BE PROG! MY FRIEND – POBLE ESPANYOL – 11/07/2015
An Oustanding Progress
I’m not going to lie, Be Prog! My Friend was the most awaited event of the year for me. As a progressive rock & metal fan, the date at Poble Espanyol was almost mandatory and with such a line-up it would have been almost unforgivable not to be there. A long trip, several hours of wait (that ended up feeling much shorter thanks to the good company and the good ideas) and a really hot weather. Last year, Be Prog! My Friend uncover itself as a date to look up for the progressive audience and this second edition was meant to be the confirmation por an exciting project, celebreated in a unique emplacement with a different musical proposal that, for one reason of another, is not very usual to find in the big european dates. Enjoying an event like this is a real luxury and it can become of the most important dates year after year, giving that this second edition goes as well as expected. Finally, with extrict punctuality, gates open at 16.00 and with people still coming bit by bit the time to inaugurate the stage came.
RIVERSIDE went on stage with an unsympathetic sun shining hot over the place and starteda setlist that cautivated the audience within the very start. With songs like “Feel Like Falling” or “Hyperactive” the polishs raised the public’s spirit, that shared cheers and aplauses with this still young band, which career has taken them into a quick and steady raise in many fans’ tops. On stage the band gains a lot of strength, and it really showed at Be Prog!.
The heat prevented the band to give a show with more movement from the members, whom besides some headbanging and the usual interaction with the audience didn’t really moved much. It was understandable with such high temperatures. With “Conceiving You” came one of my favourite moments of their show, a really intimate and intense song, with a beautiful and smooth crescendo that makes it turn into an almost oniric experience when listened live, catching everyones attention. The sound was a little bit too high and saturated in the first two-three rows, but was almost perfect if you placed yourself a little more to the back.
That way, from a more relaxed position, I could enjoy a technically impeccable show, that left on stage art pieces such as the well known “02 Panic Room” or the always well received “Egoist Edonist” (without it’s third sections, if I’m not mistaken), one of my favourites and the perfect chance for Mariusz’ bass and Piotr Grudzinski’s guitar to show their real talent, leaving some trully cherishable moments. With fifty minutos to play their show, the band chose an energetic ending with “The Depths Of Self-Delusion” and “Escalator Shrine”, completing a strong and varied setlist, with their last album very present and without missing the chance to remember everyone that they will soon release a new record and start a new tour. And excellent start for the festival.
MESSENGER were one of the least known bands in the line-up, with a neo-prog style that has as many fans as detractores. Their career so far has been quite good and the brithishs expected to gain the audience attention on the second stage of the festival. Their show started really well, even though I must confess teh voice wasn’t as good for me as I expected, mainly because it didn’t seem to find it’s place in the general sound. Unfortunately, the band had some bad luck and before they could start their second song there were a problem with one of the amplifiers and they were force to stop for a few minutes.
After it was solve, the band re-started their show with lots of energy, raising some aplauses from the audience, that let itself be catched by the psychodelic influences of the band, which went from less to more, but in my opinion never really got to find their sound. With songs as “Somniloquist” or “Midnight”, the britishs left a bittersweet impresion: they really put their energy and willing on the show and played good songs, even leaving some quality detalis, but there was a costant feeling that they could do better. A good show, but not great: I really was expecting more from this young band.
It was the first show for Ihsahn in Spain and it seems the norwegian came really willingly and ready, given that he went on stage determinated to prove why he is one of the most important names of nowadays’ progressive scene. His blend of prog metal, jazz and his black metal roots provides a unique and personal sound, very well shown on stage from teh beginning with “Hiber” and “Pulse”. Very energetic, the vocalist and guitarist made himsel accompanied by a quite young band in which we were missing a bassist, whom duties were perform in equal parts by the keys and the guitars, creating a very compact sound full of light and shadows, born from the contrast between the agressive riffs and tone from the guitars and the keys’ colorness.
