24 June 2009

NEARfest day one: a review in brief...

(A pre-side note: the setlists provided as directly from festival co-founded Chad Hutchinson, who got them from the stage setlists the bands wrote up. as corrections come, I will make them here.)

NEARfest day one started with a bit of a rough wake up…Friday night had been a touch fraught, and I know we had some slight issues dragging ourselves out of bed. A shower helped…but not long after getting to Lehigh on Saturday morning, I started feeling decidedly unwell. I dehydrated very, very quickly (air con over night and a lot of humidity contributing to a heat index higher than the actual temp may have contributed), and I had to get some water and stuff pumped into me. I joked that they had bottles of water and were jamming the tops into my mouth and squeezing the water down my throat. In any event, I was feeling well enough at that point to hit the theatre for…

(Heads of Wax) from Mexico. What an interesting set of music from these guys. Unique custom made instruments, heavy folk and electronic influences, their sound would range from the precious and acoustic to wild waves of sound. I can’t describe them all that well…they are labeled as avant and RiO, and some people called them space rock for some reason, but for me, they were just CdC…and I dug them enough to pick up a pair of discs to relive the experience. Good stuff.

Nocturno Incandescente
Cazador de Ballenas

Mil Noches

I think at this point I had one or two bottles of OJ, and headed back to the vending room to sell an ever depleting pile of shirts and programs and pint glasses. Wanted a tan shirt? Sorry, you’re out of luck, we’re out. 3X shirt? Sold out yesterday, so sorry. We had our full crew behind the table, and at our best, we were a well-oiled machine working around each other quite well.

Vendor rooms close, and we head up for OBLIVION SUN from here in the US. 2 Happy the Man members (Happy the Men?), a member of Present, Adrian Belew’s drummer, and a second keyboardsist, playing fun, fusiony symphonic music that included some classic HtM tracks, some excellent new stuff with quirky as ever titles (“Dead Sea Squirrels,” or ‘nature’s road bumps’ as claimed by Stanley Whitaker), and enough chops for a clinic. Stan looked and played great…we (Stan and I) had a chance to chat a bit before the set and it was wonderful to share some stuff that we had in common. That rocked, and was probably my emotional highlight of the festival.

Chapter 7.1
No Surprises
Lake of Shadows (new Bill Plummer piece)
The Ride
Golden Feast
Dead Sea Squirrels (new Stan piece)
Tales of Young Whales
The High Places (new Frank Wyatt piece)

Service with a Smile
March of the Mushroommen
(new Stan piece)

It was lunch time, and we hit the catering room for sandwiches and drinks. They hit the spot. Not much more to say there, really. We got all re-energised for the next act, which was…

from Italy. I was looking forward to these guys, and they did not disappoint. Great instrumental symphonic rock from Italy with just a touch of fusion goodness. I finally splurged and got the other two albums I needed to complete my collection, so I can identify the tracks I didn’t already know, but they were stellar live. Really got into them, and was glad to see them finally (NB: I am listening to Kaleidoscope, their 2 CD reissue of the first two albums, as I post this here...it is every bit as good as the show was, and then some).

Vietato Generalizzare
Flying Trip
Trip on Metro
Mosoq Runa


Dinner was a bit of a debacle, as meal tickets weren’t available, and the on site vendors closed down due to the weather. So we foraged for stuff to get us through the next band. I’d been doing everything possible to downplay them, trying to not build up expectation or anticipation, but soon the denouement would have to be had…the lights dimmed, and onto the stage came GONG.

I’ll say it here, as clear as possible. I loved their set. They played superbly. It was tight, and spacy, and trippy, and I really loved it. Daevid was in fine form despite being sick. Steve Hillage played fantastically. Miquette was fun on keys…playing, dancing, swaying, jumping. Theo Travis was wicked on the sax. The set was killer…I can’t ask for anything better. The new stuff (from the forthcoming 2032 album, the next part of the Planet Gong story) was good. It was just wild all the way around. Made it to the encore and we headed down stairs to catch up with a few people before we headed off into the night to search out french toast before hitting the hay for day two…

Escape, Control
You can't Kill Me
Tic Toc
Digital Girl
Dance with Pixies
Wacky Backy
Never Glid
Flute Salad
Oily Way
Outer Temple
Inner Temple
Om Liff
Cycle Gliss
You and I

Tropical Fish


Anonymous said...

Working merch was great once everyone got on the same page =)

Where's your writeup for Sunday (day two)?


Bill K. said...

That will be posted tomorrow :-) Gotta spread the content out...

tehcrazydiamond said...

Does anyone know where there are copies of any of the NEARfest shows?

Bill K. said...

Many past NEARfest performances have been released officially in full or in part. I could, and will, post a fairly exhaustive list later this evening.