RoSFest 2007 (May 2007) (2)

Date of Performance: April 27 - April 29, 2007
Venue: The Colonial, Phoenixville, PA, US

RoSfest 2007 (The Festival of Lights) Recap

Joshua Turner reports on some of the artists appearing at the Rites of Spring Festival 2007; you'll find reports on bands he doesn't cover here at Music Street Journal.

Tempustry - April 27, 2007

Tempustry was chosen as the band that would kick off this year's event. As people were slowly pouring in after driving countless miles, only to speed down a winding path to the venue, they played a couple ambient songs to gradually transform everyone's mood while they entered. They didn't really rock in any way, but they provided the proper backdrop for what was to ensue. Their act went from 8 to 8:45 PM, and they were what should be the standard for a festival opener, which is something subdued, consistent, and easy on the ears. In the end, they were better than last year's opener, and they even played a memorable highlight among their tamer numbers, which I believe was named, "The Space Between You And Me Both" or something along those lines. ["This Space Between" from their upcoming Astral Gate -ed.] Interesting enough, one of the two band members was highly recognizable as a participant in all the prior years of RoSfest. His face was unforgettable as he could have easily been a cousin to Howard Stern or maybe Weird Al Yankovich. This loyal and dedicated look-alike stuck solely to the keyboards while his colleague worked diligently between drums and keyboards. I hope to see these chaps among the fans in years to follow. In the interim, good luck to this pair in their pursuit of music. [That familiar face, Jim Rezek of Iluvatar; behind the drums, synths, and vocals, Allen Brunelle of Dark Aether Project and Illuvatar -ed.]

Rating: 3.5/5

Galahad - April 28, 2007

This was the start of a series of bands getting behind schedule. As a result, I knew it would be a late night. Fortunately, this band, Galahad, allowed for a longer, unplanned break, because I didn't stay around for the duration. I was so-so on their studio material and wondered what they could do live. Ultimately, in concert they were a bore. So, I took the time to walk around and nap in the bleachers towards the far end of the balcony. If their sallow performance weren't enough, the singer wore a ridiculous outfit that was a cross between a priest and a Jedi's robe. Not to mention, he clearly had mascara on his lashes. Another scarf was bestowed upon us. This one contained a pirate's skull. Rather than be used as an air instrument with flair, this hung stoically wrapped around the microphone. It seemed as if the band had an identity crisis as their costume and material was a fake copy and an odd translation of the classic and ageless Genesis. While I'm not a huge fan of The Watch, I'd say they do a better job replicating their getup.

It was not completely poor as they had a few good elements. The keyboards were easily the best quality they had to offer, and this instrument was unquestionably influenced by classical progressive rockers such as Tony Banks. This was an interesting blend that also incorporated punk. It's as if Peter Gabriel were singing for Green Day in his last temptation and sacrificial lamb of Broadway. On the low end of the gauge, repetitive metal riffs ceaselessly and unchastely seeped from the guitars. Nevertheless, the crowd liked it. My ignorant self, on the other hand, found it a bore. They were alone in this criticism, as the bands were either blown out or scored.

Another positive aspect was the fact that traces of Pink Floyd were buried in the minutiae. These parts were well-performed and the band took this shtick serious, but somehow or another it didn't exactly click for me. Between the tambourine, singing, and screaming, it was too much of an outlandish combination for me to swallow. Also, it seemed as if one of their fans, who typically is an air guitar king, had graduated to air drums. Like me, he found the guitars uninteresting, to say the least.

As it turns out, I was only able to last three songs, so that's all I can report on, but I must stress that many fans seemed to like it. One song had a long pre-recorded sequence. Anybody in their right mind would have thought that they would have started with this song instead. What was weird is that they jumped right in with haste and without warning. To them it may have seemed proper. To me, it seemed uncomfortable and gauche. In this time, the singer changed his clothes to something more contemporary. Seems their priorities were more focused on wardrobe changes than the best chronological scheme. Due to their abilities and lack of composition, I would have liked to see them stick to covers. They performed in the magical second spot where bands such as Mirthrandir, Kino, and Izz once performed. I hate to report this, but it seems the streak is over. If it's any consolation, there is no such thing as bad press and I'll repeat once more that more than a few people seemed to like this set.

Looking back, I may have been bitter with this band for replacing Frost*, which was a band I really wanted to see.

[I gathered that vocalist Stu Nicholson's priestly appearance was tied into the song they started off with "I Could Be God"... -ed.]

