Sunrise over Lake Champlain from Ticonderoga
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Musings and Meanderings
Monday, June 26, 2006
I slept till about 9am and then got up and going, leaving by 10.
It was raining cats and dogs all the way home.. a precruser of what we got later that week.
Remember that Blog's are done most recent FIRST. So make sure to go down to Friday to read the NEARfest weekend experice in proper order.
There will not be any blogs until at least July 10th. Enjoy your time off.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
As much as I had anticipated seeing KBB, FM and OT on Saturday, I really had no idea what I was up against for Sunday.
I was very pleased with the day.
We got going a tad earlier on Sunday AM from Mark's house so we arrived at Zoellner with plenty of time to spare. And there to my immediate chagrin was the big guy again sitting next to me. However he broke the ice by asking what we could come to some sort of "compromise". I ignored the comment as a terrible way to start a conversation and instead talked about bands and where he was from etc. Anyway we came to some compromise as it were: he sat comfortably and I leaned forward to take pics lol. I also told him after 17 yrs of marriage I was quite comfortable with my sexuality and did not find rubbing shoulders that big of a deal. He laughed.
Golly wow. This band was a super pleasant surprise. Very much RIO or Zuel school of prog rock. Very much ART ROCK. Their set consisted of half of one album and half of another (Oni and Black Suns) of which I decided to get Black Suns as I liked that portion of the show better. I have listened to the CD twice now since I left PA and it is really a remarkable achievement. I am sorry I didn't get Oni as well. On Saturday periodically I would get up and move from my center seat int the first row of the Grand Tier to the first row of the Orchestra next to Mark C to take pics.
My timing was fortuitous for Guopo because the next song after I sat down involved the band walking through the audience in front of the Orchestra playing little hand held instruments. Very clever and a real audience grabber. Apparently the band Van had broken down on the way from Phili so they had to get cabs and had not slept all night. This was in evidence when in line for my autographs, one of the band members started doodling on the face pic of another. Apparently mine was the first and he doodled in some for or another on all the other pics that he could. Definitely a 5/5 and my pick for most pleasant surprise of the show. (This was a tough call with Ange)
Spotlight... didnt see it. Sorry.
Golly wow again. One of the benefits of doing a later review is reading others'. Down side is Review Fatigue and it probably doesn't get read as much as the first ones. Anyway I found Ange's antics on stage to be fully in the tradition of great performance Prog in the tradition of Amon Duul II, Hawkwind, and other bands with a sense of theater.
Christian and Caroline's theater were quite remarkable, though of course I had no idea what the songs were about. The music however was quite excellent.
Hassan has my vote for best overall Guitar performance at NF (though Mark Bonilla is a better overall guitarist). His solo's were sweet and well executed. One of the highlights was definitely Tristan's vocal piece at the end of the set. Though so different from Dad's voice it was fantastic on it's own. I ran down to get the Par Les Fils de Mandrin DVD after I got my Programme signed so the band got a good laugh at seeing me in line again (I guess those Hawkwind Tshirts pay off). I was able to explain to Hassan in my broken French my brother living outside Paris, so my French was semi successful the second time in line. Overall this band got a 5/5 for me as well.
Ok look the DAY gets a 5/5!!!
Back maybe two years ago Progression Magazine (may it rest in peace) (someday) did an article on Planet X and Niacin. Since then I have been interested in both bands, from that article and of course seeing Planet X at NF 04. So I was anticipating good Fusion, but not sure what the flavor would be. Well it was definitely kick ass blues. This band admittedly stretched even the "Art Rock" definition of the festival, but in it's own right fit perfectly in with the festival atmosphere.
I was really very very impressed with Billy Sheehan. I think the slang is I was "at school" for Bass playing. I have not seen anyone use his bass in more rapid ways in a long time, and in its' own way, extremely unique. Probably the best Bass player I've seen except Chris Squire, as I am a BIG fan of what I call "lead Bass", ie a musical theme on its own, not just part of a rhythm section. Dennis Chambers was by far the strongest drummer since Christian Vander for a NF perfomance. I too would have liked to hear more of Jon Novello's keyboards, but if you bought the Live sweat and beers album you are amply rewarded with that. No doubt comparing that CD to what we heard, they did play a Proggier set than maybe usual. Best blues band at NF ever... yea 5/5.
Break and an FM Story.
I decided NOT to miss the signing so I just stood in line for a half hour shoot the breeze with many friends until the band showed up. Billy was giving out unsigned bass picks, and Dennis looked like he really did not know what to make of all us crazed proggies. I ended up running out to Wendy's at the last minute to get some food.
