Progdreams X - Day 2 at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, Netherlands, 8 April 2023
Progdreams X continued on the Saturday, 8 April 2023. DPRP's Jan Buddenberg covers (most of) the second day.
More like a bouquet of flowers I owed my wife when in a considered no-brainer action, I acquired a ticket for the reunion concert of Galaxy, to take place on the Sunday, part of the 10th edition of the Progdreams festival. Not because of the concert itself, which she is fine with. But once I mentioned the date and finally started to realise this coincided with Easter, family traditions and other plans, one can imagine her surprise.
Telling her some time after that I'd also be part of the audience on the night before, thereby ensuring her I wouldn't attend Friday's session due to long anticipated obligations towards Geoff Tate/Headless/Leksi in Amersfoort, a peaceful trip to the spa proved to be a fair arrangement between the two of us. When the date finally came up and I knew she was fully enjoying her zen moment, I reassuringly travelled to the well-known comforts of De Boerderij for my own delightful soothing treatment of prog.
Karfagen / Sunchild
Leaving work at half past five, which unfortunately meant I had to miss out on For Absent Friends and Ebony Buckle, it was around seven I arrived and once greeted by the friendly Boerderij staff made my entrance into the venue where I was welcomed by Antony Kalugin's Karfagen / Sunchild via a classically inspired soloing synth moment. Positioning myself on the left side of the stage, amidst a softly swaying, seemingly entertained audience, the nine magnificent minutes of The Invisible Line illustrated perfectly as to why the mid-sized audience was enjoying it so much.
Reminiscent to Genesis prime with formidable interplay, lots of virtuoso moments and great harmonies this instantly attracting composition delivered just about everything a symphonic prog fan can ask for. Surrounded by excellence of sound and a performance that included spontaneity, laughter and enthusiasm Close To Heaven, sung by Maria Panasenko, thereafter provided a moment of tranquillity which was followed by a captivating performance of Out Of The Darkness (from Kalugin's third band Hoggwash) which revisited the delightful symphonic realms previously relished and saw Kalugin kneel down passionately several times during his synth soloing moments.
Standing proud from emotional guitar work and intricate interplay the instrumental Father, dedicated to all the fathers of Ukraine defending their families and country in these dire times, thereupon brought lushly designed Camel inspired melodies with tantalising performances and a peaceful serene ending which went down a storm with the audience. Passing comfortable atmospheres of Pink Floyd as A Day Without Rain and Vil'na continued their strong set, they rounded their successful set with a short chorus reprise of The Reason Why, sung in glorifying Ukrainian language. Gladly accepting the crowds standing ovation they soon after left the stage.
Having left work in a hurry the gear-changeover time thankfully enabled me to hydrate (beer-drate?) at the bar, where I was greeted by DPRP-collaborator Erik Neuteboom. Catching up on our recent "Prog-Andaluz" experiences I however had to excuse myself and headed towards the BeyondRock stand for a quick stop and shop and minutes later managed to find a nice centre spot for Millenium's first ever performance in Holland.
Positioning themselves on stage during the atmospheric intro of Tales From Imaginary Movies they instantly brought a lot of energy and judging from the looks on their faces where eager to perform. The subsequent Higher Than Me certainly confirmed this with solid play and fine performances throughout, yet standing mid-centre stage Ryszard Kramarski's keyboards where sadly drowned out mostly by the superb and feisty guitar melodies. A fate suffered later on during A Comedy Of Love as well.
Adding a touch of pop along the lines of Phil Collins meets Pink Floyd in When I Fall their vocalist David Lewandowski, dressed in an unfastened straight jacket, then took centre of attention with a captivating theatrical performance in the bluesy Madman. Typically, this was the only song during Millenium's set where he wasn't touching his left ear-piece during his fine and tuneful vocal accomplishments, which lost some of its finesse as the show progressed. At the same time this song brought a bit more liveliness to their relative static performance, personified by the stoic bobbing expressions of bassist Krzysztof Wyrwa whose feet where glued to the ground it seemed.
By the time the heavy World Full Of Spice segued into a smoking version of Light Your Cigar (Pink Floyd anyone?) they did find their groove though and loosened up a bit. Compared to Karfagen's previous performance however the spark never really flew, although music was not at all to blame for this, for after the to fan Ronnie dedicated Envy, and the subsequent A Comedy Of Love the slow-paced Brightness Hidden in the Dark brought superb powerful executed neo-progressive rock from a band that clearly knows where Abraham gets his mustard from.