Rating: 3.25/5

Carptree: April 28, 2007

Speaking of streaks, this was the second act in a row I didn't care much for. Good thing I stayed around the area, as the band to follow put on a show of legendary proportion. I expected little, and basically received what I had initially anticipated. This band was almost a carbon-copy of Galahad. Other acts that come to mind are Satellite and The Watch. If that's your cup of tea, then please drink up. If not, you wouldn't have cared for this much either. If it sounds as if I'm picking on them or being a bully, I must admit that I'm a critic. I pull no punches, and unfortunately, have incorporated my own tastes. Like the band that came before, a number of people in attendance gave their time and scored it with a thumb's up. Nobody was overjoyed with this band, but it pleased enough attendees. In the end, that's all you can ask for as a band who precedes the headliner in the dinner slot usually doesn't have everyone's full attention.

They opened with an orchestral recording. Again, this is nothing new. This was original ten years ago. However, from the standpoint of their attire, these were sharp-dressed musicians to a degree I have never seen a progressive rock band take it. They approached the dress code in the same manner that a student takes an interview for an internship. Each wore a chic and well-tailored suit. The drummer was the exception as he wore what some call an A-frame or wife-beater. I wondered if they were related, as their similarities went beyond clothes. For the most part, each one had a bald heads complemented by goatees or handlebar mustache. With a little bleach, either one could have been an understudy or stand-in for the monopoly guy.

If it seems I have little say, it's because they left little to no impression. I would say they put on a slightly better performance than Satellite and that's about it. In their defense, the sound quality was poor and that may have been more due to the house than their own personal equipment. Likewise, there was a major embarrassment in terms of continuous feedback.

Speaking of organization and trend, the instruments were wired up in a manner that was sloppy as heck. Additionally, some of the singing was not very mature and downright childish. In my opinion, Carptree should have been the first band in the day, and it's curious why they are on the InsideOut label. As Joel, the master of ceremonies had said earlier, they chose a good band to go first in order to wake up the drunkards. Ultimately, they would have been better served for some to sleep in with these guys in the first slot. The sound wasn't even calibrated to the most lax standards, and it wasn't even corrected during the solo. This is when it always seems to happen anywhere else. As to their performance, it seemed they wanted to be Marillion, but failed miserably in their attempts.

The fact they would toggle between loud to soft was interesting. The plugged-in acoustic was a nice touch too. Noise, drama, and volume made up a bit for the lack of composition coupled with the sound problems.

Returning to the negatives, this was one of the most disorganized drummers I have ever witnessed. While he is respectable on the album, he was in another world while he was on stage. The fact his attire was so lax when these chaps dressed up is something that makes you wonder.

Eventually, I left this show with my crew and went to a coffeehouse. The guy playing the steel guitar there was surprisingly a much better act. Angelo M was his name. One thing I couldn't understand is why he would wrap up right away when my crew and I, who each had press passes on, had just showed up. If he had played more for us, I might be reporting on him instead. Even the folk act to follow was a better choice than what was going on at the Colonial Theater. Not to mention, the sound person in the café made more intelligible adjustments.

With hindsight being considered, I may have been upset with the fact that this band, Carptree, took over for Anyone's Daughter, which is a band I had wanted to see for years.

Rating: 3.25/5

Darwin's Radio: April 29, 2007

After being blown away by their album, I really looked forward to seeing this band perform. Despite our best efforts, we were twenty minutes late. We seemed to walk in as they were beginning to find their stride.

Darwin's Radio exceeded everyone's expectations. Like me, many came late or missed them altogether. It truly was their loss. While some may never know, those who were tardy were disappointed they missed a single minute. [Indeed! -ed.]

Fortuitously, a drum solo was underway as I walked in with my party. While it was good, I've seen it before, and I was most happy with the fact I did not miss any of their melodic wonderment.

The whole band had a great stage presence, which I have always felt goes a long way. In interviews and in person, I found they had real charisma. On the stage, they were personable.

They played their new 18 minute epic. The singer admitted he was "Unsure of the story." He justified his claim by adding "That's Prog."

I adore epics, so you could say; I walked in at right time.

They called this song, "Illusion Is Freedom," and it was an early highlight. It was almost like getting three songs in one.

Darwin's Radio was a solid live band. Like Eyestrings and Izz, they were one of many gems discovered at this festival. If they weren't on the roster, I would have never looked them up. Now I was treated to quite a breathtaking show.

The only problem is that the lights were rudimentary. This is slang for the fact that everything worked as scheduled. Personally, I liked the surprises that occurred at the start of the festival. The blinking lights were just too tame.

