It’s not for those who are left-of-field, but festival organiser George Roldan knows his audience well and each year constructs a weekender packed full of highly listenable bands.
Perhaps a sign of the growing resurgence of progressive music in America, this year’s line‑up features more home‑grown acts than at any other time in its history, the first of which are California-based Heliopolis. The band kick off the weekend with a firm musical handshake, chock full of passion, technical command and smile-driven energy.
Spock’s Beard’s retooling of their line‑up in 2011, adding Enchant singer/guitarist Ted Leonard, has paid off in spades. The Friday night headlining set features the epic The Healing Colors Of Sound and a condensed rendition of Snow, while drummer Jimmy Keegan shows off his lead vocal talents during a showstopping performance of the album’s torch song, Carie. Tunes from Brief Nocturnes And Dreamless Sleep, plus material from the soon-to-be-released The Oblivion Particle album, show that even after 23 years, the band have lost none of their creative edge.
Saturday opens with Strattman, the solo project of Little Atlas guitarist Roy Strattman. Their set culminates with a stirring cover of Pink Floyd’s Echoes, which prompts a standing ovation from the RoSFest faithful.
Chicago’s Sonus Umbra instantly take command of the stage with a performance brimming with good humour and vitality. The almost Gentle Giant-like complexity to their arrangements makes them compelling to watch from beginning to end.
Scottish stalwarts Abel Ganz are the surprise package of the weekend, performing an eclectic set packed with both mellifluous prowess and lyrical power. The current line-up is a delight to witness live and singer Stuart ‘Mick’ Macfarlane gives the standout vocal performance of the festival.
Saturday night headliners Haken appear to be an unstoppable creative force right now. Their craft both as writers and performers reaches effortlessly into areas that few are able to emulate. Much has been said about the band’s musical potential – theirs is a set dripping with power and precision as the band bring the evening to a breathtaking climax with an intense rendition of the 20-minute odyssey Crystallised from the Restoration EP.
Fresh from their stripped-back duo performance at the Marillion weekend in Montreal, Sunday’s opener **Lo-Fi Resistance **sport their full line-up for this show. The band – and the project’s outstanding singer/guitarist Randy McStine – are magnetic to watch in full flow.
Synaesthesia’s set lightens the mood. The young Brits are bristling with technical prowess, colour and charisma, and their development in 2015 will be interesting to see.
Sunday afternoon closers Glass Hammer have had many iterations over the years but founding members Steve Babb and Fred Schendel have always succeeded in creating an ensemble that fully complements their sense of musical grandeur. The band conjure up what is easily the boldest set of the weekend.
The final act are Enchant, whose melodic power sums up the spirit of RoSFest perfectly. Singer-guitarist Ted Leonard once again takes to the stage to bookend the festival with
a cornucopia of tunes spanning the band’s entire 22-year career. Highlights include a storming rendition of The Great Divide, which exudes fluidity and emotion from beginning to end. Leonard even indulges in a little fun by sitting in the audience for the extended instrumental. Needless to say, the band leave the stage to thunderous applause.