Progventure Part 5: Night Of The Prog 2012 - Loreley, Germany, 07-08.07.2012
|Event:||Night of the Prog Festival|
Night Of The Prog 2012 - Loreley, Germany, 08.07.2012 by Ivor (124)
Night Of The Prog 2012 - Loreley, Germany, 07.07.2012 by Ivor (120)
Table of Contents
2. Night of the Prog
3. Day 1 - Saturday
3.1. 12:00 - Hasse Fröberg and the Musical Companion
3.2. 13:15 - Enochican Theory
3.3. 14:45 - Airbag
3.4. 16:30 - Sylvan
3.5. 18:10 - Arena
3.6. 22:00 - Spock's Beard
3.7. 22:00 - Saga
4. Day 2 - Sunday
4.1. 12:00 - Frequency Drift
4.2. 13:30 - Lazuli
4.3. 15:30 - Haken
4.4. 17:10 - The Flower Kings
4.5. 19:00 - Katatonia
4.6. 21:00 - Steve Hackett
1. Foreword ^
Prog. Whenever I want something prog live, I have to travel. That's just the way things are sometimes. Or rather the way things are all the time. After five years of Hellfest, I finally decided to break the tradition and skip it, the line-up being not what it used to be - more than a bit mundane for my tastes this time. The void needed filling, however, and thus Night of the Prog came into view again - a festival close to three years on my to-do list. And having kicked off Progventure concert series last November, I've decided to keep the feature going whenever I happen to be travelling primarily because of prog.
What follows now is a lengthy report of the Night of the Prog 2012 festival. You'll find more photos in the galleries linked above.
2. Night of the Prog ^
So, what is this Night of the Prog? As you might have surmised already, it's a festival of all things prog. Although the "all things prog" part is in some cases a bit questionable, let's leave that one up for a later debate. This year saw the festival play out already edition VII. Not a bad feat that one for a rather specialized event that has to compete for artists with all other bigger festivals across Europe. Admittedly, they are a niche market which might be to their advantage.
Night of the Prog is special in a number of ways. First of all, the location is marvellous. It takes place at the most famous feature of the Rhine Gorge, the rock of Loreley which marks the narrowest part of the river Rhine between Switzerland and the North Sea, and is also part of the 65km long section that was recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It towers over 120 meters above the river and has been part of the modern folklore for over 200 years. And the view from the top is simply magnificent.
View from the top
Secondly, the actual venue is an amphitheatre. I mean, how cool is that? Totally, if you ask me. In a way, it's a perfect concert place as there is a good view of the stage wherever you are. I've always hated being somewhere in the back with some I-can't-see-so-I'll-stand-in-front-of-you tall person in my way of sight. Moreover, the venue allows people simply to chill out, sit down and enjoy the show. I'm not normally an advocate for sitting at the gig, but in a whole day of shows - and prog being prog - it's rather nice to sit down and still be able to see what's going on. Admittedly, if you are looking for a good standing place close to the stage and a mosh-pit, the place seems to be more or less fresh out of those as the flat area in front of the stage is given to photographers. Truth be told, though, mosh-pit isn't particularly missed much at this kind of event.
Thirdly, which directly stems from secondly, there's only one stage. Which means no clashes, no running around the grounds between the stages, and so on. For once I didn't feel the pressure of missing out on something playing on another stage. More important, though, is the amount of time allocated for each artist. First bands of the day aside, most of them got over an hour of play time. Although tedious in some cases, it's so damn nice for the things you do really care about. The artists get so much play time it actually stops coming across as a festival but rather as a stringed collection of individual gigs. This is a fine achievement. I've always felt a bit cheated at the festivals if a really cool band gets only a 40 minute slot to play.
3. Day 1 - Saturday ^
Having spent the night at Daniel's place in Frankfurt, and a day on the city, we arrived at the festival on the previous night, Friday evening. Having pitched Daniel's tent, which by my standards appeared to be a monster, and having done a short tour of the surroundings, one of my erroneous assumptions about it being a proper festival became apparent. The only place to sell beer that night was a small bar at the camp site that closed at about 23... and I hadn't brought a stash with me. In the absence of any entertainment at the camp and the nearby surroundings, and since the prospect of descending 100 meters down to the city didn't appeal to me, or rather, let's be honest, it was the prospect of the eventual ascending of those 100 meters that scared me, we had to call it an early night.
