Live Reviews : Progfest (Melbourne) – 27/12/2008
w/ Ne Obliviscaris, sleepmakeswaves, Mushroom Giant, A State of Flux, New Born and Purple Elephant
The East Brunswick Club – Melbourne, 27th December, 2008.
Progressive rock: (often shortened to progressive, prog, or prog rock) is a form of rock music that evolved in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a “mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility.” (Taken from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prog_rock)
Progfest was a highly anticipated night organised by the wonderful people at OzProg.com to celebrate all things prog rock, prog metal and anything prog music related. The gig was to feature six bands (see above for full list) of mostly Melbourne origin barring the always welcome down south sleepmakeswaves from Sydney. The fact that the organisers were able to find such a diverse selection of five progressive bands just within Melbourne bears a strong PROGnosis (pun intended) for the future of progressive music not only here in Victoria but Australia wide.
Purple Elephant got things off to an early start, initially without their vocalist who was MIA. To be honest though this was no great loss as the band impressed me with a solid rhythm section and a really cool psychodelic sound. The atmosphere that Purple Elephant created with a clever combination of skilfully played traditional rock instruments, guitar, bass and drums accompanied by some trippy electronic effects Provided by Marrs was soon to be ruined (in my opinion) when the singer finally showed up half way through the third song. A musically solid band, Purple Elephant would do well to head down the same path as Mushroom Giant and Sleepmakeswaves and simply let their music tell the story.
New Born were next to take the stage and to me, they were a little out of place in this line up. Speaking to a few people after their set I wasn’t the only one to have this opinion. Don’t get me wrong, New Born are a good solid rock band made up of some high quality musicians and featuring a great front man in singer Luke Murphy. Their sound was great, their music solid and catchy but, well they just weren’t very prog, at least not when compared to the other bands of the night. If you enjoy bands like the Deftones, Rook and Jericco then New Born would be worth having a listen to.
Third band for the night was to be a nice little surprise, A State of Flux. A State of Flux are an interesting mix of powerful progressive rock with a good helping of electronica and trip-hop ambiance all toped off nicely with the heavily jazz styled vocals of the only female vocalist for the night, Roni Shewan (an accomplished artist in her own right). I found A State of Flux to be a very engaging live act and thoroughly enjoyed everything they had to offer. It was a serious shame then that after a third failed attempt to start the second last tune, a purely instrumental piece by the looks, the band gave up and chose to move on to their last song. This is something I have never seen before in a live show but given the skill with which they performed the rest of the set I choose for now not to believe that such monumental stuff ups are the norm, I am however yet to find an explanation.
Next up was Mushroom Giant, a band I have been very keen to see live for some time and judging by the crowd I wasn’t the only one looking forward to their set as breathing space near the front became minimal. And they proved to be everything I was hoping they would be as they set about laying down a wonderfully dynamic set of captivating and always interesting post/prog rock. The bands skilful ability to wind their way through heavy, hard rock style riffage and carefully composed ambience as well as many levels in-between successfully crushed any doubt in my mind that a band might need a singer to be truly engaging.
Although we try to claim them as our own here in Melbourne with this event being their third visit to the city in around six months, Sydney’s Post Rock band sleepmakeswaves made their way onstage for a continuation of the instrumental theme. Although at times the mix was a little patchy and/or muddled, the band played a number of new songs that I believe will be featured on their upcoming Split CD with Perth’s Tangled Thoughts of Leaving. A cameo violin performance from Tim Charles during the track ‘one day you will teach me to let go of my fears’ was probably the highlight of the 30 minute set.
With the press of gig photographers seemingly surpassing venue limitations, Ne Obliviscaris entered the venue to finish off what had proved to be a fantastic night of progressive music. I am kind of lost for words for describing a Ne Obliviscaris set. By my count I’ve now seen them at least ten times and each time, almost without fail, they have improved from an already amazing quality. Despite some minor instrumental difficulties on this night – see string breakage left of stage – their set went of without a hitch as they cascaded through all the songs on ‘The Aurora Veil’ plus two new tracks, with ‘As Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope’ being my pick of the night in all its jazzy Latin sounding glory.
Thankfully, with only minimal use of those annoying bright lights that only people who have been to the venue can attest to, the night was very enjoyable and left the excellent crowd eagerly anticipating what the good people at OzProg.com can dish up in a years time!
NE OBLIVISCARIS ‘PROGFEST’ SETLIST: Saturday 27th December, 2008
As Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope
Tapestry of the Starless Abstract
As Icicles Fall
Review by Dan ‘Franky’ Berryman and Brendan Amos
Photos by Scott Boelsen.
Thanks to Bradley Dixon and OzProg.com