The Bodhisattva Beat
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Stage setting for Fish: 2008

Stage setting for Fish: 2008

Just a little blurb today about something that is becoming an annual pilgrimage for me. NEARfest, or the North East Rock and Art Festival, is an event held every year (at least at this point) at Lehigh University in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. The title says rock, so that means it is not tied to one genre, but it is really a prog festival. I attended my first one in 2007, and loved it so much that I vowed to do my best to return every year.

It is a three day event. Two bands perform Friday night (which is considered the pre-show), then eight more over the course of the the next two days. The organizers do a great job of mixing up the talent. The headliners each night are usually classic, or big name acts (at least in the prog community). The rest usually consist of varying notoriety. Some of the best ones have been acts that I never heard of before, but am now a big fan. Indukti in 2007, and Mörglbl in 2008, both just blew me away. However, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t just enthralled by Magma and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso.

Concerts are not the limit of the experience. Artsits of note come to be met, and sell you an autographed copy of a treasured piece (or even something new). I now have pieces autographed by Roger Dean (he did the classic Yes covers, and even many of the NEARfest logos), Paul Whitehead (classic Genesis covers), and Mark Wilkinson (Fish era Marillion). Other musicians also get space to promote themselves, but the biggest thing after the shows is the vendor tables. Most prog albums are hard to find in your local store, mainly because they don’t have a lot of mass appeal. So, us fans do a lot of ordering online. Well, the biggest online stores box up as many CD’s as they can carry, and bring them to NEARfest. It is amazing. Most of the time between shows is spent pawing through the displays, salivating over the many treasures. And get to the tables quick after the “new discovery” band gets done playing. Those CD’s will be gone fast. For many, the cost of everything else for the weekend doesn’t match the money spent at the vendor tables.

Aside from the festival, Bethlehem is a lovely spot. Lehigh has a beautiful campus, and it is nestled in a mountain valley. The drive there through Pennsylvania is also wonderful. I really don’t mind the time it takes from Michigan.

So, I will be heading there again next week, with a diversion to New York first. I’m going to hang with my oldest friend, and then jam out to great music with some new ones. Look for a full breakdown when return.


Oh, and on another note, don’t be afraid to share your thoughts on any post. I like discussion. That makes all of this even more fun.

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11 Responses to “NEARfest”

  1. HT, have fun at NEARfest and say “hello” to our friend in the big apple.

    Have you seen the new Eddie Murphy flick “Imagine That?” There are about 5 covers of Beatles hits in the movie. How about a review?

  2. Thanks Rob. I will definitely send along your regards.

    I don’t usually spend the money to see comedies in the theater, and am also always wary of Beatles covers. So few are able to pull it off well. Perhaps when it comes out on video I’ll check it out.

  3. Great blog HT and I completely enjoyed meeting you at Nearfest. Can’t wait to see you…and Nearfest of course hahah… again next year. Keep up the great reviews. You may provide inspiration for a prog outlet for me since my electicityin my current outlet has ..hahha.. shorted out.

    • Thanks Micky. It was wonderful hanging out with you and Raff. What a pleasure to to spend real time (rather than virtual) with two of my best friends from Prog Archives. We’ll keep the prog flowin’ one way or another. I definitely want to see more “ha ha ha’s” when I post my Nearfest recap.

      • Yeah I PM’d Ivan yesterday and told him that he WILL be coming next year….. even if we have to drive down there and stuff him in your trunk hahahha. (we’ll let you drive though). We made a wrong turn out out of Bethlehem yesterday and nearly ended up in NY state hahahha. Damn turnpikes haha. Beautiful area though.. had never been in the Pocanos 🙂

      • Wow, so I’m not the only one. This year was the first time I didn’t make some type of wrong turn leaving that place.

  4. It was really wonderful to get to meet you in person after all this time. I can’t wait for us to get together again! Pity you can’t get away for ProgDay, but hopefully there’ll be other opportunities before next year.

    • I look forward to seeing you again as well. I had such a great time. Odds are that Prog Day is out of the question, but you never know. I may just decide to hang it all up and become a prog festival groupie. I could sell grilled cheese sandwiches in the parking lot, just like the Deadheads used to do.

      • hahahhaha… cheese sandwiches? What kind of restaurant do you manage. A frickin Micky D’s hahhah.

  5. Hi HT. Just a quick but important correction: NEARfest stands for the North East Art Rock Festival, not Rock and Art Festival. It’s art rock or progressive rock of all genres that is played there. And they did hold it for two years in Trenton, N.J., but have returned to Lehigh for good, they say. My wife and I have attended for 10 straight years now and it is a must for prog fans to watch and hear the bands, to meet them after each set, and as you note, to buy those hard to find CDs, DVDs, vinyl albums, magazines, books and the artwork of Roger Dean, Mark Wilkinson, and sometimes, singer/artist Annie Haslam of Renaissance.

    Announced for next year: Three Friends- three members of Gentle Giant playing the music of the Giant and some new music next year!

    • Oops! Right you are, Doug. I get a bit dislexic at times. Thank you for the correction. It is a great time, and I plan on going back year after year. Unfortunately it was right back to work on my return to Michigan, but I shall be posting my recap of this year soon.

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