Symforce III Festival

September 27, 2009 Tilburg (NL)

In 2007, prog rock fans could enjoy the Symforce Festival for the first time. Three different stages were booked at the 013 venue in Tilburg to give several known and unknown bands the opportunity to perform their music. This way the audience could watch well-known prog rock bands like Focus, Riverside, Lady Lake, Pendragon and The Flower Kings, but could also discover rather new bands at the same time like Lazuli, Aurora Project and Bootcut. One year later the second edition took place. This time the program focused on the metal oriented bands in the prog rock scene like Opeth, Pain Of Salvation, Damians and Magic Pie. This year, Symforce-organizer John ’BoBo’ Bollenberg, booked only two stages at the venue in Tilburg. Only the Green Room and the Batcave were now available for concerts. Therefore, Bollenberg called this year’s third event the ‘light version’ of the Symforce Festival. Only 350 people could buy a ticket: the maximum number of people allowed in the Green Room.

The Sedan Vault

At four o’clock in the afternoon, it was showtime for the The Sedan Vault from Belgium. They had the difficult task to bring the audience in the right mood. I have to confess that I had never heard or seen them before, so I didn’t know what to expect. The press compared them to an old school band like The Residents, but they also referred to bands as Battles, Klaxons and The Mars Volta. As soon as the band started with Communism By The Gallon it became clear to me why they were sometimes labeled as ‘The Belgian Mars Volta’. The voice of Rutger Meeuwis and his way of singing reminded me a lot of Cedric Bixler-Zavala, lead singer of The Mars Volta. However, another band that might have been a major influence is Muse. During the set, the band performed a collection of songs taken from the albums Mardi Gras Of The Sisypha and Vanguard, but also a new piece. Keyboardist Marius Meeuwis managed to get some nice sounds out of his old monophonic Korg-synthesizer. The Sedan Vault are not representatives of my musical preferences, but just as for The Mars Volta there is certainly an audience for this band.


Neo-Prophet, another Belgian band, opened the festival in the Batcave, a rather small, but cosy place that can contain about 150 people. I was very curious to experience how they would perform the material from their strong debut album Monsters on a live stage. That album has a very bright sound thanks to producer Frank Van Bogaert, who was also present during the concert. Neo-Prophet did not disappoint me; they gave an amazing performance in spite of the fact that they only gave a couple of live shows with their new drummer Wesley Jacques. Wesley is almost blind and that makes his performance even more impressive. Because of his blindness, playing together is rather difficult, but they managed anyway after they had found a way to make contact during the gig. It deserves a big compliment for both the drummer and the band. Singer Hans ’Mac’ Six was afraid that he may be have some troubles with his voice. The evening prior to Symforce the band gave a concert in a venue were smoking was allowed. In The Netherlands smoking in public buildings is forbidden by law. Luckily there was nothing wrong with his voice. The strong keyboard parts on Monsters also sounded live very well. Sjoerd ’Cap’ Bruyneel managed to sound great with only a few keyboards! Especially the intro for The Truth was impressive. Unfortunately, the set lasted only 45 minutes; too short to play the entire album. Therefore, the band performed only a part of the epic composition The New Prophet. The only new piece The Calling proved that the band has the intention to record a follow-up album soon. Neo-Prophet certainly are not a one-day wonder. For me, their concert was the first highlight of the day.

Moon Safari

No time left for a chat with the band members, because in the Green Room one of my favourite bands began their first stage presentation in The Netherlands. However, as I entered the concert hall and looked at the stage I saw that Swedish Moon Safari were still doing their sound check. I’m not sure if they had waited for me, but anyhow, I felt lucky that I could see their entire performance that afterwards appeared to be one of the highlights of the festival. Instead of a one-hour set, they got an additional thirty minutes to prove why they were invited for the festival. This five-piece really is an excellent live band. All members are good vocalists; BoBo introduced them as ‘The Beach Boys of progressive rock music’. I can agree with that definition. Think of a sound influenced by The Beach Boys, The Beatles blended with the likes of Yes and The Flower Kings. That seems a rather strange combination, but it makes them sound unique. I was delighted to witness the performance of the songs taken from their two albums A Doorway To Summer and [blomljud]. Their live show was almost perfect. I only noticed a few mistakes during a piece that they never had performed before in front of a live audience. During The Other Half Of The Sky the harmony vocals sometimes failed to be harmonious, but the final piece Doorway luckily showed how progressive rock music should be performed. The last part of the song was most impressive. They should have got a standing ovation if the venue would have seated the audience… No time for an encore, because they already got more time than originally planned. I sincerely hope that Moon Safari return to The Netherlands very soon to do a complete performance. The release of their third album in 2010 could be a good reason to do so.

