!!NEARfest 99 DAY ONE: A chat with Mr. SYNERGY, more fusion, and prog
"EER ya go folks."
Created:Tuesday, July 20, 1999
Eclectic Earwig Reviews'
NEARfest 99: An Overview and Observations
~ John W. Patterson and Mr. Noah Samuel Lesgold
Installment FOUR: “A chat with Mr. SYNERGY, more fusion, and prog
After a deli-sub/garf-it-down fast late lunch among the prog vendors,
shoppers, and new-found friends I readied my ears for the mighty synthwork of Larry
Fast. He came on stage and blew us all away with samplings of SYNERGY pieces and
new crescendos of digital mayhem -- NOT!!!! “Hey, what gives? No tunes, what is this?
A lecture and a slide show? Oh no, I paid to go back to college again?" Oh man,
I thought Fast was gonna jam but -- I sat there feeling a bit
stupid for not
realizing this was not to be. Somewhere down the line I never got the news Fast
was only lecturing on the roots of synth, prog, and all his work with Peter
Gabriel, Nektar, Yes, and others. Hmmm.
As I sit here typing and listening to Tonto’s Expanding Head Band Zero
Time my mind goes back to all the marvelous synth music Larry Fast created
from 1975 through 1987. Every time I saw his name on a band’s album credits I knew
some very cool sounds would be happening. I was never let down. Well, here was Larry
standing a mere 15 feet in front of me, elucidating all “the
little secrets” of
SYNERGY and Fast. It was more than, better than Progressive
Rock 101 cuz
here was “da man” himself not any old second-handed speaker. Well, I was getting
Larry told us of Nektar and Gabriel and Wakeman and Collins and Genesis
and the Beatles and the MOOG and the mellotron and W. Carlos. He played us audio
snippets and flashed up slides of all his tweakings and knob diddlings with Yes,
Nektar, and Peter Gabriel. I was enjoying Fast’s “insider view” he shared. For
example, Fast built and designed many of his own sound
to save himself tons of money -- my kinda guy! My brain was
near full of
Gabrielisms as I wondered why Fast never discussed his work with Canada’s space-
rock kings --
FM. Maybe next time. Good job Mr. SYNERGY. Thanks for the tidbits of knowledge.
Does anyone know how many Synergy live-gig shows Fast ever did?? (Somebody clue
me in sometime. I’m curious.)
MASTERMIND: AMAZING FUSION and (neo-shred “biker prog” with vixen vox)
About 7:30 pm, only a trifling 90 minutes late, Mastermind exploded
onstage and kicked some of the hardest, rockinest, and most blazing fusion I
could have hoped for -- being a legato-based, heavy-styled, fusionhead. Bill
Berends and brother Rich have been at the prog thing since 1986
but recently they
decided to return to “their first love” -- the improv-rich
halls of in-your-face
fusion. Thanks guys!!
They opened with several tracks from their excellent Excelsior!
release. I know they unloaded
a bunch after the show. They were awesome to behold and to hear. Recent additon,
bandmiss, the petite vixen, Lisa Bouchelle sang vocals to Excelsior!’s
nonvocal “Tokyo Rain”. I really enjoyed Mickey Simmonds stood in on live keys for Jens Johansson who did studio
keys on Excelsior!.
and Bob Eckman added live bass. Anyone who has heard Jens jam with axemen
Holdsworth, Lane, Stern, and Malmsteen knows Simmonds had quite the Mastermind-live-show,
Johansson shoes to fill. He did well. Lisa Bouchelle’s vocals on the shreddish/fusion rock
tunes reminded me of Leather Leone’s fine work with Chastain. Watchin’ Lisa boogie
around with a tambourine to near-Dregs riffin’ and progmetal vox was quite the mix.
Bill Berends did bizarro lead breaks with Midi screeches, pick percussives, and
staccato growlings. Best moment for me was the cover of
after Lisa took a break backstage. Great stuff, in fine
style, was offered in much heat.
this live version as well. They need to re-record that tune with Lisa on a future release.
