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Nearfest 2010

Discussion in 'Live Concert Reviews.' started by Stout, Jun 21, 2010.

  1. Stout

    Stout Senior Member

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    Re: Neafest, anyone??

    I`m back, so here is my review;
    Day 1, June 18th:
    Riverside- It was not worth the trouble to bolt down my food I had at this excellent Italian resturaunt located in Downtown Bethlehem. Riverside are from Poland, and their music was mostly metallic riffs married with some keyboard work. Yawn!!! Myself and the better half were clearly bored throughout the performance. Just because you have keyboards in your band does not mean your band is progressive.
    Steve Hackett- The highlight of the whole festival. Talk about ensemble playing. All band members are quite strong players in their own right. The set was well placed with some tracks from Hackett`s new release, which is his best in years, his past solo material, and a generous helping of Genesis material. I was in my glory as the band ploughed through 'Fly On a Winshield', 'Carpet Crawlers', and the whole 'Firth of Fifth.' Genesis may be defunct and the other members may have forsaken progressive music, but Steve hackett has not. His playing is so fluid and effortless , one wonders how does he do it?
    It was a pleasure to talk to Mr. Hackett and the rest of the band as they signed my cd`s. You couldn`t ask for a more humble individual than Hackett. What a gentleman! But then again, all the band members were down to earth. This was a real treat.
    More to come!!
     
  2. Stout

    Stout Senior Member

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    Re: Neafest, anyone??

    June 19th, Day 2:
    I don`t sleep well in hotels, so it`s no surprise I only received three hours sleep. Was I still pumped up from Hackett`s performance?
    Astra- The San Diego band were the first act to take the stage at 11:00 AM, and needless to say, it was way too early for a head trip. With bizarre footage being shown on the projector screen, some of it culled from Jadoworsky movies, the band played these interminable space jams. If one needed a joint or possibly some acid, this was time for it. Needless to say, it was hard going , and myself and the better half headed for the exit doors after an hour of this. What was also need was better setlist pacing by the band. You don`t start off with a 36 minute track.
    Forgas- They are from France and their music is mostly jazz to these ears, but it started to sound monotous after a while. No differentiation in the tracks. When your mind starts to wander, you know it`s time to vacate the premises and have lunch, which is what this boy did.
    Iona- I expected this celtic influenced band to be good and they did not disappoint. Their light and brezzy style was a nice contrast from the last two acts and my mind needed a break form all that frenetic activity. Songs and melodies were also welcome too. The ullieann pipe/tin whistle player, Martin Nolan was nothing short of astounding. Ditto Joanne Hogg on vocals/keyboards, whose voice was mesmerizing and stirring. This music also appeals to this lad`s celtic heritage, and of course I had to go the signing afterwards.
    I did not see the headline act, 'Three friends', due to being a bit ill. From what I understand , this band are some of the former members of Gentle Giant. So, I guess Aktivator will have to insert his review here.
    More to come!!!
     
  3. Stout

    Stout Senior Member

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    Re: Neafest, anyone??

    Day 3 June 20Th:
    I still wasn`t feeling 100%, but I was going to make the most out of my hard-earned dough. So I gamely braved another day of hit or miss.
    Moraine- They are from Seattle. It`s hard to classify thier music. I would say it bordered on jazz,space jamming, and it was eastern influenced. I was quite surprised and actually enjoyed their set. The violin player was quite cute as well being adept on her instrument. She reminded me of Lucy Lawless.
    Pineapple Thief- This English qaurtet is highly talked about in progressive circles. Why???
    All myself and the better half saw was a band with a grunge type of lead singer/guitarist. Sort of a poor man`s Kurt Cobain. And there was nothing in the songs that stood out as progressive. After three songs of this, we vacated for the food wagon.
    I`m glad I never spent money on any of their cd`s prior to this. Although the money changers in the vending rooms were seeing plenty of my green. My cd shopping is done for the year.
    The Enid- I was hoping for them to be fantastic, for I have a compilation of theirs. This as close to classical music as you will get within the rock framework. There were some quiet interludes at the beginningof the set that were making me drowsy, but their set became strogner as it went on. The Enid`s sound was spectacular and grand. If you are looking for true symphonic progressive music, look no further. All musicians are quite adept players and you have to be for this sort of music that is not riff or song based. These are compositions composed well by the band leader , Robert John Godfrey, who resembles more of a college professor than a musician. But by listening to the music and watching the band, his composing abilities are nothing short of astounding. The better half and I came away mesmerized and awe-struck by the power and granduer of the music.
    And we also had to go the signing afterwards, where we found the band quite pleasant and gregarious. It is a shame in a world of plastic American Idol TV shows and image marketed music on the radio, music such as this is woefully overlooked.
    I wasn`t still feeling all that well, so my better half and I headed for home. And of course, we missed Eddie Jobson and Universe Zero, but I was physically ill and mentally exhausted at this point.
    So there you have it, when Nearfest was spectacular, it exeeded my expectations. And when it was subpar, it was trying. But all in all, it was worth it for the bands that were incredible beyond words.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2010
  4. dsm221b

    dsm221b Junior Member

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    Enjoyed your review Stout.

