NEARfest 2000

Website: http://www.nearfest.com 

Introduction
The North East Art Rock Festival (or NEARfest) is a two-day event celebrating the resurgence of progressive and eclectic music in the United States and around the world. The event is held during the month of June in Bethlehem, PA. This annual festival is organized by Robert LaDuca and Chad Hutchinson.
NEARfest 2000
Next year, NEARfest will be held at the 1,002-seat Baker Hall at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. The event will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 17 and 18, 2000. In addition to the increased seating capacity, NEARfest 2000 will feature credit card orders, assigned seating and multiple ticket prices, including a "golden circle" section right up front in the orchestra pit! We are also happy to announce that the Zoellner Arts Center has a liquor license and will serving beer and wine at the event.
The bands for NEARfest 2000 are sure to be as enticing as ever. Already on board are Happy the Man (USA), Il Balletto di Bronzo (ITA), Anekdoten (SWE), P? Lindh Project (SWE), Iluvatar (USA), DFA (ITA), Nexus (ARG) and North Star (USA). We plan to announce the final three bands sometime in December. One of these bands is a big surprise! (Thinking Plague, Transatlantic)
FYI, we are also kicking around the idea of a "pre-show" on Friday night, June 16th at a hot new, state-of-the-art rock club in downtown Allentown. Details will be announced sometime in January. Start booking your rooms now because tickets will sell fast come February 15th! In fact, the Comfort Suites is already sold out! See the hotels section for local lodging and special NEARfest rates. See you in June! "1000 in 2000!"  (Priam, Echolyn)
History
The first annual NEARfest was held on June 26 & 27, 1999 in Foy Concert Hall at Moravian College. After announcing the event online, a sellout was reached for the 428-seat hall in two months! Fans of progressive music came from across the United States, with nearly 35 states were represented and even overseas, including Germany, Sweden and Aruba, for this exciting showcase of stylistically varied bands. The diverse line-up included Alaska (symphonic rock from PA), Scott McGill's Hand Farm (progressive fusion from NJ), Larry Fast of Synergy® (electronics/keyboard pioneer from NJ), Mastermind (hard progressive rock from NJ), IQ (legendary neo-progressive from England), Nathan Mahl (Canterbury symphonic rock from Canada), Ice Age (progressive metal from NY), Crucible (Genesis-inspired classic progressive from CT), Solaris (classical, ethnic progressive from Hungary) and Spock's Beard (symphonic power-progressive from CA).
An enthusiastic crowd along with inspired performances from each of the artists made for a fantastic weekend of music. The atmosphere in and around Foy Concert Hall was simply electric and reviews of the show by those who attended have been exceptional. Many fans have said that the organization, facilities, concert bill and services were all top-notch. Everyone at NEARfest '99 contributed to the success and enjoyablility of the festival.  Come join us in June!

Reviews:
From: "drj_saro" <>
Subject: NEARFest in review
over-all, i had a great time, there were a few really great shows (and some not-so-great, and some in-between), i went _way_ nuts at the vendor's tables, and met some virtual friends and made the friendship more real.....what more could you ask for? (well, sound that didn't suck for one thing, but......)
SATURDAY
1) North Star
much better than i expected, i had heard an album of theirs about 20 years ago which i thought was TERRIBLE! now they have sort of a Genesis circa TotT/W&W sound, which i think the world can still use.
2) DFA
i already liked them based on hearing a portion of their first album and I was not disappointed by their performance. very good proggy fusion. A Gentle-Giant moment or two was a pleasant surprise.
3) Illuvitar
not entirely terrible, but i found them to be quite boring and the vocalist was mediocre at best. maybe i would have liked them more if they didn't seem so apathetic in comparison to North Star (who were ploughing a similar trough), but who genuinely seemed to enjoy what they were playing (and to have the chance to do it at such a great hall & gig.)
4) Anekdoten
i might be in the minority, but they drove me out of the hall! they were relentless, they hit a noise level and a thudding pace and did not vary from it.