The next morning was sunny and it seemed like it would be an excellent day weather-wise. A breakfast, shower and some strolling around later, grounds were finally opened and people started going in. The area inside didn't seem all that big but still people failed to fill it up by far. The merchandise and music sellers were setting up, a couple of food and beer stands were serving their first customers. All in good view of the stage. Somehow, a word quaint came to mind.
The festival grounds
3.1. 12:00 - Hasse Fröberg and the Musical Companion ^
First band on the list was some certain Hasse Fröberg with a band of his. Not knowing who he actually is, I was a bit surprised when somewhat down the set he mentioned doing 2 hour shows so far on the tour and how he now has to make do with measly 45 minutes. My musings were answered on the next day, though. As it turned out this certain Hasse Fröberg is also the guitarist of The Flower Kings. Which kind of rang a bell, and it all made sense.
So, the guy on stage was no less than experienced. The project at hand is only two albums old. Great guitars, nice tunes but overall could've had more bark and bite to it, especially so if you factor in Hasse's vocals that are mostly on the higher scale and softer emotional side. No offence meant, but picture an out of breath weathered old dog and you'll understand what I mean by more bark and bite. I have nothing against it as such as it fits the music, but I rather think it all could've benefited from an occasional more dominant manly low voice. A bit of contrast, if you know what I mean. In a way it was a fitting start to the day, a slow easing into the flow of things on a lazy sunny afternoon. But that peaceful lack of contrast kept on nagging, more so when some of the songs like "Fallen Empire" were almost on the spot.
3.2. 13:15 - Enochican Theory ^
The trio up on stage next was more to my liking, though. Think something along the lines of Riverside, if you haven't heard them yet. Their new album seems a rather more refined effort and the Enochian Theory are slowly establishing themselves as being a band to reckon with. On stage they appeared to be one of those bands that when you see them live get you thinking how is it really possible to create so much music with so few people. Then again, who needs more? Drums, bass, guitars and vocals, and a sound man - looks just about enough.
Enochian Theory is not a show band but on the whole their music doesn't need a show. It is simply captivating as it is, far more so live than on the album. You can just drift away while listening to beautiful melancholy flowing off the stage. It appeared that few knew this band, though, and in some ways it showed. Or they were all too immersed in the performance. "Put your hands in the air!" Yay! What appeared like two hands over the whole crowd were raised.
The band were out on the grounds a while later and chatting to anyone wishing to talk to them. They seemed to take the mild response in a stride, though, and were just glad to play at the festival and getting their music out to people. Jokingly they also said what happened to the rain they promised to bring over from England. Apparently they packed it in the suitcases but it got lost somewhere on Belgian border, only to arrive a day later, mind you.
3.3. 14:45 - Airbag ^
Airbag - "What am I supposed to do with this?"
I missed some half an hour from the beginning of Airbag as my Arena interview went well into their set. But, as I already mentioned, Night of the Prog is where bands get to play for quite a while. Hence, I still got about an hour worth of music that is heavily drawn out. Maybe even too much so. And that is coming from someone who rather enjoys this kind of stuff.
This Norwegian collective kind of sounds like if you took Porcupine Tree, stripped it of the heavier edge, added ambient background, and focused on long instrumentals centred around an ebow and Gilmour-style guitar sound, and Pink Floyd in general. Maybe a touch of Anathema for atmosphere. However, what happened is that these long instrumentals just melted together, transcending any boundaries and changes in music. There was just this post rockish drawn out sound, if you catch my drift, without any real attention focus. Instrumentally, it was pretty damn good execution but the setting was a bit wrong. I think I would've enjoyed it far more had it been one of the last bands to play in the dark.
