CalProg 2006 - Fan Reviews

First a few general comments before I talk about the individual bands. Don't consider this a review but really my more general impressions without rehashing a lot of what has been already said. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the show.. if that is sugar coating.. then so be it and go get your insulin fix . I do have a few issues. The sound mix started out absolutely perfect with Helmet of Gnats.. but.. as the day wore on the bottom end kept going up and up and upů muddying the bass progressively more and more. Others commented on this to me without my prompting as well. I do think the soundboard guy should see an audiologist.

Some have mentioned the etymotic earphones here and I will just add my two cents. I bought a pair about a month before the show and used them the entire day. They worked beautifully, very nice flat response. They are the next best thing to musicians earphones and a whole lot cheaper. Highly recommend them!


Helmet of Gnats

I loved this set and as I mentioned above it was the best mixed of the day. Some have commented on the lack of animation.. well these are fusion / jazz musicians that are not known for their animation with the exception of Stanley Clarke and some of the horn musicians. I have sat through 2.5 hours of wonderful music from Pat Metheny.. with him bowing his head and just looking at a wad of hair. However, these guys were totally into the music. From my first row dead center vantage point, I could see the facial expressions, which were quite animated and told a lot more than their body movements. The Return to Forever cover from Romantic Warrior, Magestic Dance, one of my favorite albums of all times was a great prog cover. I would have preferred Dual of the Jester and Tyrant.. but we can't have everything.

Rocket Scientists

They did an admirable job considering how late in the game they were added. While the new singers voice, which I thought of as sort of 70s metal ,is not my usual cup of tea, I thought he put forth a very decent effort. I particularly liked when he and McCrite, during the song just before the prog cover, sang in both counterpoint and harmony. The two voices together were more than the sum of their parts. I hope they do more of that on their upcoming album which I definitely intend to buy. Overall, their new material was the strongest of the set. The KC cover, Epitaph, is one of my favorite tunes of all times.. so I really liked that they covered that. I also enjoyed the geek talk I had with Erik about the Wall after the set.

Cryptic Vision

To me, these guys were the highlight of the show. They put on an incredibly energetic set. Some compared them to Kansas.. but I really didn't get that. Maybe because I don't particularly care for Kansas, they are alright, and don't listen to them much. I did care for Cryptic's music and really enjoyed the material from the new album. As for the prog medley cover.. what can I say other thanů I WANT MORE UK!!!!! You guys are such teases!!! I caught one of the drum sticks at the end but never did manage to get it signed LOL.
Well about time for the dinner break and Izz.

Kino

While Cryptic Vision sort of stole my heart for the day..,,Kino grabbed my soul. They put on a polished set of beautiful songs. It was hard for me to take my eyes off Pete Trewavas during that set. He is one of the most dynamic bass players I have ever seenů right up there with Chris Squire. It was also fun watching John M. the singer interact with John B. on the keyboardist. They had a very close synergy. Some mentioned the disconnect, I did see that, mainly between Pete and the others, although all seemed to be trying and there was not even a hint of animosity between them. I think the comments Pete made to me regarding Marillion and the Its Bite thread here may explain it. Both Pete and the rest have been working on these separate projects for a while and haven't really jelled as Kino for some time (the music certainly jelled.. just the synergy on stage was a bit disconnect). Luckily, it is reported that, regardless, of these individual projects. a new Kino album is definitely still a possibility (see the Its Bites thread). That is great news as this is an excellent line-up. I look forward to both the separate efforts as well as a new Kino and am sure I will be emptying my wallet yet again for them

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Good morning...the hotel has a computer...how cool is that? Here's a report from the road:

I am going to have trouble describing all the fun I had this weekend, all the great music, and all the wonderful people I met (or re-met). I'll give a more detailed report tomorrow morning when I have more time. I just wanted to say right now that the music exceeded my expectations BY FAR!


Chris Fox from Helmet of Gnats

Helmet of Gnats was super fun! I might have enjoyed it more if the humidity had not caused a mild attack of claustrophobia, but more about that in my longer report. While their style of Prog is not really my style, I was thoroughly entertained.

