5th Anniversary of Progressive Promotion Festival
To celebrate its fifth birthday, the label behind bands such as Toxic Smile,
Seven Steps to the Green Door and InVertigo decided to hold a three-day music festival with some of the biggest names in progressive music.
I was hoping to catch the first night with Fish and InVertigo.
However a sudden strike by workers at the port of Calais left me bobbling outside the port on a ferry for two hours and thus arriving much later than planned.
Rüsselsheim is a small town on the banks of the Rhine close to Frankfurt.
Best known as the base for Opel cars it also houses das Rind a compact little venue next to a cosy bar that is able to host up to 300 people.
Shops, cafes and restaurants are within easy reach. Best of all there was a bar complete with its own sandy ‘beach’, parasols,
sun loungers and palm trees where one could relax with a large glass of German beer overlooking the Rhine!
I am not sure if there are plans to make this an annual event.
I hope so as the line-up and venue was great and the German crowd one of the most enthusiastic and nosiest I have ever come across.
It all made for a wonderful two days of music.
Friday, 30th September 2011
I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with Nemo over the years.
All of their albums have had parts that thrill me and parts that frustrate me - usually in equal measures.
However there are clearly a lot of Nemo fans in Germany.
Judging by the t-shirts on show, many had travelled some way for this rare gig.
It guaranteed an enthusiastic reception from the opening track, Je Suis Un Objet.
In a live setting the wide range of influences and styles that make up Nemo’s music becomes even more apparent.
There is also a clear love and delight in playing their music which easily transfers from the band to the audience.
You can’t help but enjoy watching them play.
The focus is clearly singer and guitarist Jean-Pierre Louveton.
Dressed in a white shirt and loose-fitting tie, he bounded around the stage a bit like a schoolboy.
The set had a heavy emphasis on their latest release, the DPRP-recommended R€volu$ion.
As on record I struggle listening to the band at times as sadly Jean-Pierre’s voice is not on a par with his wonderful guitar playing.
Whilst the remainder of the band consists of incredible musicians, they are somewhat static.
As on record, as a live band Nemo has the ability to thrill and frustrate me.
Je suis un objet
La machine à remonter le temps
Seul dans la foule
Loin des yeux
Notes pour plus tard
A band with whom I was totally unfamiliar prior to this gig,
this Italian sextet,
was a revelation for its energy and broad sweep of the musical ground which the musicians managed to cover in their hour onstage at das Rind.
The six albums Moongarden has released involve a complex and often chaotic amalgam of various genres and styles.
Diversity is also the key on stage, the music constantly keeping the listening audience on its toes.
For the first three songs I scribbled a note; U2-meets Genesis-meets Ultravox-meets Gazpacho-meets Wham!
Simone Baldini Tosi has a really strong and a versatile set of lungs.
I found him a slightly imposing, in-yer-face frontman at first. However when I got used to his approach,
I found him to be a very watchable frontman – not quite getting away from the fact that he reminded me of the singer from Right Said Fred!
Equally impressive was the crispness of the drummer and a guitarist whose taught playing style belied a deft touch and a lovely vibrato sound to his many solos.
The only regret was the hideous Boy Band-esque song entitled It’s You that they decided to close their set with.
I can see that live, as on record, Moongarden may be a bit of an acquired taste for many, but it was a taste that I seemed to acquire pretty easily.
If you love progressive music, then Lazuli
is one band you have to see play live before you die.
A bold statement? Yes.
But if you were at this gig, or indeed saw their show at the Summers End Festival in England a week later, then it is a statement to which I think many people could concur.
Personally I loved the first two albums from this unique French band but have felt the past two tread too similar a musical territory and are a little too lightweight.
I’d however heard many glowing reports of Lazuli as a live band, something supported in part by the three live shows I’ve watched on various DVDs.
From the moment they bounded onstage at Das Rind, until they strolled off over two hours later, this must rank as one of the best gigs I have ever been to.
Far heavier, far groovier and far more intense than on record, it is almost like a different band. Incredibly talented musicians,
their ability to swap places with each other ensured that they were just great to watch too.
The frequent use of ethnic drums, the massive wooden marimba and French horn added to the variety.
Being able to watch Claude Leonetti play his unique Leode instrument and the amazing interplay with guitarist Gédéric Byar was itself worth the ticket price,
as was the vocal performance of his brother Dominque. What a stunning voice.
The biggest plus-point is something that has always seemed to me quite an easy thing for a band to achieve, yet very few manage to achieve it.
Each of the six musicians onstage was clearly having such a great time performing their music.
Big smiles, lots of laughter and a constant interaction between each other.
They were just so into their music and their performance.
It was immediately infectious to the whole crowd.
The more the audience got into the show, the more the band got into the show and so on.