With “Tacit” the show took a really strong path, and it happened that Ihsahn was completly merciless despite of the still hot sun, and kept on playing a heavily energetic setlist during the fifty minutes he had on stage. Personally I miss the presence of a real saxo, but the very few parts with it present in the setlist made it understandable that this and other details like it were pre-recorded as an excellent complement to an absolute masterclass in the 8-strings guitar.
With the interpretations of “Frozen Lakes On Mars” (on of may favourites of the show) and “A Grave Inversed”, the norweigan had already onwed a place among the best concerts of the festival, and there were still a few nice surprises. The sixth song in the setlist was, for joy of everyone, a new one, still unrecorded and with unkown title. An energetic piece, complex and as personal as always, that fitted perfectly in the setlist and gain the aplauses of the whole audience, and audience that kept growing within the songs passed.
Full of strength and with a simple black backline, IHSAHN offered a show ending with “The Paranoid”, one of his most energetic and delirant songs, and “The Grave” (one of my favourites from his discography), that marked the end of a show that left nobody indiferent and that we hope is the first of many in Spain. One of the best shows of this edition of BE PROG! MY FRIEND.
The english HAKEN arrived as one of the main attractions of the second stage. Their still young carrer has taken them to be considered one of the main promises of the prog scene and albums like “The Mountain” or the recen EP “Restoration” are a clear example of why. They were the second band to play the secondary stage and we con notice an important improvement in the sound compared to MESSENGER from the very beginning.
The band started it’s show with “Premonition” and “In Memoriam”, drawing a very technical scenario and puting the numerous audience completly on their side from the first moment. Instrumentally impeccable, the band also offered a very well driven show aspect, with their singer fulfilling perfectly his frontman duties, being close and interactinc with the audience.
With “Insomnia” and “Darkest Light” (my favourite from the show) the band started to make themselves a place among the most interesting shows so far, proving they are a band to take into account and that, with no doubt, would have done nice in the main stage. The end of the show was a total blast and a demonstration of class and personality, with the songs “Cocroach King” and especially “Crystallised”, that achieved what seemed to be a neverending flow of cheers, confirming that HAKEN was another of the best shows of the date.
Jonas Renkse and the rest of the band came on stage to play their first show in a year and, sincerely, it hurts a bit to say that we notice. I’ve seen KATATONIA several times and their show at Be Prog! MY Friend was far from being one of their best. The swedish started out with “Buildings”, quite a surprise to begin, and cointinued with the strong “Increase” and the elegant “Forsaker”. The sound wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t terrible either: during the first song the voice was a bit too low and there was some saturation, but by “Forsaker” everything was right in place.
The band continued with “Dead Letters”, “Day And Then The Shade” and the awaited “The Longest Year”, that turned out to be one of the moments I enjoyed the most during their show. With the “Dead End Kings‘” artwork as backline and acceptable amount of people watching the show, KATATONIA tried to give the best of impressions possible with a strong and well chosen setlist taht still offered songs like “Ghost Of The Sun”, “Soil’s Song” or “My Twin”, three really strong and interesting tracks that, as it happened with the whole show, didn’t really had the expected impact.
“Lethean” and “July” were responsable of closing their concert, a show that was far from being his best performance, but that left a few good moments anyhow, and the real class notes usual for KATATONIA. It wasn’t a bad show by any means, but Renkse and his guys can do and have done much better. It wasn’t their day.
The first ever solo show by Vincent Cavanagh presented us the magnificent english musician in accoustic format, filling it for IQ, that finally dropped from the line up. The setlist, as expected, was made out of accoustic versions of ANATHEMA songs and begun with a heartfelt interpretation of “Fragile Dreams”, that left very clear from the very beginning that we were to witness a very special and unique show.
With lots of humour and always thankful to the organization, Vincent prepared the interpretation of “Thin Air”, of the songs I liked the most in this show, and that was the second of the setlist. Armed just with his guitar and the pedals, Vincent offered an interesting version of “Flying”, that was sang along and cheered by the surprisingly big amount of people watching the show, standing in front of the secondary stage to enjoy this one of a kind ocassion.
