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Zombywoof View Drop Down
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    Posted: June 26 2012 at 19:32

Hello all,

 

The purpose of this thread is to answer to all of the folks who were asking for my review on the festival. So, after some discussion, Billy and I thought that, to be as thorough as possible, that we would get together and add our thoughts, stories, and music review into one thread here on PE and encourage discussion, photos, videos, etc with all of the wonderful people that we've met on here and at NEARfest Prog-ocalypse.

 

First, I will start by reviewing the music itself, the main focus of why I went to the festival.

 

FRIDAY:

Aranis - I caught about 10 minutes of these guys during soundcheck when I first arrived and the immediate reaction was chills down my spine. When I came back for the show, my first exposure to live RIO was breathtaking to say the least. The pianist, Pierre Chevalier was insanely proficient, going from dissonant chords to beautifully played passages. One got the feeling that, as Billy pointed out with his comment, "I had no idea he invented the piano", the man really owned his instrument. The accordionist, Marjolein Cools played the most raunchy tone I've ever heard and really blended well with the group, giving an extra eeriness to the group. The flutist, Jana Arns, was a wonderfully sweet lady and I really appreciated her gorgeous flute work, her mixture of classical and jazz techniques, and particularly her ability to weave and blend with violinist Liesbeth Lambrecht. David Kerman joins the tradition of phenomenal RIO drummers and he's in good company ... his style reminded me of Vander, Denis, Cutler ... no easy feat and he was a wonderful personality off stage and at the hotel. As another festival goer observed (I'm sorry, his name escapes me ... if you are reading this, say hi so I can properly acknowledge you!), if guitarist Stijn Denys had played an electric, it really would've been an apocalyptic situation, as I had to keep reminding myself that this was an essentially acoustic ensemble.

 

 

Van der Graaf Generator - AH, the legends! And they certainly lived up to and exceeded my expectations. I'm a VdGG fanboy ... everyone knows that ... and they are the reason why I took an excursion to Bethlehem for my first prog festival. When they took the stage, we were treated to a rousing, note-perfect rendition of 1975's aptly titled "Scorched Earth", which left festival-goers Scorched, indeed as Hammill perfectly sang every note, which earned them a standing ovation. In fact, Hammill's voice sounded better, in my opinion, then it did on "A Grounding in Numbers". Guy Evans, the most underrated drummer in prog, thumped along, adding a lot of power to the group, while Hugh Banton was positively innovative on his organ. The song "Flight" (which I'd never heard ... more on that later) particularly showcased his talents, with the swirling airplane effects the floated throughout the Zoellner. The big number at the end, "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End" brought an emotional reaction from everyone and the place erupted in applause with Peter's solo vocal spot in the middle, but it was the encore presentation of "Refugees" that left us all misty-eyed at the end of the proceedings. The middle of the show was mostly newer material, which was great. VdGG is not a jukebox and are, as Peter told me at the after party, "A modern band". A side note, I was rather embarrassed that I was unfamiliar with "Flight" ... a 19 minute song which featured the band on Hammill's "A Black Box" from 1980 (thanks to Phideaux for filling me in on this info!!), so much so that I rushed out Saturday morning and bought it from Ken at lasercd!

 

SATURDAY:

Helmet of Gnats - These guys were really cool and guitarist Chris Fox added a lot of great FZ and other influences to his heavy take on jazz fusion. I loved all of the effects he used and use of tremelo in his tone. Not much more to say other than the fact that they were a highly enjoyable addition to NEARfest.

 

Twelfth Night - I went into the performance, entirely unaware of their style, so expectations were fairly low. However, I was pleasantly surprised by their style of Neo-Prog which Rob LaDuca described to me as being half Genesis and half punk which wasn't for everyone. We enjoyed it quite a bit, particularly Andy Sears vocal prowess and sense of theatricality. Andy Faulkner on bass was a fine musician and so was Roy Keyworth's Rothery-like guitar licks. The guys were also wonderful to hang out with after the performance and Andy Sears was happy to meet appreciative fans and sign autographs and take pictures.