Now I want to tell my FM story. Thanks to Hannah I chased down Marty Deller the drummer from FM on the second floor while waiting for Niacin to come from dinner. He was there with his wife and teen aged son and was headed to dinner. I told him at that time how much I simply wanted to express my thanks for his music, and as an aside that I had missed the signing. He said he had as well!
Anyway I told him I had the Vinyl cover to Direct to Disc (refer to my review from Saturday) and that I had wanted him to sign it, but didn't want to bug him during his family time. He said how cool it was for me to have brought that and that he definitely wanted to sign it. He told me that he would be in row T for Emerson. During my waiting I was accosted by two FM fans who were really interested in my Album, and had talked to Marty extensively. Anyway they were instrumental in me finding him before the Emerson set and getting a huge signature across the front of my cover and another brief chat. Marty actually said that it was important to him that I got that signature I wanted. Such a nice person. A fanboy thing, but I think it is important, especially to these prog artists who are not big stars, to really tell them how much their music has touched your life if that is indeed true.
Keith Emerson Band
I was majorly excited to hear that Mark Bonilla was playing with Emerson. My friend from the West Coast has seen Mark in solo a few times and just raves about his guitar playing. Now I had no idea what to expect from a set list, thinking maybe that the Keith Emerson Band would be all about new music or something. Instead I got ALL OF TARKUS. Oh my god. I thought I died and went to proggy heaven. Bonilla's guitar work was a perfect compliment to the wicked playing of Emerson on all his keyboards. We did get to get a taste of the famous Moog, but I think it was there as much for WOW value than to be played that much. Keith was FULL of really great stories and his set ended up Two and a Half Hours.
I had forgot just how much I love classical music interpreted by Him. I was raised on classical, big band, jazz and show tunes. Keith's amazing renditions of various classical pieces on Sunday night was just a fantastic ending to a fantastic weekend. I honestly can not tell you which classical pieces he did, especially in the "Nutrocker Suite" but there was much more than just the Nutrocker in there.
Overall this was the best festival since returning to Bethlehem. It is hard to reach the heights of the Trenton shows in my mind due to the "name" acts at those performances, but on the other hand, Keith Emerson is by no argument from me the most "exhalted" Prog Star to grace the Nearfest halls.
I got to meet all my friends, my merry *band of lunatics* and hang with them for a weekend. It's all I get during the year, other than emails so I cherish seeing all of you, and some I may forget to mention: Mark, Mark, Steve, Bill, Donna, Robert, Kevin & Hannah, Adam, Andre, Jim, Paul, Bob, Luis, Eric and anyone I missed mentioning.
And a special "missed you bro" to my oldest Prog friend Scott M who is in merry Italy this summer instead of NearFest.
Many more Nearfest pics are in Mike Montforts Nearfest Gallery
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Started with oversleeping as the Hatfield show had gone way late. It was overcast in the morning and ended up being a very pleasant rainy weekend. This kept the temperatures down, but only seemed to POUR during the dinner break on Sunday, so most of us stayed dry.
After a pleasant morning and jawing over breakfast Mark and I hauled butt back to Bethlehem only to be confronted on 3rd or 4th ave with the Motorcade for the Puerto Rico Pride day. I did a little U turn and trail blazed a different route to Zoellner.
It did get us in a tad late, but just barely. We missed the first few stanza's of KBB's opening song. Totally different people sitting next to me Saturday from the Legends Showcase, which would turn to be a problem later in the day...
I am a huge Jean Luc Ponty fan. Have been since 77 or so, his music sings to my soul. So I am always looking for something similar, even though that is a pipe dream considering how unique his talent is. KBB comes close, with a strong whiff of Mahavishnu Orchestra thrown in. Their set was just smoking good, and again the looming hand of Jazz settled over Zoellner as the band played. I have one of their albums Four Corner Sky on my iPod so I did recognize a couple of pieces. I'm a big fan of Jazz so this worked for me.
The lead in the band was also the spokesperson and he had a type written sheet of what he was to say at the breaks, as he didn't feel comfortable enough to ad lib in Engrish. I thought he did much better than the spokespeople for some of the other Japanese bands in previous years. The drummer was wearing a Japanese Boy Scout Uniform during the set, but had taken it off for the signings. Overall this band got a 5/5 from me for the killer electric guitar and tight fusion. I got their Live album (and the bonus outake disc) in line to get my signatures.
