I attended NEARFest, the Northeast Art Rock Festival, in Trenton NJ this past weekend. Here's my short review of the bands. I'll go in order of performance.
1. High Wheel-A band out of Germany, they were the festival openers. Not a bad band at all, they at times had hints of Pink Floyd in their sound, along with a heavier vibe. I think that if they get a little more "original" in their sound, High Wheel could make some really terrific music.
2. Alamaaliman Vasarat-This band totally rocked out! They are from somewhere in Scandinavia, and their line up is drums, trombone, sax, piano and pump organ, and two cello players. The cellos were overdriven to sound like electric guitars at times. This band could give Metallica a run for their money in the "heavy" department. I bought both of their CD's. The sax player would introduce songs with enigmatic phrases like, "This is a song about an axe."
3. Tunnels-Featured Percy Jones on bass, and a midi-vibes player, along with a drummer. Percy's Brand X mate John Goodsall also guested on a few numbers on guitar, and there was also a guest violinist and singer. A decent set of jazz fusion, even if it didn't light me on fire. Their one big misstep was having a drum solo that went on way too long.
4. The Flower Kings-A newer progressive band in the style of the older biggies, Yes, Genesis, and others. However, it sounds to me that they stopped their listening at those bands, instead of going deeper into the classical influences that shaped the earlier prog bands. And, if I wanted to listen to watered down Yes, I'd listen to 90125. Not a horrible band, just not my cup of tea. Many in the audience loved their performance. I gave them a chance, but the music didn't move me.
5. MAGMA!!!! This band from France that sings in their own invented language of Kobian truly is progressive in the best sense of the word. In their two hour set, they played 3 songs. Then, after their encore, when the house lights were brought up, the crowd wouldn't leave. Their cheers and noise finally brought Magma back for one more song, a shortened version of Theusz Hamtaahk, the first movenent of the Theusz Hamtaahk trilogy. I had never been to a show where the crowd brought a band back out after the house lights were up. A great show, from a cool band.
1. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum-If you get a chance to see this band, DO NOT HESITATE TO GO!!!!! You'll be floored by their performance. Check 'em out. My words can't do them justice.
2. Glass Hammer-Another neo-prog band, that just didn't do it for me. My friend and I left early, and ended up running into two of the members of Magma, so it was worth it. The mix was pretty bad for Glass Hammer, I couldn't really feel any low end in the sound. After we left the theater, I guess one of the guys from Kansas came and played with the band, but we missed it. Oh well...
3. Kraan-A German instrumental band that really had a good sound to them. At some points Floydian, but in general they really put their own stamp on their music. A great piano/keyboard player in this band.
4. Anglagard-An instrumental band from Finland, I believe. Alternately heavy and quiet, they put on a tremendous show!. One of the standouts of the festival. I recommend picking up their discs if you like melodic music that really packs a powerful dynamic punch.
5. Camel-Camel is one of those bands that I had heard about, but never really listened to. It was my loss, I learned on Sunday night. They put on a terrific show, and have music with depth, power, and finesse. I'm definitely going to pick up some of their cd's now.
All in all, a great experience, although the show ran a little long on the 2nd night. I would recommend picking up any of the cd's of the bands I mentioned, except for Glass Hammer and the Flower Kings. They may entertain some people, but their music didn't do it for me.