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Musings and Meanderings
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