Rocket Scientists: I had no idea who these guys were, other than Erik Norlander, but wow! What a cool discovery! They had me rocking uot in my chair. Their new lead singer (Dave something?) is a cutie pie and has a great voice. (Remind me tell you the "singing in the shower" story) I spoke to him later and also met Erik. They are both super nice guys.

Cryptic Vision...holy crap! I knew these guys were good, but in my opinion, they stole the fest hands down! I truly was halfway out of my chair, dying to get up and dance my fat ass off, but there was no way I was going to do that at a Prog fest...LOL!

IZZ - Oh gosh, what super sweet people they are. It was good to finally see them after missing them last year. It was an enjoyable dinner hour thanks to them. I especially enjoyed the Marillion covers they did (and so did Pete Trewavas who caught the end of their set)

Kino - the band I came to see! They did not disappoint me at all! I absolutely loved every minute of their set and wanted more, more, more!!! Funny story about their technical problems which I will tell later.

Okay, someone needs to use the computer now so I will sign off. More about meeting some terrific people and the great after-party last night, etc. I will post more tomorrow.

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Personal performance highlights:

HoG doing their cover of Return To Forever's Majestic Dance (IIRC) 

Rocket Scientists doing their new songs plus a cover of King Crimson's Epitaph 

Cryptic Vision's mind blowing prog medley with a crowd pleasing version of Focus' Hocus Pocus with the keyboardists doing the yodeling part perfectly (at least most of the audience thought so). 

Kino with a cover of Marillion's Sugar Mice.

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For my money, Kino stole the show. I had seen them already at Rosfest last year and they were even better this time. It's always interesting to see varying opinions after a fest, but to my ears, Kino isn't really a straightforward pop band at all. They are an accessible, chorus friendly, prog band. Personally, I thought they fit in to the procedings much more than Helmet of Gnats. HOG were very talented and their set was entertaining, but to my ears, they are pretty much a jazz fusion band. Choosing even to do a cover of a jazz fusion song. I'm sure some will disagree with me, but as I mentioned above about opinions, they do vary.

Rocket Scientists put on an entertaining show. The new material sounded good as well. Though the new singer was energetic and did a good job, I actually preferred Mark McCrite's vocals. I would hate to see him pushed out of that role with the band. All in all, pretty entertaining and a good last minute replacement for Presto Ballet.

Cryptic Vision also put on a good show. Though I agree that they are not really adding anything amazingly new to the genre, they perform with such energy and exuberance that they are hard to not root for. I also saw them at Rosfest last year and thought their set was improved this year, due to some pretty good new material. The medley was also very fun.


IZZ Lite was great as well. Very laid back and full of "witty banter" as John Galgano joked about. I didn't really know what to expect from a stripped down version of IZZ, but it ended up being one of the highlights of the day. The IZZ material sounded great in acoustic form and the covers were great as well. As others had mentioned, the Pete Trewavas moment was very memorable.

I know that Papa J is committed to one day, but it would be fantastic if Calprog went to a Saturday and Sunday schedule as I am still wanting more. I know that some debated Kino being the headliner, but to me they proved beyond a shadow of a doubt last night, that they are the real deal. Not just because of the history of each band member, but becasue of the material and the performance of KINO, the band. I love the Flower Kings, but truthfully found Kino's performace to be more entertaining than the Flower Kings headlining performance last year. Big congrats and thanks to Papa J and the whole crew of Calprog.
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Matt Bocchino from HOG

I was so impressed with HOG'S performance that I had to write 1st thing this morning. Not knowing anything more than the samples on the CalProg website, I was blown away with the musicianship and versatility of the band. All members were very well matched in ability and all were excellent.

I unfortunately I did not get what I was looking for from Rocket Scientists.

I enjoyed much of Cryptic Vision but felt their melodies were a bit on the light and "poppy" side. The medley was great!

Kino was actually quite great, given the mere subtitle "Prog" elements in the music (sorry Simon, that was the only thing I would have to disagree with).

