While many lists will be written about the top albums of the year (and I am guilty of compiling one which was a Steve Wilson-free zone), it is time to take a more offbeat look at those prog bands and artists – and various other notable beings, who were rocking this particular quadrant the prog world in 2012.
Fortunately, we managed to get together a distinguished collection of sponsors to offer an array of awards to those whose contributions caught the dowagerly ear, heart or simply deserved to be mentioned in dispatches.
So here are (drum roll) the recipients of the 2012 Dowager of Prog Awards.
The Winchester Tourist Office’s King Alfred Statuette for Album of the Year goes to Big Big Train for English Electric Pt 1 with particular reference to the song, Winchester From St Giles’ Hill.
Judges’ note: “Because of this song, Big Big Train Facebook page members are now offered unofficial guided tours of the ancient capital during which places mentioned in the song are visited or gesticulated at, together with a voluntary pitstop halfway around at the pub named after the Winchester Diver.”
2) The Imperial War Museum’s Ceremonial Sword for runner-up Album of the Year is awarded to It Bites for Map Of the Past.
Judges’ note: “A spiffing collection of top-hole prog pop songs, linked by the man in the photograph (in World War One Army uniform), full of big melodies, melodrama and huge themes, all immaculately produced and packaged.”
3) The Morecambe and Wise “Bring Me Sunshine” Award for the UK duet of the year goes to Twang and Geoff Banks (Chairman) for bringing us Celebr8, undoubtedly the best event of 2012 in terms of the music and the camaraderie between the bands who played and the fans who attended.
4) The Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In International Duet of the Year Award goes to Kerry Kompost and Matt Brown, who brought their own brand of Californian sunshine and laughter to Celebr8 after Mars Hollow’s untimely split shortly before the festival. The acoustic stage was created so they, along with other great musicians could appear; and as a result, we all fell in love with them and their spirit of the occasion.
5) The Mormon Award for Multiple Musical Marriages is given to the many talents of Mark Spencer who appeared with Alan Reed, Galahad, the Cryptic Clues and finally Twelfth Night this year, fulfilling a different musical role within each.
Runners-up: Nick Beggs, Lee Pomeroy, John Mitchell and Dean Baker.
6) The Kew Gardens Botanical Song of the Year goes to joint winners – Hedgerow from Big Big Train’s English Electric Pt 1 and The Garden from Rush’s Clockwork Angels.
Runner-up: Return of the Giant Hogweed – Neal Morse, Roine Stolt, Steve Hackett etc, Genesis Revisited II
7) The Riverdance Award for the song with the best Celtic vibe again goes to joint winners – Kingdom of the Blind by Alan Reed from First In A Field of One and Mercy of the Sea from Kompendium’s Beneath the Waves.
8) The Kleenex Golden Tissue Box for tearjerker of the year goes to The Last Escape from It Bites’ Map of the Past.
Runner-up: Can’t Stop The Rain – Squackett’s A Life Within A Day
9) The Steven Wilson Challenge Cup is awarded to Steven Wilson for being Steven Wilson.
10) The Eric Bristow Double Tops Golden Arrow Award goes to Galahad for releasing two stonking great albums, Battle Scars and Beyond The Realms of Euphoria.
11) The Quantas/British Airways Global Village Concept Award for the most travelled prog fan goes to Anne Corris who bestrides continents like a colossus to get to all the top gigs (and usually the best front row seats)!
12) The National Express Award for the most permanently visible UK prog fan goes to Roger Marsh who has been seen nodding along right up the front at practically every domestic gig this year. Paul Mackie of Pallas is probably still having nightmares as a result!
13) The Nick Beggs Teenybop Idol Turned Prog Demigod Award is given to Nik Kershaw for his amazing version of The Lamia, the highlight of Genesis Revisited II.
14) The Englebert Humperdinck Eurovision Winning Live Performance Award goes to The Tangent for Celebr8.
The judges noted: “This performance confounded the beard stroking faction of the audience by starting with a rip roaring version of Kool and the Gang’s Celebration followed by the most incredible, dynamic display of virtuosity from Prog Wizard Andy Tillison, his sidekick Funkytoe Latham and two apprentices, Luke Machin and Dan Mash.
“Such was the intensity and beauty of their playing, many tears were shed unashamedly by members of the audience. This alas was their last gig together but stands out as one of the finest sets many of us have ever had the pleasure to witness.”
Runner-up: Kerry Kompost’s contribution to Touchstone’s Mad World at Celebr8.
15) The Shamen Award for the best free-standing live gig of the year goes to Galahad supported by Alan Reed at the Peel in September.
Judges’ note: “The nearest thing ever to a prog rave, Galahad played a selection of their trancey new songs from Battle Scars which nearly led to an outbreak of dancing among the 10o- strong crowd.”
Runner-up: Steve Hackett at the Brook, Southampton in February. The maestro in top form as always.
16) The One Direction Award for Best Boy Prog Band goes to Indigo Child, the opening band at Danfest, who showed some early promise, their set including an ambitious Wakemanesque keyboard solo by 17-year-old Ollie Eastwood.
17) The Marmite Award for the either you love it or you hate it album of the year goes to Storm Corrosion.
18) The Phil Collins/Live Aid Award goes to John Mitchell, who played Loreley with Arena on the Saturday then Celebr8 with It Bites on the Sunday, then repeated the manoeuvre but on a much smaller and more localised scale during Frost*Bites at the Scala.
19) The Twitter Ye Not Award for the most enjoyably bonkers social network groups goes to Facebook joint winners The Foolish Boys (membership by invitation only) and The Rush Atlantic Connection (TRAC), both of whom have their own bespoke tee-shirt. The former introduced the concept of prog curries and Buffoon of the Month while the latter provided a most entertaining weekend in York which included a ghost walk led by a Rutger Hauer lookalike and a live interview on BBC Radio York.
20) The Dowager’s Special Awards
For the most outstanding contribution to prog in 2012 goes to, wait for it – Jon Patrick (Twang), the people’s champion, loved by bands and fans alike for putting on an endless series of “must be there” gigs, concerts and festivals.
For the best all-round contribution by a band to Galahad, who despite losing their bass player Neil Pepper to cancer last autumn (2011), they literally came bouncing back with two terrific albums and a series of lively and fun-packed gigs which embodied the occasionally not so serious side of prog. And they are all lovely blokes too.