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Thursday, January 21, 2010

The 5th Season - a diary, Day 3

My friends must have felt my suffering and saved me some hot water for the shower on this Sunday morning. What a difference, brain starts working, body is ok, the day will be a good one. Except, again I got up too late for breakfast in the progpower breakfast room. Bummer. In the years before I've always been the first one getting up. That role belongs to the Brits this year. But I can rely on Dario. He's still asleep, though he was the first one in bed. Hope he'll be doing better today. Out in the courtyard, the circle's up. Aaah, I'm at home. Jeroen comes along and joins, he's managed to get some food, by simply asking the staff if there's something left. Guess they were unable to leave a young guy hanging out hungry. But there was no coffee left. I offer some espresso and his eyes start glowing. " Isn't it spoiled, having your own espresso maker in a hotel?" he asks. I agree, but it's convenient too. And then he says it's quite strong. Oh my. Would somebody complain about a Porsche being a fast car? Gary says to someone "We're not Brittish! We're English." Oh yes, I've heard Simon talking about having been in Europe last year. Separatists they are. What? someone needs coffee? Ok, I'm back into our room. Too much action for Dario to keep sleeping.
I gotta care for the beerbox and the bottles, so I'm heading towards the party room. 2 closed bottles are standing there on the floor, right at the wall. Oh my, those poor devils were unable to open them? I had no idea that is seems almost impossible to the rest of the world to open a German beerbottle.
Whoa, the room still is a total mess! I guess staff really are waiting until we're gone before cleaning up. And quite some Oktoberfest beer left! Are they as picky concerning beer as we Germans are? Or are they kind enough to not drink all my beer? I decide for the second option. Although... really...? Nah, they're a nice bunch of guys.
I placed the beer in the middle of us and hand out some. I say something about being old. "No you're not old, you're retro" says Jeroen. Shall I feel flattered? I guess so. He tells us that his Finnish roommates locked the door last night,
and he had to find a free room for sleeping (without finnish snoring...) Next time I'm gonna put up a big sign: spare beds at room number xxx.
"Who was the headliner today?" "Evergrey". "Evergay" shouts a Swede. "Nevergay" says Dario. Kalle has an Oktoberfeest beer, looks at the label and says "wow, half a liter of beer with 5,9 % alcohol on my way to the venue. This may become a hard day!"

The little trail starts slowly, and outside the castel Seventh Wonder are standing on the street, waiting for the car. I hear myself saying something like "Hey, last chance to thank you guys for playing for us." "Thank you", "No thank you, you were a great audience", "have a safe trip", "have a great festival finale", etc, etc. Bands are happy being with the fans and - of course - vice versa, and everybody has a smile on his face. This somehow sums up the whole festival.
A couple of bands use the Sunday for their travelling, so they're back to work on Monday. But instead of less people at Sjiwa, there are even more than yesterday. It seems that many Dutch people just come for Sunday, the final day. (Do they all avoid the grunting Saturday?)
"You know, Wojtek does a documentary about progpower" says Gary. "He interviewed the boss of the castle and asked him how much damage progpower would cause every year. That guy said that in all these years there was nothing ever damaged. The big damages always happen at the annual lawyers congress." That reminds me on last year, when Simon said "These are all sissy-boys. So many metal heads and nothing happens. I like to smash somebody just to see what's going to happen." "They all listen to intelligent music, why would they do silly things" was Gary's answer. I once again must grin about 'intelligent music'. Music can think?
The schedudle says that Evergery are gonna do an acoustic set during the big break. Never heard of that band...

Knight Area is the band that shall warm us up today. A rig with four keyboards plus a mobile one. Hehe. A real prog band. Indeed they are old school proggers and know how to play a powerful gig. The more I listen to their gig, the more I'm surprised. What I've heard on their cds was sounding like the usual prog rock, nothing in special. The way they put power into it on stage now really amazes me. Not only can I start into Sunday afternoon on a lower gear, it really is great to see and hear this music played with so much passion and power even at an intermediate volume an opener is doomed to. Folks, bring that sound to tape on your next recordings and I'm one of the first to buy it!
I look around at all the people in the next break. The usual "Hello Baarlo", so often said to welcome the audience, seems so wrong here. A 'hello Munich' has always been ok at a concert in my hometown. But here and now, counting so many nations, England, France, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Uruguay, Amsterdam, etc. etc. - ah, here's one from Baarlo: Rene! 'Hello Baarlo' somehow excludes way too many people in this case. Last years joke, done by the Atrox dudes, "hello Africa", doesn't seem all that wrong, compared to welcoming Baarlo. Maybe Atrox were welcoming one single person by accident last year.