The people (as always) were great! The venue alone is reason to come back. My only complaint is that despite a great sound system, they insist on playing it tooooooo louuuuuud! And I like my music loud. They could have shaved 20 decibels off the sound and still had a fully saturated, well mixed sound. I was driven to ear plugs which I hate because I love the bandwidth of a good live sound system.
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Helmet of Gnats
Never heard them before, not as fusion as expected, but a great treat. Much more rockier than I expected. Led by Chris Fox on guitar, I was totally enjoying their set. I'm not much of an instrumental group fan, but not a boring minute in their performance. Clever lead singer joke too. 7.5 out of 10

Rocket Scientists
Pretty much a disappointment. The new lead singer seemed as though he didn't have a clue what to do. On the stage, off the stage, on the stage, off the stage. Very annoying. I realize it was his "debut" but he had no control whatsoever on the role he was to have as their lead singer. Then Mark was singing with a dead mike, and when the new guy had a chance to shine on their cover of "Epitaph" he was nowhere to be found, letting Mark handle the powerful Lake vocal's and the guy just didn't have the range. The new drummer was staring at the sheet music all set, and I just felt they needed another month of rehearsals. I love Erik's keyboard sounds, picked up "Music Machine" on his advice for a newbie, and really enjoyed it on the drive home. Oh well... 5 out of 10

Cryptic Vision
Polished, professional, best cover medley I've ever heard, and I guess my favorite of the night...(with a few reservations)
Howard did a masterful job on keyboards, with a fantastic yodel to boot. Timothy, a great guitar player, but just threw in a few too many notes on the solos. Todd handled the lead vocals the way a frontman should, lose the shirt though. As someone mentioned before a little too Tom Jones looking, but hell, what a voice! Considering Rick is the only songwriter, and played most instruments on the first record, I thought his drumming was fine. I always liked the pick sounding Rick bass, and Sam had it down, even with the poses. 9 out of 10

Izz Lite
10 out of 10. Nuff said....


Bob Dalton of Kino

Kino
Really showed that true professionals can pull off a set with a few errors and hangovers to boot. Even stopping after the start of "Swimming With Women" so John could get his guitar in the right key was handled to perfection. These guys are pros and it showed. I loved the "It Bites" songs and smiled throughout the set, even at the bad jokes. They headlined because they deserved to headline. 8.5 out of ten.

A great time, the people shined again, everyone that attended really wanted to be there and it shows.
Vendors were a bit sparse. (what no Progression magazine?? )

I'll be there again next year, to enjoy the great music, meet some wonderful new prog fans, and give Melissa another hug goodbye.
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I love CalProg because I love the atmosphere behind it. This one was no exception and the amazing fact that no one mentioned was only 30 minutes off schedule at the end! Hats off the stage and sound crews for that!

I love all my fellow patrons and fans who make the event fun and make me want to keep coming back. Thank you to all the groups IZZ, Cryptic Vision and Helmet of Gnats especially who are people that work at other jobs yet come out here barely breaking even to play the great music that they wrote for us. On top of that you are all great people as well.

As for who I liked or disliked I will say this.

Cryptic Vision: stole the show. I thought they would be good but didn't expect it to be that good! They reminded me a little of Kansas in that the music on the record comes across much more powerful live. Tim's guitar Sam's bass and Howard's great keys were solid, solid, solid. The vocals were incredible with some harmonies rivaling Yes in parts for their complexity. To the person who wrote the critical comment about the drummer Rick Duncan, the guy is the creative force in the band. He writes all the music and according to other band members is the director on getting it right on stage. I think he knows what time signature he is supposed to be playing in. Since you didn't know that relevant fact I will have to conclude you know little enough about their music prior to this show to know what time signature they were supposed to be playing. The All in a World suite was fantastic and is possibly the strongest song they have. Having listened to the new album for a the last couple of weeks I really felt this was going to close the set. But instead they opened with it and still kept on coming. That took some balls. The great Progledy they did for us was

Portrait By Kansas (great guitar solo by Tim)
In the Dead of Night- UK
Firth of Fifth-Genesis
In the Court of the Crimson King- King Crimson
Hocus Pocus-Focus (Howard was unbelivable)
All Good People- Yes
Karn Evil Nine 1st impression (just the last line) pt2- ELP

Helmet of Gnats: were unbelievable. The playing was perfect I don't care if they moved around or not. I was more fascinated in what the sound was than if they had time to practice playing rock stars. It is amazing what people find to criticize. Thes guys played fantastic music. I mean come on, how many cover tunes have included the great Return to Forever in their sets and pulled it off? Loved it and yes they do belong at a prog festival not a Jazz festival.

