Whitchurch Progressive Music Festival (Afternoon session)
8 August 1999

Only one set at this last minute performance.  John apparently turned up the previous day, haranguing the organisers until they finally gave in and told him to turn up the following afternoon with his keyboard. This was especially pleasing for me, as I’d seen dates for John’s shows advertised in Classic Rock magazine but been unable to make any of them.  I was intrigued as to the Asia references that were mentioned in these listings.  My assumption had been that he was the John from latter incarnations of the group of which I had one CD (Aqua) to which I’d not really warmed. 
I was, of course completely wrong with this assumption. The John on that CD is Payne and plays guitar, not Young who plays keyboards – though they both sing. 
By the end of the 40 minute set I was still none the wiser about the Asia link – but well impressed with the music that had been performed – all of which had been original compositions. 

Before arriving in the afternoon we had no idea that John was playing; Tracy and I had come to see Haze play an acoustic set having enjoyed their electric one the previous evening. Thankfully they were running late (due to a  night of excessive drinking) so we caught their enjoyable set.  As we entered I noticed John Young on the bill too – due to play later on at around 3.30pm.  This would not normally be a problem except for the fact that I was due to run a quiz in Tadley at 5pm - at least a 30 minute drive away. 

During the Haze set people were still arriving, including one guy dressed in jeans, T-shirt and lumberjack shirt, who had brought his dog. He smiled at us (as Tracy smiled at the dog) and seemed to enjoy the music.  He left before John Young took the stage and Tracy remarked that “it was sweet that he brought his dog along”. 

During the break before John Young’s set the same guy reappeared, minus dog, and began checking the equipment on stage.  Guess what – it was John Young! 

The compere for the festival, who had a way with words (and a penchant for advertising the sponsors of the festival at every opportunity – Herrenhauser beer in case you wondered) introduced John with, 
“As soon as he’s set up he’ll be lurching into overdrive and taking off with all this stuff.”  This was a reference to all the computer equipment John had to set up before beginning the music. A couple of minutes later John said hello and commented that “later on he’d be doing a couple of ‘progressive things’ just to set the tone” after the previous night. 

With this he launched straight into All Grown Up a slow haunting track (originally used by Max Bacon on his “The Higher You Climb” CD) which acts as a gentle introduction to both John’s music and his softer side. The track was back introduced as “A song about growing up in an orphanage – which I know nothing about.” 
The next track is Closer which, after a plea to turn the bass down a little, is explained as being “about love and espionage which I know nothing about”. Again, Closer was featured on Max’s CD (not that I’ve heard the disc as it's been deleted) and a potentially known song to the audience.  I think that, like myself, no-one had bought, or heard,  the CD as there was little recognition apparent. There was plenty of applause at the end of each track from the appreciative audience. It was a reasonable sized audience too (no spare seats) considering that many of the overnight campers had probably been up for most of the night drowning their sorrows with beer and spirits – before being drowned by the torrential rain which they had to suffer. Closer features some soloing from John and is a little more uptempo than All Grown Up, though still laid back by rock standards! 

John introduced Palmistry by telling us that he’d been “in Hastings the other day and Palmistry is obviously big business there as every second place you went past said ‘Have Your palm read here’, …. have your money taken here!.”  A touch of cynicism – I like this man already I thought! He went on to say that he didn’t know what we felt about it but the song relates to it.  He also mentioned that the tracks he’d played (and Palmistry too) were all on the CD which was for sale after the performance. 
Palmistry started with just a simple piano tune rather than the layered synthy sound of the previous tracks, though it built with drums which John soloed over. It had build up to rather a proggy track by the end – though still fairly laid back. 

I guess a bit of explanation on how John performs is in order here – otherwise you’ll be wondering how one man can play keyboards, sing and drum at the same time. Much of the music is played back from John’s faithful Acorn (?) computer. It takes a bit of messing about with between tracks (to select the next track) but is less hassle than a joking drummer. This is not to say that John lacks talent – he played most of the music on the Acorn in the first place – and it’s just the backing track from the Life Underground CD.  He sings and adds keyboards live over the backing and it all works very well. At least he’s honest about it – admitting that he’d like to work in a band situation – he just can’t afford the band! 

