NEARfest Day 2-Ozric, FM, and more

The second day of NEARfest 2006 was nearly perfect, beginning and ending with two utterly different bands trafficking in radically different brands of virtuosity. KBB is a relatively young Japanese quartet who crafted a melodic brand of Pontyesque fusion. Their set was a kinetic ride from beginning to end, driven by a synchronized rhythm section highlighted by bassist Dani. Not one of your Jaco or Chris Squire clones, he knew how to hold the floor with his throbbing bass grooves, although his stage mannerisms sometimes seemed divorced from his bass lines. The band was fronted by Akihisa Tsuboy, who got a warm tone out of his electric violin while building searing orchestrations with keyboardist Toshimitsu Takahashi.
At the other end of the day, Ozric Tentacles layed down a two-hour trance-formation of electronic swirls, psychedelic textures and unrelenting rhythm drive, all at the service of founding guitarist Ed Wynne. Under a mop of shoulder length curly brown hair, he deployed an encyclopedia of morphing electric guitar with distortion laden solos and head chugging riffs. While heavily rooted in the psychedelic space rock of Gong, they were also the only band that really seemed to acknowledge 30 years of intervening music, as evidenced by much of the new materiel they played from their CD, The Floor Is Too Far Away. Floor\'s Too Far Away
I wasn’t familiar with Riverside, a quartet from Poland, but I want to be now after their set. A quote from Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond signified their influences but they have a breadth of sound from metal to space to fusion and ballads, sung fervently by bassist Mariusz Duda, who also let out a few hardcore shouts. Riverside strives for an ensemble sound and although all the musicians can clearly play, they valued orchestration over wanking solos.
While Riverside took the vocabulary of Prog and went in personal directions, FM was a time machine to 30 years ago. They played all the hits from their recordings and did them faithfully. There’s a visceral appeal to their music, even keyboardist and bassist Cameron Hawkins‘ strained vocals and wifty lyrics. “Phasers on Stun” is still a fun piece of progressive pop.
There’s a wide variety of music at NEARfest, but wide doesn’t come close to Richard Leo Johnson. He wasn’t just a fish out of water, he was off the planet in an intimate set of solo acoustic guitar and National Steel guitar. But Richard charmed the audience with his off-the wall tales and rootsy guitar playing that spoke to a more direct and personal experience. It’s one that’s also heard on his recent CD, The Legend of Vernon McAlister Legend of Vernon McAlister
More tomorrow.
I sat next to Mike Montfort, who gave me some shoulder room by getting up to take some great shots of the festival. You can see his NEARfest pictures here.

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