I went to Night of the Prog and all I could come up with is this lousy review

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Lug 23 2008, 19:58

Sometimes I become really clueless and start clicking around rather aimlessly on the last.fm site. This adventurous feeling usually is followed by remorseful thoughts of having wasted some more of my precious time here on earth. But it’s the exceptions to that rule that keep me becoming clueless. One of these exceptions happened earlier this year as I stumbled upon the 3rd edition of the Night of the Prog Festival event. It didn't took me very long to figure out I had to go there. Convincing my usual concert buddy Crow74 to join me on this expedition was rather easy, as the mere sight of the line-up pretty much did the trick.
Since we didn’t want to bother with a tent and stuff, we decided to stay at a hotel. One can really get accustomed to a certain level of luxury.
I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to find a nice place 4 months in advance of the festival. However, at that moment I was unaware of the fact that the Japanese idea of visiting Germany is going to a castle and a rock, hoping to hear the Loreley murmur. The 6th hotel I called wasn’t stuffed just yet with tourists of the above mentioned nationality and still had some rooms available.

We headed for Sankt Goarshausen on July 17th, a day before the festival, so we didn’t have to rush. We had lots of time. The driver, which wasn’t me, even decided to ignore certain road signs and my compelling advice not to do so, and managed to take a nice unintentional detour. Nevertheless, after a couple of hours of driving, we arrived at the hotel and checked in.

With the whole evening ahead of us, we decided to check out the festival location. It turned out there were 2 routes. The shortest one was along the Rhine, towards the Loreley rock and then take the stairs to the top. The sign at the bottom of the stairs told us there was a 30 minute stair walk ahead of us. We figured they timed some old people, so it probably would take us half the time, if not even less. And indeed it did.
On top of the rock there wasn’t much activity going on. The entrance to the festival terrain was closed and there weren’t any possibilities to get a glimpse of the stage. Unless we would have climbed the fence, which undoubtedly wouldn’t have been appreciated a lot by the few festival employees that were present.

So we tried the other route on the way down. It was a bit longer. Quite a bit even. But it led us to the Hühnertempel, which means Chicken temple and has nothing to do with any kind of chicken, except for the non-existing ones. So it must have gotten that name because of this view you have while standing in it, which clearly resembles a chicken.

After a lot more hiking downwards, we finally approached the mighty gate of Burg Katz. Only to read a sign next to the gate that it was privately owned and the owner had no intention of letting anyone else visit the place. Imagine the disappointment of all those medieval knights who arrived there, tired and hungry, after many days of horseback riding in cold and rainy autumn weather.

DAY ONE

The next day we tried finding the shuttle bus that was supposed to take people from the town to the festival and back. At the tourist info they knew that there was supposed to be a shuttle bus starting at 11 o’clock, but they had no idea to the whereabouts of this bus. We tried our luck at the train station, which seemed like a logical starting point. The advantage of a 3 road town is that you can get everywhere by foot rather effortlessly.
After half an hour, the group of people that looked like they were waiting for a shuttle bus to take them to a prog rock festival had increased to about 15 people. A few minutes later the shuttle bus couldn’t resist it’s innate nature any longer and showed up to bring us to the festival.

A small crowd had positioned itself in front of the entrance gates already. You had to go to the table behind the crowd to exchange your ticket for a colorful wristband. Yellow for the people that only visited on Friday, red for Saturday, pink for Sunday and blue for diehards like us, who stayed all 3 days. Now, you’d expect a large sign that read: “Get your entrance wristband here and don’t go standing in front of the gate, fuzzily staring in the distance, with nothing but your ticket”.
But no.
The security personnel tried to figure out who didn’t understand this unwritten protocol by swarming through the crowd, looking for clueless people without wristbands and kindly explaining them the required action to take.
Then the gates finally opened. Well, one anyway. The key for the other one was not around at that time, for that would have been practical. We walked in after having our bags searched for bottles, which you obviously couldn’t take with you, since that would lead to a massive drop in refreshment sales on a very cloudy day like this one.

The band to open the festival was Solar Moon. It was a nice warm up band, but nothing spectacular really. They had a very patient singer though. She was standing behind the other musicians, gently swinging to the melodies produced by the band. No attempt to open her mouth was made for the first 20 minutes or so. We started wondering whether she just might be there for emotional support, when suddenly she approached the front of the stage to do some singing.
Nice. But still nothing spectacular.

The second band came from Poland and is called Hipgnosis, though they figured it would be easier to find them by using the artist name Hipgnosis Polish band on last.fm. Their music luckily was less confusing. It had some good moments actually, though some band members could do with some more practicing.

This was not the case with the third band. Isildurs Bane was amazing. Real musicians at work. I’m very glad to have seen this band live. They played some older stuff and a few songs of their Mind Vol. 4 album, which has vocals, unlike most of their other albums, sung with and without a megaphone by I have no idea what her name is. But she’s blond. And Swedish. That’ll narrow it down to a few million.

Between the bands there usually was very little time needed for redecorating the stage with a new variety of musical equipment, thanks to an ingenious system where drums and keyboards were set up on movable platforms. This allowed the bands to do the most time consuming part of building up their stuff backstage and simply roll the platform on stage, after rolling off the previous band’s platforms.

