Symforce 2007
The concert hall 013 has been modified, the Symforce festival has the honour to be the first festival in this partly renewed hall. The result is amazing, the foyer is much larger now and a new climate control in the Dommelsch Hall (the main hall) made the overall atmosphere even better. The Symforce festival took place in the mail hall, the small hall and the Bat Cave, a café like room. The gigs in the Dommelsch Hall and in the Bat Cave/Small Hall took partly place at the same time. So I had to make choices. I decided not to visit the gigs of the bands that played in the Bat Cave (Lady Lake, Isopoda, Beardfish and Bootcoot), I'm sorry guys!

The first band on the bill to play the main hall was Focus; the band of Hammond organ player Thijs van Leer and guitar player Jan Akkerman. Last musician isn't member of the band anymore, Niels van Steenbergen took over his part. The band played some new songs like 'Sylvia's Stepson - Ubutuba' and 'Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee', the set list however existed mostly of the old songs such as 'Eruption', 'Sylvia' and of course 'Hocus Pocus'. The atmosphere was typically like the live shows of the Seventies; including a drum-, guitar- and bass guitar solo. The sound was excellent. Symforce was having a flying start!.

In the small hall it was time for Lazuli, a French band with some quite some origin musical instruments. Several years ago guitar player Leonetti Claude was wounded badly on his arm; the arm was paralysed, he couldn't play the guitar anymore. The band found a solution for this problem: the "leode". A wonderful and unique instrument with a sound that is best defined as a combination of guitar and keyboard. The leode is partly responsible for the distinctive sound of the band, that is, besides the use of two percussionists (no standard drum sets here) and some other rather unusual instruments like the Miramba and a war guitar. The stage was quite small for all the musicians (and the crowd as a matter of fact) but boy did these guys have fun. The music of Lazuli is rock with some progressive influences and with Asian elements in the songs. The lyrics are in French. With quite some difficulties Lazuli made clear to the audience that they would return to Holland for another gig in October 2007. This announcement was received rather enthusiastic by the audience, telling all about the appreciating for this unique band.

Next band in the main hall was Riverside. A band that needs no further introduction, they caused quite a stir in the progressive rock scene with their impressive live shows. The band even joked about the amount of time they've spent on Dutch stages over the last two years. I've seen band many times and each time their live set is overwhelming. This gig was no exception. Songs like 'Volt Face' and 'The Second Life Syndrome' were performed extremely well. The sound was really superb, although the guitar was could have been more in the forground in the mix. New songs of the upcoming album 'Rapid Eye Movement' were played received with lots of enthusiasm by the audience. What to say about a gig like this; great progressive metal for 75 minutes. It will be hard for the other bands to exceed this performance, for me the festival has succeeded already.

The show of The Pineapple Thieves started halfway the Riverside gig. So I missed about half an hour of their show. This band was a bit a stranger in the program. Their music isn't really symphonic or progressive, it is more in the vain of rock giants like Radiohead. The songs sound rather dramatic but the sound was pretty good. The small hall wasn't filled with fans to be honest. This was partly because The Pinapple Thieves didn't have the best spot in the program (the gig took place between the shows of Riverside and Pendragon), but mostly because their set took place around diner time. After about three songs I also had to go back to the Dommelsch Hall to see Pendragon. I'm not sure whether this Symforce festival was the best of festivals for The Pineapple Thieves.

About 5 years ago Pendragon played their last show in the Netherlands, at the Bospop festival if I'm correct. The band honoured the Dutch audience because the band started their successful career in this country. At the beginning the mix wasn't that great. The epic and bombastic intro 'No Place For The Innocent' sadly sounded somewhat flat. The guitar (the instrument is very important for the sound of the band) was too soft; the solos weren't audible very well. Halfway the gig the sound got better. Songs as 'Dance Of The Seven Veils' and 'Paint box' were outstanding. Pendragon impressed. It was good to see them in The Netherlands again. Let's hope it doesn't take another 5 years before the band plays in Holland again.

The last band to play the small hall was The Aurora Project. This Dutch progressive band has made just one cd, the follow up will be released shortly. To be brief: The Aurora Project has played a great show. Although there were some little technical problems the sound was great. The Aurora Project stands for a combination of progressive metal riffs combined with delightful subtle parts. After 'The Event Horizon' and 'The Betrayal' the band announced a female guest musician that played the German Flute at 'Norturnal Lament'. After 'Untold Prophecy' the band played a new song of the upcoming album. This one sounded very promising. I'm looking forward to the new album. The set ended with the excellent 'Resurrection'. This show was one of my highlights of this day.

The Flower Kings ended the Symforce festival in the Dommelsch Hall. The first song was a jam-session in such a way only The Flower Kings can, they combined all kinds of stuff from all different kinds of Flower Kings albums, creating something extraordinary. Despite the fact that the new album will be released within a few days, the set consisted mostly of older songs. The band actually only played one single track from the new "The Sum Of No Evil". This track sounded familiar in a way that it is a typical Flower Kings song, yet with a typical seventies symphonic rock atmosphere and a few original twists and turns. This is progrock at best. One thing that pleased me was the joy the band showed on stage. There was plenty of fooling around, joking and even some interaction with the crowd (not the bands prima quality). It was obvious that The Flower Kings are looking forward to their upcoming European tour. With 'There is more to this World' the band ended a successful first edition of The Symforce festival.

On the third Saturday of September 2008 the second edition of the Symforce Festival will take place. I'll be there that's for sure, the first edition was a blast!

Review and pics by Ralph