Attended NEARFest this past weekend, and I must say it was the best one yet of the three that I've attended. I'm thinking that having a front row orchestra seat helped my enjoyment of it. Of the three years I've been to, this was the first time I actually enjoyed every band. Some more than others obviously, but I stayed the duration for each and every performance, including the solo spotlights.
First was the Friday night "pre-show", now referred to as the "Progressive Legends Showcase".
The Tony Levin Band kicked things off with an outstanding energetic show. In addition to many tunes from his solo efforts, they performed great renditions of Genesis' 'Back In NYC', Gabriel's 'On The Air', and Crim's 'Sleepless' and 'Elephant Talk'.
Next up was Hatfield & The North.
I was only vaguely familiar with their material, but I like National Health, which is almost the same thing.
I did enjoy the set, but it tended to get boring at
times. I think part of it was that I was tired. All in all, I really enjoyed the Friday night showcase.
Saturday was kicked off with KBB, a band from Japan. I was a little apprehensive about this one because I didn't care much for Kenso last year.
I was pleasantly surprised. They are a good fusion band that played with a passion and energy that would rarely be rivaled the rest of the weekend.
I bought their 4 Corners Sky CD, as well as the exclusive to Nearfest live DVD. It was a great start to the weekend and I enjoyed them thoroughly.
Next up was Riverside. This was one of the bands I was really looking forward to. I was very disappointed last year when visa problems prevented them from making it to Nearfest 2005. I was especially disappointed at their replacement, Knight Area, which I felt was the most unoriginal band to take the Nearfest stage. Anyway, Riverside did not disappoint in the least. In fact, I think they were better live than they are on their studio albums.
I love their albums, but I enjoyed the live performance much more. I wish they could make it stateside more often...I would definitely see them again.
I'll comment on both solo spotlights together here. Both Richard Leo Johnson and Michael Manring were interesting to watch them at their craft, but I'm glad the spotlights are only 30 minutes. One individual noodling on his instrument of expertise is interesting for only so long.
I was a bit disappointed that Johnson used every one of his half-dozen or so guitars except for the electric. Manring played a very interesting "hyper-bass" which has all kinds of switches and levers on both ends of it which allows him to adjust pitch and tone while he's playing. Like I said, I like both of their playing, but I prefer seeing bands.
After RLJ came FM.
I had seen them once before back in 1981 or 1982, and I recall enjoying them enough to buy one or two of their records (yes, records... not CDs). I also recall being very disappointed in the albums. It would seem that my opinion has not changed in 24 years. I have their 'Black Noise' CD, and am unimpressed by it, but I enjoyed their live performance at Nearfest. Not my favorite band of the weekend, but not my least favorite either. Somewhere in the middle I'd say.
Finally, Ozric Tentacles closed out Day 1 of Nearfest 2006. I knew very little of this band. I have maybe a handful of live shows which I listened to once a long time ago. I enjoyed it only to the extent that I like guitar driven space rock. But I didn't feel that they were playing as a solid unit. The keyboard player was little more than a drug-induced giggling idiot for most of the performance. I don't think she did all that much on her boards. Ed Wynne (leader and guitar player) commented that he's not used to playing in front of a seated audience. "That's right Ed...we're sober and are actually listening to what you're doing." Nevertheless, I enjoyed the set, and felt it was a very entertaining first day.
I'm tired now, so I'll wrap up with part 2 later.
One year, two months, three weeks, one day
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