5) Happy the Man
they were WONDERFUL! the new keyboardist (David Rosenthal) took Kit Watkins place perfectly. even his new compositions for the band sounded like they were tailored for the musical personality of the individual musicians and the band as a whole.. they picked up right
where they left off over twenty years ago! their guitarist (Stanley Whittaker) was the most personable performer of the entire week-end, he had a marvelous rapport with the audience, and the whole band seemed to be enjoying themselves a LOT (and so did the audience.)
SUNDAY
1) Nexus
thought the keyboardist was GREAT, i guess i'm still a sucker for those Emerson-riffs!
(and i fell in love with Mariela!) but the guitarist and bassist were much too "heavy" (in a Led Zep/ Deep Purple/ Black Sabbath way) for my taste.
2) Thinking Plague
the token RIO band of the festival. they were too difficult for some people, but i thought that they avoided the trap of "thinking too much". these are a group of skilled and educated musicians who intimately understand the use of their instruments and how to play _together_ in both composed and improvised music. while there was no song that i loved all
the way through, at the same time there was no song that didn't have _something_ in it that i loved.
3) il Balletto di Bronzo
the surprise of the Festival for me. i had problems with the original album because the guitars were "too psychedelic" for me. the new formation is a trio with the guitar parts being played in a more controlled way by the keyboardist. i really enjoyed it. (as an unfortunate note: some people showed their homophobia and seemingly were made quite nervous by the flamboyance of Gianni Leone.)
4) Par Lindh Project
the guitarist and bassist were last minute substitutes (the Kopecky brothers from America, who have their own band that i now know to avoid) and were real Metal-Heads and the drummer sounded like he was rolling his whole kit down a long flight of stairs at 90 miles an hour. another band that I walked out on - the drummer gave me a headache.
5) Transatlantic
i'm sorry, but this just wasn't "prog": they sounded just like any one of a dozen bands that people i knew in high-school and college played in, just aimless jammy rock, only in it for the chicks & beer. they were plagued by multiple sources of feedback at various frequncies that nobody gave a shit about even trying to eliminate. they were also sloppy as hell, butchering a portion of "Magical Mystery Tour" that they stuck in the middle of their crappy "Mystery Train". Neil Morse's voice sits uncomfortably close to Styx or Journey to my ears, and he must have been in a competion for the ugliest keyboard sounds that i heard
all weekend, and to top it off he must have graduated with honours from his classes at the Tony Kaye "one-hand-wanking" School of Keyboard Technique. Roine Stolt may be a decent _rock_ guitarist, but that's _all_ he is to my ears. and Portnoy would still be hitting twice as much stuff as he _should_ even with one hand tied behind his back. i have nothing against Trevawas, but he is so small, he looked like he was going to be pulled ass over teakettle with the double-neck strapped on, which added some unintentional humour. i missed their "big encore" of Genesis covers, but from what i heard about it, there was a local Cleveland band that i used to see that i'm _certain_ did it better. "super-group" my foot!

From:  Subject: Re: NEARFest in review <>>  Nope, not true. The Kopeckys have been part of PLP for months now, not "last minute substitutes". As a-matter-of-fact, Par himself addressed this in a post to e-Prog some time ago. As far as avoiding their band Kopecky, well, your loss. They're really quite good.....

From: "Marc P. Guilbert" <> Subject: Re: NEARFest Review (long). As you can imagine, the bands playing were a mixed bag. In the interest of time, I'm going to quote Julius Saroka's review, who I met at the festival and who apparently has very similar tastes to mine. So I'm not totally plagarizing, I'll add my own comments where appropriate. ;-) Before that, it was interesting to be immersed in prog for a weekend; to be with like-minded people; to have the likes of Steve Whittaker and Par Lindh walking around; and to have the vendor's tables so close by. When trying to write about this music, it's easy to forget that, ultimately, it is a form of rock 'n roll, and the Rolling Stones said it the best with "I know, it's only rock 'n roll, but I like it! Love it! Yes, I do!" I found myself embarassed at liking Nexus, because of analyzing the parts that didn't work, then realizing "but it was a fun show! And that's what matters!" In the best of all worlds, though, you'd see these bands one at a time, with at least a week between performances, not jammed together in 2.5 days. Like trying to taste 12 wines at a single wine tasting event, instead of relishing each bottle at leisure. Having said that...