The next band must have arrived a day earlier as well to build up their stuff. Tangerine Dream used up 5 platforms crammed with equipment. It would have been even more had it not been for one of the keyboardists to choose a guitar as his tool for this evening.
It all looked very promising and it started to become more and more like a dance festival with lasers and everything, which worked rather well with sun setting during their performance. We wondered for a moment why they didn’t schedule this act to be the closing act for today. But they had their reasons as we soon would find out.
In the encore Edgar Froese played a bit of guitar as well and dedicated a song to someone who was having her birthday. I have no idea who though. And for the guitar playing… Maybe he should just stick to the keyboards.

The final artists for this day were Klaus Schulze & Lisa Gerrard. Mr. Schulze entered the stage and announced he was going to play away for half an hour. Then Lisa would come onto the stage and they would just see what would happen. The first 15 minutes were very ambient. You could hear every whisper in the crowd on top of the sounds produced by Klaus Schulze, which was an wonderful experience. Some people back stage probably didn’t realize this as they were still throwing around with flight cases and stuff, until someone in the audience kindly yelled at them.
After a while the volume of Klaus’s playing diminished and the audience figured he was finished playing the song, so they started applauding. He got up and walked to his microphone and very innocently said that he just wanted to play a little softer and hadn’t had the intention of finishing the song just yet. So he quickly resumed his work and was accompanied a little later by Lisa Gerrard.
We now knew why they got to play this late. They simply didn’t make that much noise and the noise they did make wouldn’t keep anyone in any town near the festival from sleeping. In fact, they probably slept very well.

DAY TWO

The weather forecast was rather different, depending on the channel you were watching. It could be everything between a little bit sun between the cloudiness of the previous day to full scale thunderstorms and rain. But the latter forecast was optimistic as well, because Sunday would have a bit less rain and thunderstorms. When we looked out of the window, we saw sunlight with an occasional cloud passing by. Seemed the first forecast was going to win.

This day it was Central Park’s turn to first unleash their musical craftsmanship upon us. They did so in an appealing way. I can’t really remember a lot from their performance, except for that it was a worthy one.

Magenta was up next. They also played very well. Though after an hour it all starts to sound similar. Nevertheless, it was good. Maybe I should take notes next time, so I’ll be able to remember a bit more interesting information about all the performing bands, except for the very obvious stuff.

Prisma’s task was to awake any festival visitors still asleep at the nearby camping site. It was refreshing to hear them play after the sweet melodies of the previous band. Sweet compared to this one anyway. Anyone who likes Tool will be able to appreciate these guys as well, unless you’re one of these I-call-anyone-who-resembles-my-favorite-band-too-much-a-bunch-of-copy-cats-people. In that case, don’t listen to Prisma. Or stop listening to Tool.

Meanwhile it had become clear to all of us that leaving home the sunblock was not a very bright idea. More and more red faces appeared around us as the sun kept on scorching our skins. Unfortunately there were only a few trees and merchandise stands on the terrain, so shade quickly became a valuable, but impossible to obtain commodity.

It Bites had already started as we returned from the snack bar just outside the festival terrain. They served a great pizza mozzarella with cherry tomatoes. The snack bar that is. Not It Bites. It Bites served great music.

It wasn’t going to be the luckiest day for The Flower Kings . They had to deal with a lot of technical problems and you could tell by the look on their faces that it didn’t do them any good. We really felt sorry for them. Nevertheless they tried to make the best of it, though it could not match up with the previous 5 times I saw them.
Not only their equipment abandoned us, so did the sun. It started raining.

Pain of Salvation entered the stage. Crow74 renamed them Rain of Salvation, which seemed a more appropriate name at that time. The band’s front man Daniel Gildenlöw has a nice sense of humor. Between the songs he spoke a lot. He teased the wet crowd and announced he was going to drink some water because it was so dry up there.
But he also tried to make the rain more bearable, by leading us through a meditation. We had to imagine we were lying on a warm, sunny beach. And that we all were Italians. First we had to flex the muscles in our left leg. And keep it…
Keep it…
Keep it…
Aaaaand
relaaaax…
Then it was the right leg’s turn. Again, flex it.
And keep it…
Keep it…
Keep it…
Aaaaand
keep it!
Aaaaand relaaaax…
He would make a good standup comedian. Between all the silliness however, they played an absolutely great show, including my personal favorites Used and Ashes. The best performance of this day, by far.

We didn’t stay to see Barclay James Harvest and Fish, because we left before they started playing. Now I know this part of the review might disappoint any fans of these artists, who were unable to attend the festival and were hoping to get a feel for their performance this way. But what can I say? Well, you know what? Since you weren’t there anyway and you have no idea anyway, I’ll lie and say that I saw them and they were great! There. How’s that?

DAY THREE

Knight Area opened the 3rd day. For me it was the 2nd time I saw them. It’s a pretty good band, with a guitar player that reminds me a lot of John Petrucci due to his playing style, posture and looks. The singer cut his hair since the last time I saw him. It didn’t help his accent though, which remains the only negative aspect of their music. His enthusiasm on stage couldn’t compensate for it either. Nor could his clothing change trick. He entered the stage in white, ran off halfway the show and came back 2 seconds later, dressed in black.