3.4. 16:30 - Sylvan ^
I have to give credit to the German audience, they seem to know their local stuff. Up to this point, Sylvan got the biggest cheer when they entered the stage. This was also one of the bands I was curious about although I can't say I was excited about seeing them. The thing with this band is that it's always been kind of half way on the right path for me. Neither here nor there, so to say. There are bright blips, tons of potential but it's never realised as far as I'm concerned. Something is always missing.
In view of the disappointment that was their last album Sceneries, I had a bit of resentment to start with, which only deepened as the show carried on. That missing part still wasn't there. And as with the albums, there were brighter spots like "Follow Me," or what, if I'm not mistaken, appeared to be the medley across their discography, but in general it felt uneventful and uninteresting. The music went on but the performance failed to engage.
3.5. 18:10 - Arena ^
It is funny how things sometimes turn out to be. Only a year ago I was yet to see one of my favourite bands live. A year later, Night of the Prog was already the second time to witness their performance. Hampered by some technical difficulties at the beginning, the band got off to a nice start. But as often is the case meeting a band in so short period of time, you might be presented with the same or largely the same selection of songs. Thus it turned out to be this time. Most of it was the same and in the same running order as at their tour ending show in Leamington Spa last November, with small changes here and there, of course.
However, if comparison is to be drawn, that time in Leamington felt infinitely more special. This time allowed me to reminisce and relive the moments of half a year ago. And I noticed that mind plays funny tricks on you, too. When I heard John Mitchell playing "Serenity" in Leamington, I was literally melting from the goodness of it all. This time, instead of literally melting I was remembering how I was literally melting at that prior show. Not that this time around it wasn't bloody brilliant to hear again. Have you noticed that in your mind you sometimes get transported from one gig to another, likely the first one that has left a lasting impression on you? I still haven't been able to figure out what it says about the gig you're at but so far my conclusion is that as long as it can fly you across time and space, it is still an absolutely great show.
3.6. 22:00 - Spock's Beard ^
Having relatively lately found out that Spock's Beard had parted with their drummer and main singer Nick D'Virgilio - and I had really wanted to hear that guy sing live - I was more than cautious to approach their gig. I mean, with ups and downs Spock's Beard is an awesome band in general and changes this big might have a heavy impact. So, it was left to see how Ted Leonard of Enchant fit in his new shoes.
Spock's Beard - "Ryo is rock'n'roll!"
It all started out kind of slow. A technical time-out even had to be called. But it soon escalated to become the show of the day in every sense. By the time "Kamikaze" was played half way down the set, it was clearly a driven performance. "Ryo is rock'n'roll!" soon became a description for what the keyboardist was churning out, being hands and feet over his beloved instruments and even kicking some of them over at some point. And Alan Morse with his facial expressions was not being left far behind on his excellent guitar work.
I've listened to Spock's Beard on and off for a long while. But for some reason I didn't ever have a feeling that they'd translate too well live. Oh, how wrong I was. Even in view of minor technical glitches that seemed to be popping up during the set, they totally stole the show. It was a captivating performance and time flew by in an eye-blink. At that point, whatever came afterwards became completely irrelevant. This was exactly the feeling and emotion I came to Night of the Prog for.
3.7. 22:00 - Saga ^
Whatever came afterwards was indeed completely and utterly irrelevant. I didn't have much faith in Saga to begin with. I've never felt like listening to those late '70s and early '80s generation prog bands, Saga's not the only one like that. Unfortunately, my suspicions were confirmed as the band got on stage. Basically, it started at the foot of the hill and went downhill from there, apart maybe from the opening song "Anywhere You Wanna Go" that, for a moment there, kept it sort of afloat.
The thing with Saga is that while it does have some rare moments, it lacks substance. The upbeat rhythm and the abundance of keyboards was killing it all completely. It's insane and inane - the lengthy instrumental sections, that endless running up and down the octaves on keyboards and guitar. Technical execution is there all right. But it felt so empty. The singer's vocal range didn't help either. The audience seemed to totally love it, though. Then again, the majority of the audience was some 15 years older than me, listening to the band of their youth. For me, however, it was totally uninteresting.
