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Abel Ganz goes to the Baltics

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toroddfuglesteg View Drop Down
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    Posted: August 17 2010 at 06:58

This is a tour report emailed to me (and probably many others too..... I am not claiming any V.I.P status) by Abel Ganz. 

I asked for their permission to publish it here for the benefits of their fans here and got an affirmative yes to my request. The same goes for the picture below. Take it away !!

Well - what a great time we all had at this year's Baltic Prog Fest in
Lithuania.  Now we have been back for a week or so Hugh has been reflecting
on our first gig outside the UK.  Read on....

Baltic Prog Fest 2010

Saturday 31^stJuly 2010. Mark that date in your diaries. We all remember
where we were when Kennedy was shot, when Elvis or Lennon died, when Gabriel
left Genesis … and now you can add the above date as the day Abel Ganz, 30
years into its existence, played their first gig outwith the shores of this
Sceptred Isle. Despite a few close calls in the past we have never actually
played outside the UK, so imagine our excitement and pleasure when we were
invited to play at the Baltic Prog Festival on the outskirts of Vilnius in
Lithuania.

We knew from our research that it was one of the smaller European festivals
but it had still attracted some top names over the years – such as Arena,
Shadowland, Clive Nolan and Nick Barrett, and John Young who played at the
festival this year for a second time. He had given us a warm endorsement of
the festival and the enthusiasm of the organisers Jonas and Justinas of The
Skys, having just returned from helping them with the recording of their
current album. This proved to be an accurate assessment as the whole
festival was run in a laid-back fashion that was both charming and filled
with enthusiasm.

Our 1 a.m. flight from Edinburgh got us into Vilnius at 5.50 local time. The
flight was smooth and we had no troubles getting all our equipment on and
off and through customs –  despite my fears! However our excitement at
arriving in a country that none of us had visited before was tempered by
being up all night and we were all delighted to get to our beds just as the
sun was breaking over the horizon.

We all surfaced for a very late breakfast mid-afternoon and prepared for our
pick-up for the festival. Justinas duly arrived on time to take the
equipment and an advance party consisting of Jack, Maria (my good lady) and
myself off to the site some 30 km outside the city. En route we had to make
a few stops for currency, fags and serious mosquito repellent and to pick up
a few other bands so we could all travel in convoy. This gave us an
opportunity to see a good bit of Vilnius, which is a fairly sprawling city
with a long, rich and varied history.

There is a beautiful historic old town with quaint narrow streets and dozens
of churches, wide city boulevards with shops and malls that you would find
in any modern European city. However there is also the very obvious legacy
of Soviet rule with many drab 60’s tower blocks which to be honest were no
worse than any schemes back home, we could have been in Easterhouse or
Castlemilk  only without the litter, shell-suited neds and rabid pitbulls!
And the sun was shining which made everything seem better!

On leaving the city we passed through woods and fields dotted by small
houses and farms and eventually turned off the main road onto a small side
road which in turn became a wide dirt track which again narrowed down to a
single track as we crossed a field and entered a forest. By this time we
were all wondering where we were heading until the single track emerged from
the woods onto a huge gently sloped clearing ringed by tents and a river, a
perfect setting for a festival. The whole feeling of the event was very
tranquil and friendly in true festival spirit, campfires, barbeques, beer
tent, dreadlocked guys juggling….you get the vibe!

Being on last we took full advantage of the beer tent and the excellent
Lithuanian lager whilst we enjoyed the other bands, Distant Light a
Latvian/Estonian band definitely on the thrash side of prog, Palindrome from
Austria an eclectic mix of brass and angst, my favourites Porcelain, renamed
Porcelain Moon that evening who had driven 18 hours from Finland, a nice mix
of trippy grooves and Floydesque strung out solos.

As the sun finally dripped below the trees and the innumerable midges danced
in the stage lights we took to the stage. Given our use of acoustic
instruments and laptop the PA guys did a good job setting us up reasonably
swiftly and by now the audience were ready for some slightly more
traditional prog and took to us instantly as we launched into “Sheepish”.
Mick was excelling as a front man and interacted superbly with the audience
(although how much of that was fuelled by Lithuanian lager is open to
debate!).

Ventura was followed by two new songs, Mick’s solo acoustic song “Leaving
the Past Behind” and the first part of Davie’s  “Rewind” which had already
appeared at our unplugged gigs with Pendragon but was the first time we’d
played it as a full electric band song. We then followed on with “Rain
Again” from “The Dangers of Strangers” album with the extended end section
which certainly got the audience moving.

Also making an appearance for the first time was Jack Webb on keyboards.
Jack had initially just agreed to help us out at the festival following
Hew’s departure but to our delight has now joined Abel Ganz on a permanent
basis. His keyboard playing on “Shooting Albatross” was one of the albums
highlights and live he excelled himself. His solo piano spot during “Looking
for a Platform” drew enthusiastic applause from the audience who ended up
clapping along and upping the tempo of the usually free form piece.
Stevie’s Rickenbacker growled into life, Denis kicked in on drums whilst
Jack and Davie traded solos. The fireflies danced in the lights and all too
soon the gig was over.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the set, we sold a few CD’s and signed autographs
on freshly purchased CD’s.  Jonas and Justinas did a wonderful job
organising such friendly, feel good festival and deserved better support and
a larger audience, but as they admitted they were up against several other
festivals that weekend, a great shame given the great location and the
warmth of the people involved.
We eventually made it back to the hotel around 3pm and slept soundly.

Sunday saw us all up looking remarkably bright given the non stop weekend so
far and the amounts of lager consumed. Sightseeing in the old town section
of Vilnius was the order of the day and we all went our separate ways
discovering the many churches, street markets and cafes tucked away in the
winding streets. Denis did the official bus tour and filled us in on the
city’s long and varied history over our evening meal. Mick, Maria and I did
the local food whilst Davie, Denis and Jack played the safe option of
steaks. They really missed out on the fluorescent pink cold beetroot soup
with accompanying boiled potatoes followed by dumplings stuffed with lamb
and bacon and vodka flavoured ice cream to finish washed down with…..you’ve
guessed it, more Lithuanian lager.

All too soon we were off to the airport and the gig I thought would never
come was over in the blink of an eye. So much planning and worrying for an
hour and a half on stage, but having broken our European duck after so long,
I for one can’t wait for another opportunity to bring our music to a wider
audience again.

I was left with the memories of a superb woodland location and our music
reverberating round the dark forest, the warmth and friendliness of the
people and a beautiful historic city.

 

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