    Like you, I enjoyed NF this year. But not as much as the last two years.

    Admittedly, it will be difficult to beat last year’s line-up containing VDGG, Gong, & PFM. And the year before was Banco, Peter Hammill, Koenji Hyakkei, & ecolyn – another stellar cast.

    My own thoughts in review:

    Overall, I found the sound engineering / mixing a little inferior this year. Almost everything was too loud. And too heavy on guitars & drums. Judging by the number of times the artists gave urgent hand signals to stage-right, I think the bands noticed this problem too. When everything is too loud, it reduces the dynamic range and potential drama of performances. Prog is a finesse-based form for the most part. A bit more attention to sound is needed for next year.

    Riverside – missed most of this performance. We just arrived in from Ontario, Canada – 7 hour drive. Arrgh. I hear this band was good. But your comments indicate otherwise. What little of the show we saw was not enough to agree or disagree.

    Steve Hackett – always brilliant guitar work; never misses. I like his quieter stuff better; it suits his style better I think. And the bassist, who looked and acted like a cross between King Kong & Little Bo Peep, was distracting and annoying. I have heard some comments about the Genesis stuff being less than perfect – we noticed some sloppiness in the excecution on these tracks. But I hate to be negative – this was a good Hackett show if you ignored a couple things. He is a gentlemen and an excellent guitarist.

    Astra – we liked this show. Cool visuals that were a good match for the music. Playing was excellent and vocals (though not many) were decent. The song structures were a little long/repetitive, but that seems to be the intention. Of course, long/repetitive songs leaves lots of room for extended guitar solos, which can be tiresome if melodic passages are substituted for mere multiplicity of notes. These guys are good, and are capable of some drama and intensity. If they remember that drama is created by variation between power & subtlety, we can watch out for some excellent future work from this band.

    Forgas Band Phenomena – another good show. The music was very challenging in places – which is a good thing for us proggers. Very well played. There were some humorous antics between songs due to French/English translation – all in good fun. The guitarist’s sound/distortion seemed to be a little much. The prog/jazz format would have been better served with a more subdued guitar sound. Especially in view of the fact that they had a decent variety of other instrumentation with some other excellent players. Again, better mixing would have helped. And Mr. Forgas has a lot of finesse as a drummer – nice to watch.

    IONA – missed this one also. Celtic/symphonic from England. I’m not a huge fan of this genre, but audience reception seemed to be very positive. Your comments are very positive. Maybe we should've made more of an effort to attend this one.

    Three Friends – Incredible. Way better than I expected. I was worried that diluting the original band so much would produce only a pale shadow of the ‘power & glory’. But not so. The players were awesome. Especially the bass player. There is a saying that a mediocre player will make something easy look hard, whereas a master will make something hard look easy. This guy was a master. No theatrics (compare Hackett’s bassist), no pomp, no antics. Just perfect playing and vocals (not easy when Gentle Giant is the set-list). If you get a chance to see Gary and friends, do not miss it! All hail the Giant!

    Morriane – missed this one too. Can you tell that I travelled with my pal to NF with our wives and 5 children (total)? I would have loved to have seen these guys. There is always a Sunday morning surprise and we missed it again this year:(

    Pineapple Thief - missed this one too. (This is a NF record for me for missed shows.) We overheard a number of comments about this band being a straight ahead rock band with little ‘progressive’ flavor. What little recorded material I have heard from this band seems to support this view. But I cannot speak for the live show.

