Festivals are a risky thing. Often times they include discomfort and discontent as inherent parts of their experience; if you haven’t been drenched in torrential rains and forced to miss Devy (as I was during the Brutal Assault festival of 2009) then that pain might be foreign to you. Regardless, the idea of travelling thousands of miles to see bands you love perform for as little as thirty minutes sometimes isn’t exactly super lucrative. In addition, festivals are notorious for low sound quality, sub-par facilities and more. Even the largest of them, like Wacken and Hellfest, suffer from crippling logistics problems and a less then enticing environment for the enjoyment of music. Especially to people who enjoy metal primarily via its music (as opposed to the culture which surrounds it, which is by no means an inferior way to enjoy it), festivals are often less appealing and more worrying.
That’s why, beyond the pleasure of meeting me, Be Prog! My Friend should be an interesting proposition for any fan of progressive music in its myriad forms. Before we get to the actual lineup, the festival itself and its grounds are lauded by the entire community as especially exquisite. Being urban as it is, centered in the beautiful city of Barcelona, Be Prog! My Friend eliminates many of the more worrisome elements of festivals, namely camping, logistics and transportation. In addition, the fact that it is in a more clearly defined and professional environment, it enjoys better sound qualities, higher production values on sets and many more perks. Lastly, unlike most festivals, it doesn’t go for a “bigger is better” mentality, preferring a small crop of quality bands over a slew of artists from all levels of quality.
This also enables longer set times and with progressive music, you know you’re going to need those extra minutes. If the deal isn’t already closed, let’s take a close at this lineup itself, which promises to be especially good this year. Keep in mind that you can expect between 3-5 more bands to be added to this lineup as we get closer to the date, judging from previous years. Working by size, our “smallest” band is Caligula’s Horse. For this writer, that’s insanely exciting since they’re among one of my favorite bands and they’re from Australia which, as we all know, is pretty damn far away. Getting to see these guys has always been a distant dream of mine, although they did tour Europe recently. Barcelona should be the perfect setting to catch these masters of dark progressive.
Working our way up from there, we have Animals As Leaders who are always a treat to see live. They need little to no introduction among progressive metal, seeing as they’re host to some of the biggest talents in guitar playing today. While they’re not my favorite band, I’ve heard great things about their live sets and can’t wait to see if their music has more impact on me in a live setting. Impact is nothing we should be worried about with next band though: last week, Anathema were confirmed to play the festival. Anyone who knows me knows that Anathema is probably in my top five bands of all time. I’ve seen them before, at Download Festival, but that set (actually two) was way, way, way too short. Hopefully, I can catch a longer one this time, including more than just “the hits”.
Finally, we arrive at headliner territory. The first are none other than Ulver. What the hell does an Ulver live set look like? I have no idea and I can’t wait to find out. The duo don’t perform live much but some of their performances (like the one with the Norwegian National Opera) have achieved legendary status. This is definitely the show I’m most expecting since I have little to no idea what their set will consist of, how much metal we can expect or what weird experimentation these guys have up their sleeves. On the opposite side we have Jethro Tull, whose set I can pretty much predict from here. And I’m super stoked for it. Getting to hear classics like “Aqualung” or perhaps even tracks from the legendary Stand Up (my favorite album of theirs) is a pretty amazing proposition.
Long story short, come to Barcelona on the 30th of June! I’ll buy you a beer and we can hang out to the sounds of some of the best progressive acts in the world today. Watch this space soon for more announcements on the ever-updating line up as well as some interviews as we get closer to the date. Don’t forget, there are always local bands playing this festival as well; we’ll make sure to have a spotlight turned to those especially.