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Musings and Meanderings

Saturday, July 17, 2004

NEARfest 2004 - July 9 - 11
It's been a crazy week settling back into life after being gone on the vacation the week before NearFest.  So I have not had the chance to put into words my NearFest experience.  Since you have already read tons I thanks to those who stay with this till the end. 
Overall I enjoyed Sunday significantly more than Saturday with one Exception.  This is not to downbeat the Sat lineup, I just felt that Sunday was more "Proggy" for me.  I don't ever "hate" bands. I completely do not understand people that do, or walk out on a performance.  Minds are like parachutes, and they should stay open to work properly.  Giving an artist or artists their due by listening to the entire offering of a performance is a must for any one who says that they truly appreciate music.
Anyway off my soap box and on to the meandering.....
Musical Box.
My first impression of them was, gosh if this is how Peter really was it's a wonder they ever got off the ground, all that silly behavior on stage.  Now those that know me know I have a good sense of humor, so it's not that.  I just wondered is all?  Of course after the third song I was really digging the Peter Character doing Peter so well.  Overall I really enjoyed the Musical Box, their musicians are extremely talented and the show was superb.  I really felt I had slipped back in time to see Genesis of that era.  On the other hand I can't see how people go see the same tour recreation multiple times.  Just my personal taste I guess.
Yezda Urfa
I enjoyed the musical complexity of Yezda Urfa enormously.  What is it about the opening bands that R&C find?  For me I always thoroughly enjoy these gems.  Anyway YU was a great band and the barefoot bassist was right in front of me.  They remind many of Gentle Giant and I can see that, but they have their own unique sound that sets them apart.  Of course their sense of humor makes them almost Canterbury, even if their sound isn’t.  I gave them a hearty B for their music and performance.
"Neo-Prog" is a take it or leave it for me.  Sometimes it seems very pretentious and soul less.  Sometimes it really works.  I guess that's why the sub-genre is one of the most ephemeral to nail down.  I even read an article in Progression that posited that it really doesn't exist at all. Certainly the bands lumped into it don't like the name.  Regardless of that I approached Pallas with a bit of caution due to their being in that "camp".  However I fully enjoyed the show.  The lead had a wonderful energy and ability to connect with the audience that was very professional. His excitement and exuberance over his music was great to see.  The set was good, and the band, though not completely my cup of tea, was enjoyable to see.  I gave them a B as well.
Bad planning, not realizing how the spotlight performers were operating I didn't see him.
Mike Keneally Band.
I had a long conversation with Guy LeBlanc about this performance on Sunday.  I asked him if he liked the show and he was exuberant, as was Chuck and Gayle from DK.  I posited this to Guy: I said that as a musician, he could understand things that Mike K was doing, and appreciate them as technically excellent. He agreed with this. I further posited that MK was a "musician’s musician".  Again he agreed.   The sad fact is that I felt this set was too long, or, didn't hold together well.  I have not decided.  Even with the disclaimer about not hating bands, I am the least tolerant of technical virtuosity for the sake of technical virtuosity.  In my youth I called it musical masturbation.  Now masturbation is not a bad thing, but its fairly personal and should not be done is public.  For the few songs that held together I was absolutely spell bound as to MK's ability.  But when he got too experimental for me, I just got lost.  The last medley had me waiting with anticipation for the end so I could get some aspirin.   I give his abilities an A+   I give his performance a C.
Univerz Zero
So even after a two-hour break and a wonderful time at the Brew Works I was still burnt from the MK affair.  It was with a bit of trepidation that I sat down and began to take in the UZ show.  I knew I was not prepared for more technical excellence with no content.  I was happy to see my worries were not realized.  Two songs in I was mesmerized by the chamber rock that this band plays.  I very much enjoyed the films running behind the band as well, as I felt it gave some understanding to the content of the music.  This is pretty modern stuff, and RIO is a broad category, but I'd challenge any lover of modern classical not to absolutely love this band.  Like Mamga, the drummer composer was outstanding in his work on stage, as was the woodwind and string trio.  The bass was delightfully understated, and the keyboards filled the pieces in well.  I gave them a solid A.