    Enid – WOW! I expected something big from these guys, but this show was truly an experience. The set started off rather clumsily with a computer failure about 3 minutes into the first song. The show stopped while the problem was fixed. The drummer filled in the break with a light-hearted solo vocal. The show resumed and there was no looking back after that. If you closed your eyes, you heard a full symphony at work. Mr. Godfrey is an incredible player. He is also an excellent composer – truly classical song structures. My only minor complaint regarding some of the music is that it is perhaps too overstated, maybe even a little bombastic in places. There are a number of points in the tracks where the music builds to a rousing point that is suggestive of a finale – only to continue on. We met Robert in the street later that evening – he confirmed that he is influenced by Gustav Mahler – 8th symphony specifically. Again the guitar work, while excellent, was mixed to high and too harshly – to the point of being somewhat unforgiving to technique of the player. After the show, the band were immediately and cheerfully out to meet the crowd. I was buying a CD when Mr. Godfrey walked right up to me and asked if I would like a signature (and if he could borrow a pen to do so). I directed him to the table where he was more than happy to talk with all of the fans. We tried to convince them to pop by and visit us in Canada some time for supper. We also reassured them not worry about computer crashes – my work computer crashes all the time – stupid MS Windows! Judging by the audience reaction during the speeches later in the evening, I would say Enid was the weekend favorite for most people.

    Eddie Jobson & UZP – Headliner – but honestly, I think this spot should have been reserved for Enid or even Three Friends. Anyway, there was a rather long wait – they were late in taking the stage. In the lead-up to the set, there were numerous messages over-head that forbade anyone from taking pictures or making recordings of any kind; we were not even allowed to remember the show in any way (just joking). (Usually NF bands don’t care about this, so this, combined with being late, started things off with an annoying taste in mouth.) The show began with Eddie Jobson doing some noodling on a glow-in-the-dark violin. It wasn’t really a song; it was just some fast / loud arpeggios buried under a wall of effects (digital delay, chorus, wah, distortion, etc.) This introduction was essentially representative of the rest of the show.

    After Enid, this band seemed like a bunch of hot-doggers. Just because you can play fast and loud, doesn’t mean you’re worth listening to. It seemed like these guys were trying to make what they were playing look harder than it was through much pomp and exaggerated antics. And yes, the two (why?) drummers were great; and yes, the 15-20min duel drum solo was riveting entertainment, but gimme a break – we get the point. And next to Robert Godfrey (from Enid), Eddie Jobson’s keyboard work was a bit of a wannabe. The singer occasionally did a good job of Wetton’s original KC vocals. But this was overshadowed by his inability to carry a tune in a bucket. The singing in ‘Nevermore’ was especially hilarious. The singer did do some passable rhythm and even lead guitar work. The other guitarist on stage-left was absent for much of the performance and when he was present, seemed to be concerned with the performance of his amp - maybe some tech difficulties. Overall, it was difficult to take EJ&UZP very seriously. ‘Ultimate Zero Project’ seemed a strangely fitting moniker for this performance.

    Perhaps someone with more knowledge and affection for UK’s original work would be more forgiving than I. And I am only one opinion among many.

    An idea - I know there is an effort made to have a variety of acts that include both old and new bands. My concern is that the older bands are a dwindling resource as time passes. I would encourage the organizers to focus on including older acts in the line-up now while the time is still opportune. Bands such as: National Health, Moving Gelatine Plates, Pollen, EtCetera, Dedalus, Bella Band, Quella Vecchia Locanda, Morse Code, Locanda Del Fate, Gotic, Atlas, Arti E Mestieri, Smak, Sloche, Ruphus, Quiet Sun, Il Volo, Etna, Culpeper's Orchard, Coloseum, Acqua Fragile, Terreno Baldio, Satin Whale, Fields, Mythos, Maxophone, Ragnarok, Eskaton, Druid, Comus, Biglietto Per L'Inferno, Alphataurus, etc.

    I know many of these bands are secondary classics and may no longer exist, but you get the idea. Soon there will be no opportunity to hear musicians from that era. It is worth a try to get some of these guys to think about coming to Nearfest for a one-off (or more) show to celebrate the early years of prog.

    As always, many thanks go out to the NF gang for their tireless efforts.

    Best regards,
    Dave
    Canada
     
  5. Aktivator

    Aktivator aka Hightea

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    nice review dsm and stout

    Riverside-
    I've seen Riverside twice once at NEARfest 2006 and the following year in New Jersey, the best show. I like Riverside's new album that came out last year,Anno Domini High Definition, although it was a bit heavy for my taste however, the last two songs are gems. Riverside are a polish progresive rock band with influences from Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree. Mariusz Duda's extraordinary vocals are what really hooks me into this band. He can be both "gently soothing and brutally powerful within the scope of the same song. Duda also handles the bass guitar duties", and I like the fact he effortlessly lays down intricate bass lines while simultaneously singing lead. The guitarist has some tasty chops along with a powerful drummer and keyboards to round out the band. Where Riverside disappoints me is that they turn up the speed and heavy sound with their live performance and forget they have some tone down melodic songs. In NJ they played a few, I Believe and Two Minds, and it made their show more enjoyable. I still loved the performance esp. Left Out and Hybrid Times.