4. Day 2 - Sunday ^
The next morning I awoke to the splattering of rain. Well, damn, this didn't sound good at all. Just to think it was so nice yesterday and now this totally uncool turn of weather. However, as luck would have it, soon rain stopped and by the time the gates were opened it looked like it would be all right. Little did I know about the schizophrenic nature of the weather god. Throughout the day it would go from sunny to raining to sunny in less than half an hour. Repeatedly. The only good thing about it was that the showers were relatively light and short and you had time to dry out by the time the next one arrived.
4.1. 12:00 - Frequency Drift ^
This band totally had me stunned with their last album. The week before the festival it was constantly playing and I was very excited to see how this beautiful music would sound live. The band is in constant line-up changes and, as it turned out later during an interview, their singer had left and the previous one, Antje Auer, had returned. It was also one of their first performances. So, there was quite a bit to prove with this gig.
They pulled it off smiling, though. It's not so much a show or stage presence as the music and the drive that they seemed to have. Somehow the passion didn't show too much on the surface. But it could be felt. The varied pace, twists and turns, a violin, a harp, and flutes, beautiful melodies, and brilliant voice. It all blended together to make a totally enjoyable impression. Though, it was taking me quite a while to ease into the set properly. I still don't know why.
4.2. 13:30 - Lazuli ^
Lazuli - Claude Leonetti playing léode
The show of the second day came nice and early, though. Somewhat surprisingly it was Lazuli that delivered it. Their last album (4603 Battements) was excellent but has remained the only one I've heard so far. Nevertheless, that gave me confidence in music as such but I still knew next to nothing about their live performances even though already some time ago there were people that mentioned Lazuli as being excellent live band. Experiencing is believing, however.
The strength of their performance was apparent already from the first notes. No stage antics to speak of but what a presence! Just being up on the stage and playing their music was enough. They conjured a dark atmosphere, enormous emotional depth, and passionate delivery. Even if you don't know any of their music, you'd still have been swept away like fallen leaves in the wind.
Speaking of passion for music, ever heard of the léode? No? I thought so. You'd only have to see Claude Léonetti play the instrument he himself designed after he lost control of his left hand in a crash to understand that for some people music is everything. Whatever it takes. And somehow you can feel it. An hour and a half flew by in a floating state of mind but at the same time it also seemed to last forever. Apparently, Lazuli can alter the flow of time at will.
4.3. 15:30 - Haken ^
Good things seem to come together. When I saw Arena in Leamington last November, Haken were one of the support bands. At Night of the Prog, I saw both these bands again. I don't mind, though. What is curious, however, is that just a year ago Haken were performing at the very same event. It seems they won the audience and the organisers totally over. Back in Leamington I saw Haken play literally two songs, though, admittedly, in a half an hour set. That was still not enough by far, if you ask me. There was time aplenty now, though, to deliver Visions album in its entirety.
Haken is a complicated machine with quite a bit going on in their music. If you want to keep up with everything these guys are playing you need to make an effort. They are enormously talented and technically proficient bunch. They even have a three handed keyboard player - just look at the photos right there if you don't believe me. No wonder it's all complicated. As I mentioned the previous time I saw them, you have to keep up to get a proper kick out of it. If you lag behind, they won't wait for you. You will have a hard time struggling to refocus if you fall off.
Haken - Diego Tejeida, the three-handed keyboard player
It also seems Haken are developing some affection for stage fun. Cliché movements and weird faces aside, they intertwined an instrumental section of Super Mario theme in their music. Not only that, they also brought actors to play Mario and the Princess. Shame that it kind of came off as an unrehearsed bit, which, I suppose, to some extent it was. I hope they won't overuse this one though, or find some other fun alternative to incorporate into their show.
4.4. 17:10 - The Flower Kings ^
I haven't been following The Flower Kings exactly so it came as a bit of a surprise that they have been on a long hiatus. Apparently at Night of the Prog they delivered their second show in a long while. On one hand I was interested. The Flower Kings are a big name in prog after all. However, I've never really gotten into them, thus, throughout the show I felt rather detached. Great music, but somehow it was not particularly grabbing or breath-taking. Prog is there but just sort of passing by. "Hey, there! Nice to meet you. Well, I've got to go. See you." That's how it felt. Plus, half way down the set I had to skip away to do an interview with Haken guys. So, all in all this ended up being a rather forgettable performance.
