd. They were followed by the exceptional talent of violinist Anna Phoebe. Accompanied by the equally talented Nicolas Rizzi they produced a short but dazzling display that could not fail to impress the crowd. The Skys followed and despite technical problems (mainly due to everything in their unplugged set being plugged in!) demonstrated again that they really are a talented bunch.

The first full electric set we catch on Friday is Touchstone and what a shame that it is one of their last ever shows with the current line up. The talented Kim "Elkie" Seviour has decided to leave the band due to ongoing health issues but she is certainly going out in style. She knows how to work a stage and it’s a highly polished set of original sounding melodic rock with a dark edge. The crowd know the significance of this performance and respond in kind, making it emotional and impressive in equal measure.

Anna Phoebe made the transition from unplugged to full electric with ease and really impressed. She has a captivating stage presence backed up by some well worked tunes. Admittedly there was this desperation for her guitarist to hit the distortion pedal and throw in some big power chords but that was the only criticism of an otherwise immaculate performance. The Enid are old hands of course but have been reinvented over the last few years and singer Joe Payne continues to enhance his reputation as one of the best vocalists out there. As musicians they are in a different class and you won’t find a tighter band anywhere on the planet. Their set is a mix of old and new and we’re even treated to a rendition of the Barclay James Harvest classic Mockingbird. Perhaps a little too theatrical at times but you can always rely on Robert John Godfrey to blow a raspberry at just the right time.

Mostly Autumn finish off Friday night and are a guaranteed safe pair of hands. In recent years they’ve moved more towards a straight rock sound and that’s very much the feel of tonight’s set. Bryan Josh displays some fine fret work and alongside Olivia Sparnenn’s powerful vocals they produce a highly polished set that I hear many punters say was their highlight of the weekend.

Saturday begins with a harder edge in the form of metal outfit Collibus. There isn’t really anything progressive about them but they are a tight band and go down well in front of a decent sized crowd considering the early hour. They are followed by Agent who produce a hard edged blend of prog, not dissimilar to bands like Amplifier. They have some nice musical interludes and some big choruses but today they don’t quite hit the magic formula. Having said that, when we catch them later on in their unplugged set it is a totally different matter. They absolutely nail it with some great harmonies and get a great reaction from the crowd.

Landskap keep the hard edge theme going but adopt more of a stoner rock feel. Their set is very guitar heavy and the longer they play, the more we like them. Unfortunately the mix is not great for them and the very dry sound they get prevents the set from flowing as well as it should. Perhaps it’s a bit early in the day for their mesmerising, repetitive riffage but those at the front give them a good send off. We try to catch some of Steeleye Span’s unplugged set but can’t get into the packed out bar to see it! What we hear sounds good though and we’re not too concerned given that they are due to grace the main stage later with a full electric set.

Back on the main stage it’s old hands Jump who play a very entertaining set and are arguably the first traditional prog band of the day. John Dexter Jones is an engaging character who takes every opportunity to interact with the crowd inbetween their story based songs. Musically they are a bit more lightweight than the days predecessors but it’s quite refreshing and although comparisons with Marillion are to be expected, they have enough of their own identity to carve a niche for themselves.

Magenta really impressed us at the first HRH Prog in Rotherham and they absolutely knock it out of the park tonight! Magenta just have the whole package, the songs are engaging and involved, rammed full of dynamics and hooks and in Christina Booth and Chris Fry they two of the most talented and happy artists on the planet. They seldom stop smiling and with good reason, they deliver one of the sets of the weekend.

We approached Steeleye Span’s set with an open mind. They aren’t a band we’re particularly familiar with and that lack of preconception no doubt contributed to what turned out to be a very enjoyable set. They mix traditional folk songs with dark edged folk/psyche rock and it works really well. They might have been around for decades but they prove that age is no barrier to making great music. They get the biggest crowd of the weekend so far, easily the best sing along (All Around My Hat of course) and deserve the applause. After that it’s down to headliner Rick Wakeman and in some ways it’s a bit of a come down to go from the vibrancy of the preceding sets to one man and a grand piano. It’s a very different vibe but once people tuned in it was hard not to be impressed. This was more of ‘an evening with’ affair as he interspersed each piece of music with a story or witty anecdote. A likeable guy, he was both funny and endearing and his musicianship was outstanding. As you would expect for someone of his stature, he receives a rapturous response from the crowd.

And that was that except for a foray over to the sci-fi disco that formed part of the parallel event Sci-Fi Weekender - now that was an experience but certainly a story for another day. All in all another triumphant weekend of great bands, great weather, great location and a great community feel to it that you certainly didn’t get in Rotherham. Same time next year? Oh go on then.