This was also the case in the mightily impressive The Sounds Of War which, dedicated to Ukraine, pulled a strong punch with rousing play in which Grzegorz Bauer left many a crater in his drum kit through his bombardments and Piotr Płonka ended the song victoriously with a magnificent overwhelming melancholic solo. The easy approachable Drunken Angels finally saw them go out successfully with a blast, and judging from the crowds roaring response a revisit to our country for a full show is only a matter of time.
Seizing opportunity during the break I made my way to the Polish merch stand at the back of the venue where Antony Kalugin gladly guided me into the right direction as to what songs where played on the night. Securing a copy of the album that included The Invisible Line along the way, one glance at his massive oeuvre would undoubtedly have resulted in me compulsively buying a dozen red roses the next morning, so thankfully Kalugin came to the rescue and supplied his help by pointing out his recent efforts, of which Karfagen's Passage To The Forest Of Mysterious can soon be found in our review section. Turning my attention to the stage I was however surprised to see that attendance for tonight's main act had been reduced to approximately 60-70% of those who attended Millenium's earlier on. All at the loss of those leaving early, for Solstice's impressive performance proved to be one of the most unforgettable nights ever to have occurred at De Boerderij.
Right from the start of the funky set opener Shout it included feelings of euphoria, desperation, happiness, dedication, energy, drama, shifting emotions, perseverance, fun, frustration, enthusiasm, relieve and disbelieve bottled up in one when Andy Glass' guitar during the first notes played proved to be not up to the task due to internal damages obtained during transport. Trying to fix the problem at hand backstage while the rest of the band raised the energy levels through the roof with their vibrant performances proved to be unsuccessful, and by the time the extended and spiritedly executed Shout ended it was clear his guitar was still in desperate need of immediate surgery.
Starting up their Fixing The Guitar Song, an alternative version of the recently written Fixing The String Song, and with De Boerderij staff going beyond the call of duty in assisting Glass with repairs on his improvised operating table, the audience was meanwhile well entertained through a subsequent spontaneous drum-solo from Pete Hemsley and several funny anecdotes and other audience participation parts. At long last the comatose instrument finally sprang back to life, giving Glass the opportun ity to demonstrate its glorious importance in the sublime Guardian which next to exciting violin parts by Jenny Newman and an irresistible groove laid down by Hemsley and bass player Robin Phillips brought a magnificent blues inspired rousing guitar solo that ended the song on a high.
Now well and truly underway the sprightly Light Up followed which once again brought beautiful close harmonies between backing vocalists Ebony Buckle, Jen Sanin and lead vocalist Jess Holland. Next to Holland's exceptional voice she possessed energy for ten, which was closed rivalled by factors of 9.99 from Buckle and Sanin, all of them dancing, singing and pouring their hearts into their compelling performances. Rarely have I seen such an energetic and lively performance as here and the contrast with Millennium's previous performance could hardly be greater.
Taking their time addressing the audience and enjoying moments of fun on stage Mount Ephraim enticingly kept this momentum going with ravishing violin play and a virtuosic run of keys by Steven McDaniel whereafter the peaceful Bulbul Tarang slowed proceedings down, with Glass initially playing the Asian string instrument before switching to his reborn guitar for a mountainous solo guided along by pristine harmonies and exemplary play by the whole band.
Adding touches of tribal spirituality in Cheyenne, regular set closer A New day then delivered fine vocal harmonies between Glass and Holland and soared onwards with an intensifying build up blessed by emotive melodies and an astounding melancholy drowned solo from Glass. One glance at the clock showed the band by now played in overtime which forced them to drop their intended two-song finale and let the impressive Sacred Run take the honours on its own. Which it did in the most pleasing, generous way possible with excellence of interplay, dynamically played complex rhythms and a lot of exciting instrumental runs surrounded by strong vocal accomplishments. A fitting finale to Solstice's near brilliant performance, even when the technical issues experienced during the first half hour are taken in consideration.
Hopefully a proper revenge at De Boerderij will take place at in future, although first up I'll join them for their show at the Arts Centre in Colchester (UK) on the 22nd of July where they will team up with the recently reformed Trilogy.
Spending some quality-time at Solstice's merch desk, setting up a temporary taxi-company in the process, it was close to morning light when I arrived home and fully satisfied laid my prog-pleased head to rest.