Be Prog! My Friend 2016 live review - Spain
Venue: Poble Espanyol, Barcelona
Opeth and Steven Wilson leave Barcelona prog fest on a high.
In a cruel display of schadenfreude, it is a week after the UK has voted to leave Europe. And a mere three weeks since the rain-sodden experience of Download festival. And so Prog finds itself in love with Barcelona, the delightful weather and everything that Be Prog! My Friend festival has to offer. Although you’re kind of left with that feeling that losers on Bullseye must have felt on being told, ‘This is what you could have won!’ as an array of colourful gifts are displayed in front of you.
Poble Espanyol is a vast architectural museum complete with streets, houses and shops, whose town square is converted into the arena for this sun-soaked prog extravaganza. Surveying the packed crowd, it’s a much younger audience than one might expect to find at such an event in the UK, with a splendid array of prog, post-rock and prog metal t-shirts on display. And it’s a fairly even 50-50 split of males to females, too. And while in the UK much of the audience would be moaning about half the bill, here the international audience lap everything up. But then with the arena bathed in glorious sunshine and Download’s mud but a distant memory, what’s not to like?
Wisely, two Spanish acts get things underway. Local boys Exxasens’ pulsating blend of post and space rock, complete with accompanying solar system visuals, is a perfect way to get things going, building rhythmically to the end of their set. Fellow Spaniards Obsidian Kingdom are a heavier prospect, airing material from new album A Year With No Summer. They play with dynamism and Rider Omega is a commanding frontman.
iamthemorning might have been something of an unknown entity before they play, but by the end of their allotted hour they, or rather frontwoman Marjana Semkina, have totally transfixed the crowd. At first their chamber prog seems at odds with what has gone before, but the musicality of Gleb Kolyadin shines through while Semkina’s spritely performance is a mixture of charm and good natured bewilderment. Of course she knows exactly what she’s doing, but it works a treat every time you see the band live. Icelandics Agent Fresco are also somewhat unknown, but it doesn’t take long for their twisted pop and darker prog songs to grab the attention, and with singer Arnór Dan Arnarson turning in an impressively energetic performance.
Headliners The Pineapple Thief are still without a full-time drummer and new album Your Wilderness isn’t out for a few months, so tonight’s set still revolves largely around 2014’s Magnolia, although both the vibrant All The Wars and Alone At Sea shine. Despite the odd hiccup Soord attacks his guitar with a Page-like gusto during the solos and it’s another confident, assured showing.