NEARFest 2005: 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 2005 was (including Friday night):
- Le Orme
- Steve Roach
- Matthew Parmenter
- The Muffins
- Frogg Cafe
- Knight Area
Here is the 2005 logo, as designed by Roger Dean:
This was the seventh NEARFest and my sixth consecutive Festival. This Festival was the fourth Festival, and second consecutive Festival, to take place at at the Zoellner Arts Center on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and it remained there until the last Festival.
This was another great Festival. I once again met Roger Dean, this was my fifth time, and he is always gracious enough to answer some questions and sign a load of material for me. I also met Paul Whitehead again at this Festival, who I also met at the Festival in 2000, who was the artist for some classic Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator albums. I also had opportunity to meet Gary Green for the first time (though I met him again at subsequent Festivals) who was the lead guitarist for the landmark prog rock band Gentle Giant. He was extremely friendly and mingled with the rest of the fans the entire weekend and I had opportunity to have a few beers with him at the post-Festival gathering at the Comfort Suite bar. He was just a regular guy hanging out with the other attendees. I am happy to say that while he got some (deserved) attention from the rest of the fans, they did not become oppressive as to make his experience at the Festival unenjoyable.
In terms of the musicians, the Festival once again featured solo spots (Steve Roach and Matthew Parmenter of Discipline). I wrote about solo spots here. Discipline eventually played at the 2008 Festival. Here, Parmenter played with full face paint looking like demented mime of some sort, drawing inspiration from Peter Gabriel‘s outlandish stage outfits.
The bigger name bands which I really enjoyed included PFM. PFM are a classic Italian-prog band which includes a strong baroque sound. When they took the stage, the Festival once again presented a band which I never thought I would ever see live. PFM’s performance was strong and lively and I really enjoyed hearing their very classic prog rock pieces. On the downside, despite their energy and the impressive musicianship, they did not present their songs with anywhere near the subtly and softness that they do on record, and they lacked the acoustic and diverse instrumentation found there as well. I also thought Proto-Kaw was great. Proto-Kaw is the first pre-first-album line up of the American prog rock band Kansas. They were really tight and powerful; their songs were well-crafted and well-performed. Surprisingly, and somewhat refreshingly, their set did not rely on Kansas songs at all. They had a whole stock of songs of their own to play, which I thought was great as they, as a band, tried to take on their own identity despite being so closely associated with Kansas (and advertised as such).
Once again, the Festival presented some smaller time bands which I would have likely never heard of without it, and that is what made the Festival so great to me. I really loved the Muffins, which were a sort of avant-garde jazz band featuring a lot of saxophones and unique song writing. In addition, there was Frogg Cafe. The members of this band are trained musicians and have degrees in composition, and it showed in their playing and writing. The musicianship was clearly on a very high and exclusive level, and their writing was crisp, complex, and very intricate and structured. Surprisingly, though, despite the prog-rock wonkiness of their compositions, they were able to present their music in a fun and energetic way, and the complexity of the pieces did not get in the way of, or weigh down, the bouncy and fun feel of the music. They were clearly my favorite of the weekend! I think Present is worth mentioning as the weekend’s hardcore RIO band. Present is more-or-less a harder edge spin off of RIO band Univers Zero, which played at the previous NEARFest (see here). Present presents angry, heavy, and dissonant music that is absolutely relentless. Like most of my experience with seeing RIO bands, I can take about 20 minutes of their music as I am fascinated and impressed by how great musicians can play composed music with one another that is so dissonant, amelodic, and arrhythmic, but after that it just becomes too much for me and descends into noise. For the hardcore RIO fan, Present played a great set.
Finally, the Festival continued its tradition of outdoor entertainment with a guy setting up out on the pavement again. In addition, and rather fortuitously, the local community (perhaps with the University) was putting on an outdoor – and roving around from place-to-place – live performance of Romeo and Juliet with the performers dressed in very large costumes that resembled Marionette puppets. There is a photograph of a couple below.