I had no idea what to expect with Riverside. What I found was extremely excellent heavy prog bordering on metal. I have since listened to the CD twice now and feel their CD is much softer than the performance we got. This was refreshingly heavy that was not in a RIO or Zuel subgenre, something we have not really had at Nearfest that much.
I was reminded very much of Tool for some reason, not that they imitated them in any way, but some of the vocals and musical back beats were a bit similar. Having never heard them I have no idea what they played of course. I gave this band a 4/5, nothing wrong with a solid B. The band was very pleasant at the signing and as I said I picked up their CD to have it signed.
Between Riverside and FM we took a picture of all the internet friends who I meet every year.
Back Row: Eric and his wife, Mark C (my host), Steve I (Long Island), Jim (Ohio), Hannah (15) and her dad Kevin (NJ), and Robert from Quebec
Middle Row: Donna K (NJ), Mark G (Ohio), Adam P (NYC),and Me
Front row kneeling: Bill K (NJ) and Andre (NYC)
Praise be to Rob for being a FM fan, or I would never have seen this band at Nearfest. Maybe never, for as they supposedly opened for the Rush Moving Pictures Tour, I frankly don't remember seeing them. Doesn't mean it didn't happen, I just do not remember them opening. Maybe I got to the concert late. ANYWAY seeing FM was a great highlight for me. I don't usually comment on other reviews, but I have read some pretty lukewarm responses to this band. I would like to offer the opinion from the Fan perspective.
Cam and Marty were really very ON for this performance. They had taken the time to go back and review the studio and outtakes from the acetates and tapes for their albums and wanted to bring the original music back to life without the drift that happens to any band's music over time. This effort really showed in the performance. Their take on Sci Fi rock/prog is very unique, and uniquely Canadian. Prog with a pop tinge. Their newest member, who to me looked like the actor Deep Roy (the oompa loompa in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) was probably the best person I have heard in that band position. Anyway for me FM is a very personal thing, being a avid sci fi head since Elementary School, not only do I know and love their music, but the lyrics speak to me as well. 6/5 for Nostalgia alone.
I missed the signing for FM because I was told they were having dinner first, and Bill K has filled you in on the fiasco at Brew Works. So I won't hammer it except to say that thanks to Kevin's daughter Hannah, as well as a couple of guys I had not met before I was able to track down Marty before the Emerson show and get him to sign my rare "Direct to Disc" aka Head Room Vinyl cover.
I did get to speak to Marty, tell him how much his music had touched me over the years, and to learn that he still had ALL the acetates for Direct to Disc and they WERE setting up to release this on a CD in the near future, with possible outtakes that he had kept as well. Direct to disc is a live studio album where the band did two suites, Border Crossing and Head Room, recorded directly to Acetate with no remixes and then published on Disc Washer records in a limited quantity.
When I got to my seat late, there was an enormous person sitting where a petite woman or no one at all had been sitting earlier in the fest. This crushed me between to "big guys". Bit of a "personal space" contest during the show which Mark will confirm had me pretty ornery by the end. Really most uncomfortable, but in the end the gentleman and I became "friends" on Sunday and chatted quite a bit.
For a headlining act, I don't have that much to say really. A few thoughts. 1) I should have seen them a long time ago. 2) The Ed Wynne show was MUCH BETTER at Nearfest than the show I saw at Revolution Hall in Troy the Saturday night before. 3) Brandi needs to stop giggling on stage, it just strikes me as very unprofessional. 4) I loved the back graphics movies that were made by the dread locked blond guy that kept making monkey noises and cartwheels during the signing. 5) They did play somewhat of a best of set so I enjoyed what was played. Sorry I don't do setlists. Finally - Ed needs to put his ego back in his pocket and get some musicians that will talk to him musically on stage instead of just back him up. Tons of Blanga tonight, very little inspiration. 3/5 for being too focused on one player.
However OT did get done at a reasonable hour so even with the signing everyone got out of Zoellner well before Midnight.
Many more pics at Mike Montfort Nearfest Gallery
Friday, June 23, 2006
I diddled around the house for much of the morning getting things in order to go. Made sure I had enough prog in my iPod for the trip. I left my house around Noon Albany time and ran errands including picking up film and going to the bank. I was officially on the road to NJ by 1pm.
The drive down was a breeze, the only traffic being some congestion on 287 near where 80 meets, mostly slowdowns to oogle the other side (north) which was backed up pretty badly. I got to Bill and Donna's house around 4pm. They were kind enough to have chicken breasts on the BBQ (I don't eat beef) and we had a nice chat for a couple of hours. Adam Holquist showed up fairly soon after I did.