FRIDAY
1) Priam The venue stunk, the technical sound problems awful, but Priam were worth checking out. Guitarist was outstanding, but knew it; his performance was too much at times. On the other hand, he did exchanges with the drummer and bassist which bordered on telepathic. One such exchange semed to be totally impromptu, when the keys player totally lost sound. That one minute barrage was one of the highlights of the whole festival. Keys player, while good, didn't sound like he fit in. I'm looking for the CD; by the time I started looking for a copy, it was apparantly sold out.
2) Echolyn Well, they can still play the old prog-heavy stuff, but decided they wanted to do something different. Hence "Cowboy Poems Free", which thankfully has no C&W on it. The new songs are well written rock, which I'm sure most mainstream bands would be proud to have written and jealous of Echolyn's ability to pull off live. But, alas, not prog. Still, it was a pleasure to hear (couldn't see, due to a low stage and the entire audience on their feet in the sauna they called a nightclub) them open with "Mr. Oxy Moron" and later do "As the World" and "A Little Nonsense". Chris Buzby is now playing a Hammond XK-2 and an old Wurlitzer electric piano (think Kerry Minnear) as well as the digital keys.
>SATURDAY
>1) North Star >much better than i expected, i had heard an album of theirs about 20 years ago which i thought was TERRIBLE! now they have sort of a Genesis circa TotT/W&W sound, which i think the world can still use. Funny, I would have pegged this as "Cinema Show" era Genesis. I really
enjoyed their set, and bought their latest CD "Tempest". I think the guitar is mixed too loud on it, otherwise no opinion on it yet.
>2) DFA >i already liked them based on hearing a portion of their first album and i was not dissapointed by their performance. very good proggy fusion. a
>Gentle-Giant moment or two was a pleaseant surprize.
I was disappointed, but on retrospect it's because I heard what I thought was inspired jamming (improv) on "Lavori in Corso" (sic) and come to find
out it was pre-arranged and played note-for-note. Took some of the potential excitement away. The rest of the excitement was drained by what I felt was a lack of stage presence. Musically, they are in the same galaxy as Happy the Man, but sorely need to take a page from them in terms of connecting with an audience.
>3) Illuvitar >not entirely terrible, but i found them to be quite boring and the vocalist was mediocre at best. maybe i would have liked them more if they didn't
>seem so apathetic in comparision to North Star (who were ploughing a similar trough), but who genuinely seemed to enjoy what they were playing (and to
>have the chance to do it at such a great hall & gig.)
Julius was too kind; I found them to be a total bore, and literally fell asleep during their set. Their recordings might be better than the performance, and I do have 2 songs by them on Kinesis samplers I bought at the Kinesis table, but I haven't listened to those yet.
>4) Anekdoten >i might be in the minority, but they drove me out of the hall! they were relentless, they hit a noise level and a thudding pace and did not vary from it.
I stayed, but I felt the same way as Julius. No dynamics. Except for the sampled mellotron (one of the best keyboard sounds of the festival, btw) nothing about this performance said "prog" to me.
>5) Happy the Man >they were WONDERFUL! the new keyboardist (David Rosenthal) took Kit Watkins place perfectly. even his new compostitions for the band sounded like they were tailored for the musical personality of the individual msuicians and the band as a whole. they picked up right where they left off over twenty years ago! their guitarist (Stanley Whittaker) was the most personable performer of the entire week-end, he had a marvellous rapport with the audience, and the whole band seemed to be enjoying themselves a LOT (and so did the audience.)
Dave Rosenthal went far beyond mimicry. He has gotten inside Kit Watkin's head in a way I've never seen before, putting in grace notes you never noticed in the old material but were there all along, and even writing original material that has the KW "sound". They played 5 or 6 new numbers, and based on those the new album will be an instantaneous acquisition, no questions asked. They reformed with Ron Riddle, the drummer on "Crafty Hands", but who apparantly never played in concert with them before. What a good choice! He was easily the best drummer at NEARFest; his solo spot was as good as almost anything Carl Palmer did in the 70's. If any member was weak, it was the bassist, but only in comparison with other bassists today. I'd still give a significant body part to play as well as him.
