Last Thoughts & Merit Awards for NEARfest 2010

Another NEARfest is over, and a festival I avoided for its first 6 years because it seemed too retro and nostalgic has become an annual event for me in the last six years.  NEARfest 2010 was one of the best, a great mix of old and new, nostalgic reunions  and edgy directions.  A tip of the hat to Ray LobodaJim Robinson, Kevin Feeley,  and founders Chad Hutchinson and Robert LaDuca for another perfectly organized festival.  For these guys it really is about the music and the fans.

My NEARfest Awards

Best guitarist of the festival: Steve Hackett.

He should be mentioned in the same breath as Jeff Beck.  Honorable mention: Dave Bainbridge of Iona who had the most expansive timbral pallette at the Festival.

Most atypical guitarist of the festival: Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief.

He did more with a couple of chords and a lot of overdrive than a lot of guitarists did with a million nano-notes.

Most exotic axe: The uilleann pipes of Martin Nolan.  Instruments actually don’t get very exotic at NEARfest.  We need more musicians slamming on metal pipes like Present.

Most Versatile Musician: A lot of musicians did double duty on keyboards and guitar, but I thought the bassist with The Enid had the toughest job, doubling up on timpani, field drum and xylophone, providing the percussive bombast of this symphonic rock group.

Best Singers: Joanne Hoag of Iona and Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief.

Artist who would be best served by getting another singer: Steve Hackett. Hackett has pleasant pipes, but his limited range and expression really holds his songs back.  There isn’t one piece of his that I couldn’t hear improved by someone else singing it.

Most Bizarre Appearance: Nick Beggs, bassist for Steve Hackett. From 16 rows back, he looked liked a very masculine woman with his black leather skirt and vest, mid-calf boots, blond pigtails and Madonna arms.  He strutted and bounced across the stage, often with his back to the audience and shaking his ass.  As my friend Gino said, “That was the most unsexy butt shaking I’ve ever seen in my life.”  Imagine my surprise the next morning when I saw Beggs at a table at the Comfort Suites with his former bandmates from Iona.  My vision was blocked by an umbrella, so the first thing I noticed was the Madonna arms.  As I peered beneath the umbrella I saw long bleached blonde hair….. surrounding three days beard growth.  Turns out the leather skirt was a leather kilt. He can play the bass though.


With the exception of Magma in 2007, the Sunday headliner is never my favorite act and sometimes my least favorite.

The seats at Zoellner are just too small.  While my gut stayed well within bounds, my shoulders were a good 3-4 inches into the adjoining seats.

Even though they seemed to be using a smaller PA system, I thought  NEARfest 2010 had the best sound I’ve heard there in 6 years.  Loud, clean and well-balanced.

The lights at NEARfest are rarely innovative, but this year they were especially utilitarian.

I really need to start going to the After Show Party.  They always sound like such fun, but I’m always so tired by days end as it is.  How do people do it and still get up for the 11AM morning act?

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

  2 comments for “Last Thoughts & Merit Awards for NEARfest 2010

  1. John – after reading your comments on NEARFest from the last couple years, I recommend you check out the ProgDay festival in Chapel Hill, NC on Labor Day weekend. A lot of what you wrote (the festival being “about the music”, enjoying the lesser known bands more than the headliners, being cramped in small theater seats) makes me think you’d enjoy ProgDay. Discovering great new progressive bands along with a few hundred other passionate music fans, sitting anywhere you want to put your lawn chair, easy access to the musicians…it’s a great time. Just remember to take sunscreen and a hat or umbrella for shade.

  2. Best Singers: Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief? huh? Try AMANDA LEHMANN. Also Try Way too Loud!, un clean and un-balanced. ( Except for Eddie Jobson who didn’t blow everyones ear drums out… Cant fit in the seat, Try hitting the Salad bar!

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