Rocket Scientists: given the fact they had so little time to prepare with a new drummer, the guy was great btw, they were pretty damn good. The show seemed a little schizophrenic as they played music from 10 years ago to brand new stuff that isn't really similar even adding a new vocalist on the new to make it even more different. But they did well. Hats off to you guys for saving this show.

Kino- Good band- Solid band with prog elements just like their CD. They were OK. I am not familiar with It Bites or even a lot of Marillion but they played well and that is all I can say. If people enjoyed them than great I am glad you did. I was disappointed they didn't choose something a little more adventurous for their cover. I expected more from the headliner. I look at Spiraling last year a similar type of band power pop but the at least did Soundchaser by Yes.

IZZ lite- Great as usual- Even if IZZ heavy stayed home. John Galgano is a great talent. Sitting at the keys he played Tarkus for us. As well as some great stuff from Deafening Silence and Late Night Salvation. Of course John is IZZ's bass player. The acoustic set of IZZ music and covers with some of Laura's songs and great covers, Red Rain by Peter Gabriel comes to mind, was great. One of my favorite songs off of MRF was a song he wrote called Anything I can Dream was fantastic. Brems is the man! I love his sound his, feel and his touch on the guitar. As John introduced his solo segment with "Now is the time for a dose of Brems", Laura said "we all need a dose of Brems". Amen.

All in all a great show looking forward to next year. Thank you Jim and staff!

 


When we walked to load-in with the Gnats on Friday afternoon....I knew this CalProg was gonna be a great one. I knew the backline list weeks ago...but there is something about big old "furniture" Hammonds and Leslies and Rhodes...and Ampegs and Marshalls...no in-ear monitors around...just wedges....good old standard stuff....bunches of it coming off the trucks in huge Anvil cases that gave me the feeling that all was well with the world. When the Gnats were playing snippets of this and that (Tubular Bells, Return to Forever, etc....I knew I would just love them live (and I did). The musicianship of these guys went deep. When they played Saturday, I think it was the cleanest house sound of the day. Their set was wonderful...dug the hell out of the Gnats!

I've really gotta hand it to the Rocket Scientists. The stepped right up to the plate and filled the Presto Ballet spot with a brand new singer. The drummer was reading charts and that was fine. The new singer (cool voice) was having to do a few cheaters taped to the monitor for lyrics...but he did it with finesse. I really loved it when both singers were singing together....nice blend... a very nice vocal texture...wish there was more of that but I enjoyed the set and I was cheering for them....one: because they stepped in at the last minute, and two: because they did a decent job....and all things considered. Thank you guys!

Cryptic Vision....dug 'em. Prog Medley.....dug it. Just wish the UK went on a bit longer LOL....loved when they did that. Hocus Pocus by Focus (in the medely) just cracked me up. That was great! I was looking forward to seeing CV and they rocked the joint. Nice folks those Cryptics Looking forward to seeing them again in the future...whenever that may be.


Pete Trewavas from Kino

Kino was a nice topper. Pete....he da man....'nuff said I wish we got a "traditional prog standard" by Kino....but oh well.

IZZ Lite.....that was juyst the perfect thing for the dinner break on a hotter than hell day. Laura...man what a voice! Can't wait for her solo stuff. It was so great to see Paul again and John, too....(Greg....if you're reading this....you slacker!!!! IZZ Lite was just having too much fun.....and so were we

It was so good to see so many familiar faces from last year and it was wonderful to get to know the new faces

All this wouldn't have ever happened if it were not for Jim and the whole Calprog staff. I know that standing ovation Papa J received was from the heart....and it also extended to all the staff back stage, in the merc booths, in the food area.....and even months before the big day....picking bands...planning.....hats off to everyone and thank you so much for Calprog...a place where we can "be"

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What a weekend! Was I just in LA, in some parallel universe with people who enjoy progressive rock? What a concept.......