>SUNDAY
>1) Nexus >thought the keyboardist was GREAT, i guess i'm still a sucker for those Emerson-riffs! (and i fell in love with Mariela!) but the guitarist and bassist were much too "heavy" (in a Led Zep/ Deep Purple/ Black Sabbath way) for my taste.
Keys player obviously worships at Keith Emerson's shrine before breakfast every morning, and also loves the sound of the Korg Trinity's ELP organ patch. Unfrtunately, their compositions from the current album were weak. The new stuff from their upcoming second album were much better; I'm looking forward to that (I'm a sucker for Emerson keys as well, I guess). But Julius is right about the rhythm section; pretty unimaginative, relatively speaking.
2) Thinking Plague >the token RIO band of the festival. they were too difficult for some people, but i thought that they avoided the trap of "thinking too much".
>these are a group of skilled and educated musicians who intimately understand the use of their instruments and how to play _together_ in both>composed and improvised music. while there was no song that i loved all the way through, at the same time there was no song that didn't have _something_ in it that i loved.
The vocals really grated on me; they sounded different than the one cut of their's I've heard (This Weird Wind). I like my RIO instrumental. And WHAT an instrumental band they were. Anekdoten had the best bassist at the festival; HTM had the best drummer; but TP had the best rhythm section. The interplay between bass and drums was awesome. The keys player did a magical improv in the middle of the set, and everyone was constantly pulling rabbits from their hats. Except the singer. Pity. If they were instrumental, they would have rivaled HTM as best of the festival.
>3) il Balletto di Bronzo >the surprize of the Festival for me. i had problems with the original album because the guitars were "too psychedelic" for me. the new formation is a trio with the guitar parts being played in a more controlled way by the keyboardist. i really enjoyed it. (as an unfortunate note: some people
>showed their homophobia and seemingly were made quite nervous by the flamboyance of Gianni Leone.)
Well, I was uncomfortable, and I do not consider myself a "homophobe". Gianni just went so far over the top flaunting his gayness, it detracted from the music. He made Liberace look straight. Also, some of the synth patches he chose to use were downright awful. But they DID manage to play 90% or more of every note on "YS" as just a trio, and he has an incredible voice. He guested on DFA's set the day before, and I knew this would be a memorable show based on that. It was memorable; I just wish it was more pleasant. Does prog REALLY need a Liberace?
4) Par Lindh Project >the guitarist and bassist were last minute substitutes (the Kopecky brothers from America, who have their own band that i now know to avoid) and were real Metal-Heads and the drummer sounded like he was rolling his whole kit down a long flight of stairs at 90 miles an hour. another band that i walked out on - the drummer gave me a headache.>
Yes, someone give the drummer valium. I thought Magdelana Hapberg finally came into her own, but she was constantly competing with the drummer to be heard. Her violin playing got bad press, but then she had a badly sprained hand, so playing must have been painful. The encore "Jerusalem" was ruined for me by the animalistic drumming and the synth part of Emerson's arrangement being played by heavy metal guitar.
>5) Transatlantic >i'm sorry, but this just wasn't "prog": they sounded just like any one of a dozen bands that people i knew in high-school and college played in, just aimless jammy rock, only in it for the chicks & beer. they were plagued by multiple sources of feedback at various frequncies that nobody gave a shit about even trying to eliminate. they were also sloppy as hell, butchering a portion of "Magical Mystery Tour" that they stuck in the middle of their crappy "Mystery Train". Neil Morse's voice sits uncomfortably close to Styx or Journey to my ears, and he must have been in a competion for the ugliest keyboard sounds that i heard all weekend, and to top it off he must have graduated with honours from his classes at the Tony Kaye "one-hand-wanking" School of Keyboard Technique. Roine Stolt may be a decent _rock_ guitarist, but that's _all_ he is to my ears. and Portnoy would still be hitting twice as much stuff as he _should_ even with one hand tied behind his back. i have nothing against Trevawas, but he is so small, he looked like he was going to be pulled ass over teakettle with the double-neck strapped on, which added some unintentional humour. i missed their "big encore" of Genesis covers, but from what i heard about it, there was a local Cleveland band that i used to see that i'm _certain_ did it better. "super-group" my foot!>
You couldn't hear Roine Stolt all night! And there was precious little "prog" in what they played, although they did a couple of minutes worth of "There is More to This World", one of my favorite FK tunes.

