GIG REVIEW: PROGFEST (Factory Theatre, January 2018)
BANDS: Leprous, Voyager, AlithiA, Meniscus, Orsome Welles, Breaking Orbit, Osaka Punch, James Norbert Ivanyi, Dyssidia, Majora, Hemina, Seims, Mercury Sky, Genetics VENUE: Factory Theatre, Sydney DATE: 20th January, 2018
It's another sweltering Sydney summer day, but walking through the gates at Sydney's Factory Theatre it's apparent that the heat hasn't stopped some diehard fans of all things prog from starting proceedings early - a sea of black clothing and band t-shirts packs into the venue by the very early afternoon to catch a droolworthy lineup of proggy delights.
Locals Genetics, Mercury Sky and Seims start proceedings in the Fusebox "Poseidon" Stage, with Seims in particular drawing a huge crowd with their commanding brand of post/math rock - it's a vibrant and biting set peppered with prog, grooves and even the occasional touch of jazz.
Outside the Fusebox, a crowd is massing outside the main Factory Theatre doors, and for good reason with Brisbane's favourite fusion lords Osaka Punch opening proceedings on the main stage in a way only they can - it's a whirlwind 30 minutes of ass-shaking, soul-breaking delirium that shows off their technical brilliance as well as their ability to intoxicate every single person in the room with their crushing charisma and vicious pop tendencies. Rounding out their explosive set with the brutal 'Battleworm (Escapes from Doom)' and 'Electric Jam on Boogie', there is not one face that isn't smiling by the end, both on and off stage, and it bodes well for the night to follow.
For the next few hours Progfest has the crowds traipsing back and forth a bit between the Fusebox and Main Stage, but before the Fusebox closes its doors for the night it plays home to some stellar acts including prog metallers Hemina, mesmerising Adeladians Dyssidia and local virtuoso James Norbert Ivanyi, but it's Newcastle post-rockers Majora that particularly stand out as they soar through their truly stunning set, drawing heavily on their recently released 'Aphotic' EP - it's a captivating journey full of heaving chaotic riffs and brawling crescendos occasionally gives way to elegant calm, and the only criticism is that their set is cut short before they could play their final song.
Back to the Main Stage and Sydney heavies Breaking Orbit deliver a pounding set, upping the rock-factor and melting a fair few faces before Melbourne's Orsome Wells take the stage (and completely own it). Enigmatic frontman Michael Stowers definitely wins best-dressed of the night with his dapper ensemble, and the group gets the crowd eating out of their very skilled hands with their theatrical tendencies and devastating riffs. While ticking all the boxes of conventional heavy prog, the group has a refreshingly unique sound that makes them a definite highlight of the evening.
With four bands left to play, Sydney instrumental group Meniscus fly the post-rock flag on the Main Stage, with a tasty bliss-bomb of a set that is criminally lush and hypnotic, accompanied by some dazzling visuals courtesy of the group's visual artist Martin Wong.
Next up, Melbourne space rockers AlithiA bust out their transcendent soundscapes and raw ambience with razor sharp precision and a driving swagger that perfectly balances the wall-of-sound moments with a brooding drama that perfectly leads into the next act: Perth's prog powerhouses Voyager. As the group erupts onstage, frontman Daniel Estrin commands with his crystallised vocals, but it's not just a one-man show as this melodic quintet serve up some clenched grooves and savage riffs that are tighter than Bowie's pants in Labyrinth. It's an exhilarating albeit short set ending with the crowd favourite 'Hyperventilating', but it's a fierce and furious snapshot into why this lot have continued to enjoy so much success at home and overseas.
Last but not least, we reach the end of the local bill and it's finally time for Norwegian leviathans/headliners Leprous to take the stage and close out this ridiculously talented evening - and as expected, it's a textbook set full of precision riffs and melodic vocals that explores the group's back catalogue as well as tracks from their recently released album 'Malina'. Boasting plenty of ostentatious shifts, some extreme head banging and multiple encores, the guys clearly seem to be loving every minute of this adventure, and it's definitely an appropriate ending for the night.
Now in its tenth year of existence, Progfest has certainly delivered in showcasing the absolutely booming prog scene in Australia, and the adage of many onstage was one of awe of how fortunate we are to have so much diverse talent in our own backyard. It may not be everyone's cup of whiskey, but the Aussie Prognaissance is well and truly underway and it's only a matter of time before we're going to see more of these locals catapult into infamy.
Brisbane Progfest is currently underway today, but for those in Melbourne you can experience if for yourself next Saturday at The Corner. Ticket info and more here.
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BY TIANA SPETER