NEARFest 2001: photos and memories
This post is in my series regarding the North East Art Rock Festival (NEARFest) more about which you can find here. You can find all of my posts regarding NEARFest here and I started the series here. You can also learn more about this particular Festival here and here. The information below are just some highlights I remember and photographs I took from the Festival.
The lineup for NEARFest 2001 was (including Friday night):
- Banco del Mutuo Soccorso
- Porcupine Tree
- Deus Ex Machina
- After Crying
- White Willow
- California Guitar Trio with Tony Levin
- Djam Karet
- Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
- The Underground Railroad
- Under the Sun
- Land of Chocolate
- The Red Masque
- Electric Sheepdog
- Wine of Nails
Here is the 2001 logo, as designed by Roger Dean:
This was my second NEARFest but the first one where I was fully immersed into the event. By “immersed” I mean I stayed overnight at the local Comfort Suites which, as it turned out, was the place where most of the musicians stayed and the after party DJed by the prog rock program Gagliarchives was held. This was also the first Festival where I really got to know the other attendees. Finally, although I enjoyed the music at NEARFest 2000, I really feel like the bands which played at NEARFest 2001 were a significant improvement. So, needless to say, this particular Festival will always have a special place in my heart. This Festival, I think, is the one when the event really took off. One of the Festival founders wore a dress on stage after losing a bet regarding how fast tickets for it would sell.
The Festival was still relatively new (this was only the third one) so it was not quite there yet to attract the “big” names just yet, but it was hitting its stride and was able to book fairly prominent musicians like Porcupine Tree and Tony Levin. There was a local Perkins were I would often eat breakfast and it was there I had the opportunity to eat one table away from Levin! Obviously that was a real treat (for me, not so much for him, I’m sure)!
Although future Festivals were able to book more famous musicians I feel that this particular Festival really established the Festival’s tradition of booking truly quality bands of a lesser known stature, indeed some of which could be considered to be “unknowns.” Specifically, although I enjoyed all the bands, I walked away from this Festival a big fan of Birdsongs and White Willow and even After Crying. Since this Festival, I have followed White Willow especially and have obtained the albums they have released since this Festival. Birdsongs is so unique I would not know where to begin. I never saw a band before with someone playing percussion though basically keyboards and pads and a guy playing saxophones through effects. They were so good Roger Dean asked to be their cover artist. White Willow featured someone on very unusual woodwind instruments (like a melodica), old school prog rock Hammond and Mellotron, and a wicked guitar player who played sublime melodies and never used a plectrum. Another thing I thought was cool which I took note of was the fact that the piano player for the Underground Railroad played the piano’s internal strings with a credit card.
I entered this Festival a big fan of Porcupine Tree, the California Guitar Trio, and Tony Levin so they were all very exciting for me to see. Levin, of course, was the bass player with ABWH so the Yes connection drew me to him at least at first, not to mention his work with King Crimson (and many others). Porcupine Tree was formed in 1987 but did not release albums until 1991 and by 2001 they were really starting to make a name for themselves. At that time I was really into them (and saw them seven more times since then) and I was really looking forward to seeing them live. Needless to say they did not disappoint and put on a great show and played a fantastic set. They played so loudly that they broke a bulb in the ceiling and, as you can see from one of the photographs down below, one of the attendees really got into their psychedelic instrumentals! I remember Steven Wilson, the leader of Porcupine Tree, being a little unsure how to approach the NEARFest audience because we were all seated while he nearly always plays venues where everyone stands.
Finally, aside from Tony Levin, my other Yes connection at this Festival was Roger Dean, Yes’ long time artist. Dean attended this Festival and created its logo. This was the first Festival he attended and he went on to appear at seven more. He set up his wares in one of the merchant rooms and was gracious enough to briefly answer some questions and sign some things. Of course, I have never been personally so close to Yes, so I was gobsmacked and tried to ask him some insightful questions instead of typical fan nonsense. I am not sure I succeeded, but he was gracious enough to sign a truckload of stuff for me and I bought a few pieces of art from him.
As an aside, I got to meet (and take the photograph of) one of the musicians from Starcastle as he set up a “meet and greet” table for himself.
This Festival was the second one to take place at at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I decided to take a few photographs of the our scenic environs. As we explored the locale between sets we at dinner at the Bridgeworks, which is sadly no longer there, and discovered the Funhouse!