Poppodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands
Saturday, 8th April, 2023
[This review first appeared in Dutch on the Progwereld website. You can read the original HERE, with huge thanks to the original contributors, and to Alex Driessen for the translation.]
The sun shone exuberantly on the Saturday, and it was almost a shame to spend the afternoon indoors, but this day has been blocked in my agenda for a long time. The line-up for this tenth edition of ProgDreams was too good to miss. And so I get on my bike and walk into Poppodium Boerderij fifteen minutes later. I spot some standing tables in the room and there is a pleasant atmosphere.
For Absent Friends has the honour to open proceedings. The Dutch band had been dormant for many years, but they are back with their new album, Disappear. The backbone of the band still consists of Edwin Roes (guitars), Ed Wernke (drums) and singer Hans van Lint. In the next 45-minutes a small cross-section of the band’s oeuvre was played. They have more than enough material of their own and that’s why Genesis’ Cinema Show felt a bit superfluous. I especially found Into Love very strong, mainly due to the wonderful guitar playing of Edwin Roes. Hans van Lint sounded a bit forced, and not as good as at the time of The Big Room. All in all a nice warm up for the day.For Absent Friends – photo by Richard Winkel
FOR ABSENT FRIENDS
The Poet/The Cinema Show
The Big Room
Hans van Lint – Lead Vocals
Jan Nieuwenhuis – Bass Guitar
Edwin Roes – Guitars
Clemens Steenweg – Keyboards
Edwin Wernke – Drums
On paper, this felt like the odd one out. Ebony Buckle makes singer-songwriter music that has nothing to do with prog. Still, this was the best performance of the day, behind Solstice. She is part of Solstice’s live band and appears to also make wonderful music together with her partner Nick Burns. With her fresh appearance and great sense of humour (‘my music is often about space, that is also very proggy’) she immediately captivated the audience. The small songs sound great, especially when the duo sings in harmony.
The Planet Who Believed
Ebony Buckle – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Nick Burns – Guitars, Vocals
After a somewhat longer break, in which you could grab a bite, Antony Kalugin was allowed to usher in the evening with his Karfagen. He has released more than fifteen albums in just as many years with his groups Karfagen and Sunchild. This band from the Ukraine makes sympho of the bombastic kind, a bit in the vein of Erik Norlander and The Samurai of Prog. He immediately sets the tone with an epic overture that has everyone on their toes.
In young Anton Barsukov, the band has a strong guitarist who smoothly produces one solo after another. With Mariya Panasenko and Olga Rostovska, the band also has two excellent backing vocalists. I’d never heard anything from Antony Kalugin, so I was pleasantly surprised. Keyboard enthusiasts in particular will get their money’s worth with his music: there’s a long keyboard solo in almost every song. I noticed that he was so eager to be the centre of attention that it kind of started to irritate me. He jumps, shouts, incites, stands in the crowd and draws all the attention towards himself with exaggerated arm movements and facial expressions. After introducing the band members, he snapped at Panasenko that she should not forget to introduce him. How sad.
Musically it is quite okay, but after three songs it becomes noticeable that everything sounds similar. In addition, Antony Kalugin is an excellent keyboard player, but a mediocre singer. Everything is sung at the same pitch and contains neither emotion nor depth. I was therefore very surprised and amazed that when Panasenko was allowed to do some lead vocals, she did it perfectly and with conviction. If you have such a good singer in the ranks, why not let her sing more often?
Shall We Run
A Day Without Rain
Anton Barsukov – Guitars
Antony Kalugin – Keyboards, Vocals
Vladislav Karbovsky – Bass Guitar
Mariya Panasenko – Vocals, Backing Vocals
Olga Rostovska – Backing Vocals
Konstantin Shepelenko – Drums
I had been looking forward to this performance. Polish band Millenium has been making albums for more than twenty years, but they have never performed in the Netherlands before. The band had said goodbye to singer Lukasz Gall after The Sin, because he did not feel like going on tour. New singer David Lewandowski does like touring a lot, he can also be heard on latest album Tales From Imaginary Movies. The band has an excellent guitarist in the ranks with the subdued Piotr Plonka, and the equally calm-looking bassist Krzysztof Wyrwa knows what to do with catchy bass lines. Bandleader Ryszard Kramarski had a broad array of keyboards at his disposal, with which he thoroughly enjoyed himself.
