Long-time readers know of my affinity for progressive rock music, that anomaly where you just can't quite dance to the music because it is in 7/8 and you unfortunately have two legs, not seven. Proficiency on the instruments scores more points than getting people out of their seats and clapping along. I make no apologies - I am a nerd for this stuff and have been since about 1969 when the Moody Blues, King Crimson, and Procol Harum were pushinging some boundaries. Anyhow, at the risk of boring you, here is a round-up of what was heard in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of lovely Lehigh University last weekend.
Friday started off with Aranis, purveyor of "chamber rock" from Belgium. Yes, the lineup consisted of violin, upright piano, drums (capably handled by the ubiquitous Dave Kerman), upright bass, accordion, and flute. Some great sounds emanated from this band.
Aranis were followed by the venerable Van der Graaf Generator. This band has been around in England since maybe 1970 or so. Three of the original members got back together five years ago or so, and they have resumed putting out great new music. Yes, Peter Hammill's (no relation to the New York writer; trust me) voice may be an acquired taste, but I have acquired the taste.
Here's the full Helmet, with pretty lights on the curtain.
Break time! So we walked around campus a bit, taking in the flowers and towers. Here are a couple buildings we passed along our walk.
Back to the action, and the next band (above) was Twelfth Night, from England. The guy in the middle with the guitar was pretty talented, and fluctuated between his guitar and the keyboard back on the left behind the stripy guy. They were pretty good, in a sort of dated, accessible way.
OK, I mentioned that I was a keyboard fan. The picture below depicts how to make me salivate. Take two remnants from the Keyboard Past, circa 1970. A solid Hammond B-3 organ, and a Mellotron. The Mellotron is almost THE symbol of progressive rock. When you touch, say, the middle-C key, the thing plays a tape loop of an orchestra playing middle C, or a flute playing it, or a chorus singing it. Amazing - and really, really antiquated by today's standards.
Those keys were from the band Anglagard, from Sweden. They actually had three - count 'em - THREE Mellotrons on stage. You can see two of them here. Why three? Why not? And check out that drum "kit"...
Headlining Saturday was the ol' Brit band Renaissance, fronted by "the lovely" Annie Haslam, she of the five-octave range. And after a couple shaky songs, she found all of that range and sang wonderfully. This band actually had moderate fame back in the early 70's. You might have had or seen their records - Prologue, Ashes to Ashes, Turn of the Cards, Sheherazade...
It's a vibe-off!!! Nah, not really, it is two players from the Swedish band, Gosta Berlings Saga.
And here is the full band.
Another break - and we checked out the old Bethlehem Steel Works. The locals have preserver the old works and plunked down a cultural center, park, and even venue amidst all the old boilers and extruders and ovens and whatever else steel works have.
Back again in time to hear Italian band Il Tempio Delle Clessidre, fronted by venerable singer Stefano "Lupo" Galif. Gotta have at least one Italian band in one of these fests.
Here is the full band...
The penultimate act was the amazing Mike Keneally band. Mike plays guitar and keys really, really well, and sometimes both at the same time!
Here's Mike's full band, with a cool picture on the backdrop.
The fest ended with a performance by British band UK, led by keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson, and bassist/vocalist John Wetton. Eddie has a strict "no photography" rule at his shows, so this is a fuzzy stock photo of Eddie and John saying howdy to some other crowd.
So that was it. The final NEARFest; they called it NEARFest Apocalypse. Two of the guys who have organized this show are college professors during their day jobs, and they have simply burned out doing this, as much as they love it. They decided to put on one last show (which sold out its 1100 or so seats almost instantaneously back last winter), and it was a great time. I will have to replace this annual event with another fest; there is on in the spring in Gettysburg which is quite enjoyable.
But the important thing is this: prog lives on.