Time for soup! The second band this day was Gazpacho. I was really looking forward to these guys, since they’re one of my favorites. Granted, I do have a lot of favorite bands, but still, they’re one of them. Gazpacho’s performance was awesome, even though the singer was too busy swallowing flies and forgetting lyrics during Valerie's Friend. Apart from a new bass guitar for Fidel Castro (as the singer kept calling him while introducing the band members) there weren’t any more problems. They played the first 4 songs of Night, the title track of Bravo and some more stuff I probably would have remembered better if I hadn’t been listening to Night all the time instead of their other albums.
They even played a theme from a part of an idea for a song called Tick Tock from their upcoming album, which lasted for 25 minutes. They left us with the message that they were selling their album Night, which was blue and buyable, at the merchandise stand. Very buyable indeed, since their supply sold out in no time.

The fun part about these kind of festivals is that you get a really good chance to meet your favorite bands, since they often tend to sit among the crowd to listen to other bands as well. Needless to say I had a nice chat with Gazpacho’s singer and was pleasantly surprised that he recognized me as well. The wonders of last.fm at work…

While my buddy was trying to get his Night album signed, Quidam finished setting up and started playing. We wanted to go for pizza again, but their playing convinced us to get pommes instead. Those were available on the festival terrain, so we wouldn’t have to miss anything.
They covered a bit of King Crimson, though we weren’t sure whether they figured everybody would know it or whether they didn’t want anyone to know, since they never mentioned it.

The next scheduled band Sieges Even had to cancel their show because the guitarist had an inflammation in his arm and his doctor told him not to play with it. Neither with the inflammation, nor with a guitar on stage that is. Just so you understand.

The next band we were really looking forward to was Neal Morse and band. Mr. Morse seemed to have visited some conservatory and picked a few talented kids to join him on tour. The small guitarist could barely reach the top of his amp stack. They were the kind of kids who would make anyone above 20, who’s trying to learn to play an instrument, give up straight away.
Neal is the kind of person who tries to leave up to chance as little as possible. Therefore they were sound checking before the first band of the day entered the stage. But you can’t plan everything. When Neal and the band entered the stage the crowd went wild as they call it. Neal accepted the cheering and said: “Thank you and goodnight!”.
After this not too unobvious joke he started playing his keyboard for a few seconds. Then his laptop decided otherwise and no more sound was produced. Neal blamed it on the tech guys back home and chose to start with a song that didn’t require him playing keyboard: Wind at my back.
It was the start of what was going to be a very long and great performance. Since the crowd liked it that much, Neal was given extra playing time. He even took the time to jump into the crowd and hug some friends, while continuing his singing.
In one of the encores his son joined him on stage for an emotional song about how he’s never home for his son due to his constant touring and stuff. A little bit cheesy if you ask me, since the boy is not the biggest vocal talent, but the crowd loved it anyway.
Hard to say whether this was planned as well or not, but while playing some of his songs of which the title eluded me, Neal got an idea and started playing U2’s Pride, which blended in rather nicely. The whole crowd went “Wo-ho oh oh, wo ho oh oh” and “In the naaaaame of looove!”. Except for the 3rd couplet, when Neal decided to let the crowd do the singing, only Crow74 seemed to be able to remember the lyrics and had his 5 seconds of fame.

We skipped Ray Wilson & Stiltskin and Rodger Hodgson so we could get home in time. For the diehard fans who couldn’t make it to the festival and want a taste of what they missed through this review: they were once again great!

That’s it. Now go listen to our album.

Commenti

  • proggirl

    Thanks for this massive review! I'll read the whole text later!!! Glad to know you enjoyed a lot this great fest :)))

    Lug 24 2008, 11:19
  • Crow74

    Needless to say that this review captures the feelings and vibe of the whole weekend perfectly! Great story and great review! Best regards from your concert buddy! ;-)

    Lug 24 2008, 13:21
  • OneLuvGurl

    You guys sound like you had fun! Next time bring the sunblock. ;)

    Lug 25 2008, 7:09
  • thomasmusicolog

    Hey, thanks for your kind words on IB! We appreciate it! The vocalists name is Linnea Olsson BTW.

    Set 15 2008, 10:48
  • alvanx

    Hey there, just randomly stumbled upon this! I went to the festival too, and it was nice recalling memories reading your synopsis. I noticed a few errors about Neal Morse's act though (that I noticed because I like him a lot). The song he sang after the keyboard stalled was "We all need some light" by Transatlantic. The musicians are actually all over 20 and mostly married. Especially the guitarist (I thought he was sixteen!) is married, a guitar instructor and not the youngest in the band. Also, the song he sang with his son was not about leaving him at home on tour, but about the broken relationship between God and man (with God calling man "son", hence the misunderstanding), and how both want it to heal but man needs some convincing because he thinks God doesn't care. It's called "Cradle to the Grave" from "One". Neal sang "God", Will "man". Thanks for the great review!

    Dic 7 2008, 19:51
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