Singer David Lewandowski had a hard time. After half-an-hour his voice started to deteriorate with each song. He had to pull out all the stops to reach the high notes. In addition, he constantly pushed against his earplug with his free hand, apparently afraid it would drop out. It seemed as if he was also calling home while singing. During Madman he had put on a straitjacket and we were also treated to some superfluous acting. It looked a bit pathetic. In addition, he announced each song with ‘the next song is…from the album…’. A little more interaction with the audience would have been great. Since the rest of the band seems very subdued, it all remained a bit static.
Relatively much older work was played, which appealed less to me. I was disappointed that only one song from The Sin was played and that, in my modest opinion, the best ever Millenium album, The Web, was completely ignored!
Tales From Imaginary Movies (The Opening Credits)
Higher Than Me
When I Fall
A World Full of Spies
Light Your Cigar
A Comedy of Love
Brightness Hidden in the Dark
The Sounds of War
Grzegorz Bauer – Drums
Ryszard Kramarski – Keyboards
David Lewandowski – Lead Vocals
Piotr Plonka – Guitars
Krzysztof Wyrwa – Bass
Solstice from the United Kingdom was the headliner to close the evening. This legendary band has been around since 1980. I got to review their latest album, Light Up, and it’s still regularly played on my CD player. In the live setting, the band consists of eight people. Three old hands in the business (spoken with the utmost respect): Andy Glass (guitars), Steven McDaniel (keyboards) and drummer Pete Hemsley, supplemented by some young(er) talent.
It was already fun during the sound check. When singer Jess Holland had to test her microphone, my mouth fell open in surprise. So much power coming from such a petite girl! The very sympathetic Andy Glass still had some problems with his guitar, but decided that the show must go on. All the other bands had left the stage to be introduced, but Solstice just started playing. And in quite some style! They kicked off with Shout from the penultimate album, Sia. A technically complex song that effortlessly set the tone. You immediately felt: we’re in for something special.
With the first song it became painfully clear what I had missed at (almost) all other performances: experience! This band truly exudes music. The passion and love and sheer pleasure in the music was almost palpable and extremely contagious. Backing singers Ebony Buckle and Jennifer Sanin were dancing and singing and having a lot of fun together. This, too, was contagious. Music wasn’t just made here, music was lived here!
Towards the end of the first song it became clear that Glass’ guitar was not going to make it. The element switch was lame. Fortunately, there was a member of the Farm crew who could help. At the side of the stage he started working with his tools. The atmosphere remained positive. The two singers spontaneously came up with the song Fixing His Guitar and then Hemsley decided to unleash a drum solo on the audience. The crew member managed to bring the guitar back to life (suitable for an Easter weekend) and the band could now continue at full strength.
I no longer felt the pain of having to stand on my feet for such a long time. Even quenching my thirst just had to wait. I wanted to experience this performance as much as possible. What an amazing and uplifting company to see and hear at work! Eight top-notch musicians who just enjoy playing together. Everything is just great. It’s OK if you want to stand modestly in a corner with your bass guitar (Robin Phillips) or if you just want to focus on doing your part as a violinist – and also an excellent singer – (Jenny Newman), but also if you want to go crazy, dancing like mad as a singer, that’s fine. Lovely to see those three young girls dancing and laughing while guitarist Glass and his buddy McDaniel are watching, approvingly, with wide grins.
I thought the music on the album was already impressive, but live it gets even better and more intense. I loved Bulbul Tarang and Cheyenne, but especially A New Day (from Sia) made a deep impression. Singer Jess Holland is incredibly talented and also warm and approachable. With her enormous vocal range and power she knows how to convince each and everyone in the audience.
Too bad that quite a lot of people had already left by then, you wouldn’t want to miss this. Just after midnight, a very impressive show came to an end. I sincerely hope the band will be booked again, this time as a main act. These are really memorable gigs.
All in all an interesting day where the women by far made the biggest impression.
A New Day
Ebony Buckle – Backing Vocals
Andy Glass – Guitars, Vocals
Pete Hemsley – Drums
Jess Holland – Lead Vocals
Steven McDaniel Keyboards, Vocals
Jenny Newman – Violin
Robin Phillips – Bass
Jennifer Sanin – Backing Vocals