RoSFest 2008 (May 2008) (2)

Date of Performance: May 2 - May 4, 2008
Venue: Keswick Theater, Glenside, PA, US

RoSfest 2008 - The Big Easy

Everything was unfamiliar in this year's RoSfest. It featured new groups and a new venue. To be honest, it went by so fast, whereas every other year there has been some sort of hassle. With the hotel less than ten minutes away, it was easily the easiest one yet. I almost cannot believe it's over. Even the acoustics and the food at this locale were superior.

As of right now, I look forward to the next one. I eagerly await the announcements just as long as they don't bait and switch one of my pet bands for a garage band or for that matter; a pet rock.

In Crack The Sky's defense; many fans came exclusively to see them. As for me, I almost dropped out of this retreat when The Flower Kings turned down the invitation. At first I thought spackle was used to fill the black hole (or in this case, would it be the other way around?). Now I've come full circle.

In any case, for me, two distinct memories were Ambrosia and Credo.

They are nothing alike but serve the same purpose. One is relatively known while the other is not. One was a headliner while the other was not. One brought in crowds early that left early while the other brought in crowds that arrived late and stayed late. Most importantly, one got me to my intended destination while the other powered down because its battery lost its charge.

It's kind of like comparing a bicycle to a Segway. Now the only question is, which band is which? I'll let you decide as soon as you read the specs. With all its hype, the latter is bulkier, slower, and costlier plus it has a limited range, whereas the other offers physical activity by making the muscle in your skull work and think.

Many fans looked forward to Ambrosia and approved of their results. I cannot say the same. While it appeared they had talent, the pedigree and a stellar resume, they totally lacked synergy. To me, it seemed as if their act was hodgepodge'd together. They may have been among the elite back in their heyday and practiced before showing up, but they looked closer to a reunion band that very first day back in the rehearsal room than a headliner. Then again, I am not too familiar with Ambrosia nor do I know any of their songs.

Maybe it's an entirely different experience when presented to a weathered fan. As for the rest of the world, postpone your re-acquaintance until they get their act fine-tuned.

For the record, I don't wish complete dismantlement or that they prematurely pull the plug to their restart. It's just that I like to see musicians come back from retirement and strive. So I am definitely in their corner. One can only hope that they take the time to work together and bring practiced acumen to their next gig. While cram sessions may get you through the midterm, they usually don't prep you for a prog band's full-blown final examination ... known to the community as a music festival.

By the way, Ambrosia is responsible for three of the most well-known songs ever: "Biggest Part Of Me", "You're The Only Woman (You & I)," and "How Much I Feel." I couldn't believe it when I heard them in a YouTube featurette. Now I understand why it was a big deal for them to return to the stage and why they had to be headliners. What I could not comprehend is why they didn't play a single one of their popular songs in concert. [Cuz they ain't prog and would surely have been run outta town if'n they had - ed.]

I left a few songs early so maybe that might explain my puzzlement.

Here's Ambrosia's current line-up:

Joe Puerta - lead vocals, bass guitar
Christopher North - organ, piano, keyboards
Burleigh Drummond - backing vocals, drums, percussion
David Cutler Lewis - piano, keyboards
Doug Jackson - backing vocals, lead guitar
Shem Von Schroeck - lead vocals, backing vocals

Well, that's the festival preview. On the flip side, the last "official" day started with Credo. Actually, up to this point, they were the most impressive act to perform. The frontman was about as funny as a comedian and about as compelling as a car salesman.

Their songs told twisted stories of fallen romances and soldier accounts, and each was delivered with decidedly passionate overtones. I can guarantee that they earned themselves at least one new fan that day. Odds are they did well with merch, too.

Their singer, Mark Colton, was practically mobbed afterwards by people who wanted to ask questions and shake his hand. I'm certain they've increased their mailing list as well.

Colton had a lot of history to recount between the numbers. Just like Jack says to Harry in The Four Feathers, Colton states "Yes I did, and yes I did." Yet those two friends from the cinema were talking about a cavalry charge. Colton, however, was talking about giving a ride to an ex-girlfriend's sister.

You know what? Even I'm impressed with myself for drawing that analogy and putting those vastly different references together.

Anyhow, it's kind of applicable when you consider the fact that the topics of their songs vacillated between women and war. When the precious memories of this festival fade away, you can be rest assured that Credo's performance will be long remembered.

Here's Credo's set-list:

The Game
Skin Trade
Turn The Gun
Seems Like Yesterday
Too Late...
...To Say Goodbye
An unnamed song due to be released on the next album
The Letter
From the Cradle...
...To The Grave

And their line-up:

Mark Colton (vocals)
Tim Birrell (guitar)
Martin Meads (drums, percussion)
Jim Murdoch (bass & vocals)
Mike Varty (keyboards, violin & vocals)

Okay, I take it that it wasn't so hard to figure out which personal transportation devices went with each act. In spite of my criticism, it's not so much that Ambrosia was bad but that the other bands were great. I also felt I would only have the stamina to sit through two-thirds of the bands. There had to be an early sacrifice. This turned out for the best as I sat through the next six bands in their entirety.

Contrarily, Credo was really that good. If I were to put them up against most any band, I'd direct the majority of my positive commentary towards them. Not to mention, I'd choose planes, trains, automobiles and even running shoes over a Segway. Even so, I'd like to try one someday because it's still pretty cool.

As for the tail end of the festival, having my fill and wanting to end on a high note, my crew and I left before Wishbone Ash and Crack the Sky took the stage. I heard due to scheduling conflicts, they switched places.

Truthfully, I was troubled by the fact that The Flower Kings pulled out of the show. So this could also be construed as a boycott of sorts; though I have nothing against either of these bands. To be honest, I plan to see Wishbone Ash the next time they tour through my backyard. As for Crack the Sky, I can only imagine how they performed that night. I was told that some people came explicitly to see them. Since the acts on Saturday and Sunday played way beyond their abilities, there is no reason to doubt Ash/Crack didn't do the same.

Looking back, the same cannot be said of those who played on Friday; and in general, the undercard did better than the headliners. Since the lightweights outnumbered the heavys two-to-one, that's certainly not the worst that could happen. Ultimately, this festival was a success, and for someone who almost didn't go, I am pleased with myself for rethinking what could have been a regrettable mistake.

[As for the six other bands that have gone unmentioned (Black Bonzo, Blind Ego, Circa, GPS, Ritual, and RPWL), you can find reviews at: And, of course, in Steph's report here.]

Added: May 23rd 2008
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner

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