With the audience completely cautivated, Vincent continued his show with “Deep”, “The Beginning And The End” (trully espectacular) and a highly celebrated “Distant Satellites”. To finnish, the british musician wanted to end with a son in spanish, for what he chose to cover Manu Chao’s “Mentira”. An atypical and fun ending for one of the biggest surprises of the festival.
This was the show I was most excited about and I had really high expectations. Devin Townsend went on stage with a projector screen as backline and a astonishing ilumination, starting his performance with the intense “Rejoice”, leaving from the first moment tips of his humour, his undeniable quality and musical excentricity. There aren’t many artist as eclectic and with such a strong personality as Devin and it really showed on stage from the very beginning. The canadian chose a quite varied setlist, with a noticeble mayority for his most recent work, that continued with “Night”, a very strong song that was enough to put the audience right into his pocket.
“Namasté”, from his “Physicist” album, is a total fan favourite and the excellent welcome from the audience was an undeniable confirmation. The sound was really good, temperature was going down and the proximity of the night allowed us to enjoy the magnificent light game accompanying the excellent performance. Devin interacted with the audience, spreading his particular sense of humour leaving coments at every chance while kept on playing a setlist that included songs as “Deadhead” or a highly celebrated “Supercrush” (one of my favourite moments in the whole festival).
“March Of The Poozers”, “A New Reign”, “More” and the epic “Ziltoid Goes Home” continued a show that became my favourite of the date, it was with no doubt a masterclass on how to play progressive metal live and give a unique and personal show leaving nobody indiferent. Devin Townsend is a respected figure in the scene and it was made clear why at Poble Espanyol. To put the icing on the cake, the band played a fantastic ending with “Bastard” and the highly awaited “Kingdom”. Simply fantastic.
That LEPROUS is one of the bands that have made one of the strongest appereances in the prog scene in the last years is not a secret. The norweigans have been knocking the doors down and gain a quite big and loyal fan base, that really showed in front of the secondary stage of BE PROG! MY FRIEND. I must admit I’m a huge fan myself… and that’s is why it hurts to say that, to me, it was the biggest disappointment of the festival. Logic makes me think some problem made it impossible for them to hear themselves on stage, but the reality is taht during the first three tracks it was like every instrument was playing alone and the voice entered out of time and tone every time. It was a problem that kind of ruined the experience of strong songs like “The Flood”, “The Price” and “Chronic”, that even though instrumental-wise were more than acceptable, the lacked the strenght and intensity that LEPROUS are capable of in their shows. They lacked the intensity of cohesion.
Lucklily enough, with “Rewind” the problem seemed to solve and the band started to sound as it was expected, with the quality and energy they usually deliver in their tours. The voice still needed one more song to get in place (“The Valley”), what left the show kind of orphan until then. The band try to leave a good impression and give the best show possible in the small stage the had, with every movement meant to fit with the music perfectly, but despite the good response from the audience and the undenaible quality of the band, their show wasn’t nearly as good as expected. Only with the last two songs “Slave” and “Force Entry” could we glimpse the reality of one of the most interesting bands of nowadays’ prog scene. It wasn’t their night, but I’m sure they will make up for it during their headlining tour this autumn.
The first headliners of this second editions of the festival are and absolute living legend of the prog rock scene. The british CAMEL have in their catalogue some of the most aclamed albums of the genre and are one of the bands responsible for the development and popularization of the style. The were, with no doubt, one of the main attractions of the date, especially for those who feel more appealed by the more classic sounds of prog. Personally this was one of the shows I was expecting the most. The started with “Never Let Go” and “The White Rider”, showing as a setlist clearly different from the one they were playing in the last tour, that was made of the complete “The Snow Goose” album and a few extra classics. Andy Latimer and his guys were accompanied by an excellent set of lights to complete the psychodelia, symphonism and magic of his songs.
