NEARfest 2001


Bookmark: Review 

The North East Art Rock Festival, or NEARfest for short, 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 and was founded by Robert LaDuca and Chad Hutchinson in the spring of 1998. The first annual NEARfest occured in 1999 and has quickly grown to become "the most prestigious progressive music festival in the world."

Tickets on Sale Starting
Saturday, February 17, 2001 at 11:00 am EST
Prices: $85 / $75 / $65 / $55

NEARfest Weekend is a busy one to say the least. We are in the midst of pulling together the full schedule of events for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Below is a summary of what we have planned so far, including the tentative band schedule which we will attempt to adhere to. NOTE: Vendors WILL be open during all breaks, including dinner.

Friday, June 22nd
4:00 to 6:00 pm    Vendors open in Zoellner Art Center
Evening    Possible function at the Bethlehem Brew Works
Saturday, June 23rd
9:00 am    Doors, vendors and Roger Dean gallery open
11:00 am to 12:00 pm    Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
12:45 to 2:00 pm    Under the Sun
2:45 to 4:00 pm    White Willow
4:45 to 6:15 pm    Deus Ex Machina
6:15 to 8:15 pm    Dinner break, vendors open
8:15 to 10:15 pm    Porcupine Tree
10:30 pm    Off to the Bethlehem Brew Works
Sunday, June 24th
9:00 am    Doors, vendors and Roger Dean gallery open
11:00 am to 12:00 pm    The Underground Railroad
12:45 to 2:00 pm    Djam Karet
2:45 to 4:00 pm    California Guitar Trio
4:45 to 6:15 pm    After Crying
6:15 to 8:15 pm    Dinner break, vendors open
8:15 to 10:15 pm    Banco Del Mutuo Soccorsoanco
10:30 pm    Off to the Bethlehem Brew Works
Learn about the Venue and the Hotels and Restaurants in and around Bethlehem.

From: Subject: Re: NEARFest
For what it's worth, here's my quick review of NearFest:
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic - extremely talented musicians, long instrumental, improvisational, jazz-fusion sound. I was unfamiliar with this band, and after listening to them, I cannot remember a single piece they played. Rating: B.
Under the Sun: Sound system nearly ruined this performance. I believe these guys are phenomenal song writers - they have the poetic, cosmic lyrics of Yes with the hard edge sound of Rush or Queensryche. Bass player performed with a broken hand, but you couldn't tell. Sound system, however, was cranked up several notches too loud, so their performance came through rather distorted. Rating: A-.
White Willow: Out of nowhere - these guys stole the show. Ian Anderson, move over - this band has a wind player for the next millennium. They received the most passionate standing ovation of all the bands, even catching the band members off guard. They're celtic/dreamy/Jethro Tull/low key Renaissance. The lead vocalist has a fine voice, but still one notch below Annie Haslam or Loreena McKennitt. Rating: A+
Deus Ex Machina: Walked out after 15 minutes of this performance. Fans of this RIO style would have loved them. This is the band that polarized the audience the most - really loud, fast, furious and in Latin. And that's fine - you have to have the variety at a festival like this. My rating: D. Other's rating: B+.
Porcupine Tree: Despite a soundcheck that lasted longer than the performance, these guys rocked. It was my first time seeing them live. They had a stage presence like true rock & roll stars. Steve Wilson has the great British sense of humor - cracking jokes between songs much like Phil Collins would during a Genesis set. Was a great surprise to hear Voyage 34 live. Barbieri was interesting to watch - no flamboyant keyboard solos - it was great to see him weave the soundscapes that surrounded Wilsons Gilmour-esque guitar work. The drummer (I don't know his name) reminded me of Animal from The Muppet Show - he was CRAZY! Phenomenal performance - you must see them live at some point in your lives.... Rating: A.
Nearfest review - day 2:
Underground Railroad - the featured local band, looking to get their big break. The first song they performed was great (not sure of its name...) Great harmonies ala Echolyn... After that, however, they went downhill. Very talented musicians, but they didn't have any "hook" that you could grab on to. Very long songs, intricate - but not memorable. Also, the great vocal harmonies they displayed on their opening song were not featured through most of their performance - with the exception of the last song, Creeper. I think they've got great potential - if they were to maybe simplify their music a bit - slow it down in some parts - and bring all of their vocals into more prominence. Rating: B.
Djam Karet - All instrumental rock band. I enjoyed their live performance much better than I did any of their studio releases. Their bass player (I do not recall his name, but he'd only been with the band a couple of months) stands out like a sore thumb. He's the best friggin part of the group!!!! His stage presence is wonderfully monstrous. While the other three members stood around, playing their instruments with great professionalism, his long haired, chubby body was prancing around the stage like he was in a Nirvana concert! I loved every second of watching him. That on-stage energy spoke to me as much as the music did. Rating: A-
California Guitar Trio - Okay... these are without argument, three of the best guitarists around. But are they progressive rock???? Or do they better belong on the Narada Acoustic or Windham Hill labels? Well, of course the had Tony Levin with him, so that makes them proggy. I suppose Backstreet Boys would be invited to next years Nearfest if Tony Levin performed with them. Don't get me wrong - they were great! They played a rendition of The Heart of the Sunrise that couldn't be beat! Word of advice to them: Never, never let the audience fill in where Jon Anderson's vocals should be. A bunch of 30 yr old male programmers are never going to come close to hitting the notes you're supposed to hit on that song.... CGT played the standard Beethoven (not Bach...) and Bohemian Rhapsody. But to see Tony was worth the price of admission... Yes, he played the stick and yes he used those Freddy Krueger finger extenders on Heart of the Sunrise. Rating: A-
After Crying - Hmmmm.... something didn't quite work out with this band. By far, they received the coolest reception of the festival. Musically, they were virtuostic. Two keyboard players, a cello, a flute, guitar, drum, bass, and a singer. The celloist was the star of the band, although the two keyboardists were phenomenal in thier own right. One of them, in fact, played the trumpet in one hand while playing keyboards in the other - he could have been his own one man traveling band. A highlight of their performance was the duet that the two keyboardists played sitting at the same set of keys. At times, they performed "Twister" like movements which was entertaining. But that last 20+ minute epic tribute to ELP - waaaaay too long and pointless. I noticed much of the audience getting restless... That celloist needs to get himself with a new band - maybe White Willow will accept him? All in all, I am a huge fan of their studio albums, but they lacked in this performance. Rating: C.
Banco - This was, believe it or not, the only band of the festival that I new nothing about! The members came out one at a time to thunderous applause - that keyboardist is one of the most intense looking individuals I have ever seen - big & burly with a face hidden behind a humongous beard. He was stupendous. The lead singer slowly shuffled onto stage for the second song and belted out the next tune as if he had just walked in from performing with the Three Tenors. What passion! I can't say that I enjoyed the instrumentals as much as I did with Porcupine Tree, but that singing! There was so much emotion packed into his voice, it made you want to cry. These guys have been around for 30 years & they came off as if everything before them was amateurish - true veterans of the genre. Rating: A
Well, that's my review! Of course, you are welcome to your opinions.