FESTIVAL REVIEW: BE PROG! MY FRIEND 2018 Live at Poble Espanyol, Barcelona – Day 1 (Friday)
Be prog! My Friend, is now in its sixth year of drawing in progressive music fans from Spain, the continent and beyond. Taking place in the unique setting of ‘Poble Espanyol’ or ‘Spanish Town’, originally built for the 1929 world fair, the festival attendees got to experience recreations of traditional Spanish architecture while watching some of biggest names in progressive rock and metal. In the past six years the festival has hosted such names as Jethro Tull, Marillon, Camel as well as many modern progressive acts like Opeth, Meshuggah and Devin Townsend. The organisation of the festival was notably smooth, there was a long queue on the first day of entry, which is understandable as wrist bands had to be distributed, however this was fast moving and I’m sure most who were aiming to see the opening band got in on time.
When entering the festival grounds you are greeted by the square of Spanish architecture in Poble Espanyol, a large and well-ordered stage and PA setup at the far end of the main square / viewing area. The standing areas were extended to viewing balconies at the back and the right of the concert area ensuring a good view of the stage for everyone attending. Before any acts hit the stage it was apparent that many prog fans were reuniting with friends and familiar faces at this festival, the jovial atmosphere clearly fitted with the festivals name and was a testament to the power music has in bringing people together.
The Andorran act Persefone kicked off the festival with plenty of energy, The shirtless and sprightly. Vocalist, Marc Martins Pia had great stage presence and managed to draw many early attendees out of the shade and into the hot and sunny front-centre of the festival square. Persefone played a mix of tracks from their newest release along with some older tracks, I really appreciated the Living waves from their last album ‘Aathma’. They played with great accuracy during their ‘machine gun’ stop-start riffs and growled vocals however they were let down by their bad mix, which is commonly an issue for the first band on a festival stage, some of their more intricate guitar work was muddy and hard to hear with the levels favouring the bands drums and vocals.
After a hot half an hour waiting in Poble Espanyol, Baroness arrived on stage with energy, baring big smiles and a seemingly simplistic stage setup compared to some of the other acts at ‘Be prog!’ The band started with the ‘Take my bones away’ and the sound coming from their small fender combo amps was huge, the crowd immediately got into baronesses heavy, mid-paced groove and the crowd near the front of the stage quickly began to fill out. As Baroness’s set progressed they included some songs from their most recent record ‘Purple’ (2015) including ‘Morning star’ ‘Chlorine and wine’ and ‘Shock Me’ which saw notable
Audience participation when it came to the chorus hook. To add to this, the band opted to include some older fan favourites like ‘March to the Sea’ and ‘Isak’ with impressive intertwining guitar harmonies between front man John Baizley and newly appointment guitarist Gina Gleason. The band’s positive on stage energy and varied set list made for a solid and entertaining show.
Pain of Salvation were the next act on the bill that day. The Swedish band appeared on stage to a warm welcome. Their last album ‘In the passing light of day’ has gotten really good reviews all around the world and a lot of their followers were awaiting to see their live performance! The band played us a long set of 11 songs, all of them involving a lot of crowd interaction, with a lot of chats in between songs as well as ‘sing and repeat’ sections, getting everyone pumped-up during the set. Opuses from their ‘Road Salt One’ and ‘Remedy Lane’ albums were not missing. And in order to reward their fans, the last songs were from their very first albums, which was much appreciated. Daniel Gildenlöws singer was making a real effort when searching for contact with his audience, talking with them at the end of every song, which, on one hand was friendly for the fans who were waiting for POS to come back to Spain after last years successful tour, but on the other hand, I’m sure some music fans would claim it would have been great to avoid too many breaks from the musical performance. We can also suppose that part of the audience was really awaiting for the next band to play: A Perfect Circle.
This set was one of the most anticipated from 2018’s Be Prog! My Friend announcements last year. The band was touring to promote their latest work ‘Eat the Elephant’ issued in April 2018. After 12 years being out of the scene, the frontman, Maynard, was just as mysterious as he has been in the past, wearing a bright pink suit and voluntarily taking up a podium toward the back of the stage with less of the bright stage lights meeting him than the other members.
Songs from ‘Mer de noms’, ‘Thirteenth Step’ and ‘eMOTIVE’ were played as well as plenty of material from their newest release ‘Eat the Elephant’. The band opened with first two tracks from the new album which are notably synth heavy with a more ‘post-rock’ feel than might be expected from A Perfect Circle. Fans were confidently singing along with the new music just before the band exploded into older favorites such as ‘The Hollow’ ‘Weak and Powerless and ‘The Noose’. There was an unexpected surprise mid way through the set with the band covering the Depeche Mode hit ‘People are People’ In many of A Perfect Circle’s gigs in the past filming and the taking of photographs have been prohibited, this gig was an exception to that rule with a few of the festivals professional photographers as well as general audience members capturing parts of the action. The band concluded with ‘Feathers’ a sombre track from their new album, which ended the 19 track performance, a full retrospective of A Perfect Circle’s work. A portion of the audience left after A Perfect Circle’s performance, and in doing that missed out on the most unique band playing at Be prog! My friend; Oranssi Pazuzu.
The Finnish act arrived on stage with plenty of amplification, it quickly became apparent that these guys were going to play a very loud set to close the first day. The bands sound was centered around an atmospheric wall of guitar noise along with black metal style vocals and odd drum lines. On first listen the band sounded harsh with loud wailing guitar with a lot of feedback included – but after the first couple of songs I was getting into what the band was trying to achieve; spacey yet chaotic black metal! This is the kind of music that must be performed loud, I just feel they would fit a more intimate and ground shaking club show better.
It’s sad to say, but as the band’s set was performed the crowd started to thin out, as festival goers made their way to the exits. The people that did stay on were truly into the music with some free- style dancing from a few fans in the audience.
Note: Festival Report by Neil Brinsdon and Virginie Delalande.