It's hard to figure out where to start because the music and the people really made this a weekend I won't soon forget.

I'll start by saying it was great meeting people from PE. Melissa, it was great meeting you and never let anyone rain on your enthusiasm for prog. Brian and Stacy - a pleasure to meet you as well, and thanks for not trashing B106 ( DOH ).

Grinch13 - don't know if you'll get this but just want to say
YOU DA MAN! It was great meeting you and Britt last weekend - Papa J should be very happy to have people such as yourself to help when crunch time arrives ( and god knows it did! ).

Joel/Chris - great seeing you again as well. Hope you enjoy your time in Vegas! What would Kino do without having Chris selling all those CDs? And Joel - well, what would Kino do without "the big guy?"

Now - the bands.

The one thing I love about these fests is that the majority of bands are very gracious with their time and this weekend was no exception. My main attraction to attending Calprog was seeing Kino, but I really enjoyed all of the bands, with Cryptic Vision being my fave of the weekend. I was just amazed at how powerful their live show was - which means I obviously have to make some plans to be in the Tampa area when they appear with Kansas later this year - a lot easier making it to Tampa from Atlanta than California, LOL.

That was a real treat for me - my alter ego really appreciated that! I knew Kino would be good - that album really marked a great time in my life - then to top it off with Sugar Mice was perfect.


Mark Conese from HOG

I also must give kudos to Helmet of Gnats and Rocket Scientists. The HOG show reminded me of how much there is to appreciate in hearing instrumental music - especially when ( to these ears ) you can hear a little Jeff Beck fusion era influence in the mix. Rocket Scientists was also a first for me - I think I liked the stuff from their 1st album the most. Unfortunately Erik Norlander mentioned that album is currently out of print - just my luck! Their cover of Epitaph was great!

That's about all I've got. Thanks to Papa J and the whole staff for a great weekend!

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I want to add my voice to the chorus that is sure to follow. What a BLAST I had! Thanks to PapaJ and his staff for selecting 4 absolutely winning acts for this year's festival. I loved every one of them, even though I only knew the music of Rocket Scientists going in.

Helmet of Gnats' stunning instrumental fusion was a great start to the day. Rocket Scientists did a very solid set, especially on such short notice. New singer David Scott McBee is a great front man and he has a great personality offstage. Kudos to them for pulling it off at the last minute! Cryptic Vision's tightly polished symphonic prog wowed the crowd. Headliner Kino put on a terrific show, with their catchy melodies and impeccable musicianship keeping the audience thrilled to the very last minute.

Izz Lite gave us a very entertaining way to while away the dinner break. Such nice people. They feel like family!

My special thanks go to Nima and Merge who let me and my big fiddle sit in at their pre-party performance. You guys are tremendously talented and an absolute riot. I hear we did OK!

What a wonderful time it was. Definitely a highlight of my year.
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Another fabulous CalProg goes into the history books. I had a great time reconnecting with everyone & meeting some new folks as well. The show was so enjoyable, and I purchased some great new music. The ride home to San Diego this morning went so fast as I listened to my new CD's of some of the CalProg "06" performers!
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Okay, after all my hemming and hawing over whether or not to go to Cal Prog, I finally decided to go. My biggest stumbling block was Presto Ballet. Once they were out of the picture and replaced by the Rocket Scientists, I signed on.

Driving from San Diego, I missed HoG. But I was right on time for Rocket Scientists. I really like their older material, but am less inlcined to listen to Oblivion Days and the new material with the new singer didn't do anything for me. Mark McCrite is such a superior talent and his vocals were much more palatable...not to say this new singer couldn't sing, I've just heard a million singers just like him-there is nothing gripping about his voice IMHO. I also did not care for his stage presence. However, Erik Norlander was on top of his game!

Cryptic Vision...I came in thinking these guys were borderline...I left a fan. Sure there are Kansasian elements in their music, but why is that bad? I found them engaging and definitely the biggest surprise of the show...much like IZZ was 2 years ago. And speaking of IZZ...you can't go wrong with IZZ! Thanks to John, Laura and Paul for making the trek...I enjoyed the set while eating my Ceasar grilled chicken wrap way in the back!!