I followed Adam out from Bill and Donna's and I got to the venue in plenty of time to meet Mark Clark in the upper parking lot and get down to the seats. My seat was dead center first row Grand Tier, just next to the mounted video camera. Great seats for hearing perfectly and for taking pictures.
Tony Levin Band
The concert started out very well with an acappella piece specially written for NF. Funny and cute. Levin showed his mastery of his instruments that was very enjoyable. The set list varied considerably which was what I would expect of such a talented band. Jerry Marotta did a fine job on the Gabriel tunes, and one of the highlights for me was Tony's story and piece about playing with the Great Apes with Peter. I also enjoyed the obligatory Larry Fast piece, and the development of that piece by the rest of the band was quite excellent. I also enjoyed having Jerry come forward and play the two strange instruments: one looking like a large can of soup and the other a grouping of Ninja Throwing Stars. All in all a great performance, and considering their CV's or Resume's very apt for a Legends Showcase.
Hatfield and the North
I was a bit nervous about Hatfield. I had been listening to Hatwise on my iPod and found some of the songs I had to hit fast forward on. I knew I was not going to be able to do this in the theater obviously. Well I need not have been worried. As another reviewer said Hatfield was sublime. Hatfield showed itself to be, at least to me, almost more of an avant Jazz group than a Progressive Rock group. But where exactly is that line? I don't really care. The pieces they did were just wonderful, very complex and sometimes atonal. Watching Phil noodle on guitar was really a treat. I have found over the years it to be true that as these musicians age they just get better and better. Also just hearing Sinclair's voice pleases me, being a Caravan and Breatheless era Camel fan as well. I did get a chance to tell Sinclair what a great time I had in 79 seeing him at the San Jose Performing Arts Center with Camel during the signing. When I mentioned I even had a copy of the show he practically jumped up with excitement, and gave me his address to send it along to him.
More pictures from this great concert are here
Mike Montfort's Nearfest Photos
Friday, June 09, 2006
The Friday Five!
1. What is (or would be) your dream vacation?
A month living in Paris.
2. What's one thing no vacation can do without?
A power inverter from 220 to 110
3. What has been the best trip of your life so far?
Tough one... A week in Paris with my wife, 10 days in Italy with my family, and the week in Isreal are all very close to each other.
4. Who was with you on that trip and what is the role of that person in your life?
5. What's the worst thing that can happen during a vacation?
You didn't use American Express Travelers Checks.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
While I still cannot decide if the Justice Department overstepped it's bounds in the Jefferson case, this serial abuse by the Bu$hCo administration should not be overlooked. In a NYT article from Sunday
Under Mr. Bush, the secrets privilege has been used to block a lawsuit by a translator at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sibel Edmonds, who was fired after accusing colleagues of security breaches; to stop a discrimination lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Sterling, a Farsi-speaking, African-American officer at the Central Intelligence Agency; and to derail a patent claim involving a coupler for fiber-optic cable, evidently to guard technical details of government eavesdropping.
Does it seem to you that maybe they are stretching the good old exective privilige too far. No surprise the last big batch of so called state secret defences was during the Regan Administration. Good old Republican'ts. Can't fess up to their mistakes. Can't face the scrutiny of the truth. Just Can't.
Remember this when you Vote in December.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Marian Boyles Sprinkel
Feel free to sign the guestbook if you want.
Apparently he continues to recover and shows no sign of back sliding into the emotional problems he was having before. I had a long talk with my Mom today and she is very hopeful. Still have not gotten an update via my Step-Mom from my Dad but I will post it when I do.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
This is the best they could do?
After YEARS of silly muscular men running around in tights, a comic book company is doing a Homosexual character? A gay Superman you cry?
No a Lesbian Batwoman.
Grammie died last night at 11pm EST. Mom was kind enough to wait to call till this morning at 615am.
Grammie waited till Mom got back to Cali, which is remarkable in itself. A final remarkable chapter in a remarkable life. Mom read to her from the bible and the Christian Science book before she finally let go last night.
As Mom said I can celebrate her life personally by getting my credentials. She was very proud of what I am doing, and was satisfied that another generation was teaching (She was a career teacher and my Mom taught for many years before becoming a consultant).
There will be no big funeral, her religeon does not allow for that, so I won't be going back to the left coast for anything. Just keeping her in my thoughts.