Strumming an acoustic guitar and singing out her soul, she caused a “stage rush”
by photographers and flashes illuminated Foy Hall as the crowd got shutter-happy
and film-poor. She is definitely the looker and has a strong voice to augment
her obvious stage presence. Last time I saw this sort of crowd reaction was at
ProgDay 98 when Sweden’s Magdalena Hagberg of PLP stepped stage front. I love it!
Everytime Lisa Bouchelle took the stage a definite change came over
Mastermind’s overall sound towards shreddish-boogie-progmetal, rock-me-baby angst.
The fusion elements waned and a Shania Twain sexiness waxed. I mean if you turned
down the tunes and took in the visual element alone -- you’d see Nashville “biker”
Ah, but that was not all! Mastermind was the first band hailed back
onstage for a massive encore. Rich Berends slaughtered the drums later on, in a
killer solo that was accentuated with gong -- power, more power, and grace. Classical
favorites such as Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and flashes
of Beethoven were reinterpreted by the crazy fingers of
an incredible show! That was enuff for me for DAY ONE and I
split! Sorry IQ -- had
rock. What is weird, is that it all this diversity works -- somehow -- prog,
fusion, metal, leather, sweat, and a blonde. Mastermind’s outro, again from their
new album, was huge and a powerhouse choice to slap us all around real good
as they made the walls fall!
I'll freely admit to being
fanboyish where this band is concerned -- I won't say they can do no wrong, but
there's an incredible feeling to their work, where the whole is much more than
the sum of the parts, that really carries me away. That was more
true live than
their studio work can possibly represent; the intensity of the
performance drew me
into every song. "Awake and Nervous" opened the show incredibly well, and I
finally got to see what people were talking about with regards to the dramatics
of Peter Nicholls. For me, at least, it never felt like a descent into melodrama
-- he was very passionate and intense about both his vocals
and his acting.
Where seeing Dream Theater and Yes live gave me some doubts
about the value of a
frontman who only sings, I really felt that Peter was just way too busy to have
room to play, too.
Overall, this was almost a religious experience for me. The power, passion, and
skill of this bandjust blew me away. A phenomenal closer to the first day of NEARfest99.
They took about 40 minutes of material from their recent Subterranea
album, and starting with that section, the rest of the show was backed by interesting
projections that ranged from fractal patterns, to, for the initial Subterranea
songs, running through traffic and cityscapes. Very interesting material which complimented the music well. On one song ("Failsafe", I think),
Nicholls went backstage and a video camera projected him (playing the part of
[i think] a villain from the Subterranea album) on
Interesting stuff. Aside from that, they also played 3 songs from Ever,
one or two from The Wake, and "War Heroes", from Are You Sitting Comfortably? --
that last was the only song they played from the Paul Menel years. I was hoping
for "Human Nature" or "No Love Lost", but I'm not about to complain.
The highlight was their last pre-encore song -- a full version of "The
Last Human Gateway". I gather that having this performed in its entirety is a bit
of a rarity these days -- I certainly consider myself privileged to have been around
for it. I can understand why they've been thinking about re-recording Tales
from the Lush Attic, given how good the versions of this and
"Awake and Nervous"
they're doing these days. Encores were "The Wake"and "Headlong", both from The
Wake album, which again were much better than the album versions.
AND THE DAY TWO BANDS ATTACK . . . (careful with that "axe"organ Ryo "Eugene" Okumoto )
E.E.R. will again feature,
Noah Samuel Lesgold,voluntEERing his aural insights on NEARfest 99's
ICE AGE, CRUCIBLE, and SPOCK'S BEARD (DAY TWO) performances.
Anyone with NEARfest 99 pics they wanna "cyber-loan" to the E.E.R. NEARfest 99 Report,
e-mail me photo info and attached JPEG or GIF files of your best shots. You will get
full *name in lights* credit with the photo(s). I appreciate all that came through for E.E.R.
with great photo-loans of ProgDay 98.
Let's all get together and show our NEARfest 99 goodies!!
(I have the stuff to jazz up even mundane pics. So have at it!)
Back to Installment Three NEARfest 99
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Back to Installment One NEARfest 99
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