GIG REVIEW: PROGFEST, SYDNEY (The Factory Theatre, January 2019)
THE OCEAN, MONUMENTS, SKYHARBOR, CIRCLES, CHAOS DIVINE, CITY OF SOULS, TOEHIDER, JAMES NORBERT IVANYI, GLASS OCEAN, OPUS OF A MACHINE, LO!, HEMINA, RED BEE, ANUBIS, SEIMS, SNVFF, HASHSHASHIN, SEVSONS, SHANGHAI, NUMIDIA - The Factory Theatre, Sydney // Sunday 27th January, 2019
While some were busting out the boardies and counting down from 100 with the radio, the gods of all things progressive turned their gaze to Sydney yesterday for a truly monumental occasion - celebrating intricacy, innovation and bone-shattering blasts, the 10th anniversary of Progfest delivered an unforgettable array of prodigious prog, with 20 bands melting faces throughout the day at The Factory Theatre.
It's a steamy Sydney summer day both inside and out at Progfest 2019 as punters dressed in their band-merch finest trickle through the gates to spy Sydney locals Numidia and Shangai burn up their sets on the Pharaoh and Pyramid stages respectively. Armed with a theremin, sassy brass and a megaphone, the Mr Bungle-esque antics of Shanghai on the main stage lead swiftly into a powerful set from Sydney math rock machines SEIMS as they flow through a mesmerising journey of colour and sparkling moves from frontman Simeon Bartholomew (plus some extra snazzy visuals stealing the show along the way).
While explosive locals Hashashin, Sevsons, Snvff and Anubis whip up the crowd with a kaleidoscope of prog on the Pharaoh stage, the main stage makes way for some blistering beauty from Sydney's Glass Ocean and the effortlessly suave James Norbert Ivanyi, blowing up riffs, jaws and a resurgence for turtle neck jumpers in one fell swoop.
JAMES NORBERT IVANYI
As the day creeps on and a good old-fashioned Sydney storm sneaks overhead, the crowds get a lesson in tight, brutal theatricality from Blue Mountains boys Red Bee and syncopated sorcery from Hermina. Meanwhile, Perth's Chaos Divine deliver on their namesake with a
beautifully madcap set that draws to mind fellow prog kings Voyager and Twelve Foot Ninja, but with their own distinct flavour that effortlessly wins over the crowd and culminates in one of the colossal highlights of the evening: a prog-soaked homage to Africa's 'Toto' that just about tears down the walls and neighbouring fences.
The land of the long white cloud gets aptly repped by Kiwi lads City of Souls, laying down some huge grooves and roaring vocals from frontman (and seemingly tallest man onstage at Progfest) Richie Simpson, giving way to a heaving set that could wake the dead from Melbourne djentlemen Circles. Flowing from newer material to earlier jams, there's an infectious brutality to the Melbourne quartet that dabbles between cinematic beauty and warped riffs that resonates long after the distortion has faded into the abyss.
Next up, The Pharaoh stage gets an abrasive shakedown as Sydney-siders Lo! wreak some delightfully dark havoc on the crowd with frontman Sam Dillon unleashing to the audience and the army of photographers aimed squarely in his face. While the sludgey tones unfold downstairs, the first of the international heavies take the stage with Indian/American behemoths Skyharbor bringing their melodic ferocity to the table and upping the ante with a taut and thrilling set that sits in a series of first ever appearances down under - and here's hoping there's many more to come from these majestic maestros.
Closing out proceedings on the local stage we are treated to beguiling Brissie quartet Opus of a Machine who bring together progressive elegance with healthy serves of brooding breakdowns and searing grooves that exceed the small stage, but nonetheless ably reps the introspective side of the prog world. As Melbourne's answer to Queen-meets-Muse on rockin' steroids Toehider closes out the Pharaoh stage, the upstairs arena plays home to the final two acts of the night, with the electric Brits Monuments erupting through a set that pumps up the palm-mutes, dribbles the djenty riffs and swirls between retro metalcore and modern shimmering rock. Frontman Chris Barretto stops part way to inform the crowd he is under the weather, but for a man who can conjure a circle pit, get the crowd on their knees and tread the stage with the charisma of a metal Michael Jackson, there's no hard feelings if this is Monuments only firing on partial cylinders.
It's a slightly lengthy wait for the grand Progfest finale, but when headliners The Ocean take the stage it's thoroughly worth the delay - and then some. The German collective have come to thoroughly slay this adventure and ultimately deliver a devastatingly stunning set. Seamlessly shifting between desolate tones and some especially hypnotic vocals from frontman Loïc Rossetti, there are moments of utter silence spliced between the sonic immersion, with the crowd seemingly hanging on to every searing moment emanating onstage.
With mic stands slammed and sludgy tones rammed through the crowd, it's an absolute steamroller of an ending to an immense day of proggy goodness. Casting an eye later over the results of the Hottest 100 that unfurled alongside Sydney's Progfest, it's a predicted limited showing for the prog and heavier genres; but based on the batshit crazy talent that graced Sydney for the entire day, the prog world is alive and vigorously kicking. Here's to the innovators, the trailblazers and the creative crusaders - in prog we trust!
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BY TIANA SPETER