NEARFest 2002: 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 2002 was (including Friday night):
- Steve Hackett
- Isildurs Bane
- La Torre dell’Alchimista
- Spaced Out
- Doctor Nerve
Here is the 2002 logo, as designed by Roger Dean:
This was the fourth NEARFest and my third consecutive Festival and, as one can see above, by this time the Festival grew sufficiently in prestige and assets that it was able to attract the “big names” like Steve Hackett, Nektar, Caravan and Michael Manring, not to mention some classic lesser tier prog rock bands like Echolyn and Enchant.
This was the first of two Festivals to take place at Patriots Theater at the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey. This theater seats about 1800 people, which is nearly double the 1002 seat Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where the 2000 and 2001 Festivals took place. As Trenton is only about 20 minutes from my house, as opposed to 90 minutes like Bethlehem, I did not stay overnight at this Festival and, I must say, that really diminished the experience and the fun I had (for more on why staying the night truly enhances the Festival experience see here).
Apparently, although nearly double in size (and, I suppose, double the revenue as a result), this new theater was apparently double the trouble and hassle. I do not know all the details, but I do know this theater demanded upfront payment (which the Festival, as a non-profit event did not really have) and, from what I understand, there were serious insurance issues unique to New Jersey. These issues nearly made the 2002 and 2003 Festivals to fold and motivated the Festival organizers to return to Bethlehem.
The theater was a beautiful and ornate building nestled in Trenton’s historic district. Despite its looks, I recall it being rather warm inside and the merchant space was not nearly as nice as that in Bethlehem. This Festival really marked the beginning of the enormous delays that plagued the late afternoon and evening bands at these sort of “middle” Festivals. Although the locale was not nearly as quaint and nice as Lehigh University, it was pretty cool because it was right down the street from New Jersey’s capital building and within a colonial era area. It certainly lacked the green space, fun eateries, and quaint walkable locale that Lehigh had, not to mention the involvement of the local establishments. Between the sets, I took the opportunity to stroll through the historic areas and the capital building and took photographs which you can see below. As it happened, while walking though the capital building, I passed right by New Jersey’s then governor Jim McGreevey who was having what appeared to be an important discussion with some official looking people. I honestly did not realize it was him at first as he was just this short guy talking; I had to do a double take to realize it was him. Once I realized it was him I said hello (he politely responded) and I felt like a schlub in my shorts and t-shirt (and I may or may not have been somewhat sweaty from my walk) next to these rather well dressed individuals.
The performances were stellar as usual. Classic Genesis is probably my second favorite band after Yes (for me, Genesis vacillates with King Crimson as my number two). I am obviously far too young to have seen them when they were together and, by 2002, Genesis had been effectively broken up since 1998. So, needless to say, it was a thrill for me to see their guitarist Steve Hackett live and playing some classic Genesis material! Also, Caravan, such a classic prog rock band, is another band which I never thought I would ever see live. They were as quirky as ever and put on a great show. Speaking of bands I thought I’d never see, Nektar, which broke up in 1980, reformed recently before the Festival and performed. To my ears, they sounded just like they did on record. Of course, like all NEARFests, some smaller time bands came to the fore. I really enjoyed Gerard, which is like an Anime version of classic prog rock band ELP. Echolyn’s performance is one I will always remember, if only because of the sheer size of the percussion and other instrumentation they set up. They took up the entire stage! Finally, bands like Miriodor really reveal the Festivals’ penchant to always have at least one “really weird band” in its lineup, what with its presentation of some rock-in-opposition music featuring instruments as diverse as saxophones, violins, woodwinds, and more typical rock band instrumentation. Finally, as you can see in one of the photographs below, this Festival continued its fine tradition of also including musicians not featured on stage, like the gentleman playing a set on the Chapman Stick outside the theater.