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.