Be Prog! My Friend, Barcelona

Proggers take to the Spanish stage...

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If there really is a time and a place for everything, then who knew prog’s was late afternoon in a sun-glazed Barcelona? The gargantuan queue for the inaugural all-day Be Prog! My Friend festivala snakes out of the historic Poble Espanyol, with the scalding sun threatening to give gig-goers a vitamin D overdose before openers Antimatter, former cohorts of Anathema, even strike a note.

“This is cool… no it’s not, it’s fucking hot,” jokes longtime lead man Mick Moss, who leads his Liverpudlian troops through such heavy slabs of melancholic rock as Paranova.

It’s mostly pretty chilled-out today, but TesseracT inject some pizzazz with adroit riffs and cut-throat chops. Returning singer Daniel Tompkins encourages the quintet to largely shun their 2013 album Altered State in favour of oldies such as the twisting Acceptance and amid some whiplash-inducing exertions there’s pinpoint-sharp pipework from the vocalist.

While they bring the chutzpah, the same can’t really be said for Alcest, whose opener Opale sees dream-pop pirouetting over plain rhythms. The Gallic quartet revisit their ballsier back catalogue, but those sunbathing in the terracotta-plastered square risk slipping into a totally different kind of dreamy.

Good thing then that Fish is here to perk things up, wading on stage like the prog rock deity he is and plunging straight into the ten-minute-plus Perfume River. The Scot is an engaging presence, but a couple of his retro-tinted tunes – such as the cheddary Big Wedge – alienate some of those awaiting headliners Opeth. But, hey, that woman shaking her stuff near the merch stall is lost in it all, partying like it’s 1989.

Anathema take things a tad more modern, and they snakecharm a sea of mobile phones into the balmy air. Their opulent sound befits the grand venue, before the bewitching Opeth enter the fray, and bulldoze through a crunching retrospective set – Atonement is a hazy highlight – to elicit near-hysteria, despite it being past Mikael Åkerfeldt’s self-proclaimed bedtime.

You’ve got to feel then for closers Pain Of Salvation – playing their second show with ringleader Daniel Gildenlöw since his recovery from a flesh-eating bacterial infection – as they amble on stage around 2am. There are broken strings, sound issues and even an impromptu drum solo as Gildenlöw tunes his wonky guitar, but the Swedes’ music is vivacious, with Linoleum showcasing both masterful melody making and off-kilter rock panache.

The crowd thins out before the end of their set, and some fans can be seen snoozing on the stony floor. It’s been a long day. But with songs such as People Passing By the kinetic and versatile Pain Of Salvation prove to be the most daring act here, and juggle genres like hot potatoes. Be prog indeed Daniel, be prog.

Chris Cope

A writer for Prog magazine since 2014, armed with a particular taste for the darker side of rock. The dayjob is local news, so writing about the music on the side keeps things exciting - especially when Chris is based in the wild norths of Scotland. Previous bylines include national newspapers and magazines.