Prospect from Slovenia is next. The ones from Slovenia, don't mess them up with any other band Prospect.
And the pace goes faster. A bunch of young power metal guys are heating up the hall. They have pretty much routine for their age, act and play good. The music itself isn't all that spectacular, standard song structures, nothing special in time signature, the songs are all more or less equal, they don't want to step too much out of their band sound, it seems. The vocalist seems to be a Metallica fan after all. At least if you count all the metallica-esque uu-aaaa's he sings at the end of his lines. But the performance is great.
Next break, something happens on the road. Something very big is coming along. Some grab their cameras and are on the road. A tour bus appears. A really big one. All Evergrey, Evergay, Nervergay and Evergery would have enough space in there, even without the need to argue about sexual orientation. They come from Sweden but the licence plate is from Berlin. Strange... Dario tells me why so many bands put out thier thanks to Mattias: he does their cover arts and booklet design. That guy is such a great artist? I gotta visit his website whem I'm back home. And Dario's gone... I chat quite some time with Nick and Robbie of Day Six. They take the opportunity to show signals of life. Their new album has been finalized, and they're doing a show to promote it. Still no label, bummer... I advice them to contact Scout, the progulus station master. He seems to have quite some contacts and could be of help. Dario appears and tells me that Evergrey's support band is on the bus either. Well, they're on tour. Though he's right, it must be a strange situation for them to not play at progpower, now that they came along. Davids words from yesterday come to mind. "Support bands have to pay for being part on the tour, and that can cost - depending on the tour - up to 25.000 Euro." What the hell are labels there for, if not for promotion. What do they actually do for all the money they take?

Enochian Theory are some other English ones who are in Europe now. They play at our continent for the first time. They've been celebrated as the new Tool. I wouldn't say so. Their music has quite some influences from Tool, but, have you ever been to a Tool concert? But they're nice to see. I tend to abbreviate the band with 'E.T.', because the bandleader is the weirdest guy I've ever seen on stage, in a charming way. I'd call him the jester next door who happens to play and grunt some metal. The bands weirdness is that they are a trio of guitar, drums and bass, but have long atmospheric synthesizer passages in their music. That comes from a sampler which they call "The Lost Orchestra" and claim it being a band member, and so it happens that the guys are sometimes standing on stage for several minutes without playing any note, but waiting until the sampler has played its part. Some people might argue that this is no 'power' in performance, but I still like the performed music, and as I told Patrik, I don't need the posing anyway.

Big break. we're a bit uncertain if we should have dinner or stay at Sjiwa for Evergery's acoustic set. But none of us is actually a fan of fast food, so the decision is easily made: the new pizzeria. It's quite near, and we hope that we actually get some food there. We've seen people at the other pizzeria hanging out there for 1 1/2 hours without getting any food. Let's try it out. We come closer and already see Marcel in there at the window, waving at us. While taking seats, Simon drops a staple of progulus flyers on the table. Marcels friend tries to build a house of cards with them, and... of course.. fails. I told him it would be impossible, that actually made him try it... Marcel is so nice translating the menue, and we have some Dutch pizza. The place is cool, service is rather fast and professional. The pizza is, well some of the better Dutch food... Dario was eating rather fast and manages being back right in time, while we older ones don't wanna eat in a rush. We're back just in time to see the second half of the

Evergery accoustic set. I once experienced Evergrey playing at the venue next door, me doing a nightshift, listening to the sound that came into my suite through the window. That sounded like someone forced Englund watching his children being tortured for 90 minutes. Now here playing this accoustic set, Englund shows all the vocal skills he can offer, and I'm highly impressed! Wow! But the keyboardist playes piano on a keyboard, and in the last song the guitarist even plays a solo on his electric. I want my money back! Hehe...

After a rather short break it's time for Neverland to play. They are the turkish band Dreamtone, expanded by Greek lady Iris Mavrakis. Turkish and Greek? That seems impossible, as those nations hardly live in peace due to historical reasons. And that is the reason why they're doing this collaboration. Trying to show their people that music can put people get together and and live with love and harmony instead of hate.
I like the music pretty much, the integration of Turkish folk into prog metal. But the show doesn't do it all that good, somehow it's all a bit too much improvised, the integration of Iris Avrakis and Dreamtone some how doesn't really work out for me, the performance isn't as seamless as it should be. Both do their thing good, it just remains being in pieces somehow.
Back out in front of the venue I hear a lady say "That was a German accent!" She indeed sounded a little offended, so I try breaking the ice by starting a small talk. It seems to be all over the world that people don't quite like the ones beyond the next border, for whatever reason, and it's the same here. It starts good, she tries to escape her prejudice, but after a while we both notice that she doesn't manage to do so. Tom Englund does his own study about Dutch fastfood, and the look in his face tells me that his insight is similar to mine... well, in the end there is something in your stomach and that is the most important point.

