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NewEars' Prog Art Rock Showcase 5/31/12014

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mwood View Drop Down
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Joined: January 12 2009
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    Posted: June 07 2014 at 22:14
I don't go to prog rock festivals.  As much as the idea of 2 or 3 days of non-stop prog rock appeals to me (it really does), the distances and added expenses (travel, hotel, etc.) as well as time away from other important stuff usually keep me away.  That said, I've been to a lot of concerts, and many fantastic prog shows put on by NewEars here in Massachusetts.

When NewEars announced a show with Sonus Umbra and Izz, I was intrigued enough to buy a ticket, and excited to hear that it was expanded into a full day with the addition of 4 other bands, including a recent favorite of mine, Resistor.

The day started promptly at 2pm with Mavara.  This is a great "crossover" prog band featuring several folks from Iran along with a couple of "token Americans" on guitar and drums.  Ashkan Hamedi is an emerging frontman who sings powerfully in English with a slight accent.  I believe that this show was guitarist Scott Abene's first with Mavara, but his piercing crisp leads fit the band beautifully.  Their music was nicely layered, and the sound did not get at all muddy.  I was reminded of latter-day Pink Floyd, with a touch of Deep Purple.  I would urge you to check out the samples of their most recent album, "Season on Salvation", on iTunes or anywhere else that you can find them.  Read up on the compelling story of their origin in Iran and how they came to be based nearby in New Hampshire here.  You'll also gain a better understanding of the messages of peace and tolerance in their music.  I'll be on the lookout for more Mavara shows in the area in the future.

Between acts, I spoke with Sina, the bass player.  Very friendly and evidently a big Pink Floyd fan - he seemed to like my "Atom Heart Mother" shirt.  The band really seemed to enjoy themselves onstage and off, and most (if not all) of the members stayed and watched all of the other bands perform.

NewEars' mainman Al Baillergeon was true to his word when he announced there would be only a 20-minute break until the next act.  I know several folks did not get back to the theatre in time to hear Baked Beans' first couple of songs.  Too bad, because these 4 local high school students (sophomores, so probably about 15 years old) opened with a ripping version of "21st Century Schizoid Man" that really got the attention of the audience.  The remainder of their set was primarily jazz-infused prog rock, or prog-infused jazz, depending on your point of view.  Great stuff for fans of that genre, and I enjoyed the fact that these guys seemed to truly love playing, as evidenced by the smiles on their faces.  Having a local band on the bill was an inspired choice by NewEars - bravo.

It seemed to me that music that was played over the PA between acts was from bands that had previously performed at NewEars gigs.  I heard The Flower Kings, Nektar, UK...  Nice touch, whether intentional or not!

After another short break, Might Could took the stage with their acoustic guitars.  The band consists of 4 members who all also played with Sonus Umbra, and they played a great set of fast-paced, intricate acoustic music.  Prior to the show, I didn't think that this would interest me, but the change of pace was perfect.  Their music was, by its acoustic nature, a little lighter (not too light), but not at all boring!  The band's joking banter with the audience and among its members kept the entire set lively and compelling.

There was no break between Might Could and Sonus Umbra.  Luis Nasser simply switched from acoustic bass to electric.  Andy Tillotson removed his glasses in transforming from mild-mannered acoustic guitarist to drumming madman.  Tim McCaskey picked up his electric guitar, and Aaron Geller left the stage - though he wandered back on several times to provide some exciting electric guitar.  They were joined by the four other members of Sonus Umbra, and they launched into a set of powerful prog rock.  Roey Ben-Yoseph's capable lead vocals sounded especially great when complemented by those of Brittany Moffit.  Occasional flute and fiery electric guitar really enlivened their set.  I wasn't very familiar with their material, but Sonus Umbra was so strong that I picked up their most recent CD ("Winter Soulstice") after their set.  I can't believe I haven't heard more about this band that has been around for many years.

Everyone stepped out for dinner and returned at 7pm for the evening set.  There was a slight delay, so we stood outside the doors until about 7:30.  I wouldn't even mention this except to point out that 3 times during that period, someone from NewEars came out and apologized and gave us a status update.  It's easy to see that these guys are fans, too, and they know what it's like to wait in lines.  That was also the only gaff of the entire day, which doesn't leave NewEars a lot of room for improvement in future shows!

Resistor hit the stage and played a lot of material from their latest album, "To the Stars", which, as of this writing, is still available to hear on www.progstreaming.com.  From that site and the free download samples on www.steveunruh.com, I was familiar with most of their set of eclectic tunes.  Resistor was the only band of the day of which I could say that.  Frontman Steve Unruh played electric guitar, flute, and his own home-crafted violin.  Fran Turner (guitar) and Barry Farrands (drums) seemed to be greatly enjoying themselves, while bassist Rob Winslow's demeanor incited Unruh to refer to him as the "grumpy" member of the group.  Unruh seemed to take mischievous delight in revealing that it was only a short couple of hours until Rob's birthday.  Their music is laden with proggy hooks - chopping lead guitar, inventive percussion lines, and flute runs that might recall other flute-playing proggers (hint: one of Resistor's tunes is named "Jethro Fran") - but it remains slightly sparse, which I found to be a great contrast to the performances of the bands that played before and after them.  Unruh joked with the audience between songs, and served up some eye candy with the flashing blue LED lights on his violin bow.  Eddie Jobson would have loved it!  Steve was very gracious at the merchandise table after the show, chatting with me as he signed the CDs I purchased.  (BTW, if you're a fan of prog-folk-rock and have not heard Steve Unruh's solo release "The Great Divide", you're absolutely missing out!)

I first saw Izz when they played at a NewEars show back in 2003, opening for Echolyn.  Honestly, I wasn't that impressed at the time.  But I had heard a lot of good things about them recently, so I tried to go in with an open mind.  Wow, this time their brand of modern prog really grabbed me from the first note.  The Galgano brothers on bass and keys are front & center, but everyone in this band is just fantastic as well.  There is so much here that makes them stand out from your typical band.  Guitarist Paul Bremner's scorching leads really impressed, and he's obviously a graduate of the Andrew Latimer School of Facial Contortion, which just enforces how much of himself he puts into his craft.  Having two drummers gives the band freedom to incorporate other percussion instruments - tonight we got the djembe and the triangle.  Not sure I've ever seen either used at a prog show before!  Laura Meade's vocals combined beautifully with those of the Galganos, recalling for me the harmonies of the Swedish band Moon Safari.  Honestly, I didn't believe John Galgano when he mentioned that this was only Laura's 2nd show with them in 6 years (evidently filling in for Anmarie Byrnes on this occasion), though she confirmed that later.  The music of Izz is a modern amalgam of Yes and Gentle Giant, but without overtly copying anyone.  And it's so accessible that you'll be singing along with the choruses.  I picked up their latest CD, "Crush of Night", at the merchandise table on the way out, and now I'm kicking myself for not buying any others.

There was some hint that this NewEars prog showcase event might become an annual occurrence.  Let me know when tickets go on sale; I'll be first in line.

Izz


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote bridgingloansguru Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 04 2014 at 07:21
I love to attend live performances because the liveliness and the enthusiasm of the others on their are marvelous. i love it every time.
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