Fully rested from last night's exciting concerts, and provided with a delicious nutritious base from a traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages and other pre-Brexit nostalgics, it was around the clock of one when I made my way again to Zoetermeer.
Wondering during the journey as to how many like-minded prog fans would be joining me on this festive Easter day I arrived perfectly on time and entered the venue, quickly to find out that attendance was still surprisingly low. Apart from the Boerderij staff, it existed mainly out of three-day ticket holders, a few anticipating day-visitors like me, and one particular fan in a space suit. Indeed.
Yuval Ron and his crew, Yatziv Caspi (drums) and Victor Nissim (bass), all wearing NASA space suits for the occasion, made their way onto the stage and welcomed the happy few. It was this moment that the aforementioned spaceman hopped on stage faster than the Easter bunny, asking for a quick selfie, ignoring the obvious "after-the-gig" answer.
Met by laughter and astonishment, the trio launched off their set with Somewhere In This Universe, Somebody Hits A Drum, one of the more approachable songs in Ron's eclectic repertoire, where he uses his voice as an instrument to guide the engaging intro melodies. This part is soon followed by a sequenced twist that warps the song into an extravaganza of dazzling prog-fusion, designed with all around yaw-to-the-floor performances and astonishingly surgical hand-eye coordination from Ron. In my belief, his ten finger hammer-pyrotechnics will leave Eddie van Halen impersonators hypnotised in awe.
Wifi In Emerald City followed, with Ron's mind-boggling string gymnastics, creating a relentless vision of Dixie Dregs meets Lucas Lee, after which the song morphs into an intense metal-tangled space oddity reminiscent of King Crimson. Kuiper Belt and The Discovery Of Phoebe added a divine touch of sensitivity and immaculately restrained play to this, with excellence of bass and otherworldly Vai-like guitar work.
A short outlined invitation by Ron to create music together by means of handclaps then led into the daringly complex I Believe In Astronauts, which was magnificently held together by impossible virtuoso play from Caspi. A final salute in the shape of the equally impressive and wonderfully performed Greetings Earthlings marked the end of Ron's astounding and technically intoxicating set. Shortly after, the still anonymous spaceman from before immortalised the stellar performing trio from behind the drum-kit.
I made my way to the open space next to the bar to let this far out experience sink in.
Somewhere In This Universe, Somebody Hits A Drum Wifi In Emerald City Kuiper Belt The Discovery Of Phoebe I Believe In Astronauts Greetings, Earthling
Half an hour later, Kyros was up. In high spirits of celebrating their own 10th anniversary since their transformation from Synaesthesia into Kyros, having performed their very first show at De Boerderij in support of IQ in 2013, the band started out with ResetRewind. A superb opener that instantly energised and impressed the audience with its attractive eclectic array of styles. A brilliant fusion of synth pop, progressive rock, and touches of metal. To me, this exciting whole is like Leprous meets Voyager, due to the splashing waves of synths, the complex rhythms, and sprightly vibrant 80s atmosphere.
Their sound system, however, turned out to be not so lively. Over the next two songs, Rumour and Technology Killed The Kids, the band, while having tremendous fun on stage, experienced some technical issues. Something which they tackled in the end through perseverance and a short improvisation of Primus' My Name Is Mud by bassist Peter Episcopo. After Persistence of Perfection, as if by magic, all issues were resolved, right in time for what proved to be one of the highlights of the day, namely their recently released single The End In Mind (video here).
Next to an incredible catchy 80s pop feel, enforced by electronic drums (Robin Johnson), this enthusiastically funkalicious song delivered a dazzling prog-metal-inspired break with A.C.T.-like chemistry, complemented by excellent guitar parts by Joey Frevola, and various sparkling synth outbursts from vocalist/keyboard player Shelby Logan Warne. Unable to resist the tantalising, almost euphoric melodies, it urged several fans in the first row to once again dance along to the music. And they say prog fans don't dance...
The atmospheric Stop Motion and the inventively complex and virtuous unrivalled UNO Attack followed. Sentry was on the setlist but skipped due to time constraints, but then the epic In Vantablack rounded off their exhilarating set. This one includes superb harmony vocals, rap, and prog-melodic treats. The band soared through this fantastic song with compelling ease and in the quite moments near the end of the song one could literally hear a pin drop within the audience's silent appreciations.
Kyros' formidable performance tasted like more and I can only hope they will return for a longer show. Although for the moment this remains uncertain, as the band are in search for a new bassist after a recent amicable split with Episcopo. Send your application directly to the band please!