Toward the end, the singer politely asked, "Can we play one more?" The crowd leaped from their seats and responded in an upheaval.

The last one wasn't just an afterthought. Instead, it was one of their most sophisticated pieces. At this time, they played "The Vast Within," and we were treated to first class when we expected the budget plan.

Trying to provide a few souls with a souvenir, the guitarist and singer threw out many picks into the crowd. I was worried that their last ones would break with some parts of the song remaining. I liked the ending of this song very much. It had great singing and guitar playing, and left you wanting more.

In retrospect, they nailed every song, especially at the conclusion. Even though I missed some of their work at the beginning, the residual amount made up for all the difference.

Rating: 4.25/5

Retroheads: April 29, 2007

This just didn't do it for me at all. This year was unique in the sense that I really enjoyed many acts while the hordes of fans were quite in tune with the ones I didn't. When I shared my honest take on the band with another fan, he said he completely disagreed with me, and that he felt this band was brilliant. So, if you ask him, they get a huge thumbs up. As for me, this was another one I couldn't take in for the duration.

They were like a cheap Pink Floyd knockoff. While that legendary band used patient melodies and dramatic lyrics over a sparse landscape, it seemed like they would fill the space with nonsense. Then again, some of their meanderings were entertaining.

Numerous times, the singer would ask, "Anyone from Norway here?" It appeared he wanted everyone to clap and holler, so he encouraged people to deny their citizenship for a day.

As for the singing, it needs some work. It's possible the lead singer just didn't have the goods or had a voice that was weakened from travel. Regardless of the excuse, it was bad, and if that weren't enough it was accompanied by screaming. This was un-listenable to my ears and not what the RoSfest doctors ordered. The pair of female backup singers didn't help to heal this gaping gash either. The drums, keyboards, and bass were to some degree tolerable, but when you put the ensemble together with three out-of-sync singers, it was a hard pill to swallow.

I couldn't comprehend the female singer who also played flute. She should have stuck to her instrument more. To me, it was a failed attempt at Jethro Tull, and converse to what was just stated, I didn't think she fit with this band. I give her credit for trying as Jethro Tull is a difficult formula to reenact, and in some ways, it has only been done correctly once in history (unless you count The Tangent, but that's a completely different and revolutionary style at that).

The second song was slightly better, which was promising as I told myself I'd give them three songs to convince me otherwise. Yet, the compositions continued to be weak, and like I said, the singing was horrendous even by progressive rock standards. This band consisted of five men and two women. They could have afforded to bench a member or two for the away game. One less singer may have improved the tonal quality.

Additionally, the outfits were ridiculous to say the least. It was a poor man or woman's version of Pirates Of The Caribbean. The singer, for instance, was wearing a dress [a leather kilt -ed.]. If you were in Ireland, it might be appropriate. With the doo-rag on his head and the rest of the head-banger accessories that he wore to supplement the skullcap, it didn't work one iota.

Through the grapevine, I heard one fact that may explain why they were out of whack. The day before it was the singer's birthday, and like Howard Dean, he may have gotten overly enthusiastic. Sometimes you need to remember where you are and stick to the rehearsed script. Ironically, I saw two cakes in the elevator on the previous night. I recognized one of the impromptu caterers as a RoSfest groupie and the other appeared to be one of the female singers from the band. This was all very late in the evening. In other words, it wasn't just the birthday boy with his head somewhere else before a significant act.

In any case, the crowd picked up on this and engaged in the moment. They sang happy birthday to him, which was good for two reasons. It was an interesting twist as this act seemed chummier with everyone than other bands, and they really got to enjoy their time on stage. They were entertained as much, if not more, than those with paid tickets for admittance. Secondly, I got to hear some people who sang on key. It may have been the only time during this particular slot. If my observations sound mean, it's not my intent. As they say, don't do onto others as you want onto yourself. With that said, I can also take this advice, but they should have taken their set a little more serious. While one fan found them brilliant, others were put out, and I did want to represent these individuals and point out how some people felt. I wouldn't be making these comments if this wasn't the impression I got, and if it weren't true. There are many other young bands I would have liked to see and be given a chance. When it's your time on stage, you need to deliver. On the flip side, this festival is as much about community and culture, and that's what this band proved, but you still need to bring you're A-Game when it's your turn to shine. As with any theatrical or sporting event, there will always be someone there to look up to every player, and I firmly believe it is tough to make good music. I cannot play a lick, but there is a difference between a hobby and a profession. These were paid musicians who were front and center for a professional event. We would all like to be superstars, champions, or athletes, but nobody gets a shot without earning it. They need to go back to the basics, practice and rehearse.