 

Anglagard - These guys were probably the highlight of Saturday for me. They played around 2 hours of mostly music from their recent record, "Viljans Öga", as well as selections from "Epilog" and a stunning extended take on "Jordrok" from "Hybris". Anna Holmgren was a surprise for me (I've only heard the first record) as their sound has had a lot more flute added to the mix, almost as the lead instrument and her beautiful sax playing added even more depth and variety to their already eclectic mix, as well as her masterful mellotron work, often adding counter melody to Thomas Johnsson's epic mellotron and organ work. It was drummer Mattias Olsson who stole the show, though, as he was an absolute joy to watch play and was without a doubt, the finest drummer there. Anglagard's music is based in dynamics ... its all about contrast ... loud, soft, beauty and brutality. From the smallest twinkling of Mattias's percussion (including a bicycle wheel with keys attached to it!) to the punishing loudness of the heavier sections, every nuance could be heard and appreciated. Later, Mattias provided a lot of fun at the after parties and was great fun to hang out with.

 

Renaissance - Not my favorite band of the weekend, but still very, very good. Vocalist Annie Haslam took a few tunes to get warmed up, but once we got to the vocally challenging "Things I Don't Understand" the beautiful voice that we all know and love had filled the Zoellner and the 65 year-old Annie sounded like she did 40 years ago on those albums that I so adore. The orchestral parts of these classic Renaissance tunes were covered to perfection by Jason Hart, but sounded a bit too Midi-ish for my tastes, but he is extremely talented and great to talk to when I bumped into him at the hotel (he was staying a few rooms down from us at the Comfort Suites). Pianist Rave Tesar played all of the original parts to perfection and was great fun to talk with on the elevator Saturday night, sporting a Gong t-shirt at the after party! My only problem with the band, other than the Midi sounds was that "Vultures Fly High" (one of my absolute favorites) was very weak, particularly on the part of the vocal harmonies ... I'm not sure why that one fell apart, but in spite of that, the band put on a rousing rendition of "Song of Scheherazade" that brought the house down and I couldn't keep back the chills when the band went into the final section of their brand of prog epic. An encore presentation of "Carpet of the Sun" (a song I was not familiar with) with Annie and Micheal Dunford was a nice simplistic folk tune that went over well. They finished the show with a new song, "Mystic and the Muse" which Annie told me was going to be on the new record that was epic in the style of good old 70's Renaissance. At the autograph session, Annie seemed pleased that I attended what was my first Renaissance concert and we chatted for a few minutes. She is a very sweet lady and seemed to appreciate young people who were into her music. It was definitely not a perfect show by any means, but a very good show ... excusable since it was opening night!

 

SUNDAY

Gosta Berlings Saga - Sunday morning was off to a tremendous start with these guys from Sweden. Their brand of hypnotic and heavy prog rock came across like a swirling machine and all four members played their hearts out. They were also cool guys to hang out with and I struck up a friendship with guitarist Einar Baldursson while helping him make waffles at the hotel breakfast! Later, we got a picture with all four guys who seemed just as happy to be there as Bill and I were. Great guys and a great band. For an encore, they played a rendition of "Island" from the Glue Works album which left us all speechless!

 

Il Tempio Delle Clessidre - Another band that I went in completely unfamiliar with and was left a complete fan. Great performances from all involved, especially Lupo Galifi from the classic RPI band Museo Rosenbach who sang with the power of a man half of his age. Elisa Montaldo on keys was phenomenal, adding dark sounds to the band's heavy take on RPI and was also a lot of fun to jam with at the afterparty. Also notable was Fabio Gremo on bass who was very talented, very energetic ... something that made the entire band a treat to watch and listen to, as well as a solid dose of theatricality. Excellent all around. Later, Lupo signed my copy "Zarathustra" and even though he spoke little English, he was seemingly overjoyed on Monday morning when I told him that I enjoyed the band. The band also hung around the entire festival. Such a classy bunch and very professional and very talented.

Mike Keneally Band - I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike, even though my knowledge of his output is sorely lacking. My introduction to the man was very unique. When I went to purchase an album of his, I asked the vendor which one was good for a Keneally novice, to which he replied, "Why ask me, when you can as a Keneally?" and Mike turned around and shook my hand and talked for a long time, even personalizing our purchases with his signature. The highlight for me was after his devastating performance at the afterparty, Mike and I talked Crimson for a bit (we share a mutual love for the "Lizard" record), VdGG (Mike claims that Pawn Hearts blew him to "f***ing Venus", but his favorite is "World Record" ) and before going to bed, he said "Cool hangin' with ya, man" ... it doesn't get much better than that. His performance, of course, was unbelievable to say the least and Mike's guitar work and compositions were highly original, innovative, and very different. I loved it! If you haven't met him, he's a really cool guy and a lot of fun to talk with. If you're reading this, Mike, thanks for hanging with me!