Long Distance Calling

The next band I was going to see could only be a disappointment after Moon Safari. Long Distance Calling had already started without me in the Batcave. The Germans from Münster got good reactions from the audience after every song performed. That surprised me a bit, because most of the music they played had little or even no progressive references at all. During the time I witnessed the band playing live, I didn’t hear the minor links to the music of Pink Floyd and Riverside on their albums Satellite Bay and Avoid The Light. For me, all songs sounded practically the same. Every time guitarist Florian Füntmann started a riff, second guitar player David Jordan tried to play a tuneful solo accompanied by a rhythm-section playing a fast beat, while Reimut van Bonn made some ambient noises behind an Apple-laptop. Every time when I thought the song is finished, they started all over again with the same kind of meaningless guitar noise. Sorry to say, but this band has no relation with progressive rock music whatsoever.

Agents Of Mercy

Agents Of Mercy was announced as ‘The Power Of Two’ or ‘Two Men One Vision’. The adverts said ‘one big wall of sound and an evening of prog extra vaganza in which everything can be possible.’ Indeed, the cooperation of Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold, both members of The Flower Kings, in both Agents Of Mercy and Karmakanic, is unique. Agents Of Mercy were still doing their sound check after I’ve left Long Distance Calling. After a short chat with Roine Stolt and lead singer Nad Sylvan (Unifaun), I found out that they intended to record one of their American shows later this year. Many people were curious to hear how Agents Of Mercy would perform the material from their debut album The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight. After listening half an hour to the eight (!) musicians on the small stage, it was clear to me that they came pretty close to the original recordings. The band performed five songs from that album. The title track has a few lines taken from the classic Genesis-album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Nad and Roine both played the keyboards or did the lead vocals. The vocals of Göran Edman and Jonas Reingold’s wife Inger Ohlen were great, which had a positive effect on the music performed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch the whole gig, because in the Batcave one of last year’s revelations would be doing their first live show in The Netherlands.


Kataya from Finland made with Canto Obscura a very impressive album. My expectations maybe ran a bit too high when they entered the stage. It seemed they had no stage fright at all, because they delivered an excellent concert. They started with Opening Marsh, the first track on the album as well. It surprised me, that I didn’t miss the female vocals from the original recording. Keyboard player Matti Kervinen introduced all the tracks, sometimes in an entertaining way. Not only Kataya-songs were on the set list. They also played Oivallettu Matkalyhty (Perceived Journey-Lantern) and Matemaatikon Lentonäytös (The Mathematician’s Air Display), two fine renditions from Pekka Pohjola, one of the most famous musicians from Finland, who died last year November. Pohjola used to be the bass player of Wigwam and a very important songwriter who made several solo albums. Those renditions proved that Kataya have been inspired by this legendary musician. However, I heard also echoes from Camel. Matti Kervinen saw Camel perform once in Finland and became a fan since then. After all, it was no surprise at all that they performed awesome versions of Rhayader and Rhayader Goes To Town from The Snow Goose album. During the concert, we could enjoy the excellent rhythm-section consisting of drummer Tomi Laaksonen and bassist Juha Aronen. They gave the other musicians all the room to show their talents on their instruments. I felt satisfied by making the right choice to witness the entire performance of Kataya. They not only made a strong album, but also managed to play it perfectly in front of a live audience. Thumbs up!


