Night Of The Prog Festival,
June 17-19, 2015
This year the 10th edition of the annual Night Of The Prog Festival took place at the Loreley Freilichtbühne in Sankt Goarshausen, Germany. Normally this is a two-day festival, but this special edition was spread out over three days, accommodating a total of nineteen bands. It was the first time that I've been there being lured by the promise of Fish performing Misplaced Childhood in its entirety, as part of the Childhood 30th Anniversary tour. When I bought my ticket, the line-up was still fairly limited, but over the months leading up to the event I got surprise upon surprise as updates came in. Fish and Camel were soon added by Pendragon, Pain Of Salvation, Riverside, Lazuli, Beardfish and Steven Rothery until the list of nineteen performing bands.
First day: LesoirOn Friday, the first festival day, I arrived early on what would become the hottest day of the festival in terms of the weather. Despite the music and the abundant availability of food and drinks, people started longing for a thunderstorm, which wouldn't appear until the early morning hours of Sunday. A hot day in terms of music was also ahead, opened by the Dutch ensemble Lesoir. For a growing audience, as people slowly entered the venue, they let their heavy, yet melodic music lead to cheers. Opening a festival isn't easy, but the band did well.
Beardfish, The Gentle StormLesoir were followed by Beardfish, by now a well-known Swedish act that released their album +4626 - Comfortzone (see review) earlier this year. With Rikard Sjöblom in a Hawaiian shirt with a matching bright smile, and the long-haired and bearded bass player Robert Hansen jumping around like a madman, they gave a nice show with tracks that covered their repertoire so far, but with limited focus on the new material.
From one mad jumping bass player to the other: Johan van Stratum came on stage as a member of the Dutch band The Gentle Storm, as always headed by Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering). She had a problem with her throat, which was solved after drinking hot ginger tea. The backing vocalist was Marcella Bovio (Stream Of Passion). The band played a subset of the Diary Tour, which mainly showed how tight they have become as a band since the opening gig in Amsterdam four months earlier.
Pendragon, Neal Morse BandNext on stage was Pendragon, the British old school band with a modern layer. I've appreciated Pendragon for a long time, even more after meeting Nick Barrett and his wife Wilcey at the Symforce Festival in venue 013 in the city of Tilburg in 2007. Musically they had their ups and downs, and the latest album is to some extend a Nick Barrett solo effort, but on stage they still operate as a well-oiled machine that warmed up the audience for the Neal Morse Band, which is an even better well-oiled machine.
With Mike Portnoy on drums, they clearly intended to be one of the main acts of the festival. And these Americans lived up to that. The religious views of Neal Morse are not appreciated by all, but he knows how to perform a live show. If I ever saw an energy spark coming of the stage, it was now. Even a sound problem was handled with a short jibe by Portnoy and then the show went on.
CamelThe Neal Morse Band was a bit of a contrast to Camel, the closing act for the first day, as they had a rather static performance. Fitting the music though, which is certainly less 'bouncing around', but at least as good as that of Neal Morse. All photographers were being requested to leave the photographer's area after three tracks. I spent this gig up the hill, lying on my back and enjoying songs like Ice, The Snow Goose and Lady Fantasy amongst others.
Second day: Haken, SylvanOn the second day, I unfortunately missed the British band Luna Kiss, because of an interview I had with another band. I must go see them later to make up for that. When I arrived, another British band Haken had just entered the stage for a very nice performance. Some people call it metal; others say it's heavy prog. They're sometimes even compared to Gentle Giant. I must say they won another fan at this festival. Voices are instruments too, and Haken proved that once again.
Next on stage were Sylvan, the only German band playing at this festival, but they were welcomed by enthusiastic cheers from more than just the German part of the audience. With a dynamic show, once again with a central stage performance role for bass player Sebastian Harnack, they played their melodic, keyboard-oriented heavy music. The, apparently, seventeen year old guitarist may have to work on his stage performance since he's slightly less dynamic than the bass player.
Lazuli, The EnidAfter the Germans had left the stage, it was party time - the French way. Lazuli were in for some fun and played a magnificent show, full of energising music. The audience loved it, and the singer and guitarist sometimes interacted with the audience by going to the edge of the photographer's area a number of times. That, in combination with the musical show, led to cheers for more at the end, so the band played a piece of percussion together on an electronic marimba. Just imagine five people playing the little mallets together to produce the easily recognizable Solsbury Hill of Peter Gabriel.
Their performance made it difficult for The Enid to draw the attention of the visitors. They play very symphonic, almost theatrical rock with singer Joe Payne often acting as if he was singing in a musical. The music was well-performed, and the band seemed happy enough since smiles appeared more and more as the show continued, but after three bands that put the people in the right mood for a rock party, The Enid had a hard time to win the audience. Even Fish wrote in his own record of this day: 'they should've played earlier in the afternoon.'