UK - I was introduced to Eddie Jobson in the hotel shortly after he arrived by Kevin and we talked Curved Air for a bit. Eddie seemed surprised that I liked Curved Air and told me that his son bought him the debut on picture disc vinyl for Father's Day ... cool to know that Eddie is into vinyl ... and he was a joy to talk with. The performance, although a bit too loud, was tight and all members were in fine form, with Wetton sounding better than ever, in my opinion. Eddie stole the show, however, with his violin solo with prerecorded tape accompaniment was what stole the show, along with a soaring take on KC's "Starless" which was very authentic and very thrilling.

So there you have it ... my review of the bands of NEARfest Apocalpse. The only thing left to say is that the people who were there were absolutely wonderful and I felt completely at home during the weekend. Even though I barely slept, I feel 100% refreshed from the amount of good, honest people I met and talked with there. I felt more at home there than anywhere else next to my actual home, of course.

Due thanks to the community for making me feel like a distant, but welcome relative to a close-knit family. It was fun to finally meet Rob LaDuca, Ian Carss (and get a sweaty man-hug), Cyndee Lee Rule and her husband, Anthony Ferraro, Dale Stubitsch, Frank Stickle, Sean Tonar, as well as the countless others that I came across while waiting in line for signatures, hanging out in the venue, or in the vendor rooms. As far as artists (not already mentioned): Phideaux (thank you for the evil), Mark Wilkinson, Roger Dean and Gary Green. Wilkinson was a lot of fun to hang out with, particularly while discussing Gosta Berlings Saga. Roger Dean was an absolute hoot ... when I told him how much I liked his "Tales from Topographic Oceans" cover, his dry response of "Who tortured you and made you listen to Yes?" had Bill and I in stitches. When he signed my copy of "Octopus", he complained about the crop of the cover and signed it twice, saying "They didn't even credit me!" (Do you blame him?)

Last, but by no means least, I want to send my sincere thanks to Kevin Feeley for making this weekend more special to me than it otherwise would've been. The community that he has gotten me involved in is something that I think about with a smile and that is something I'll never forget. You're the man!

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Had a stellar weekend, was great to meet you. My highlights were -

Aranis - I'm a huge fanboy and they knocked it out of the park for me. I loved every minute of it and sat rapt while they played. I think they heavied it up a bit with Dave's drums for the rock crowd and it was great to see & hear such a positive reaction. A+

VDGG - I went in with very high expectations as they are a bucket list band for me and I love all the albums I have. I was a bit disappointed as I couldn't get my head around the overwrought vocals. On consideration a couple of days later I've revised my view based on going in expecting too much. They were very good. B+.

Helmet Of Gnats - I've got their last 2 CD's and enjoyed their set, tight playing, good improv, no boring solos and good stories for the crowd. It was great to see Nosebone on stage & he played great. B+

Twelfth Night - I went in with very low expectations as I'm not a Neo fan. I actually stayed for the whole set that surprised me. The sound was very iffy. The vocalist was a bit too over dramatic and I wasn't sure about the political slide show in one of the tracks. I didn't enjoy it much but it's not my thing. I checked with a couple of fans afterwards and they enjoyed it. C-

Anglagard - The other reason I came to NF (along with Aranis) as they were a must see band for me. Mindblowingly good. Good tunes, great chops, loads of fun, off the hook drumming from Matthias. Actually better live than on disc. The stunning thing for me was how all the instruments were distinct and important, you could totally hear them all playing off each other. Amazing. A+

Renaissance - I've got Turn Of The Cards & Scheherazade and like both well enough. I went in with fairly low expectations as I had worries with Annie's voice at that age and the band line up. They were pretty good, I knew pretty much all the material, it was delivered pretty well. Annie's voice was a bit off at times, especially at the beginning. I enjoyed it more than I expected. B+

Gosta Berlings Saga - Brilliant, I know Glue Works well and like it but they were so much better live. Real Zeuhlly Post Rock sound. I dug the build up and the tight wall of noise. I found myself sitting back and trying to take it all in. Matthias coming on at the end was just an added bonus. Went and bought one of their older discs straight after the gig. One of the stars of NF12. A

Il Tempio Della Clessidre - I thought I would like them as I like this style of Italian Prog. I hadn't heard a note before the gig. They were a lot of fun. The bass player & guitarist looked as if they were enjoying themselves. The keyboardist was excellent and her playing was the highlight to me. They could be a bit cheesy at times but I don't think there's anything wrong with that as long as it's done with humor. I would have loved them to open in the capes and masks with the lights coming up with them in costume, it would have thrown people for a loop. B+