Hidria Spacefolk
  Considering that British Airways lost their equipment until late Sat night or Sun morning it was amazing how comfortable the band looked on stage.  How many opening morning performances get an encore?  Frankly I cannot remember if any have, and Hidria Spacefolk very much deserved it.  YES they sound a bit like Ozric Tentacles in their early years (I personally think OT is getting tired in their recent stuff). But this is a new band, with young musicians who are evolving their sound.  As others have commented, who knew where I was sitting, I was bopping big time to their swirling guitar and keyboard work. 
Of all the bands at NF04 this was the only one where I had actively searched out their music by getting the first CD off their website, and taking one of their shows with me.  So I was excited about seeing them and loved the performance.  They have a great product, and should go far.  As I was leaving the Strawbs show to go home, I had a chance to speak with the two members who were fluent in English and expressed to them that they had a great sound that was very popular in the US now with the JAM BAND circuit.  I encouraged them to look into spreading their sound through the Phish / Dead model of recordings and touring.  Time will tell.  Because they were yet not truly unique in their sound, though it was very enjoyable, I give the show a B+.
Well I just love Italian Prog.  Always have and always will.  So this band did not disappoint me at all.  The lead has a remarkable voice, and obviously is just his own self on stage.  The rest of the band was very talented and I see why this band was so well received when they formed in the 70's.  Who would imagine that it would take till 2004 to get them to the US?  I gave this show a B only becuase I don't stand a word of Italian, and I'm sure the lyrics were as powerful as the music.
Sean Malone
Talk about a quckie clinic on Bass and Stick work. This guy is very talented, and self-assured on stage.  Imagine being there all-alone at NF with the hardest audience to please, and calmly building those great intricate chord progressions with his sequencer (that repeating device - I'm not a musician).  In speaking to folks after the show I don't think many realized just how many layers he buit up for each piece that he performed.  Sitting so close I was able to see just what he was playing real time and what he wasn’t, and how he filled and built on each layer.  A great performance by a skilled musician.  I give him an A for technical ability.  The performance itself gets a B as he needs to work on stage presence if he is going to do these one-man performances.
Planet X
I have wanted to see this band since I read the article in Progression Magazine last year about them.  Again I was not disappointed.  I have rarely seen a band so tight.  As for the music I personally dig their style so that for me was a no brainer, I loved the performance.  But I was astounded again and again as to just how together these guys were.  Here was technical virtuosity with content.  Songs that completely held together, had form and function, and were not a showcase for one musician.  Watching TJ tap right in front of me was great to behold, and they all were very much enjoying playing together from their expressions.  Well all except Derek who couldn't get the soundman's attention to get his monitor up high enough to hear himself.  After that was fixed he was pretty happy.
Believe it or not this band was the least looked forward to of the NF for me.  Not that I thought they were bad, don't get me wrong.  I just didn't particularly care for their albums over the years.  Prog is a big category, and I just didn't see the fit.
Boy was I wrong.  From the moment they came onstage to the much-delayed minute I had promised my family I would hit the road; I was absolutely enthralled by their music.  Lyrical and beautiful, full of warmth, it must be the finest melding of English Folk and prog out there today.  I may have not said that for an acoustic tour, but as an electric band, I loved them.  I was amazed on how many songs I DID actually know, not having listened to their stuff in ages.  A solid A performance.
 Sadly once I finished up my film exposures and my digital back up card I had to leave NF04 early because of a promise made to my wife.  15 yrs of happy marriage are kept happy by these compromises, and since I didn't think I'd mind heading back on the four hour drive home a bit early (I got home from Hackett two yrs ago at 330 am) I didn't mind making the promise.
posted by Mike 9:30 PM


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The musings and meanderings of an overworked and underemployed mind