I had to return to the Green Room to see Karmakanic, the  headliners of Symforce III. Just a pity that I couldn’t witness the entire concert; the band had already started without me. However, there was plenty of time left to listen too the music of the same eight people who previously performed as Agents Of Mercy. This time singer Göran Edman stood in the spotlights during the vocal parts. He proved to be a great live singer and his powerful voice sounded very strong. Besides we could enjoy great solo spots from drummer Zoltan Csörsz and keyboardist Lalle Larsson in the up-tempo piece Do You Tango? Some people found those solos too freaky or too jazzy and left the venue for a drink at the bar. They certainly missed the fine classic piano playing of Lalle Larson followed by a U.K.-influenced synthesizer part. I liked it very much and I hope they will record this during one of their American concerts later this year. The final song of the regular set brought many people back in the audience. The way Göran expressed the loss of both parents of Jonas Reingold was very emotional. It must have been difficult for Jonas to play Eternally during live shows, bringing back so many memories. After this emotional piece the regular set ended, but the audience wanted the band to do an encore. The first encore kicked ass right from the start! Is This It/Entering The Spectra was followed by two covers: Afterglow (Genesis) and I’m The Walrus (The Beatles) . The last one already got live renditions from The Flower Kings in the past. Therefore, it was not strange at all that it was on the set list this time. This famous Beatles-song ended the third edition of the Symforce-festival in a row. As far as I’m concerned, the choice for using only two stages is a big improvement. We now had the chance to see all the bands perform. I had time enough to get a good impression of all the artists and of course, not all the music corresponded with my musical taste, but that’s just a good thing. This way you can hear that progressive rock music has a great variety of styles. Personally I liked Neo-Prophet, Moon Safari and Kataya the most, but it is all a matter of taste.

Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)

Set list The Sedan Vault:

Communism By The Gallon
A Rave To Every Home
Black Waltz In White Shoes
Like A Scene From An Apocalyptic Film
One Thirty Through The Borough
Unidentified Flying Subjects
Read Demonologies
Am Hinterland
In Uk

Line up The Sedan Vault:

(left to right)
Frederik Meeuwis:
bass, percussion, backing vocals
Rutger Meeuwis
guitar, lead and backing vocals
Johan Buyle:
Marius Meeuwis:
keyboards, backing vocals

Pictures The Sedan Vault by Arthur Haggenburg

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Set list Neo-Prophet:

The Vast Machine
(March Of The) Boneless
Song X
The Man Without A Name
The New Prophet part 2:
- A Lonely One
- Revelations
- Pilgrimage
- My Stone Of Life
The Calling
The Truth

Line up Neo-Prophet:

(left to right)
Frank Debruyne:
guitars, backing vocals
Conny Dequeecker:
backing vocals
Wesley Jaques:
Hans 'Mac' Six:
bass, acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals
Sjoerd 'Cap' Bruyneel:

Pictures Neo-Prophet by Arthur Haggenburg

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Set list Moon Safari:

Yasgur's Farm
A Sun Of Your Own
Dance Across The Ocean
The Ghost Of Flower's Past
Other Half Of The Sky

Line up Moon Safari:

(left to right)
Pontus Åkesson:
lead guitars & backing vocals
Petter Sandström:
acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals
Johan Westerlund:
bass, backing vocals
Simon Äkersson:
keyboards, lead & backing vocals
Tobias Lundgrun:
drums, backing vocals

Pictures Moon Safari by Arthur Haggenburg

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Set list Long Distance Calling:

Sundown Highway
Black Paper Planes
Fire In The Mountain
Metulsky Curse

Line up Long Distance Calling:

(left to right)
David Jordan:
Jan Hoffmann:
bass guitar
Janosch Rathmer:
Reimut van Bonn:
Florian Füntmann:

Pictures Long Distance Calling by Arthur Haggenburg

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Setlist Kataya:

Opening March
Oivallettu Matkalyhty
On A Moose
Matemaatikon Lentonäytös
Canto Obscura
Rhayader Goes To Town

Line up Kataya:

(left to right)

Tomi Laaksonen:
Sami Sarhamaa:
Juha Aronen:
Matti Kervinen:
Samu Wuori:
guitars, occasional keyboards

Pictures Kataya by Arthur Haggenburg

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Setlist Agents Of Mercy:

Fading Ghost Of Twilight
Unwanted Brother
Heroes And Beacons
Jesus On The Barricades
A Different Sun

Setlist Karmakanic:

Send A Message From The
Two Blocks From The Edge
Where Earth Meets The Sky
Do U Tango?

Is This It/
  Entering The Spectra
I'm The Walrus

Line up Agents Of Mercy / Karmakanic:

(left to right)
Krister Jonsson:
Göran Edman:
lead and backing vocals
Jonas Reingold:
bass, backing vocals
Zoltan Csörsz:
Inger Ohlen:
lead and backing vocals
Lalle Larsson:
main keyboards
Nad Sylvan:
keyboards, lead and backing vocals
Roine Stolt:(not visible)
keyboards, lead and backing vocals

Pictures Agents Of Mercy / Karmakanic by Arthur Haggenburg

Click on the picture to enlarge.

All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013