ResetRewind Rumour Technology Killed The Kids Persistence of Perfection The End In Mind Stop Motion UNO Attack In Vantablack
Providing RanestRane with sufficient time to prepare the stage for their "Cineconcerto" (cinematic concert), the break that followed Kyros' performance lasted a little longer than planned. It gave everyone attending the opportunity to savour a tasty meal. Standing in line to order, I coincidentally bumped into former DPRP team member André de Boer. After both opting for the Satay (it has to be said that the vegetarian option looked equally appealing and the sampled tofu tasted great), we settled ourselves in the cafe for a long conversation to catch up. Time passes quickly when you're having fun so once we had finished our meal and beverages, RanestRane were about to start to a crowd that in the meantime had doubled in size.
Last time, in fact the only time, I actually witnessed the band was when they supported Steve Rothery in 2018. This amounted merely to a short 20-minutes experience, but all of those minutes impressed and ended up in me indulging with a few albums including a copy of their latest album A Space Odyssey: Starchild. Sure enough their performance this time around made me secure their latest offering Apocalypse Now. Like true Romans RanestRane came, saw and conquered Zoetermeer by storm.
Backed up by a huge backdrop screen the stage setup was almost identical as the one presented in Uden with, from left to right, drummer/vocalist Daniele Pomo and Riccardo Romano (keys, backing vocals) situated at the back, fronted by Maurizio Meo (bass) and Massimo Pomo (guitars). The main difference, not counting the latter two swapped places, was that Boerderij's larger and wider stage gave the audience ample of viewing space for the projections that over the course of the evening rolled along with their hugely entertaining and tightly performed "Italian" styled (neo)-progressive rock.
The first half of their announced "retrospective" show featured various tracks from their The Space Odyssey trilogy, accompanied by scenes from Stanley Kubrick's iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey, upon which this trilogy is based. With each member on top of their game, the set opened with the atmospheric Materna Luna and Monolith II. These songs quickly became a revelation in combination with the projections, especially in light of the all-around spirited way with which these songs were played. Performances that next to a strong dose of driving power and dynamic bombast were highlighted by magnificent Rothery/David Gilmour inspired guitar work, soaring atmospheric keys and strong expressive vocals from a relaxed looking and fully focussed Daniele.
After the compelling Computer Malfunction and two of the songs that impressed me years ago (Sogneró Mai and Stargate), RanestRane then, over the next three songs, exceeded all my expectations. First with a moving version of L'ultimo Incontro from their debut Nosferatu Il Vampiro. A beautiful passage of romantic piano and a passionate vocal performance by Daniele perfectly matched the visuals of Nosferatu's emotionally tormented story.
And second, by the masterfully achieved symbioses of spellbinding visuals from Kubrick's psychological masterpiece The Shining flowing in minute synchronicity to the magical haunting music of Incubo and Redrum from Shining. Emphasized by sinister eerie keys from Romano and mesmerising melodies by outstanding guitar play, it was especially Daniele's sledgehammer-like blows that became a fully unforgettable experience in making the iconic Here's Johnny bathroom scene come frighteningly alive.
Playmate's victoriously energetic bombardment of classic 70s (prog)rock cast powerful impressions of Deep Purple and ended their sublime and massively impressive set. This was instantly replied to with a massive response from the audience, who shortly after emptied their wallets at the busy merchandise stand.
If by chance you have the opportunity to see them perform in Alphen Aan Den Rijn on the 26th of May at Parkvilla, then by all means, go! It is said they are to perform an evening-filling set that includes the entire Apocalypse Now series.
Materna Luna Monolith II Computer Malfunction Sognerò mai? Stargate L'ultimo incontro Incubo Redrum Playmate
After this unparalleled performance, the venue started to fill up nicely with many new faces who had travelled to Zoetermeer especially to see Galaxy's performance. In my mind, although I didn't actually witness the Friday night, I reckon Galaxy drew the largest crowd of the festival. Maybe not so surprising after an absence of 25 years, not counting the two very successful try out shows they did in Drieborg and Engelbert just three weeks prior to this official reunion show.
I positioned myself centre stage in front of Bart Schwertmann (bass, vocals) as their stage set-up progressed. Here I witnessed an extremely calm and relaxed smiling Nils Lingbeek (guitars, backing vocals) finish his soundcheck by simply placing his pedals down and saying hi into the microphone. A completely different affair to Ard Offers (keys, backing vocals) and Nils Offers (drums) who were still in a frenzy of getting their instruments sorted out.
After they left the stage once all was functioning, it only took a few moments before the lights dimmed and the foursome, accompanied by projections of their profiles on the screen that was still there from the previous set, stepped onto the stage one by one and, to warm applause and started the integral set of their masterpiece Runaway Men. With the swirling Answers as set opener, it became clear that the band was eagerly looking forward to the show, personified by the excellent performance of Schwertmann. In addition to his strong vocals, had clearly grown in his dual role as bassist and singer when compared to three weeks ago.
