For most of the 20-odd years I've been in ministry I've taken the Sunday after Easter (traditionally known as Low Sunday) off. How I fill that day has varied from year to year, but this year, for the first time, I spent it at a gig.
The Robin 2 in Bilston, Wolverhampton, is renowned for hosting an excellent roster of bands, including a considerably large proportion from the broad Progressive genre. Today's fayre were two bands: London-based 'The Gift', and Sweden's 'Änglagård'.
The Gift have been around for about 10 years, on and off, and have released two albums, 2006's 'Awake & Dreaming' (re-released in 2014) and 2014's 'Land of Shadows', and have an accessible sound that reminds me in places of Genesis and Fish-era Marillion. In a short (30-35 minute) support set, the band gave us material from both albums played with aplomb and enthusiasm, ably led by front-man Mike Morton who engaged naturally with the appreciative crowd. These are talented musicians, who should be more widely known.
After a short break for refreshment both of the punters and of the stage, the floor seemed to become noticeably fuller as Änglagård took the stage. Änglagård have been around since the early 1990s, and released albums in 1992 & 1994 before a hiatus which lasted (after a brief return in 2002-03) until 2009, with a third studio recording appearing in 2012. Their 90 minute set drew from the full range of their material, most of which comprises long-form, complex compositions, and which takes its inspiration from Progressive rock, jazz and pastoral folk. How you actually describe their style of music is difficult to say: emotive, full of energy, ranging from quiet & lyrical to experimental and atonal; always surprising and engaging and at times quite wondrous and awe-inspiring. I've not seen many bands who count party blowers and balloons in their instrumental repertoire!
The musicianship throughout was of the highest order, with everyone displaying a natural virtuosity. That said, this is not 'easy' music. Back in my school days there were certain albums that were sometimes described as 'difficult to get into', and Änglagård's material would certainly fall into that category. My wife, Jude, who accompanied me to the gig, came away unconvinced, and maybe they will always be a kind of 'Marmite' band (she was sold on Moon Safari & Lazuli last year!). But if you like your music with an edge, Änglagård are a band to look out for, if you don't know them already. For me they, along with The Gift, were certainly a high point on Low Sunday.