Part of the entertainment came from their comical style. When there was feedback, it made a lot of people jump. Someone in the band stated, "Excuse me!" which made everyone laugh. Some of the stiffer acts can take some of their direction in this category. While some artists are players, others are coaches. They might be better suited for the latter. However, these comical thespians were certainly comfortable in and about the stage.

The third song was an incremental step in the right direction. It was slightly easier to take them serious after they had a few songs under their belt, but it wasn't enough to keep me in my seat. I stayed on for another song and left. Mainly, it was hard to tell when one ended and the next began aside from the goofy humor wedged between the brief gaps. Each song didn't sound entirely different from the next. In their eagerness, it may have be beneficial to slow down, collect their thoughts, and pause, because their music mostly sounded like garbled noise without a lot of order.

If they weren't already off the mark, I wouldn't have thought much about the singer's next remark. He said, "We're going to do a ballad that's particularly hard," and as sure as rain, it hailed.

He continued to work the crowd. He asked "Who likes Prog Rock?" It's a question not too unlike, "Who wants to be a millionaire" when you consider his target. He also said "Hi to Papa Jo" as a woman said if I didn't, she'd have his nuts. See what I mean? Some of this whimsy went over the deep end, and some was just not all that intuitive. He said something about his birthday present having something to do with going 6,000 miles and then going home. I'm not even sure what this means.

As to the ballad, it was not really even a ballad, or at least that's how it came across. Honestly, it didn't sound too different than what came prior.

I noticed a device on the guitar strings that I had seen earlier. This gave the impression that equipment was shared and made for a more sociable atmosphere.

They played a song called, "One World," which was a cross between Dream Theater's "Burning My Soul" and Yes. As a twist, we received a series of pleasant flutes and a keyboard solo that was not all that bad. In retrospect, the Retroheads had their moments.

All the while, the feedback ensured, and there was now scream-like singing from one of the ladies. The singer then stated, "Don't mess with the classics." Actually, he didn't really say "mess," but chose an expletive instead. This guy really liked to swear. Also, I wasn't sure if he was criticizing the last piece or talking about removing himself from a song. [Yes, I think so, the latter -ed.] Despite his meaning, the bassist sang on the next one. He may have very well been the most talented guy in the band.

During this set, someone slept on the couch in the hall while another slept in the balcony. Likewise, the coffeehouses and cafes were full.

The act was different especially in terms of personality, and the drum solo in the middle was decent.

The singer gave George Roldan, who is one of the coordinators, a horn helmet. As if on cue, he asked again if anyone was from Norway. The entire crowd cheered and jeered.

People stepped on and off the stage, and he shouted, "Were losing men here!" I guess you could say this wasn't gender neutral considering the makeup of their band. [That was in response to Dennis Haley, keyboard tech, coming on stage to fix Ann-Kristin Bendixen's keyboard ... which had stopped working/lost power; he wasn't able to get it back up -ed.]

In their best moments, they were like Pallas or Mostly Autumn, yet they wrote poor compositions and they were often off-key. These are not perfectionists in the least.

As if he were in a beer commercial, the singer stated, "I love you guys" and then he mentioned something to the effect of there being no more guitar solos. He expressed that for a couple days, they were treated like royalty. Then he stated, "I hope you have your recorders on. Bootleg the hell out of it." Again, "hell" is only a placeholder for more of his debauchery.

Later, after a long break, I returned to my seat. I sat in various spots for the sake of acoustics. I thought they might seem better with a fresh mind, at a different time, or from an alternate angle. I gave this band both a second and a third chance, but in the end, no dice.

They seemed like nice enough people, and I wanted to like it. I was also in a state where I really wanted to see music performed live. As if in a room with likable peers, I was ultimately driven away from fingernails on the chalkboard.

The female harmonies and IQ keys sounded alright, but the feedback at the wrong time didn't help. When they weren't yelling, they put many to sleep with their ambient beats.

This band should post a classified ad that states they are in need of a songwriter. I'm sure Spock's Beard's part-time helper, John Boeghold, would be more than happy to assist. He did Spock's Beard a lot of good. Enough about them, as they are late arrivals who will be addressed in another post.

Speaking which, it turns out that the bassist is the songwriter, and he is no Jonas Reingold, who for me is the gold standard for bassists who compose their own songs.

Retroheads came and they were seen, which is something in its own right, but they didn't conquer. I provide this advice: If at first you don't succeed, go back to the drawing board.


[See Stephanie's take on this festival - ed.]

Added: May 28th 2007
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner

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