He regularly fired solid, overwhelming bass parts at the audience when the instrumental passages within the music allowed this. Standing directly opposite to Schwertmann's gear, it did deliver some overpowering effects to the music and drowned out some of the subtleties enclosed in the formidably performed songs. This was also the case during the newly arranged Look Into My Eyes and Never The Same. Stunning songs that, through excellent harmonies, rhythmic tightness, sparkling keys and beautiful melodic guitar work by Lingbeek, were gobbled up like a sweet pie by the audience.
After the majestic breather of In Her Head, which next to enchanting six-string play from Lingbeek demonstrated that Schwertmann knows his way around a 12-string guitar in equal measure, the overpowering bass effect had disappeared. Right in time for the brilliant Queensrÿche-inspired Lady Of Fire. Soaring through the magnificent Talk To Me, which had all the power, energy and overwhelming performance, it was then time for the instrumental Gallery Play.
At least, instrumental is how Schwertmann announced it, and this he probably should not have done. Like the ravishing version as played in Drieborg, it did contain vocals, which from where I was standing were completely inaudible. Probably a momentarily switched off microphone was to blame. Switched on again, it was the marvellous Runaway Man that ended their performance. Once again this was highlighted by a passionately emotional performance from Schwertmann, surrounded by phenomenal touches from Lingbeek. The Offers brothers put everything within their power towards the orgasmic interpretation of the song.
More shows have been announced and future plans are taking shape so all that's left to say after this captivating show is: welcome back gentleman and see you again down the road!
Answers Look Into My Eyes Never The Same In Her Head Lady Of Fire Talk To Me Gallery Play Runaway Man
Whether it was the event's programming, Easter Sunday, or progressive tiredness experienced from a long day, or a combination of those, I don't know. Fact is that, like the day before, the main act, IceFish, played to approximately the same reduced percentage of the audience as Solstice the day before.
Or maybe it was simply down to the late timings, for contrary to all the other bands, Donati brought his own drum-kit which took a considerable amount of time to assemble. Together with other technical delays, this caused the programming to run in overtime and might have resulted in some leaving early.
None of this didn't stop IceFish in their quest to win over the audience with their tour-de-force of technically brilliant and energetically charged prog-metal. The band features musicians Marco Sfogli (guitar), Alex Argento (keyboards), and Andrea Casali (bass/vocals), alongside world-renowned drummer Virgil Donati (Soul SirkUS, Planet X).
Right from the start, with Revolution, they lavishly sprinkled with phenomenal virtuoso play. Counter-rhythms, complexity and other impossible musical structures were the order of the day. Donati indulged in incredibly tight versatile drumming. Sound-technically the keyboards got bogged down a bit in the mix, but fortunately they floated to the surface as the concert progressed and the band relentlessly worked their way through Solitude, 5 Years, and It Begins, with technical ingenuity and other blistering forms of instrumental control.
Impressed by their prowess, I did however miss heart and feel for a song, and judging by the dwindling crowd of spectators I wasn't the only one. Thankfully though, this emptiness slowly started to be filled Lost, followed by the excellent Your Eyes, which in addition to emotion, feeling and melody, brought delightful elements that reminded me of Teramaze.
The band surprised the audience with a cover of Owner Of A Lonely Heart, and after Paralyzed, all but one left the stage to make room for Donati to explore the full range of his toms during his solo spot. He was being watched closely by Koen Herfst (VandenBerg, Supersonic Revolution), while another visitor used this moment to excuse himself for a brief stop at the restroom.
When the band came back on stage, they played Animate, which for me as a Rush devotee proved to be the highlight in their set. Casali's strong voice even reminded me of Geddy Lee, which was a perfect treat. As were the licorice all-sorts melodies in Human Hardware and The Pieces, both of which showed that next to formidable musicianship they most certainly know how to craft a song based on melody and heart.
One glance around the audience revealed that by now the audience mostly existed out of bands that played on the Sunday, accompanied by new faces from the likes of Dreamwalkers Inc. and Antony Kalugin (Karfagen). Together with the happy few that had stayed, we were finally treated to an encore of Audioslave's Show Me How To Live, which ended the Progdreams X festival on an energetic high.
Revolution Solitude 5 Years It Begins Lost Your Eyes Owner Of A Lonely Heart (Yes cover) Paralyzed Animate (Rush cover) (with Virgil Donati drum solo) Human Hardware The Pieces
Show Me How to Live (Audioslave cover)
Finalizing my two-day shopping spree with yet another CD, I said my various goodbyes and once home settled down on the couch fully satisfied. Partly, I admit, due to the empty bag of freshly-opened licorice which was consumed like an addict during my drive home.
These past two days had been amazing and on behalf of myself and DPRP I would like to express a big Thank You to the organization of De Boerderij in providing a stage for all these wonderful bands. A bouquet of compliments to the friendly staff in making it such a homely and comfortably relaxed festival. Next time, make sure to hop on and be part of the audience if you can, for the huge variety in surprising, enchanting and unique performances are definitely worth travelling to Zoetermeer for. Till next time! Or as my soon-to-be retired florist would say: See you next year!