Kino-this was the band I really wanted to see. I enjoyed their performance (I thought their record was one of the best releases of '05), but was not blown away like I'd hoped to be. Maybe I set the bar too high for myself. From a sound perspective, I thought their mix was muddy and had difficulty making out the Mitchell's vocals (way back in Row N-actually that was kind of a problem throughout for me, but especially noticeable during the Kino set). I thought Sugar Mice as their "cover encore" was kind of a weak cop out...such a saccharine downer tune...Market Square Heroes or something off Fugazi might have played better with me...but their set got me curious about It Bites. I will be checking out more of their tunes soon.

Anyway, my hat's off to PapaJ for another great day. He has proven time and time again that he is one of the classiest acts in prog today and knows how to show 350+ people a good time. I am looking forward to next year!

As for all that rigamarole about band programming...as much as ProgUK is looking for the more bleeding edge avant garde sound, those would be the bands that would keep me at home...so six of one, half dozen of the other, to each their own and whatever other cliche you wish to throw in.

So there's my 2 cents for what it's worth!
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First and foremost...,on behalf of the gnats , CalProg was fantastic. Papa J and the staff were very accommodating and professional ...and the fans appreciative and friendly. Imo, everyone kicked ass Saturday, Cryptic Vision especially impressed us. Monster musicians...all of em and really, really nice guys.

Btw, thank you David, Ron, Melissa, Manxman, Garion81, Joe for the nice comments. Oh, and ProgUK....next time we'll bring the dancing bears.

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Back in Florida now and on behalf of CV we too thought CalProg was fantastic. A BIG thanks to Papa Jim and all the CalProg staff for putting on a great festival.

I thought all the bands were excellent. The Gnats blew me away. They are truly amazing musicians and super nice guys. The Rocket Scientist's did a great job on extremely short notice. I had seen Kino at ROSfest and I knew they would not disappoint. Thanks to everyone who attended CalProg. You made us Florida boys feel quite welcome.

Cheers

Rick Duncan

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Thanks for keeping Prog alive in Southern California. This was my first Cal Prog experience, and I am already looking forward to next year's event. Everyone was way cool and the music ROCKED! Your efforts are certainly appreciated by all of the fans.

Hope to see you Oct 16 for the Flower Kings.

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CalProg '06 was a great show and wonderful opportunity for all us Prog lovers here to support and enjoy some of the best music around. While Cryptic Vision was my favorite set, all the bands were top notch. This being my first CalProg, business having prevented previous attendence, I'll plan on being there every year going forward. Keep up the great work!

Long Live Prog!

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Nima and Merge were a good band, although I am not a fan of Jazz Fusion per se. What I liked best about the music was the ethnic/cultural element that gave it a middle-eastern vibe. Nima is a master of the Stick, and his drummers were very entertaining to watch. There was a lot of enthusiasm amongst them all.

Also, the food was very good! I was very pleased with the quality and availability. I can tell you some unfortunate tales of previous events I attended where the food was best left alone...LOL! I'm glad CalProg provided something tasty for our money! (Keep in mind, I did not eat at last year's dinner as I was not a Patron then)
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Wayne Zito from HOG

I guess I'll be the first dissenting voice. Although I had a blast at the the festival, it's extremely well ran. But other than Helmut of Gnats, the other bands were quite mediocre, IMHO.

Rocket Scientists sounded more like AOR rock with a lot of keyboard noodling. Their cover of Epitaph could have done very nicely without the synth solo.

Cryptic Vision was way too derivative without adding anything new to the vocabulary. Unlike TFK, who are also derivative, but add their own voice and twists. Their medly was quite nice.

Kino was actually pretty good, for a rock band, but they were barely progressive (in any sense). If I heard them on commercial radio I'd think that they are an awfully good rock band (nothing wrong with that!).

Izz Light was actually quite good also. Great Marillion medley that caused Pete Trewavas to come out from sound check and shake their hands. Quite nice!
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