Riverside, FishAfter The Enid, it was time again for more bass and guitar power with the Polish band Riverside. They continued where Lazuli ended their show, cheering up the growing audience. As always, Mariusz Duda took the band in tow in order to arrange a good show. I've known Riverside for eight years now, but only this year I noticed how many people love the band. I've met people at Loreley who were going to see them again the week after the festival, and yet again two weeks later. The show explained why.
However, the moment I'd been waiting for, the real reason why I bought a ticket was Fish. Just like Riverside, the big man entered the stage fifteen minutes ahead of the time schedule, because the organizers feared a thunderstorm, which came indeed, but hours after the festival day had ended. After four opening tracks, Fish announced what I and many others had come for: Misplaced Childhood in its entirety live at Loreley! I took some pictures during the first four songs and Pseudo Silk Komono, the opening piece of the album. Then I went up the hill to listen to it the way I had always imagined: upon the hill with a beer. Fish had some songs adjusted to a lower key, to accommodate his voice. That made the sound differ a bit from what I played in my car on my way to Germany, but it was good. I enjoyed every minute of it including the closing piece Market Square Heroes. That is, I thought it was the closing piece, but on leaving the gate, I heard the band doing an encore with The Company. I didn't return, I just enjoyed the cool evening air, humming along with the song while I walked to my car.
Third dayThe next morning, the streets were glistening from rain and I realized that I slept completely through the thunderstorm. When I arrived at the Loreley, the camp site was slightly muddier than the day before, and there were puddles of water in the photographer's area. Those puddles dried up quickly though, as the weather changed for the better. Having seen Fish, my personal highlight, it felt a bit strange to be there again, but during the day I found out that it was unnecessary since I found some new highlights.
Special Providence, IOEarthThe first new highlight was the opening act, the Hungarian energetic, instrumental and heavy band Special Providence. With a lot of riffs alternated with melodies, these four guys were warming up the audience right after I entered. The bass player switched from fretted to fretless bass and back without missing a note. One hour after the show they sold out all the CDs they had brought. A band to keep an eye on!
They nicely paved the way for British band IOEarth from the heavier prog segment, but with a wonderful new female vocalist. The combination of her voice, the heavy yet melodic guitar where needed, the violin, flute and saxophone made the music into an intricate adventure. Nevertheless I wondered why they announced a new album with such a beautiful vocalist and then let her spend half the gig back stage? In the end it's all about the music, but a stage act with a full band would have done more justice to her role, even during the instrumentals.
Kaipa Da Capo, Steve Rothery BandThe band that had the honour to take over from IOEarth was the Swedish band Kaipa Da Capo having Roine Stolt, one of the most interesting guitarists and composers I know. They played a set of songs that were largely written in the seventies and published on early Kaipa albums. Not everybody is familiar with these pieces, so the audience was a bit hesitant, but the band played well and had a good time. How often does a band start with Stolt's introduction: 'We're going to play songs from long ago, from my first band. We'll start making some noises that will develop into the first song. You'll hear it...'
When Kaipa Da Capo left the stage, it was time to prepare for the Steve Rothery Band. The audience was treated to a couple of nice, quite heavy rain showers during those preparations, but instead of running away they just filled up the seats and rightly so. After it was dry again the band started and we were in the land of guitar melodies as expected. It even got better when Steve, together with singer Martin Jakubski of the Fish-era Marillion tribute band StillMarillion, performed a number of old Marillion tracks, much to the enthusiasm of the audience. Jakubski still reaches the high notes Fish no longer can, thus sending shivers down many spines. My eyes almost watered of not being able to take pictures during Sugar Mice. A nice surprise after both Steve and Fish had announced, and decided together, to go not on stage for a reunion.
Pain Of Salvation, Steve HackettThe evening was supposed to end early in order to give people the chance to go home at a reasonable time. But nevertheless it was going to be a good evening, which started with Pain Of Salvation from Sweden, a band that changed much over the years both in style and line-up. They even released a semi-acoustic album Falling Home in 2014 (see review). Daniel Gildenlöw and his band made sure to play something from all those different eras of the band from the late nineties until today. In the photographer's area we joked that every picture we took of Gildenlöw is a success. He certainly is the nucleus of Pain Of Salvation, so much is clear...
The nucleus of Genesis, when it comes to guitar playing, was Steve Hackett for a long time. He concluded his Genesis Revisited-tour as well as the Night Of The Prog Festival. He started at 08.30 a.m. and played till 11.00 a.m. Hackett led us through all the big Genesis classics. Nad Sylvan is a fine vocalist to replace Peter Gabriel in this case and Nick Beggs (bass) and Gary O'Toole (drums) were second to none to Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. Just like the previous evening, I decided to take the Camel approach and went up the hill after three songs to sit back, relax and enjoy the music.
I came as a fan to this festival, I became a fan and a photographer, but I also left as a fan, who was not going to buy any CDs on the festival ground − that could wait till later. However, I still went home with Hackett's recordings of Genesis Revisited At The Royal Albert Hall in my bag; for the long way back home...
Angelo Hulshout (text and pictures, edited by Peter Willemsen)
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