Monday, 9 October 2017

ProgPower Europe - Sjiwa Baarlo, 7-8 October 2017

First weekend of October means ProgPower. A National holiday in Portugal, Josie over for a long weekend and a dinner on Thursday made me drive down to Baarlo on Saturday morning. This meant I missed Sleepmakeswaves (whom I still know absolutely nothing about apart from some comments the next day) and Voyager. Now Voyager continues their tour supporting Uneven Structure in Europe and next Sunday they play nearby Leiden. At least that is what I assume, still nothing announced on that front. For us Progpower also means Camping de Berckt. This year we ended up with eight and had space enough in two mobile homes. While the Castle is the core of beerswapping tables and PPEU Family feeling, the camping also has its regulars. So we did run into Mario and Luigi two years ago and Mexicans last year. This year the castle had a bonus on Thursday. As the PPEU Organization did not book a band like last year to play the Chapel on Thursday night, Alex took the initiative to have Damian Wilson coming over and treat the early arrivers on an acustic set. Pity I missed that. What I did not miss was the return of now outside fixed point Pois Chic with their Vegetarian Foodtruck. On the Sunday Andy and Debbie even promoted that other huge musical event of 2017, taking place in Musicon 8 December. But let's focus on the music now. One interesting fact about ProgPower is, that I have made many friends through the years with musical tastes awfully close to mine. Yet during PPEU everyone picks their own favorites and this is therefore my view on performances, which I already learned during the days was not a consensus by far.

Saturday was opened by German band Cataya. They did not only open Progpower for me, but also opened Post-Rock Saturday afternoon. If there was to be a consensus on this year's edition it must have been the overdosis on light post rock/metal bands this year. I do appreciate one such a band, but by the line-up this year we were treated on three in a row. Cataya were the first and therefore kept me in for sixty minutes. Main observation was that their songs were long and not very different between them. Second they got their inspiration for the stage setup from the toilets in Moonlight/Diest. This meant we saw the men sideways for sixty minutes. Decent gig, but far from exciting to me. Next on were Blindead from Poland. They play similarish, but brought a vocalist. While staying for the sixty minutes inside the Sjiwa I do not remember a lot. (I do not take notes and write fast after shows from memory normally) They had their louder outbursts, but again kept me away from the merch table afterwards. Now the problem was that my Post rock acceptance bucket was close to be full and Kauan was on next. I do have their previous album Sorni Nai and quite like it. When they started I could see they would probably be the best band of the afternoon, yet bucketoverload and I went outside for a falafel wrap. Kauan looked to be the youngest band from the festival. They also were the first band with a minority of beards in the band (helped by female keys). It seems definitely a Prog thing to grow a beard nowadays, but luckily looking around the older generations I still see razorblades are OK to use. Speaking of older generation visitors, I missed my good friend Andrew who could not make it this year. I am pretty sure he would have been able to describe in poetic prosa what he thought about three bands in a row of rather introvert post rock. Dinner Break.

After the dinner break things could only get better as Atrox were on next. They were one of the best surprises in 2008 and they are the band of whom I owned most CD's (4) before the festival. I decided to see this show from the front in order to feel the show blazing over me. Well it was all back on stage. The one-armed vocalist and his megaphone and the barefooted bassist with his undercooled sense of humor. Now Atrox started their career with female vocals so the songs played only came from their last two albums. Fine with me I liked this mix of electronics, industrial and progmetal. If ever Progmetal can be sexy, Atrox played it and the hour flew by for me. Being Dutch there were two comments from the side (not calling them complaints). They brought the same cool T-shirt as 9 years ago and still only in small sizes. We are the tallest people of the world and the PPEU audience reflects that well. Missed chance. Finally were was Tight Tie? If Atrox ever wrote one uberhit it must have been Tight Tie. For We Are Many closed things off now and actually sounded pretty nice as well.  With the first victory set down it was up to Pyramaze to follow this. Well they had no problems doing that as they were obviously the metal band of the day. Hearing a set of headbangers seemed me to be a relieve to many, or refreshing if you like. I do not have any of their albums, but loved the show for the needed variation in the day. Melodic Power Prog metal as we saw before in previous years went down well. So Norway and Denmark turned the day into a good one after all, leaving it to Swedish Soen to close the day in style. Well they managed to do that. I saw them tour Lykaia in in April and the set seemed similar. While they also play atmospheric prog metal they do know how to keep my attention and work with loud-soft bridges. Seeing them in a full Sjiwa (biggest audience of the weekend) added to the fun. What also helped were the clapping hands plus two chicken legs. The mood was great and Soen showed why making them headliner was deserved. Now I am wondering if I go see them again in Lisbon with Madder Mortem. We decided this year to leave the afterparties for what they are (hangover guarantees) and created our own in the trailer with wonderfull spicy knackworstjes.

