NEARFEST 2007 Highlights: Magma, Indukti, NeBeLNeST and Secret Oyster

My hotel couldn’t get their internet happening so I couldn’t produce the daily NEARfest Blog I’ve done in the past, so here’s a quick overview take of the North East Art Rock Festival which just took place in Bethlehem, PA this weekend, June 23-24 and its cousin, Progressive Arts Fusion Friday that preceded. I’ll blast it out in three parts over the next three days or so.

Nearfest Logo
The Highs: Indukti, NeBeLNeST, Magma and Secret Oyster

This might say something about my sensibilities, but at NEARFEST 2007 I thought the heavier, more aggressive instrumental bands stood out for their unrelenting passion and unremittingly crushing grooves. Both Indukti from Poland and NeBeLNeST from France deal in post Univers Zero meets Tool overdrive. This is ensemble music. There are no solos, just driving, intricate unison runs, brontosaurus counterpoints and tricky dynamic/time signature shifts with a lot of play in the world of overtones and distortion. NeBeLNeST shown brightly (in a dark sort of way) with a symphonic metal of brawling overtones and behemoth chord sequences bouyed by unpredictable keyboard fills from Oliver Tejedor. Indukti wove the long legato phrases of violinist Ewa Jablonska, with tectonic slabs of distorted guitar riffing from Piotr Kocimski and Maciej Jaskiewicz. Both groups had ridiculously good drummers and bass players who trawled the bottom like dark marauders.
Vidunderlige Kaelling (Aka Astarte)
Denmark’s Secret Oyster was always a secondary fusion band, but despite having not played together in 30 years, they brought a taut, improvisatory sound highlighted by some roiling guitar solos by Claus Bøhling. A bit more ferocity and melodic verve from founding member Carsten Vogel would have helped, but he still had a great sound on soprano.

Magma was the festival headliner. I’ve been following this French band since they released Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh in 1973.
Udu WuduMekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh
With Carl Orff meets heavy metal vocals, sung in their own Kobian language over assault troop rhythms, Magma isn’t for the fainthearted. Only founder, composer and drummer Christian Vander and his wife, singer Stella Vander, remain from the vintage incarnations, but his new band left nothing to be desired. They played the lengthy Köhntarkösz, a new piece in that style and came back for two exuberant encores and standing ovations.
Magma easily had the most heavily logo T-Shirted fans of any band I’ve seen at NEARfest. You felt like you were out of uniform if you didn’t have the Magma logo plastered across your chest. Holly Ricker went a step further with a tattoo on her shoulder.
Magma Tattoo
I don’t think I ever associated Magma with rainbow colors, but it’s all in the ear of the behearer.
Check in tomorrow, or sooner, for the Midlights, Lowlights and more NEARfest thoughts.

Comment posted by
at 6/28/2007 1:44:21 AM

And who would know this better than Rob La Duca, co-founder of NEARfest. Now if this had been reported in People Magazine, maybe I would’ve known as well. Don’t they have someone covering the French Progressive Rock beat? Thanks Rob.

Comment posted by
at 6/27/2007 9:39:53 PM

minor point of information… Stella Vander is Christian’s ex-wife, but has kept the name for stage purposes. She’s actually been married to their sound tech Francis Linon for 20+ years and they have two nearly-grown teenage children.

Comment posted by
at 6/27/2007 10:51:04 AM

Magma is really unique in their blend of melodic, high intensity sound. Watching Christian Vander play the drums is exhausting – no wonder he was trembling when he turned the drums over to one of the singers and took to center stage for lead vocals.
While not mentioned in the highlights, in my opinion Hawkwind was exceptional. While they may not be the most technically proficient, they held their own, and their performance captured their classic sound so as to give the impression of travelling back in time to the 1970’s. Their trance/drone repitition style is soothing, even though played energetically (and of course at an incredibly high decible level).
I would also commend the performance of La Machera di Cera as pleasant Italian-style symphonic prog (a staple at NearFest), and Pure Reason Revolution (whose music seemed very bizarre and made me want to get their CD to see if becomes accessible on repeated listening).

Comment posted by
at 6/26/2007 4:26:06 PM

I feel very honored to have been included on your blog! Especially as I couldn’t agree more with your musical review! I found the tight, scripted and hard-hitting musicality of Inducti and Nebelnest to be the most interesting musical experiences of the weekend, with the exception of my beloved Magma! They must love NearFest as much as NearFest fans love them as I have never heard such passion and power of execution of their songs as at the concerts last weekend and in 2003 – and I have made the hajj to France to hear them at RIO! Thank you again, I will continue to follow the music blog!

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