4.5. 19:00 - Katatonia ^
Now, about that "all things prog" part I mentioned in the beginning. This here was the single band in all the line-up that didn't fit in, at least as far as prog is concerned. It didn't really seem to make any sense, sort of like the Chewbacca defense. Not that the audience wouldn't appreciate the band. Who knows, maybe it was organisationally feasible to fly all the Swedes over together or something. However, Katatonia at this festival was no less fitting than Anathema last year, and supposedly they were a blast.
The problem with Katatonia, though, is that their performance was bland. Lacklustre, if you will. Emotionless, if you can picture that about Katatonia. Talking with Tom of Haken after the set we both had to conclude that it was unimpressive. You just didn't connect with the band. It appeared monotonous, stuck on one level and lacking dynamics. Then again, I've personally had trouble really connecting with Katatonia albums after Viva Emptiness. Interestingly enough, one of the most memorable songs was somewhat un-Katatonia sounding Viva Emptiness out-take "Wait Outside."
4.6. 21:00 - Steve Hackett ^
Undoubtedly for many people present the pinnacle of the festival was Steve Hackett, one of the great guitarists of the genre. His performance was the grand closing of a two day event. I personally am not particularly familiar with his work other than chance occurrences here and there, like his recent project with Chris Squire - Squackett. However, not knowing the material is no obstruction to be able to appreciate the hand of the master at work. On the contrary, it allows for a fresh outlook on things.
So there I was, listening, ears and eyes wide open, enjoying the pleasantly flowing tunes. And one thing became apparent. I don't know whether it is years and years of stage experience behind his belt, or just the way he is, but his presence was head and shoulders above practically anything that had played so far during the past two days. I don't mean it was necessarily more enjoyable and interesting, but so much more mature. It indeed felt grand. Majestic. It felt like the rest were kiddies in a sandbox by comparison.
Steve Hackett, the master at work
The show had ups and downs. After all, Hackett's career is long and varied. Some songs stood out for being somewhat out of line, like "The Golden Age of Steam," others stood out simply for his guitar virtuosity, or for superb drive that they had. I have to say this, though, whatever were a couple of songs he played before he brought Nad Sylvan of Agents of Mercy on stage for set closing Genesis song "Watcher of the Skies," was simply brilliant, and it should have ended right then and there. In my view, that is. Somehow the closing song contrasted too much with what came before and lessened the overall joyful experience.
5. Afterword ^
The decision to visit Night of the Prog was a good one. I should have done that long ago. The place is great. The size of the event is also appealing, maybe a couple of thousand people out there. I fleetingly already mentioned that the audience was largely German (well, duh) and also considerably older than me. It appeared like most of the people out there were in their forties. And while most of the audience were sitting down, it was also tremendously nice to see people giving standing ovation after a particularly great instrumental, or a good set in general. If it was good, it did indeed get recognised as such. Another nice tradition was that bands often did a short meet-and-greet near the stage after the show. And many of the musicians were strolling the grounds of this small community afterwards.
The venue itself was excellent. It was spacious enough for all the people to have more than enough room. More importantly, though, the sound was largely well balanced. I think Katatonia was leaning on the bass a bit too much to get it rumbling occasionally, but over-all it did sound great. If I am to complain about something in particular, it's the choice - or rather the lack of choice thereof - of food. A bratwurst the size of a proper beating baseball bat is kind of scary to me. The CD market stalls could also have a bit more stuff that is more properly catered to the audience. I mean, eh, Madonna? Some prog rarities would be nice. And finally, the official T-shirt this year was simply so hideous I'm lacking vocabulary to describe it.
On the whole, though, it was a great event. A success that I think needs repeating if there's a good line-up next year. We'll see, though. So far, Win, the organiser, is doing a tremendously good job.
6. Credits ^
A big thank you to a friend of mine for coming along. Special thanks to Daniel for hosting us and driving us to Loreley and back. I also want to thank Winfried Völklein for organising such a great event and keeping it all alive. Make sure you take good care of Haken, Win.
Posted on 19.08.2012 by
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