brni (brni) wrote,

Nearfest 2009

So. Nearfest.


Gordon and I have been going to a prog festival every year for the past 4 years now. And typically, while I enjoy good prog, and some of my favorite artists of all time are prog bands, I'm not really a prog-head. I can't really tell you which kraut-rock band influenced which Italian symphonic band in which way at what time, or even name more than a half a handful. So generally by the time the middle of the second day comes around, I'm pretty progged out and want nothing more than to put on some B-52s or something like that.

This weekend was something special. It opened with Van der Graaf Generator.

I'd never expected to actually see these guys. Ever. And then it happened. They were... There is no death metal band that produces a more visceral soundscape of hell than these three guys. No screaming guitars or shredding riffs needed. Just an organ, an electric piano and a set of drums. Gods and demons shrieking the apocalypse.

The Steve Hillage Band came on next. Great, trippy stuff, as long as he wasn't singing. I can't imagine a greater contrast to VdGG, of course. Hillage has a phenomenal guitar style, layered and flowing. I'm less impressed with his songs, alas. But... he has the best ever rendition of Hurdy Gurdy Man.

We ended up at the hotel where the bands were staying, hanging out with Steve Hillage and Mike Howlett (bassist for Hillage) until about 5am. Hence I missed the next band, Cabezas de Cera. This is my one regret of the weekend. These folks shocked everyone with how good they were.

They played in Philly tonight, and I just didn't have the energy to get out there. *sigh* BUT! They are playing in Wilmington on the 23rd, in DC on the 24th and 25th, and in Baltimore on the 27th. So I may be schlepping to Delaware tomorrow. Anyone want to come along?

The next band that mattered to was Saturday's headliner, another band I never expected I'd get a chance to see: Gong. It was wonderful seeing Daevid Allen and Steve Hillage playing together. They complement each other brilliantly. Daevid came on stage in pyjamas covered in alien heads, a long, silvery cape, and a blue, pointed wizard hat with ear-flaps. He divested himself of this in parts, and then went off stage and came back with South Park pajama bottoms and a t-shirt that proudly proclaimed: "Nobody Knows I'm A Lesbian." A bit later, he came back out in the furry satin suit with CD medallions you'll see in the video below.

Pause the fast-forward through the after-party to point out that Gary Green from Gentle Giant was hanging around. Seems that Gary, Kerry Minnear and Malcolm Mortimore have formed a band called Three Friends - the closest to a GG reunion we're likely to see - and they will be playing Nearfest next year. We'll not dwell long on the embarrassing details about how instruments appeared, and Gordon said, "Brni plays bass," and the next thing I knew I had a fretless acoustic bass in my hands. Fortunately, there were no amps, and lots of talking, so nobody could really hear...

Okay, skip a bit. Tretioariga Kriget, from Sweden. I really liked this band a lot. Good, solid music with soul. Sunday night I ended up talking with their drummer. "For me," he said, "the best part of the weekend was seeing Van der Graaf." Better than playing the show himself, even? He shrugged sheepishly. The only thing that bothered me about this band was that every once in a while the lead singer went into a strange screaming falsetto that sounds much like a kazoo.

I've got to pass out now. I'll find a clip of these guys tomorrow, and tell you about PFM.

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