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Porto Antico Prog Fest 2017 - Genova

14th - 15th July 2017

Porto Antico Prog Fest 2017 - Genova

The port in Genoa, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, is over 1000 years old but has been reinvented during the last 20, thanks in large part to local starchitect Renzo Piano. The facilities, a mixture of new-build and renovated historic buildings, include an aquarium, harbour offices, a viewing platform known as the Bigo and a 20m diameter crystal sphere, the Bolla, containing the largest collection of ferns in the world. The matrix of steel poles which support the Bigo, inspired by the cranes on the old wharfs, also support the membrane above a performance space, the Piazza delle Feste, which is where the concerts are staged.
The second Porto Antico Prog Fest, organised by Genovese record label and record shop Black Widow was held on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th July where, alongside headlining bands were some of the emerging and less well-known but nevertheless incredible local talent, including Melting Clock on Friday and Panther & C. on Saturday.

Melting Clock was something of a revelation. Fronted by amazing vocalist Emanuela Vedana, the group who also comprise Sandro Amadei on keyboards, Stefano Amadei on guitar, Alessandro Bosca on bass, Simone Caffè on guitar and Francesco Fiorito on drums, performed some wonderful, highly accomplished symphonic progressivo italiano with a nice full, well-balanced sound. The stand-out track for me was a piece called Antares with Mellotron strings and harmony vocals and plenty of musical drama, although the entire set was thoroughly enjoyable. They concluded with an excellent rendition of Firth of Fifth.
Mad Fellaz is an octet hailing from Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto who played complex compositions which blended Zappa and Canterbury. It certainly wasn’t music that you could fall asleep to, with unpredictable twists and turns somehow all fitting together brilliantly.
Hailing from Savona a little to the west of Genova, Il Cerchio d’Oro was around in the 70s but the band only released original material when they reformed in the 00s. Original members Gino (drums) and Giuseppe Terribile (bass) and Franco Piccolini (keyboards) were augmented by Massimo Cesare (guitar), Piuccio Pradal (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Simone Piccolini (keyboards), with guest vocalist Pino Ballarini (ex-Il Rovescio della Medaglia) and guest drummer Paolo Siani (ex-Nuovo Idea.) The compositions were well structured but there was less complexity than I had hoped for. It was still an enjoyable performance and the appearance of the two guest musicians was warmly appreciated by the crowd.
Delirium is another local band, formed in 1970, whose debut Dolce Acqua, considered a classic of the progressivo italiano genre, made up much of the set. The present line-up, reconvened in 2015 after a hiatus of six years for the album L’Era della Menzogna features original member Ettore Vigo on keyboards, Martin Grice on sax and flute (who joined the band for their second album), Fabio Chigini on bass, Alessandro Corvaglia on vocals, Michele Cusato on guitar, and Alfredo Vandresi on drums and they produced a brilliant, unmissable set.
It’s pertinent that the headline act on Friday, Gens de la Lune, followed Delirium on stage because the band stars Francis Décamps, formerly of French prog superstars Ange, and Ange’s crowning glory was Au-Delà Du Délire (Beyond Delirium, 1974.) The performance was expressionistic thanks to the theatrical delivery of Décamps and vocalist Jean Philippe Suzan who wore a Venetian plague mask and bowler hat during one song. The music was varied, alternating heavy prog with more gentle moments and proved a good way to end the first day, finishing their set at nearly half past midnight.

Day two began with Panther & C. who had impressed me when I saw them at the Fiera Internazionale della Musica in 2014. They entertained us with an accomplished set of melodic symphonic prog, airing their just-released album Il Giusto Equilibrio along with favourites from their debut L’Epoca di un Altro.
Mr Punch is a Marillion tribute act made up of luminaries from the current local Italian prog scene, including vocalist Alessandro Corvaglia making his second appearance of the festival, Luca Scherani (keyboards), Marcella Arganese (guitar) and Guglielmo Mariotti (bass) who played through Misplaced Childhood. It was no surprise that the musicianship was first class but I was really amazed by Corvaglia’s study of Fish’s mannerisms.
I missed The Mugshots during a break for food, but really enjoyed the Arabs in Aspic set, a brand of prog which tended towards the heavy end of the spectrum but which contained sufficient melody, variation and surprises to suit someone more accustomed to symphonic prog. They also formed the backing group for Saturday headliner and space-rock legend Nik Turner.
I’ll be back next year!

This review is an edited version of the long-lost blog ‘Porto Antico Prog Fest 2017’ originally posted on 23rd July 2017

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