NEARFest 2010: 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 2010 was (including Friday night):
- Steve Hackett
- Eddie Jobson‘s Ultimate Zero Project
- Three Friends
- The Enid
- Pineapple Thief
- Forgas Band Phenomena
Here is the 2010 logo, as designed by Mark Wilkinson:
This was the twelfth NEARFest and my eleventh consecutive Festival. This Festival was the ninth Festival, and seventh 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 fantastic festival with very few low points (e.g.: the Pineapple Thief).
Once again, NEARFest offered the opportunity to see classic prog rock! Steve Hackett was the “big” name of the weekend and he did not disappoint with a great set of his own material but also that of his time in Genesis. He played NEARFest 2002 (see here) and this performance was just as strong. It is very special seeing a prog rock giant like him in such an intimate venue. In addition to Steve Hackett was Three Friends as another prog rock “great.” The classic prog rock band Gentle Giant broke up in about 1980 after a great prog rock career making some of the music unique and innovative music the genre offered. I never thought I would ever see them live as a result; that is, until NEARFest 2010. Three Friends is named after the Gentle Giant album of the same name (see here) and was comprised of the three Gentle Giant members who still wish to perform that classic music (specifically multi-instrumentalist Kerry Minnear, guitarist Gary Green and drummer Malcolm Mortimore) and other musicians they recruited. Needless to say, this band was a real thrill for me to see. Gentle Giant was a band I thought was lost to the mists of time, but here NEARFest came through once again to bring to their stage music that many would never otherwise see. They put on a fantastic performance, faithfully playing the Gentle Giant classics in all their quirky and kooky glory. What a great opportunity!
The Enid was a band I had only heard of before this Festival. I really enjoyed this keyboard driven music. They have been around for a very long time but somehow I had not heard them before; I have to say that I can see why they have such longevity. In saying that, while I liked their music, it seemed to consist of crescendo after crescendo with little development in between and that gets a little tiring to hear after a while. I really appreciated Iona. It is very rare for a band which is overtly Christian to play at a event decidedly non-religious. As a Christian myself, it afforded me opportunity to appreciate and connect with their music in ways I cannot and do not with that of other bands. There have been at least two other Christian bands, that I know of, that have graced the NEARFest stage, namely Glass Hammer (which appeared at NEARFest 2003 (see here)) and Proto-Kaw (which appeared at NEARFest 2005 (see here)) and each time there is something special about connecting with their lyrics in a spiritual way. Aside from that, Iona afforded the listener a different musical experience as compared with most other NEARFest bands as it features strong Celtic influences and a lot of different sorts of pipes (e.g.: see here) from that area of the world.
Forgas was probably the big “find” of the weekend for me. They are another one of those bands which makes music beyond traditional categorization. Broadly they could be described as flowing from the Canterbury Scene, but that really would not fully describe them as they are French. Although they have a bass guitarist and drummer providing the rhythmic backing – instruments usually associated with rock – they also feature, various saxophones, flutes, trumpets, horns, and violins which give the music an entirely different feel and approach. As a result, Forgas provides a very fresh sound and is good relief from the guitar dominated music so common even in prog rock. Moraine was my other unexpected take away from this Festival as they are also a rather unique band. They, too, offered a fresh take on prog rock with their Asian influenced music which involved the use of violin and various woodwinds. I just love it when bands take on rock and try something entirely new with it like Forgas and Moraine.
Finally, I have left Eddie Jobson for last. Jobson has a unique history. First of all, he is an electric violinist and keyboardist; how many of those can you name? He started as a teenaged prodigy in the old prog rock band Curved Air and then moved on to brief – but very impressive and influential – stints with prog rock stalwarts Roxy Music and Frank Zappa, as well as a session musician with prog masters King Crimson. This pedigree let to him teaming up with prog rock legend John Wetton to form the now classic (but unfortunately short lived) prog rock supergroup U.K. Following his time in U.K., he went on to play a role in Jethro Tull‘s brief foray into electronica which led prog rock giant Yes to recruit him for their reformation in the 1980s. Unfortunately, Jobson’s time in Yes lasted barely three months (due a dispute over Yes’s use of keyboardist Tony Kaye stemming from a greater inter-Yes dispute among the larger Yes camp over the use of the Yes name) without having done any recording, and was all but edited out of their history (except for a nanosecond in a music video which you can see here, but don’t blink because you will miss it! Jobson is in a blue shirt.). After this episode with Yes, Jobson embarked on a brief solo career and then recorded music for television and movies (see here), and finally started his own record label and phased out his performing career. So, needless to say, this guy’s career is the stuff of prog rock legend.
Around the time of NEARFest 2010, Jobson decided to come back out of performance retirement, and one of his first stops was NEARFest. Jobson formed a band of prog rock all stars (see here) with a shifting line up (including Michael Mangini, the world’s fastest drummer, see here) and compiled a set list from his rather varied background, but mainly focusing on U.K. and King Crimson. As my readers know, I am a HUGE Crimson fan (see here as an example), but I am also a massive U.K. fan despite their being together so long ago and for such a short time. I must sound like a broken record in these NEARFest reviews when I say this, but once again NEARFest offered me an opportunity to see musicians which I would never have expected to see in my lifetime. Jobson resurrected long unplayed U.K. songs which I never thought I would ever see played life, much less by an original musician. I also got to see classic Crimson music that Crimson had not played for nearly 35 years. Seeing such legendary performers playing such little played, but phenomenal, music was an amazing experience I will never forget. Every musician was at the top of his game. It was truly a peak prog rock performance. Even the guitarist, Alex Machacek was able to channel Allan Holdsworth to really bring out that classic U.K. sound. Amazing!