If by the fourth song you are unable to start playing because your fans are chanting so loudly, you know it’s going to be a great show.
To be honest I lost count of the number of encores.
Just to say that after two hours the band simply ran out of songs.
Handed a set list to someone in the front row and asked them to choose their favourite to play again.
As I said: this is one band you just have to see play live before you die.
Saturday, 1st October 2011
Although this young band from Poland has been around for a little while and released its debut album Stolen Thoughts in 2008,
is in reality a new band.
They now sport a female instead of a male vocalist and as far as I could make out, this show featured all-new material.
If you can image a female fronted Riverside then you won’t be a million miles away from what this sextet sounds like.
I really loved the clever, layered interplay between the two guitarists which brought great mood, groove and variety to every song.
Anna Splawska has a very strong voice and the makings of an engaging front woman.
A few more gigs should allow her the confidence to express her personality fully and to engage with the crowd at a more constant level.
A band with a bright future and a name to watch.
This was a set which began and concluded in a shambolic fashion, yet in-between this Belgian quintet won a lot of new admirers.
For their first-ever gig in Germany
faced a hall made up of long-standing fans and the plain curious.
Some technical problems during set-up meant a delayed start, but instead of clearing the stage the band just seemed to go from sound check to their opening song.
The muted applause suggested that, like me, many were unsure whether the show had actually started!
Very much with both feet on the retro side of Prog, Mindgames takes clear reference from Genesis, Yes, Floyd and to a lesser extent Marillion and Pendragon.
Three well-received albums in the past eight years have brought a strong underground following, although for me this show was largely an introduction to the band and its music.
Singer Bart Schram has a very distinctive, high-pitched, thin voice.
It is lovely in the quieter passages but in a live setting it is easily overpowered by the instruments in the heavier passages.
Mixing the epic with the eclectic, Mindgames drew a bigger reaction from the crowd with each song and departed to deserved shouts for an encore.
However with their allotted end-time having passed, the lights went up and the CD player kicked in …. and then the band came out to play another song!
Only no-one could turn off the CD or dim the lights and after several minutes looking confused and annoyed the band exited minus encore.
Ah the joys of festivals!
One of the original attractions of this festival was the inclusion of Norway’s Magic Pie on the bill, especially as their latest album, The Suffering Joy,
has been on my play list for most of this year.
Thankfully their replacement,
was a band whose new album will be similarly well-placed in my end of year favourites.
With their second album, Touchstone, this German/Dutch five-piece has created a disc that is heavier, more adventurous and even catchier than their debut.
The fact that two of its members were involved in yet another one of my favourite bands from recent years,
Sieges Even, meant that Subsignal was my most eagerly-anticipated band of the festival.
They somehow managed to exceed my expectations by quite some distance.
Encouraged by an amazing response from a packed crowd that grew with each song, the band was clearly loving every second onstage.
Be-capped singer Arno Menses has developed a great stage presence and his cheery banter allowed the set to flow nicely.
The new material was even heavier than on the album with Echoes For Eternity and Feeding Utopia especially captivating.
The three Sieges Even songs were superb with the crowd participation during Eyes Wide Open being of stadium-esque proportions.
The decision to include a female backing singer on this short tour was a great one.
It not only added significant strength to the close vocal harmonies that are becoming a trademark of the band, it allowed a full performance of The Lifespan Of A Glimpse,
the duet that is one of the strongest tracks from the new record.
This was simply a faultless show by a band that deserves much greater recognition than it has so far achieved.
Thankfully on the strength of their new album entering the German charts and their high-tempo live show, Subsignal won’t be playing venues such as Das Rind for much longer.
Where Angels Fear To Tread
Echoes In Eternity
Eyes Wide Open
The Lifespan Of A Glimpse
The Trick Is To Keep Breathing
The Lonely Views Of Condors
Part of the second leg of the band’s 10th anniversary tour this show was for me the first opportunity to see Poland’s finest play songs from my Album Of The Year of 2010,
the faultless Anno Domini High Definition.
at their very first gig outside of Poland and having seen most of their tours over the ensuing years, I must say they become heavier and more intense each time.
This show was very much a ‘Best of..’ collection with every album and the new EP gaining some coverage.
Workman-like and professional are two words you can always apply to Riverside live, but there was an added sense of humour and fun to this performance that hasn't always been evident before.
The only musical surprise was the opening song, After, from Second Life Syndrome which I don’t think the band had ever played live until this year.
Personal favourites were those from the last album, especially Hyperactive and Egoist Hedonist where the intensity was taken up a few notches.
It was hot and sweaty inside a packed hall and the weekend was brought to a fantastic close with the appropriately titled The Curtain Falls.
Living In The Past
02 Panic Room
Second Life Syndrome
Reality Dream III
The Curtain Falls