In the meantime the stage looks quite different. Huge backdrops cover the amps, and all you can see is the drums.
I'm not keen on listening to growlers, but I decided to give every band a chance, and Hacride from France are another bunch of those. It looks like they've overestimated the festival and did a bit too much for their stage appearance with those backdrops, but in the end I like it, is simply looks good. And their performance is stunning! A pretty big surprise. It is an absolute tight thing, just imagine Zero Hour on growls, and you have a close idea of what they sound alike. I'm blown and doomed to stand the cookies. What does Gary do now? He's moving very close to the stage. He never did that before. He's right in front of the PA, wouldn't go just directly in front of the stage, knowing that everybody behind him couldn't see anything.
All of us seem to agree on Hacride being an outstanding band. Nobody has anything bad to say about them, even us cookie-haters. This might be the biggest surprise this year. I bet they've found dozens of new fans.

of course have their entire equipment with them, and they of course are going to use it. And it means... the first and only delay this year. Not only do they change some symbals, a snare and add a second guitar cabinet, everything does change and has to be mic'ed, checked and adjusted. Some are already angry about it. I am with the band. If I were a drummer and had the entire set with me anyway, I would wanna play it. Perfection where perfection can be achieved. 15 minutes delay isn't all that long for such a big action, and not as annoying as some people seem to find it.
And now: This years headliner begins the show!!!
Compared to all others, rather loud I must say. After the first few songs, he himself starts talking to us. "Hello Progpower!" (good, you know what I mean, man.... hehe) "Thanks for comming, thanks Rene and staff, thanks Mattias!" (THEY too??? I MUST check is website!!!!) And on it goes. A bit louder! Englund's typical melody line, shouted out at highest possible power. Damn about techniques, bringing some soul into words -> crap; shout man, loud! The pain! The torture of your children! "We're a fucking loud shouting metal band!" Yes, the tech rider's right.. "Are you tired on this 3rd day of progpower?" he asks. "Well it's the 18th day of our tour!" My brain streams out thoughts about that now rather quickly, and I find myself thinking that this was quite arrogant.
You hero play one show each night, do a little party afterwards, get into your hotel-bus and sleep until 2 pm, do a sound check at 5 pm and a 90 minutes gig a 8 pm each day, and in the meantime you simply waste time. While we do listen, party and bang to the 15th band, do party with them until 4-6 am, try to be at the breakfast buffet at 10 am at least and sleep only little. Yes, you're my hero!
Man, I really needed to think that.
They again get louder, and I would say we reached the 125 dB right now. My, the headliner can do it I guess. Despite the real great performance, I will never be a fan of them. It's too repetitive, and all the whole music is written around the 'typical' Englund-shout-of-pain. It's all the same, and almost everywhere in their songs. Annoying for me, but absolutely important for their fans. Their trade mark if you want.
90 minutes: end of show. after only a really little break, probably 3 minutes: encore. 105 minutes: end of encores. Precicion landing. 2 hours, 120 minutes to do, 15 minutes delay, 105 played. perfect. If you're the organizer. Their fans should complain about the missing 15 minutes. But they don't. Yes, the accoustic set, but that was seperately announced. Andromeda, the fairly unknown band did fulfill the 2 hours, but none of the more successful bands. That's how the world ticks.
I simply agree that progpower needs these headliners that bring audience. The festival couldn't be without them. My headliners were other bands, but I'd end up with huge debts. Rene does a great great job in finding and booking bands and making the festival a success.
Thank you Mercenary, thank you Evergrey! You don't need progpower to promote yourself, you just came because you wanted to. Thank you so much for supporting us! And: I never would have seen you live otherwise.

Sunday night, hanging out with the guys outside the venue. Festival is over. I got one coin left in my pocket. Hey it's a five! Another round of beer! The final party in the basement is gonna start now. Hmm... it's the party where all, and I mean all(!) are gonna party. Including the staff. But I'm worn out. I want to go back to the castle. I feel guilty for not wanting to party with them all, they deserve notice.
But I am ...hmm wait... a retro. It was enough music, I don't want to listen to a dj now, indeed quiteness is due. And I lack power. I join the Swede (Krister I think...) on his way back to the castle. No party there, oh wonder... I grab some beer from our room, sit down in the courtyard and enjoy the silence.
What a weekend! I was quarreling quite much, because the band selection wasn't really the best I could imagine. But There were quite some bands who kept me listening to their entire set, bands I've never expected to want to listen more than 2 songs. All the great people I have met or learned to know. Progmetal fans simply are good people! Noone who becomes agressive, overly drunk, pretentious or anything. Whoever you talk to, it is always a great experience.
After 20 minutes I can hear the noise of the main street. Wow, ears didn't suffer that much and are back to normal already. Another beer and I have enough peace and quietness to come to an end. One year ahead until it's gonna happen again. Equal which bands are gonna play. Rene, can't you just organize a spring festival as well?
And while I fall into slumber, Marcel, the pater familia himself, is taking over as there still are stories to tell:

