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07-12-2004, 06:07 PM
Here’s some impressions of the 10 band weekend, met lots of fellow music nuts and heard scads of great stuff, in the venue and from the parking lot car concerts. Had a choice seat 50 feet from the stage, just behind the soundboard + Annie Haslam was 5 chairs to my right! She was there promoting her artwork, cosmic scenery styled stuff. As I’m presently unemployed, I held myself to 9 CD’s and a subscription to a prog newsletter ‘Expose`’. Picked up two idea’s I got from D’s latest mp3 sampler- Daniel Gauthier ‘above the storm’ and Nice Beaver ‘on dry land’.
Others scores were Seven Reizh ‘strinkadenn’ , Fields ‘S/t’ , Djam Karet ‘a night for baku’, Hidria Spacefolk ‘symbiosis’ , Anekdoten ‘gravity’(thanks for clueing me in DPM), Univers Zero ‘ceux du dehors’ and Yeada Urfa ‘sacred baboon’.
I would rate this years lineup in last place compared to the previous 3 years I’ve attended. Not that it was bad by any means, but other years had more highpoints. Can’t say I understand the huge preference for Bethlehem over Trenton, the immediate venue neighborhood was better, but the town is somewhat rundown and you had to hike 10-15 blocks for the eatery’s. Trenton’s theatre had better acoustics, seat comfort and parking would be a tie. On to the bands. Yezda Urfa opened, I’d describe their sound as Echolyn with James LaBrie singing. So many good bands ruin it with their choice of vocalists for me, pity. I did enjoy them as they do lots of instumental songs, and a coupla times the singer sang instead of shouted which I liked. Grade B minus, I bought the CD.
Pallas followed, and the wankery toned down several notches. **continued***

07-12-2004, 06:10 PM
First few songs I’m thinking ‘less is more’ –a cohesive band, not an assemblage of soloists. I’m really digging this. Then, they kinda went flat, never pushing the envelope, which is a common complaint about most neo bands, they play it safe and stick to the formula. It made for watered down ‘prog lite’. The singer front man was entertaining and I liked them enough to investigate further, but didn’t buy the CD. Grade B minus.
Mike Keneally Band next and my hopes are high for this. He’s been called the most spectactularly over qualified musician to ever take the stage. Can’t name the songs but I was reminded of Clapton, showing flashes of brilliance, but only occaisionally delivering. He did 3 acoustic songs from a forthcoming album. I was expecting shred though. Guess it’s hard to absorb him cold, there’s a lot going on in his songs. Will be getting ‘boil that dust speck’ which I hear is excellent. Lot’s of others were raving about his set, those that are familiar with his catalog. Grade A for technical prowess, grade C for emotional connection.
Richard Pinheas did a 30 minute soundscape thingie that was trippy, but not purchase inspiring.
Saturday’s headline was Univers Zero. This was a mindfuk for me. I’d call it end of the world carnival music. Violins, clarinet, bassoon, guitar, drums and keys. Hints of Bartok, King Crimson all written and led by a drummer who just might eat Bill Brufords lunch. Impossible to describe, compelling and disturbing at the same time, for the more adventureous listeners. Grade A+, bought the CD.
Sunday kicked off with 11 am spacerock from Finlands Hidria Spacefolk, they went over big with the crowd. Space jams ala Ozric Tentacles or Hawkwind, only they’re more guitary and the drummer is better. Grade B+ bought the CD. Hanging at my car between sets, I saw them strolling down the avenue smoking a dube, I had to smile.
Metaformosi next did their brand of Italian symphonic, complete with the operatic vocalist that resembled Gandalf in leather pants. The keys were mixed more loudly that their CD much to my delight, no guitar in this band. Enjoyable set, grade B+, already have the CD.
Planet X brought their furious sound next. They were introduced by Mike Portney of Dream Theatre who said ‘prepare to be steam rolled’. Imagine Liquid Tension Experiment practicing for another month and that would approximate their sound. Telepathic twists and turns, very technical. Amazing technique with not much thought given to connecting with any hearts. Shame, they played as if it were a race, but the wank er y was impressive, especially the drummer and bassist. Grade A+ for technique, C for feel.
Sentimental favorite Strawbs closed out the festival, doing most of the hits. Still swimming in those delicious Mellotron waves from the Hero + Heroine song.
Grade A, but I’m very very biased here.
I have mixed feelings about the weekend, met many cool people and left with lots of suggestions and a few email address’s for trading. But this is the first year I didn’t leave thinking “ can’t wait for next year”, the lineup wasn’t as strong as last years, sheez I’m still looking for my socks after 2002’s Amailaman Vasarat, Anglagard and Camel.

07-13-2004, 05:10 AM
Nice review. I agree with you wholeheartedly that this year's lineup wasn't as exciting as past years and therefore the most uneven. Over at ProgEars, most everyone thinks it was the best year yet, so what do I know...

I had great seats, though slightly obstructed by the speaker cabinets on the left. I was in the second row of the orchestra.

The two best bands by far, imo-The Musical Box and Strawbs. I'm too young to have seen Genesis in their heyday, but if I closed my eyes, I could have been timewarped back to 1973. I've never seen anything like this. The lights, backdrops, costumes, everything was magical...and that drummer WAS Phil Collins!!