John singing at the Whitchurch FestivalJohn then “pressed on with a couple more” before “launching into a couple of progressive tunes”. First up was a new one for him “hence the notes” (lyrics). He added that he did record it with a chap called Max Bacon (I’d heard the name before from GTR and Bronz so at least I was familiar with who the tracks had come from – if not the tracks themselves). John made no mention of the fact that he’d written the tracks as well as recording them – extremely modest. When I Was Young started with drums and a slightly faster tempo. I think it was around this point that I  though, despite the show being not at all what I expected, that the music was great and that I had to see John perform again.  This feeling just kept building through his forty minute set. The last of the slow ones was dedicated “to anyone who may be a little sad at the moment.” Also mentioned was that “My band may need a change of program before the next ones”. Ivory Tower was “written about a love affair that went horribly wrong.”  A slight problem with ‘the band’ lightened the atmosphere with some cheery banter with a couple of the crowd who said “sack the band!” 
“They’re cheap” replied John only to be told that “they don’t buy the drinks though, do they!” 
“They do get some spilt on them from time to time though,” came the instant reply. 
Back then to the serious business of a musical box chiming the intro to the lament of Ivory Tower. The high pitched chime persists thought the quiet, simple, first heartfelt verses of the track though the stop as the track builds towards a louder and rather abrupt ending. This surprised the audience and it took a few seconds for them to show their warm appreciation. John’s voice works very well with these lighter numbers and injects plenty of feeling into the performance, showing his love for the music and songs. 

A bit of a wait for the next track as John tries to get his ‘band’ to accept something it sometimes doesn’t want to – a different sound card! Whilst he fights with technology he tells us the story behind the track, Childhood’s End. This was the progressive track, though the audience didn’t show  a massive amount of enthusiasm until John asked “if they actually wanted  to hear anything Progressive?”.  The response was an overwhelming “Yes!”  During the “3 minutes” he reckoned it would take to ‘ready the band’ John explained that on the last night of your seventeenth year everyone goes to visit a place for one last time to play with their toys before ‘growing up’, that place being Childhood’s End

Immediately this track began I was struck again by the thought that this had been an extremely fortuitous ad-hoc gig to stumble upon. Childhood’s End was indeed a progressive tune of mega proportions –  tempo changes, interesting lyrical theme and extremely catchy music.  Here was one guy I had to see perform again and Childhood’s End was the clincher – not that I really needed one. The quiz was calling – but there was no way I was leaving before the set had finished. The initial zippiness of the track subsided as the story led towards waking up as an adult, but not before a final bit of musical fun.  This, of all the tracks performed, was the one which stood out head and shoulders above the rest.  This is not to denigrate the previous tracks – they were all great too – but Childhood’s End really was the icing on the cake. It wasn’t just me either – the whole audience showed their appreciation with the loudest round of applause of the afternoon as the song finished. 

Unfortunately time had beaten John and we never got the second ‘proggy’ track – but I don’t think that anyone left the hall unhappy – they’d all experienced a superb show by a great musician who will hopefully give us a full show at next years festival. 

We had to leave as soon as the show was over and enjoyed the thrill of a mad race from Whitchurch to Tadley through some of the heaviest rain I’ve had the displeasure of driving in.  Poor campers I thought.  Still, we made it with 5 minutes to spare – though I think Robin had a few hairs less in his head by the time we arrived. 

We were back later that evening to see the Moody Marsden band and picked up a back issue of ‘Wondrous Stories’, the magazine of the Classic Rock society. It happened to have an interview with John and a list of forthcoming tour dates. 

Excellent – a chance to see a full performance in the near future and close to home. It turned out that John lived half a dozen miles from where I worked (and had lived until a week or two before) and played a fair number of shows in the area.  The closest happened to coincide with a date I’d be in Scotland, so Aldershot it would have to be. 

10/9/99 John YOUNG : The Wheatsheaf, Aldershot  (Cancelled)

Unfortunately, when I phoned the pub on the afternoon of the show the barman knew nothing of the show - a common occurrence in the pub gig trail.  For more details on the difficult path John has  to follow in his quest to bring the populace some great music have a look at this page.

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