Whereas Ray took the time to rest his head before his journey back to the German lands, some of us stuck around until the early hours of Monday. Here’s my account of what happened after Ray went off, because I feel you guys can’t miss out on that!

As has been said in Ray’s earlier blog posts, the Progpower Europe after parties are a thing of legend; hardly ever will you find such a blend of (mostly European) metalheads of all shapes and sizes having fun in more ridiculous ways. A prime example was what happened to a visitor, who later got branded as the local nut job. This particular individual managed to waddle in on the festival in previous days, but on this last day he was mostly found in the basement of the venue. The basement is where usually people end up to have a breather, a good cup of coffee and a game of foosball and it seemed that was just what this man had in mind, because shortly after his arrival that day he was rumored to have fallen asleep on one of the comfy couches. Throughout the day people kept talking about the guy that fell asleep in the basement and just wouldn’t wake up. Even during the loud music that started off the after party, after Evergrey finished playing, he wasn’t phased and snored on happily.
A long story short: people ended up jumping off the table and body checking the man and it wouldn’t wake him up. After that people proceeded to decorate him with material from a box that was fetched from backstage somewhere. A marker was fetched to make an artwork out of his face, which was promptly signed by the creator. Perhaps the worst that happened to him was that at one point one of the volunteers of the festival lined up a smoke/dry ice machine with his face and turned the machine on, resulting in hilarity amongst the onlookers and louder snoring from the victim.

All in all the poor local drunk woke up from his slumber when the basement

exploded to Metallica’s rendition of “Three Little Piggy’s”. RenĂ©, the main organizer of the festival, and a few others (myself included) managed to convince the guy that he needed to go home and proceeded to escort him up the steep, concrete steps leading up to ground level. All the while making sure that he wouldn’t fall backwards, because that would’ve surely cost him the few brain cells he had left after drenching his brain in alcohol earlier that day. RenĂ© promptly locked the door behind the guy after he left, making sure he wouldn’t attempt to return and scale the stairs by himself.

But the ‘human Christmas tree’, as the man would be called by many, wasn’t the only thing that made the Progpower after party a unique, hilarious and enjoyable experience. The reason for this is the fact that even though normally people would be embarrassed to let themselves go as badly as they do, at the after party all inhibitions seem to have been left at the door. As Ricard (Barcelona, Spain) remarked upon his return to his home, “I believe I have left my inhibition genes in Holland”. Metalheads were seen dancing on tables, singing along to Dutch slager music and going all-out during the most ridiculous songs. It’s most definitely something you have to have seen at least once in your life, something you will never forget and an event that will have you return for more the year after.

The morning after, after everyone has had their breakfast and several pints of coffee, hangovers are nourished in the castle courtyard, where all the regulars and new members of the Progpower Europe family gather together for one final time. New friendships were forged that weekend and sealed with the exchange of contact information, and promises to return and buy each other beers the next time around. Plans are made for next year, a wish list is made and highlights are discussed before one by one everyone turns to their mode of transportation and makes their way to their respective homes.

I would like to thank Ray for an awesome account of this year’s festival, and I hope that his telling of the story made a lot of you enthusiastic enough to order your weekend package deals for next year’s Progpower Europe. The twelfth edition of the festival looks to be another amazing festival, with current six bands confirmed, nine more to come and, even though some of the announced bands are already amazing, the headliners are still to come!

I hope to see you all next year at Progpower Europe XII in Baarlo, the Netherlands! I’ll buy you a beer! (or at least give you one from the stash at the castle :P )

- Marcel/Cello


Marcel said...

And I'm 100% serious about the beer too! Come one, come all!

Awesome description of the third day, ray! :D Thanks!

stringray said...

Be careful, you'll have to buy all beer all 2 supermarkets can offer when you say that! ;-)

russel said...

Nice reading, again:)

About the growls,
I started to think about the growls like an instrument and find it easier to listen to. (As I rarely understand what the heck they're trying to tell me...)