Once in a while a new progressive rock festival is organized. This one took place in the North-western part of England in May 2011. This three-day event held at the Beat Club in Blackpool was called The Electric Garden Progressive Rock Festival. The whole event was filmed with the intention to release it on DVD. Towards the end of 2011 this finally happened. The organizers of the festival were so kind as to send us a copy to review.
What you get on this DVD is a selection of songs performed by the artists who played at the festival. It must have been a difficult task to pick out the best songs. However, while watching this DVD I noticed that they succeeded in summarizing three days of music in just two hours and 45 minutes of footage. I also noticed that it was a low-budget project, because only few cameras were used and the disc lacks a high-definition or surround sound. To my own surprise I didn't mind at all since I liked the coverage of this event despite the use of minimal resources. I saw many close-ups of the artists which make sure that there's enough variety while watching the images. Using my headphones also improved the sound quality. As for the music on this DVD it has to be said that certain acts may not be labelled as true progressive rock acts, but maybe that's a matter of personal taste.
The coverage on this release has been filmed in the same order as the performing artists. This means that they started on Thursday with Matt Stevens. Individually he performed three tracks: Rusty, Burning Bandstands and 8.19. Stevens is a skilled musician who's able to entertain an audience only accompanied by his guitar. By using lots of delays, loops and E-bows he managed to come up with some descent material. However, for people who like progressive rock in full splendour next band Also Eden had much more to offer. It was their third live appearance since lead singer Rich Harding had that horrific motorcycle accident. The damage of this crash could still be seen on his body, but not on his vocal performance. He did a great job during the new song Think Of The Children! and the older piece A Widows Eyes. Thanks to his fellow-musicians this performance was the first highlight on this DVD. The second highlight soon followed as Credo did an excellent version of Round & Round. To be honest, I just expected a great performance because the concerts of Credo that I'd witnessed over the years were always of a high standard. They always perform the best neo-progressive rock on the planet!
Several young and unknown bands from Italy opened the Friday night event. Dropshard is a rather new prog metal band resembling bands like Pain Of Salvation, Riverside, Porcupine Tree and Dream Theater. I was very surprised by the high quality level of their performance and I decided to keep an eye on them from now on. The next band was unknown to me either. The Nerve Toy Trio create instrumental rock music in the vein of Jan Akkerman, Pat Metheny and King Crimson. People who enjoy fusion and jazz-rock elements should check out this band. Especially drummer Henry Rogers made a deep impression on me. Playing in bands as Touchstone, Final Conflict and DeeExpus apparently wasn't enough. The Italian band The Watch don't need any introduction. The headliners for the Friday event performed the Genesis Green show. Their excellent renditions of the songs from Selling England By The Pound were probably not allowed to be filmed for this DVD. Instead I could enjoy two songs from their back catalogue: Medley Sirence and One Day.
Earthling Society opened the third day of the festival with Child Of The Harvest which is clearly influenced by early Pink Floyd. However, their music had also traces of Hawkwind and krautrock. The use of the organ and the Mellotron-samples sometimes gave the song a real progressive rock sound. The Yes tribute band SeYes was the only band that produced a true progressive rock sound without playing any self-written material. SeYes played Close To The Edge as if they had penned this song themselves. Their version of this masterpiece was excellent and probably loved by many people in the audience. Another new band with a clear guitar-orientated sound are Godsticks. Because of that I think this band will be less interesting to listen to for prog heads. I couldn't catch on with their song Put Seven In Bold. The same can be said about IT. This unknown band couldn't make any impression with the tracks Killing Me and Stay Tuned. Maybe this had something to do with their heavier approach, but I'm not sure about that.
Abel Ganz have always been one of my favourite Scottish progressive rock bands. Unfortunately only Rain Again is featured on this compilation. Their outstanding neo-progressive rock deserved a longer exposure on this DVD, but you can't always get what you want, can you? For me the absolute highlight of the final day was headliner The Tangent. The band performed an outstanding live version of Where Are They Now? This sounded so well that I would have liked to hear more songs from The Tangent on this release. They're an excellent live unit that are able to easily perform their complex studio material on a live stage. It certainly provides this DVD with a perfect ending.
Hopefully this festival will continue in the future with more DVDs covering the event. The 2011-edition most certainly gets my compliments! People who want to see if I was right with my judgments about the performances of the acts on this disc can order a copy at the websites mentioned on this webpage!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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