Riviera Prog Festival - Genova (IT)
16th-18th May 2014
This was my first visit to Genova and my first Italian prog festival. I was drawn to the city because it seems to be the new home of progressivo Italiano. It’s the biggest port in Italy and is a major point of entry into Europe so, like prog, the city is open to a variety of influences. A three day pass to the event cost less than €33 but this was an international music fair with a prog festival, consisting of 23 bands and organised by the city’s Black Widow Records, attached.
The prog stage was set in a car park adjacent to the upper entrances to the exhibition space where at various times you could hear snatches of the adjacent attractions and sounds from the main hall. Having read Fabio Zuffanti's recent blog about Italian prog audiences I should have been better prepared for the relatively small crowds, varying between 50 and 200 depending on the band. The opening act on the first day was Panther & C., with a physically expressive vocalist/flautist, Mauro Serpe, playing good symphonic prog in the mould of Steve Hackett. Unreal City played material that was slightly more straightforward rock but they had a flamboyant keyboard player, Emanuele Tarasconi, who played in a Keith Emerson style. Fungus were quite theatrical, with an animated front man whose voice was an acquired taste. Some of their music was very proggy but there was quite a lot of plain rock. Psycho Praxis had a few false starts due to sound problems, but when these were sorted they were really good, sounding like PFM at times. Their vocalist, who also played flute, had a good voice but it was a little disappointing that he sang in English. Il Tempio Delle Clessidre played melodic symphonic prog and are regarded as a successor to Museo Rosenbach because they got together to perform Zarathustra with vocalist Stefano Galifi who became a member of the band for their self-titled debut.
I missed the next two bands and the Jimi Hendrix tribute, calling it a day at around 8.30pm.
The Waking Sleeper Band, pop with prog touches, were still playing when I arrived on day two. The set from La Coscienza di Zeno was better than the performance in Soignies where I thought they sounded like a neo-prog band. They sounded like a classic RPI act and were really enjoyable. I missed Ballo delle Castagne to wander around the venue and came back to see Spettri. They came across as political and the music was filled with staccato rhythms and false endings. I wasn’t a fan of the vocals, but the music was mostly good. The C.A.P set seemed to last for ages. It was melodic prog, but hardly gripping. Alvaro Fella, in a wheelchair, joined them for much of the performance. I enjoyed the Alphataurus set, a complete performance of their 1973 album plus a couple of tracks from 2012’s Attosecondo. Their debut is regarded as an absolute classic, so it seemed a shame that the crowd was only around 100 people. As much as I wanted to see Osanna I couldn’t hang around. The schedule was running really late and Gianni Leone, who I’d also wanted to see, played two covers of international hits from the 60s before I gave up.
I’d missed most of Gran Torino when I arrived at the festival on day three. Not A Good Sign, were good, heavy at times, and evidently influenced by King Crimson. Ingranaggi Della Valle played a cross between prog and jazz rock, revealing a Mahavishnu influence. Universal Totem Orchestra seemed a bit new-age-y. The vocalist had an excellent voice but she indulged in scat vocals, which aren’t my favourite, and overall they weren’t very inspiring.
One of the reasons for attending was to see La Maschera di Cera, who played Le Porte del Domani in full. Unfortunately, Fabio Zuffanti was about to head off to Canada with the Z-Band so he didn’t play, but the stand-in bassist was very good. I had a very pleasant chat with Richard Sinclair (ex-Caravan) over a beer while waiting for La Maschera di Cera to play. Sinclair is resident in southern Italy and runs a music club, offering his musical expertise in return for an annual fee of €50 which also gives you two original CDs per year. On a nearby table, La Maschera di Cera were also having a pre-performance drink and it was quite obvious that flautist Andrea Monetti was inebriated, but it didn’t appear to affect his playing. Next, Sinclair played a set with Prophexy, a band who claim to be averse to anything in 4/4 and with a professed admiration for early Caravan and Hatfield and the North. It was very nice of him to address me personally when he said “hello” to the crowd.
Another unforgettable part of the weekend was Aldo Tagliapietra performing Felona e Sorona in its entirety, fitting in with La Maschera di Cera playing their ‘follow-up’ to the classic Le Orme album. I didn’t stay for Locanda delle Fate who headlined on the last night as I was pretty shattered, but I’d experienced some great bands and brilliant music.
Apart from a couple of musicians, I think I was the only Brit around for the festival, though that didn’t detract from the vibe, which was welcoming and inclusive. It was nice to see the protagonists wandering through the crowd throughout the course of the prog fest and it was even possible to follow some of the interviews held with the bands after they’d performed. I also spent some time chatting to the record stall holders and artists at the merchandise desks, returning home with a few CDs and a Tempio delle Clessidre T-shirt.
I liked Genova, with its UNESCO world heritage sites and sundry attractions that I visited in the mornings before the music started, but I didn’t get to see the whole city. I’d picked a really good hotel, just by chance, right in the middle of the city, with easy access to everywhere, so I know where I’ll be staying when I go back.