Strawbs were amazing. I get choked up whenever I hear Dave Cousins sing. BTW, any idea how old John Hawken is?

Pallas-very enjoyable, but their arena rockish neo-prog didn't seem to go over well with a lot of people. Perhaps they were a bit too loud, but I really enjoyed those bass pedals!

Yezda Urfa-I liked their music, but I didn't care for the singer. He seemed like he would have been lost without his cheat sheet lyrics on the music stand in front of him.

Mike Keneally-Very talented, just not my cup o' joe.

Univers Zero-I've never connected with these guys and I left around 10:30. I needed something more energetic at that hour and their horror movie flavored avant-weird was too brainy for me. They should have contacted Goblin instead!

Hidria Spacefolk-The surprise of the festival. These guys were awesome. Like Ozrics or Hawkwind. The kind of stuff that makes me want to barrel down the highway at 90 mph!

Metamorfosi-Excellent. I love Italian music and these guys didn't disappoint me. Their Inferno album is a classic. It was my first time hearing Paradiso and it was a little difficult hearing a 45 minute piece of music without a break. I picked up the CD though.

Planet X-I missed them in favor of beer and food! I never bothered with Richard Pinhas or Sean Malone.

My hopes are high for next year. IQ are my favorite neo band. They'll put on a good showl.

Dusty Chalk
07-13-2004, 09:46 AM
I love Richard Pinhas! Could you please explain that comment? Was he playing there?

BTW, thanks, both, for the impressions.

07-13-2004, 06:56 PM
Yeah, Richard Pinhas played at Nearfest. He was only a "filler" performer though, just given a 30 minute slot. He was sandwiched in between Pallas and Mike Keneally on Saturday. To be honest, I'm not that familiar with Pinhas' work, but I had a promotional copy of a recent CD and his music was about as exciting as spacing out to my screensaver. I haven't given his band Heldon a shot and I'm told that is his best work.

I didn't actually attend Pinhas' performance, but there was a live video feed on a television in the main hallway. I could faintly hear his music and from what I could tell, I didn't miss much. :)

Dusty Chalk
07-13-2004, 08:32 PM
Yeah, well maybe it's an acquired taste, more for the zone-out trancers who listen to Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze and Fripp and Eno, but...oh, 30 minutes, sounds like I didn't miss much, neither. I really would like to attend an 8 hour Pinhas concert.

If you didn't like Pinhas, you won't like Heldon much, neither. I don't think. Could be wrong.

07-14-2004, 04:56 AM
"If you didn't like Pinhas, you won't like Heldon much, neither. I don't think. Could be wrong."

Funny thing is, I love Tangerine Dream. Maybe I just got a weaker CD. But it reminded me a little of the Fripp/Eno "No Pussyfooting" which I didn't care for much either. I'm told "Stand By" is a good intro to Heldon. Isn't there also a song called "In the Wake of King Fripp" somewhere? That could be interesting!

Dusty Chalk
07-14-2004, 09:02 AM
Okay, yeah, try them out then. I now have no idea whether or not you will like them.

07-14-2004, 10:50 AM
Thanks for the review, Richmon.

I may have to try to go next year, I really would like to see IQ live before I get to old to care less about prog and concerts.

In general I care less and less about going to concerts anymore, too much hassle and all for what it's worth.

But I will go to Rush in 3 weeks and then Mountain and Finn and then Nektar/Caravan.

Plus I do want to go see Van Halen, I have never seen them.


07-14-2004, 12:38 PM
I may have to try to go next year, I really would like to see IQ live before I get to old to care less about prog and concerts.
If you get tickets next year (intense competition)
If I get a ticket (see above)
I could pick you up at the Philly airport and transport you to the prog magic kingdom.
Save you some $$$ that you can spend on CD's!
Keep it in mind, tickets usually go on sale in Feb or so. I set my browser to the 'buy tickets' button while dialing the ticket office on my cell phone. That double pronged assult worked other years, but not this year. Depending on the lineup, just might drive up to the venue to improve me chances. It's amazing how many people come to this from oversea's, california, alaska and other spots far away. Use those points if your wife thinks it's a crazy idea eh?
NP: Anekdoten 'Gravity'

07-14-2004, 06:43 PM
[QUOTE=richmon]Anekdoten ‘gravity’(thanks for clueing me in DPM),

You're welcome, richmon. I think it's the best thing they've done so far. Your next Anekdoten purchase should be From Within.

The general vibe I'm getting about this year's Nearfest is that it was just OK. Still, I wish I could have attended. Oh well, at least I made the last three. Nearfest 2001 is my favorite so far. Many of the bands--Porcupine Tree, White Willow, Deus Ex Machina, Banco--blew me away. I also think that the sound was better there than in Trenton. Then again, I had balcony seats at all three festivals. Obviously, your mileage varied.

Dave M

07-14-2004, 07:18 PM
I wish I could have been there. I should really make an effort to go next year. I just find the timing awkward. Having moved it back a few weeks into July makes it easier for me. It wasn't possible this year. I could combine it with a camping trip for the family, and then two days for me and FA to prog away. And it would be great to meet up with some of you folks.