    setlist

    Hyperactive
    Drive to Destruction
    Cybernetic Pillow
    Egoist Hedonist
    Conceiving You
    Left Out
    Dance with the Shadow
    02 Panic Room
    Hybrid Times


    Riverside
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    Last edited: Jun 25, 2010
  6. Aktivator

    Aktivator aka Hightea

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    Steve Hackett-
    I loved Hackett's set. I thought he was better than in 2002 although his playing might have been a little better back then. The band was great and they did a 2 1/2 hour set of old Genesis, old solo stuff and interesting new material. Nick Beggs was a trip in pigtails and leather kilt but it din't stop him from playing a mean bass and chapman stick. I really enjoyed when he pulled out the acoustic guitar.
    Highlights were
    "Blood on the Rooftops." awesome verson, and Firth of Fifth (complete w/ piano intro), Ace of Wands, Every Day, Spectral Mornings, Classical Gas/Horizons,Fly on a Windshield/Broadway Melody of 74, Los Endos(great version).

    Whole setlist
    Mechanical Bride
    Fire on the Moon
    Every Day
    Emerald and Ash
    Carpet Crawlers
    Ace of Wands
    Pollution B/The Steppes
    Slogans
    Serpentine Song
    Spectral Mornings
    Firth of Fifth
    Walking Away from Rainbows
    Classical Gas/Horizons
    Blood on the Rooftops
    Fly on a Windshield/Broadway Melody of 1974
    Sleepers
    Chapman Stick Solo
    Still Waters
    Myopia
    Los Endos
    Clocks


    Pictures
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  7. Aktivator

    Aktivator aka Hightea

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    Saturday Morning 11am-Astra
    Astra come out of San Diego and play like they are back in the 60's psychedelic and progressive era along with the trippy lighting too. Armed with a Moog, trippy guitars, flutes and an army of keyboards Astra played a wonderful set full of melodic jams although a bit repetitive. The vocals might have been lacking but I really enjoyed Astra's set. Since NEARfest I've been enjoying their album "The Weirding".

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  8. Aktivator

    Aktivator aka Hightea

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    Forgas Band Phenomena-
    FBP are out of France. Patrick Forgas started out in the early 70's playing French fusion influenced by early Soft Machine Caterbury music. His band today has kept that early fusion sound and is full of a nice group of talented musicians. Along with Forgas's suberb groovy drumming was a sweet violinist,keyboaards, sax, bass, trumpet and a very good guitarist who laid down some nice solos. Very entertaining band. The band didn't speak much english and turned in some funny moments as various members tried to speak to the audience and messed a few things up. It was very funny and a good way to lighten the mood.
    setlist

    FORGAS BAND PHENOMENA
    -----------------------------
    Ultraviolet
    L'Axe du Fou
    Feu Sacré
    Soleil 12
    Double Sens
    Extra-Lucide
    La 13ème Lune
    Eclipse

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    Last edited: Jul 2, 2010
  9. Magic

    Magic Woman of the World

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    Those are some great pictures AK. Sounds to me like NearFest 2010 was a pretty awesome event.
     
  10. Aktivator

    Aktivator aka Hightea

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    Iona-
    Iona is a celtic symphonic progressive rock band from England. Iona were a two faced band. At their best when they sped it up and played at a fast tempo making you want to get up and dance to their celtic melodies. Joanne Hogg has a very powerful deep voice who reminded me a bit of Christina Booth from Magenta. The addition of a Uilleann pipes and whistles musician gave Iona a unique sound. The drummer also played a mean violin and the keyboard player played guitar for parts of the show. My only problem is when they slowed things down and played a more quite passage it started to bore me. Funny the band quoted that they aren't use to an audience that sits but as I listened to their set there were long parts where I don't see people dancing and partying it up. Still a great set but would prefer the whole set to be uptempo.

    IONA
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    Be Thou My Vision/Opening Improv
    Treasure
    Today
    Jigs
    Another Realm
    A Million Stars
    Divine Presence
    The Ancient Walls
    Flight of the Wild Goose
    The Island
    Clouds
    Encircling
    Castlerigg/Reels
    Irish Day
    Bi-Se I mo Shuil Part 2


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