Weekly Listen: ROSFest 2017

I’ve returned from my annual trek to Gettysburg for the Rites of Spring Festival – aka ROSFest. This was ROSFest number seven for me, which  is low compared to some folks, but it doesn’t seem like I’ve been going that long!. Kudos as always to George Roldan and the crew who keep things running smoothly year after year.

ROSFest Marquee

My thoughts on the bands:

Kyros – I liked them as Synathesia a couple years back and I think they’ve improved with (a little bit of) age. Their sound is heavy without being obnoxious and there’s lots of juicy keyboard work to go around (it’s a great ad for the Korg Kronos). Liked ‘em, bought the new album. Note – this was the first of three keyboardist/frontmen for the weekend – surely a record?

Moon Safari – I like, but don’t love, them (after about 90 minutes things just seem too sweet) but they delivered a good set, as expected based on their last appearance. The newer material didn’t thrill me. I continue to be amazed at their ability to harmonize after two hours.

Aaron Clift Experiment – I thought this was generally good, melodic stuff, although as somebody else pointed out it wasn’t particularly “proggy.” Only a few tunes really connected. I liked the fact that they brought a string quartet (once the sound guy saw they were there). But I disappointed that the keyboard player didn’t do more in a band with his name on it. Second keyboardist/frontman of the festival.

Unified Past –  These guys just didn’t work for me. Heavy prog with metal-style vocals with lots of instrumental pyrotechnics. Ephemeral Sun’s John Battema apparently stepped in at late notice to keep the band from having to cancel, so kudos to him – their material gave him quite a workout! I thought the Christ Squire “tribute” was odd, given that the bass player (with his Rick!) walked off stage for it.

dB Unit – The surprise of the fest for me. As other’s have mentioned, this was basically a few guys from Unitopia augmented by Steve Unruh (on violin, flute, and percussion). I only have one Unitopia album which is all right, so the idea of this collection of musicians didn’t thrill me. But the music was great and nice contrast from the metallic bombast of the rest of the day. Unruh is amazing. If they don’t make an album, I hope we get a recording of this set, at least. Slight demerit for using a bass backing track occasionally.

Neal Morse Band – Although I hadn’t heard much of Neal’s solo stuff going in, I knew what to expect musically from his days with Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and, now, Flying Colors (whose second album I picked up). Aside from the prog-metal gloss on proceedings, it met expectations. Nothing stuck with me, but it was an enjoyable process as it went through. Neal and his band are all monster players and he’s a great frontman (number 3 in the . . . trinity of keyboard-based frontmen), so it was fun to watch.

The Fierce and the Dead – I suppose they were the “weird” band for the weekend, given the all-instrumental music. A great way to start Sunday. They reminded me of a heavier, more concise Forever Einstein (if that makes any sense). There were a few bits where they spaced out and kind of provided some breathing space. Great rapport with the audience. Pity they’re Arsenal fans!

Evership – This was another pleasant surprise. Young  band (they’ve been an actual band less than a year) cranking out adventurous (in terms of lyrical themes) symphonic prog with a heavy (but not overwhelming) edge. Lots of acoustic guitar work added a nice texture. Plus, they had cool toys on stage – a Theremin! a (pink) double-neck bass! a CP-80! Unfortunately, the lead guitar tone cut through my brain like a laser.

Edensong – Every year I skip out on one band (there’s only so much music a mind can handle) and I knew they’d be the one this year. I wanted to rest up for Anglagard and, having seen Edensong at 3RP long ago, knew their stuff really wasn’t for me. I hung around for a few tunes (all new, I think) and confirmed that thought. Major demerits for using obvious backing tracks (especially considering ACE’s string quartet from the day before).

Anglagard – This was my highest expectation of the weekend and they met it. They were a little looser (improvisational?) than I thought they’d be, but it worked. Loved bathing in the glow of real Melotron strings for the evening!

All in all another pretty good year.

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