NEARfest arrives with Hatfield and the North and Ozric Tentacles

This weekend is the 8th running of NEARfest, the North East Art Rock Festival in Bethlehem, PA. It sold out instantly again this year. I attended my first festival last year and had to admit some trepidation about it. Progressive Rock or Art Rock was the music of my youth. I spent the 70s and 80s immersed in Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Magma and more. I was also ingesting massive quantities of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, but retrospective views now seem to slot space music in it’s own category.
NEARfest seemed like an exercise in nostalgia, and in many ways it was. I wrote about it in an article last year, A Prog Rock Odyssey and there’s an accompanying audio interview feature.
This year brings three real giants to the stage. On the opening Progressive Legends night is Hatfield and the North, one of the leading Canterbury music bands with three of the original four members. All of them have remained active in different projects and I’m looking forward to seeing them replicate their complex materiel and to hear if they’ve come up with anything new. On the second night is Ozric Tentacles. Born in 1993, they’re a relatively new band who span the gulf between space rock and techno. I’ve seen them before and their live show is kinetic, and their new CD, The Floor Is Too Far, is quintessential Ozric.
Floor's Too Far Away
Keith Emerson is headlining the last night. In high school I gorged myself on the Nice and Emerson Lake and Palmer, but Emerson has exhibited an acute lack of taste in recent years and his music has simply been irrelevant. I’m not sure about him, but I’m looking forward to a few other bands I haven’t heard like KBB and Guapo. And I think Niacin will floor this audience with their high energy avant-fusion. Richard Leo Johnson and Michael Manring will be doing solo sets. Both artists will be coming to do live sets on Echoes as well.
I don’t have high hopes for FM. This band went downhill after their impressive debut, Blacknoise, a merging of pop and space music and original members Ben Mink and Nash the Slash aren’t there. You never know, however, but you’ll find out. I’ll be blogging from NEARfest for the next three days.

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