26 June 2008

NEARfest 2008 in review

NF 2008 was in some ways one of the more challenging ones for me from both a physical and emotional level. Through most of the weekend, my body seemed to be conspiring against me. Despite this, some of the most memorable musical things happened.

Koenjihyakkei was a solid Saturday opener. I had some issues with the vocal/sax interplay, both of which seemed to stay in very similar ranges, making it difficult at times to discern which was which. But they also had "the" drummer of the festival for me in Tatsuya Yoshida, and his performance was the benchmark by which I compared all others.

Sorry, Mike Portnoy.

Discipline. Not fair of me to say anything. They exceeded my expectations a thousand fold, and I wept for the first time during the festival as they played "Into the Dream." It was a transcendent set for me, one I hope will eventually see some kind of official release. I should add that the rest of the guys in the band are brilliant as well...I've known Matthew Parmenter for a few years, but Mathew Kennedy, Jon Preston Bouda and Pual Dzendel were all a joy to chat with too.

Peter Hammill was superb. It was one of the diverging performances of the weekend, as his particular brand of existential despair and doom is not for everyone. But he played 'In the Black Room,' and 'A Better Time,' and 'Still Life.' A perfect English gentleman to talk to as well. Brilliant man.

Liquid Tension Experiment was good. I know they wowed a lot of people who expected nothing from their set. I did about 90 minutes of their set, and had enough. It's just not for me anymore. But kudos for incorporating a full fledged and rearranged rendition of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" into their performance (Banco would echo this Sunday night, opening their encore with a soprano sax or clarinet solo that interpolated bits of the theme).

Morglbl on the other hand is LTE with Gallic humour. Cristopher Godin is a ham, and his stage presence was wonderful. Floral print tie and all. Great player, oozing character, and the bassist held his own! Very goofy, fun, party prog on the metal edge. Liked them a lot. I'll buy their albums I think. A perfect Sunday opener, and I think they got called out for two encores (and deservedly so), a first.

Radio Massacre International...I dig electronic music, but watching it can be tedious. It was somewhat here...and I was tired. And starting to hurt badly. Cyndee Lee Rule's violin additions helped, as did the occasional use of drums. But the set seemed disjointed.

Echolyn was also a lot of fun. they played several songs I'd never heard played before, like 'Winterthru,' 'The Great Men,' 'Entry 11-19-93' (or whatever the date in the title was). Very energetic set. No new material, but it was a blast. Again, I missed part, as before the encores I started to hurt so bad I was nauseous and crying (thankfully over the course of the rest of the evening I'd spend some time with the guys, which was brilliant as always. They are total class acts...).

Medication and food later, we had...

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso.

After their set, I walked around goofy saying "I just saw Banco." I'd walk up to someone and say "That was Banco." It was transcendent, and again, I wept. They were everything I heard on their albums and more. Far far more.

But for me, this year meant something more. This year I think I realised how important the people around me all weekend were. My friends helped me get through a very rough patch with kindness and concern and selflessness. That totally made it for me. Some of the past festivals' performances may have been individually superior, but I may remember NEARfest 2008 most fondly in the end.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So wish I'd come. Thanks for the review Bill.