From: ProgAndOther@egroups.com Subject: NEARFEST 2000 POLL FINAL RESULTS
Here they are, the results from this year's ProgAndOther internet NEARfest poll. Overall the response was very good, with just about every P&O member who was there, responding to the survey.
BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCE: This was really no contest as Happy The Man blew away the competition. Most of the other bands were pretty close. Here are the results (a graduated point system was used for this category):  Happy The Man - 215 Par Lindh Project - 139 D.F.A. - 112 Anekdoten - 108 Transatlantic - 107 Nexus - 106 Thinking Plague - 105 Il Balletto Di Bronzo - 93 North Star - 72 Echolyn - 70 Iluvatar - 68 Priam - 45
Below are the top 5 for each category.
BAND THAT MOST EXCEEDED YOUR EXPECTATIONS: Happy The Man - 42 North Star - 22 D.F.A. - 13 Nexus - 12 Il Balletto Di Bronzo - 11
OUTSTANDIG PERFORMANCE ON GUITAR: Stan Whitaker (Happy The Man) - 51 Mike Johnson (Thinking Plague) - 27 Joe Kopecky ( Par Lindh Project) - 18 Roine Stolt (Transatlantic) - 11 Chris Casagrande (Priam) - 8
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE ON KEYS: David Rosenthal (Happy The Man) - 49 Gianni Leone (Il Balletto Di Bronzo) - 32 Matt Mitchell (Thinking Plague) - 12 Par Lindh (Par Lindh Project) - 10 Alberto Bonomi (D.F.A.) - 9
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE ON VOCALS: Magdalena Hagburg (Par Lindh Project) - 23 Glenn McLaughlin (Iluvatar) - 21 Gianni Leone (Il Balletto Di Bronzo) - 18 Maria Gonzalez (Nexus) - 14 Deborah Perry (Thinking Plague) - 13
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE ON BASS: Bill Kopecky (Par Lindh Project) - 36 Alessandro Corsi (Il Balletto Di Bronzo) - 23 Jan Erik Liljestrom (Anekdoten) - 17 Pete Trawavas (Transatlantic) - 15 Dave Willey (Thinking Plague) - 12
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE ON DRUMS: Dave Kerman (Thinking Plague) - 35 Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic) - 30 Ron Riddle (Happy The Man) - 29 Nisse Bielfeld (Par Lindh Project) - 10 Peter Nordins (Anekdoten) - 7
OUTSTANDING OVERALL PERFORMANCE BY AN INDIVIDUAL: Stan Whitaker (Happy The Man) - 27 Gianni Leone (Il Balletto Di Bronzo) - 22 David Rosenthal (Happy The Man) - 12 Magdelana Hagburg (Par Lindh Project) - 9 Maria Gonzalez (Nexus) - 8
DREAM LINEUP FOR NEARFEST 2001: There were well over 100 different artists chosen in this category, but there were a few clear leaders. Here is the top 12. I listed the top 3 as headliners each night (beginning with the last night being Sunday) then the next 3 as first support act ect......to give us next year's "dream' lineup:
FRIDAY: Glass Hammer Camel (headliner)
SATURDAY: Mike Keneally Crucible Discipline Porcupine Tree The Flower Kings (headliner)
SUNDAY: Ozric Tentacles Kopecky Marillion Echolyn Salem Hill (headliner)
Very close Alternates: California Guitar Trio Ars Nova Ozone Quartet

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