Very few things can be said about CAMEL that hadn’t been said already, given the band is a model to follow on stage and in studio. With songs such as “Song Withing A Song”, “Unevensong”, “Spirit Of The Water” or “Air Born” their setlist built and interesting review of his career, proving to be a delightful experience for the numerous fans standing in front of the main stage. Latimer’s guitar was everywhere in the Poble Espanyol and the keys made themselves really present, building the always exciting atmospheres of the band. Their melodies invite you to close your eyes and be carried away to a different place, and with songs like “Lunar Sea” (one of my favourites) or “Another Night” it is almost impossible to resist the oniric attraction of CAMEL.
The only thing I can complain about this show is that it came a little too late: we were there for eight intense shows already and the melodic and relaxing approach of the britishs had a mesmerazing effect that didn’t really helped much to keep our adrenaline high. With songs like “Drafted”, “Ice”, “Mother Road” or and extended version of “Hopeless Anger”, CAMEL gave one of the most complete and inspired concerts of the festival, but personally I would have enjoyed it much more if it have been placed a couple of hours earlier (perhaps a swap in with Devin Townsend?). To finish the show Andy Latimer and the band gave us the magnificent present of “Lady Fantasy”, marking the end of their show in the best way possible, with what was probably one of the most magical moments of the festival, with a very thankful audience and shout-high cheers (not in vain there were people who bought a ticket for this show only).
The french band came to the secondary stage as one of the least known acts of the line-up and with one of the most risky appproachs, combining electronic music as Dubstep or EDM with progresive metal, resulting in a really strong, uplifting sound that recharge many people’s batteries after the oniric show of CAMEL.
Wathing them on stage, with sons as “Trojans” or “Isometry” and a great visual performance, THE ALGORITHM seemed to be clearly the kind of band you either love or hate: the leave nobody indifferent and their peculiar musical approach opens for different opinions. I think they gave a good show but I didn’t really connect with their sound (only a couple of songs catched my attention). A different appetiser for one of the strongest acts of the night.
Undoubtedbly one of the main attractions of the festival for many. Well into the wee hours, the band jumped on stage and started out with the energetic “Rational Gaze”, but was force to stop for around fifteen minutes due to some sound problems. Finally the band could return to the stage and continue with the strong “Obzen”, that quickly put averyone in audience back in track to the brutality of a MESHUGGAH show, giving it up for songs like “Do Not Look Down” o “The Hurt That Finds You First”.
The swedishs continued with “Swarm” (one of my favourites), “Stengah” and “Future Breed Machine”, reaching a trully savage level of brutality, that kept on growing with songs like “Lethargica”, “New Millenium Cyanide Christ” and the awaited and celebrated “Bleed”, which started a big and strong moshpit among those who still had strength enough. I must admit that by now (it was three in the morning), with eleven hours of shows and around forty without sleep, I had to call it a night and from the distance, laid to rest I could hear a strong ending for the show with a double bis playing “Demiurge”, “In Death – Is Life”, “In Death – Is Death” and finally “Dancers To A Discordant System” (a song capable of resurrecting the death, only to put them down to their graves again, what a blast!)
Those who still had strength in them could turn back to the secondary stage and enjoy the show by ROBOTPORN, a band with a fusion style between prog guitar and electronic music, that marked the end of this second edition of BE PROG! MY FRIEND.
I can only say good things about this festival: those of us that love prog now have a sure date at Poble Espanyol for as many years as the festival keeps on, what I hope is many. It’s true there were some sound problems (sometimes they are unavoidable, especially in big events like this) and some things to correct (as a fan coming from another city I would have seen with good eyes for the festival to be made in two days and I thing there should be a way to allow people to come in and out of the concert place; as press I would have like to see a photo pit in the secondary stage, but I admit it was difficult) but BE PROG! MY FRIEND is with no doubt an event to celebrate, and we hope that it stays with us for many years. Can’t wait for the third edition!