ROSFest 2006 (April 2006) (2)

Date of Performance: April 28 - 30, 2006
Venue: The Colonial Theater, Phoenixville, PA, US

The Rites of Spring 2006 festival was held April 28 - 30, 2006 at The Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, the first day of the of weekend being Friday night's pre-show. correspondent Joshua Turner was at the festival and filed brief reports on some of the weekend's artists.

This is the first year I made it a point to see each band. I'm glad I did as I would have missed a megaton of entertaining moments.

However, there's a minor exception and I find it hard to lie. After sampling a few songs from The Watch, I must admit to exiting early. This had more to do with my own stamina than anything to do with this band's quality.

After a wrong turn followed by more navigational blunders, I met up with other fellow RoSfesters at a fast food joint. The ironic aspect of this story is that they stayed for the duration of the last and final set. I wished I would have kept to my seat and suckled every last drop. Technically, it wouldn't have affected my timetable. In any event (no pun intended), I have very few regrets.

While my favorite year is still the first, and my favorite band, The Tangent, played in the second, it was still a good year nonetheless. This can be accredited mostly to Magic Pie, Karmakanic, and possibly even Pallas. Not to mention, the remaining acts certainly pulled their own weight.

My primary complaint is that nothing began on schedule, but I'm told this is part of the experience. I'm sure chaos ensued at Woodstock, Lollapalooza, or anything planned on the Isle of Wight. Aside from this insignificant dig, there is not much else to nitpick.

We can expect the festival's attendance to increase exponentially in the years to come. The word on the street is that there are many surprises in the works and a couple grandiose ideas are presently being put through the grinder.

I expect next year's event to surpass all others, especially if they secure a very talented band I suspect they've already gone and solicited. A couple announcements are already in (Pendragon, Frost, and Anyone's Daughter), so it's starting to shape up. With this one in the bag, all we can do is reminisce and look forward to the future.

Year One: 9/10 (Best All-Around Mix)

Year Two: 8.75/10 (Best Band & Closer)

Year Three: 8.25/10 (Pretty good, but not like the others.)

Year Four & Beyond: 10/10 (One can only hope!)

Here then are my thoughts on some of the weekend's bands:

Friday Night Pre-Show

Ephemeral Sun (photo: © Stephanie Sollow)EPHEMERAL SUN (6pm) - This was interesting and different. Actually, to be precise, it was much different. It had heavy undertones. This fact alone wasn't enough to set it apart. It was the vocals that made it unique. Their singer, Laurie Ann Haus, mostly sang high notes. Each one was long and drawn out. Instrumentally, they were driven by angst. Vocally, they were ethereal. Overall, it was too weird and slow for my tastes, but I do give them credit for taking an original approach. Their musicianship was respectable, making this a suitable band to start the festivities.

John Young (photo: © Stephanie Sollow)JOHN YOUNG (7:45pm) - Filling in for Peter Banks [and the scheduled Harmony In Diversity*], John Young whipped together a show literally at the last second. Had nobody told me, I would have never known. As a one-man-act, he was ultra-impressive. If you closed your eyes, you would have imagined a complete band. While his feet were planted in front of his equipment, to say he was busy would have been a gross understatement. He toggled, tweaked, and banged out a barrage of notes. Later in the weekend, I talked with him and asked him how he conquered this imposing task. He explained that it stemmed from a live recording of his full ensemble. With the keyboards removed, he basically played over the music. Again, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Since, he was actually playing on stage; you can't really accuse him of pulling a Milli Vanilli or an Ashlee Simpson. Any way you break it down, Young put on a great show. I really enjoyed the "Underside" (anagram for undesired) song and the one that was explicitly earmarked as a "Prog" song. His performance, in addition to his presence, was a welcome surprise. However, when I heard his name announced, I initially thought it was the bassist from Dream Theater. It didn't take me that long to realize I misinterpreted the name.