Mike Keneally - I was a bit disappointed with MK's set, maybe it wasn't helped by England losing to Italy on penalties during the set (I was following it from the back on my iphone), he obviously has loads of chops and can shred with the best of them. I just didn't find any hooks to get my interest. It felt like power pop with shredding. Obviously his fans loved it but it didn't connect with me. I cut out after 5 or 6 tracks to go get dinner, have a nap, and be back for UK by 9pm (was that a mistake!!). C+

UK - It didn't start well with the delayed start & I was kind of apprehensive after walking out of UKZ 2 years ago (late start, too much pretension, and and interminable drum solo). But I'm a Crimson fanboy and have never seen John Wetton so was determined to stick it out this year. I loved it, they played a great set, Wetton sounded terrific, Gary Husband was terrific on drums, Jobson can play with the best. I liked the material selection and enjoyed it immensely. Only two disappointments (other than the late start), it was too loud (one of only two bands I needed ear plugs for), and they didn't play Fallen Angel which was originally on the set list. I would have loved that. A-

Other highlights

Meeting sooo many friends old & new, that's what really made my weekend
Taking my daughter to her first festival, she had a whale of a time
I won the IZZ signed DVD & CD!!
One of my Meme's made it onto the screen and got a cheer (One does not simply....tune a Mellotron)

Thanks Chad, Rob, Kev & everyone for a terrific weekend!!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zombywoof Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 26 2012 at 21:16
Originally posted by Nogbad_The_Bad Nogbad_The_Bad wrote:



Other highlights

Meeting sooo many friends old & new, that's what really made my weekend
Taking my daughter to her first festival, she had a whale of a time
I won the IZZ signed DVD & CD!!
One of my Meme's made it onto the screen and got a cheer (One does not simply....tune a Mellotron)



So did our greasy man-hug!! Congrats, by the way.

Originally posted by Nogbad_The_Bad Nogbad_The_Bad wrote:



UK - It didn't start well with the delayed start & I was kind of apprehensive after walking out of UKZ 2 years ago (late start, too much pretension, and and interminable drum solo). But I'm a Crimson fanboy and have never seen John Wetton so was determined to stick it out this year. I loved it, they played a great set, Wetton sounded terrific, Gary Husband was terrific on drums, Jobson can play with the best. I liked the material selection and enjoyed it immensely. Only two disappointments (other than the late start), it was too loud (one of only two bands I needed ear plugs for), and they didn't play Fallen Angel which was originally on the set list. I would have loved that. A-



Yeah, I didn't wear plugs and my hearing was slightly impaired after the gig. Not good at all. But they were still excellent musicians and everything was well played.



Edited by Zombywoof - June 26 2012 at 21:24
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote infocat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 26 2012 at 21:57
Every year makes me wish I lived in the North East.  Oy.
Definitely makes me want to check out each of those bands that I don't already know.  Especially Aranis.  Sounds so interesting!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pianoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 27 2012 at 11:31
Anglagard, Gosta, Il Tempio and Aranis all surprised the hell out of me for how good they were (I had never heard any of their music previously)

The rest of the bands except Twelfth Night were pretty good. Twelfth Night, in my opinion was pretty awful. UK annoyed me because of the delay, but once they got started, it sounded pretty kickass.

For any of you who came to vending and said hi to us (Ocean Architecture and Until Sunrise), thanks! I hope everyone had an awesome weekend.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zombywoof Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 29 2012 at 08:27
Originally posted by pianoman pianoman wrote:

Anglagard, Gosta, Il Tempio and Aranis all surprised the hell out of me for how good they were (I had never heard any of their music previously)

The rest of the bands except Twelfth Night were pretty good. Twelfth Night, in my opinion was pretty awful. UK annoyed me because of the delay, but once they got started, it sounded pretty kickass.

For any of you who came to vending and said hi to us (Ocean Architecture and Until Sunrise), thanks! I hope everyone had an awesome weekend.


Which room were you in? We might've met at some point.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ancient Tree Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 30 2012 at 04:35
to bad that the teleporter wasn invented yet 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Finnforest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 30 2012 at 15:47
Originally posted by micky micky wrote:

Raff also posted a great review of Nearfest.

http://progmistress.com/2012/06/28/live-review-nearfest-apocalypse-the-end-of-an-era/


 





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Merry Christmas!



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pianoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 01 2012 at 10:11
Quote Which room were you in? We might've met at some point.


Room 145, first table on the right.
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