Sunday we needed to be back at 13:30 as opener Semistereo were so nice the day before to start spreading their PPEU-EP. Your Drama it was called and anything but a drama we got. I love it when one of the surprises of the weekend is actually the only Dutch band on the line-up. I did not know them, but liked the way they performed and gave us a show. Musically also some alternative rock seemed blended in, but their performance was making up for the lighter parts. For an unknown opening band they came over really well and won some fans I guess. I think for me they shall be better live than on album, but if in the area I go and see them again. Next band was from Serbia/Chile Organized Chaos. While hearing small bits on forehand I thought of old Pain of Salvation. So this was annother band to move closer to the stage. Well that was a wise decision as we would be treated on a spectacle for ears and eyes. First outstanding point were the extremely strong vocals and the dramatic performance around them Then the band was also very interesting  with today some help from David Maxim Micic on keys. This was not easy listening and musically we went all over the place. The loud bass/guitar bits were a comfort in this Organized Chaos indeed. They had my sympathy during the show and I knew I was going to get their album afterwards. And then they came almost to the end and we got one of those moments of Progpower history we will remember. For their next song Hey God they wanted to invite Jesus on stage (or a lookalike at least, he did no wonders) At that very moment Lee, David and Mark walked up to the front. For reasons of being British (non European) they thought it made sense to come to PPEU today as Thunderbirds. Well if ever a vocalist reacted well to a surprise from the audience it was Vladimir. He invited the Thunderbirds on stage and asked the audience to shout for Jesus to come on stage as well. That resulted in a full stage, but with some hilarious scenes to close the set. For me the most entertaining band of the day. While writing I now listen to the Inner Conflict CD. I might need another 28 spins before getting it all. It's these surprises that make PPEU always a succes to me. And then Brutai came on a gave us heavy djent. I was too much in Organized Chaos afterglow to give them a fair chance. Friends liked them and I could appreciate the heaviness of it all. Maybe another time I will see them with an open mind. Now I just needed food before the dinner break would present us queues. Dinner Break.

After the dinner break Hemina would be on. Now for reasons I do not know I never looked into Hemina before. This is strange as some people who introduced me to other good progmetal bands liked them and vocalist Douglas Skene is also member of the best prog rock band from the last decade Anubis. I saw him on stage in de Boerderij a few years ago and he was pretty much calmer than this afternoon. So I expected Progressive rock. Well first we had the introduction of the band which reintroduced us to neighbouring rivalry with New Zealand. From the other side of the globe it , is hard to understand, but my thoughts went back to my former colleague the late Ron Beveridge (New Zealander) who described Australia as the country where the men are men and the sheep are getting nervous. Well being Christian I would not throw that at Douglas' face either as he is big. More important Hemina turned out to be a kick-ass band that was for me the best surprise of the weekend. In come the double guitars firing fast riffs and long solo's at us without interruption. The band on stage was nice to watch and the music was the style of Progmetal I love. Closing in on Heavy Metal and full of solo's with an occassional break by keys or even sax (both from tape). Turned out afterwards they were nice guys as well, who seemed to love having the chance to play ProgPower. Playing ther last album Venus in the car back to home it sounded as good as they were live on stage. Following up a highlight is always hard and Toehider had to do it. Setting some ballpark first, I am not a big Ayreon fan and did not see the singer  in 013. Nor do I know any music from the band. Actually the first time I read about them, was when they advertised a lot in Prog magazine. The returning toe did not look all too funny. Well the halll filled up well for Toehider as obvious I am a minority missing out Ayreon live in September. Unfortunately it did not take very long for me to find out that Toehider are not my thing. It was obvious that the guy can sing and play an interesting bit on guitar. What I missed were songs. To me it seemed to be all about the gimmick, so after fifteen minutes I left the hall, leaving an audience who obviously liked Toehider much better. Hans, already in the basement bar before me, mentioned Primus as a reference, another band we never got. And then it was all over already and Tesseract closed the 2017 Edition. The first time I saw Tesseract supporting Protest the Hero. I then thought that djent with a young audience should be mixed with Progpower. Last year I saw Tesseract headlining and having in The Contortionist a brilliant support. Slowly I learned that I like Tesseract for forty minutes. So when they headlined Progpower I stayed while still liking them and then had my final beers outside. Good thing was that Phoenix passed early in the set, as this is an absolute killer song.

So resuming this was for me not the best line-up ever, but that did not make me feel any less on a cloud during the weekend. So many nice people walking around, the atmosphere always is the best you can imagine and the people from Baarlo love the weekend and make you feel welcome. Thanks to the organization of giving us this party and for those who were there, bringing the atmosphere.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the report, gives me a good impression of what I missed (and the bands I wouldn't have cared about anyway).