!!NEARfest 99 DAY ONE: A chat with Mr. SYNERGY, more fusion, and prog please.


"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 please.”

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.

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 processing modules 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.)

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!!

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 “Sudden Impulse” after Lisa took a break backstage. Great stuff, in fine Mahavishnu Orchestra style, was offered in much heat.

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 Mastermind. What an incredible show! That was enuff for me for DAY ONE and I split! Sorry IQ -- had to go.
Bill Berends

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 the screen. 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.

Next Installment: AND THE DAY TWO BANDS ATTACK . . . (careful with that "axe"organ Ryo "Eugene" Okumoto )

Read about Nathan Mahl!

Next installment:


will again feature,

Noah Samuel Lesgold,

voluntEERing his aural insights on NEARfest 99's


(DAY TWO) performances. Thanx Noah!

Anyone with NEARfest 99 pics they wanna "cyber-loan" to the E.E.R. NEARfest 99 Report, Please 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!)

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