NEARFest 2006: 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 2006 was (including Friday night):
- Keith Emerson
- Ozric Tentacles
- Michael Manring
- Richard Leo Johnson
- Hatfield and the North
- The Tony Levin Band
Here is the 2006 logo, as designed by Roger Dean:
This was the eighth NEARFest and my seventh consecutive Festival. This Festival was the fifth Festival, and third 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.
The Festival has always presented quality music even if I thought its lineup was a little lackluster, but this particular Festival presented arguably its best lineup yet, if not the best it ever had.
At the top of the list is Keith Emerson, most notably of ELP and the Nice, is an unequivocal prog rock legend. He is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most famous names from the prog rock movement and the biggest prog rock artist to ever appear at NEARFest. His performance was fantastic, even despite the fact that he was suffering from carpal tunnel at the time. He played a vintage moog synthesizer and at times he looked more like an old telephone operator than a keyboard player when he played it. He also played a handheld moog that was long and rectangular and he shot fireworks out of the end of it (and, honestly, treated rather phallicly on occasion as well). He played his classic ELP and the Nice material and had a full time guitarist in his band (unlike ELP and the Nice) which made for a more sonically diverse and harder edged sound. It was truly a landmark in my prog rock fandom to see this legend in concert and up close!
The legends who appeared at this Festival did not stop at Emerson. Ozric Tentacles, while not nearly as “known” as Emerson, is a stalwart band in prog rock circles. This band typifies and personifies modern space rock and put on a fantastic and mesmerizing show. Hatfield and the North is yet another band which can be added to the long list, made possible by the Festival, of bands I never thought I would ever see live. Hatfield is perhaps the quintessential Canterbury band and one of the most important purveyors of the subgenre. They were on the older side, but still sounded as they did on record. Tony Levin is someone who is simply legendary in prog rock. He has played on over five hundred albums and with (or for) most prog rock bands in some way (see here). In fact, he had already played NEARFest once before (see here). This time he played with his own band, which is largely Peter Gabriel‘s band without Gabriel, which included prog rock keyboard wizard Larry Fast (who also had appeared at a previous NEARFest). Michael Manring is an innovative and influential bass player who, interestingly, played as a solo artist here getting as much sonic diversity he could out of his instrument (he and Johnson were the solo spots at this Festival.). Finally, FM is a classic neoprog band which many were very excited to see, although I must admit that I am not much of a neoprog fan. I may have over used the word “legend” in this post but the fact is, as you can see, this Festival was truly legend after legend.
As usual, this Festival offered some smaller time bands which I would otherwise have never heard of but for this Festival. Riverside is a fantastic Polish progressive metal band. Despite their “metal” sound, they also have a lot of subtly and an ear for good melody. KBB was probably my favorite “new” find. They are an Asian instrumental band featuring violin who also are extremely melodic melding many styles, including jazz.
Finally, there was Niacin. These guys are also a smaller band but I write about them separately because they are a “supergroup” of proven musicians. The band is led by bass player Billy Sheehan who has played with Mr. Big, Terry Bozzio, Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, among others. Sheehan is a phenomenal virtuoso who plays at lightening speed and is an incredibly dynamic presence on stage. His bass was combined in a rhythm section with drummer Dennis Chambers who is an ambidextrous drummer who has played with Santana, Parliament-Funkadelic, and John McLaughlin. He was an impressive presence who thundered away playing impressive polyrhythms and is quite possibly, in my view, the best drummer to have ever graced the NEARFest stage.
Finally, as a final note, I once again met Roger Dean, this was my sixth time, and he was as accommodating as always.
As you can see, this Festival was simply amazing. I don’t think there has ever been another quite like it.