NEO (photo: © Stephanie Sollow)NEO (9:30pm) - Nobody knew what to expect from this band, as it pulled in several notorious names from several big bands. [Or we knew exactly what to expect for the same reason ;-) - ed.] That would include Andy Edwards (drums), John Jowitt (bass), Clive Nolan (keyboards), and Mark Westwood (guitars). At later stages, they brought in additional members as well. First came Alan Reed, the vocalist from Pallas. Unfortunately, his voice seemed extremely weak and hoarse, especially for someone who was regarded as a supergroup's special guest. You could tell he had the pipes, but he probably needed to rest them. One avid follower mentioned that he is not the type to slow down and take it easy. A word of advice to all the vocalists out there: settle down as needed or risk blowing out your voice. Regardless of the strained notes emanating from his lips, he was one hell of a performer. He had exuberance, energy, and flair unlike anything I've seen from any other frontman. Afterwards, Nick Barrett arrived on stage to oohs and ahhs from the crowd. He was in constant connection with the crowd and his voice was quite inimitable. I was happy to see him join this collection of artists, but I was disheartened to see he didn't bring along his acoustic. While he sang, he strummed, but stuck solely to his electric. Peter Banks was also supposed to be a guest on stage, but by this point, it was obvious he'd be absent. Neo played songs from each of their respective bands. This would include IQ, Arena, Shadowland, Jadis, Pallas, and the Clive Nolan/Oliver Wakeman Project. We also got a glut of Pendragon tunes. From their archives, they retrieved "Nostradamus (Stargazing)" and this song appealed to many in attendance. It was such a hit; they played it again at the "meet & greet," which took place the following night. This band was definitely a draw and they did enough to substantiate the effort. It was well-worth the time of everyone involved who brought these talented folks stateside. Also, the biggest surprise of this act wasn't in their song selection or in their members, but what one member did. John Jowitt sang and to everyone's amazement, this bloke was quite good. It's rare to find bassists who can chirp without screeching. Then again, you have to consider Paul McCartney, Geddy Lee, and Doug Pinnick to name a few. With that said, Jowitt belongs on the short stack, too.


Mirthrandir (photo: © Stephanie Sollow)MIRTHRANDIR (11pm to 12:30pm) - Not knowing much about the band and also considering their slot as the main festival opener, I didn't expect much. It turns out these guys haven't been in the limelight for years. It didn't matter as they came, played, and conquered. The singer had one of the better voices in attendance. He also played the flute. The results were Classic Rock with a twinge of the Progressive. You could tell they enjoyed being on stage and the audience certainly appreciated their passion and gusto. For an act that came on in the early hours of a long day, they started the event off with a weighty whack of the hammer.

HamadryadHAMADRYAD (2pm to 3:30pm) - In my opinion, this band was the biggest disappointment. It seemed like they had potential and it's prevalent in their albums. On stage, however, the singer was way out of synch and absurdly out of pitch. It was enough to ruin their whole act. Instrumentally, they were imposing. Then again, they didn't transition well and in turn, it was extremely hard to follow. What is a Hamadryad by the way? I don't know, but fortunately for the band, many who have come before have used this festival as a springboard. Little Atlas, Frogg Café, and Salem Hill had respectable showings, but what came later on, were masterpieces in the studio. Maybe Hamadryad, or better yet, Humpty Dumpty, can follow suit and pick up the broken pieces. Sad to say, all the kings' horses and all the kings' men couldn't put this one back together again. With this one in the books, the best they can do is look towards the future. [Jonas Reingold's project Karmakanic followed, then... -ed.]

Satellite (photo: © Stephanie Sollow)SATELLITE (9-11:30pm) - When they announced this band at the end of last year's show, I was kind of stumped. While any band would have trouble following up The Tangent, I couldn't comprehend why they would choose a band who only had two live performances under their belt. Not to mention, their style is extremely slow and tedious, dare I say dreary. In other words, they didn't possess the kind of liveliness or vigor that would leave fans on the same kind of high as last year's closer. I didn't expect much and I tried to be open-minded, especially since many people seemed to be looking forward to this band. [Me included -ed.] I hate to say it; they sounded a bit samey and quite frankly, bored me stiff. To be fair, this is not my cup of tea, so I might not be the best one to critique them. Others chose them as their favorite. Yet, if I had to score them, I'd tilt their grade in the opposite direction. They performed well, but neither their energy level nor their skill in the songwriting department left much to be desired. They weren't the worst band at the event, but they were definitely vying for that spot.


Magic Pie (photo: © Stephanie Sollow)Sunday featured Magic Pie, The Pineapple Thief, Pallas and The Watch... all of whom I reported on elsewhere exclusively. [So then, I'll note that Magic Pie were expected to be the "Sunday Surprise" that Cryptic Vision had been the year before - and they didn't disappoint; I personally found The Pineapple Thief a little too dreary and samey... not how I found Satellite, by the way. :). Pallas' set was split between material from The Dreams Of Men and a "hit parade" of past Pallas pieces voiced by original singer Euan Lowson... including the infamous "The Ripper" and The Watch closed the day with their heavily Genesis -- classic Genesis -- influenced set of art rock. -ed.

[*Airport snafus pre-empted HID and Banks' attendance; Young was scheduled to play a dinner time concert on Saturday and so was in town and able to step in -ed.

[See also Steph's report]

Added: July 23rd 2006
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner

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