Progfest 2019 Sydney (Sydney, NSW)

27 January 2019 at Factory Theatre

The excitement for Progfest was real for the many fans in the scorching Sydney heat. Numidia took the lead off spot, starting at 1.30 downstairs to an almost full Pharaoh room. A great outing for the band, capturing the attention and imagination of the audience. Those who didn’t turn up early missed out with Numidia using Middle-Eastern melodies with subtle but technical shifts through chilled out country to a massive guitar solo crescendo for the finale.

Next on the line-up and first to the Pyramid Stage was an interesting group called Shanghai. A seven-piece band incorporating a two-piece brass section, a percussionist, as well as piano, bass, guitar and drums. The charismatic and entertaining front people lead the audience through an intriguing set with a welcome cover of Geroge Michaels’s Careless Whisper and a theatrical finale. To their credit Shanghai didn’t seem to use samples with all musicians onstage a non-stop flurry of activity to produce their brand of music.

I would like to commend the team behind Progfest, Wild Thing and Welkin Entertainment not only put an incredible line-up together, the structure of the show was well thought out and focussed. The set length and starting time for each band meant that, if you wanted to, you could catch a piece of what each band on the line-up had to offer. The only real issue was the access to the Pharaoh stage, with the crowd mostly hanging around the entrance while there were gaps in other areas. This prevented me from reviewing some of the bands during the festival, but it was still a day full of exceptional musicianship that the afternoon downpour could not dampen.

The next band I caught were Hashashin, an interesting three-piece psychedelic instrumental project lead by a Bouzouki, which is a Greek stringed instrument not unlike a Lute. Epic sound-scapes with middle eastern influences. Hashashin were a great watch.

Next up on the Pyramid stage were Seims, a math-rock instrumental band, that features a trumpet player, which gave their music an interesting flavour. Unfortunately for Seims, their show was hurt by bad sound. We could see the guitarist attacking their strings but could not hear a damn thing, which was a shame. Still the band charged through their set and had a blast on-stage.

Back downstairs again for Sevsons, a rocking four-piece that have achieved some spot play on Triple-M for their single Evolution. With a vocal similar to Karnivool, and a sound that has the size to match, Sevsons sounded and looked great and destined for bigger stages.

I was able to catch the last track from Glass Ocean upstairs and even from the small snippet I saw, you could tell, they had great stage work and brought a really nice vibe to the gathered audience.

Snvff were up next and turned the downstairs cave into their own club night. With intense electronic industrial trance/rave from the DJ, a live drummer and a sultry female vocalist Snvff had a style and sound all to their own, imagine the Prodigy with a female vocal, not bad at all.

Solo guitarist James Norbert Ivanyi and his band were next up-stairs. As you would expect, he was an exceptionally talented guitarist, using great atmospheric effects he filled the room with his music.

Anubis brought their big sound to the somewhat small downstairs stage. With great lead guitar work and fantastic use of harmony, Anubis sounded fantastic.

One of the first of what I would consider the ‘heavy-hitters’ were up next, as Chaos Divine came all the way form Perth to just about steal the entire show. Soldiers sounded gargantuan, One Door was sublime. David Anderton vocals were immense, and their killer cover of Africa is always welcome. Chaos Divine were amazing.

I could not miss Red Bee who were up next downstairs, as I believe their second album Silent Enemy is absolutely brilliant, filled to the brim with hooks, riffs and choruses. Their set lived up to my hype as they delivered flawless renditions of tracks like Better Day and Dead Inside, ending with the title track Silent Enemy, those who haven’t given this band much time need to remedy that, more people need to back this band. Red Bee were the last band I was able to catch downstairs, as the crowd of excited prog fans just kept getting bigger, great news for the festival, tough for a reviewer.

Circles played the Pyramid stage to a very full Factory theatre. With the best turnout for a band so far that day, Circles laid waste to the stage. An interesting set-list saw them draw from their more atmospheric and room-filling tracks. They still brought the heavy ending with the monstrous Arrival.

Skyharbour were next, excited for their first time to our shores. They kicked off with the first single Dim from latest release Sunshine Dust and filled the room with their massive sound and huge riffs. New vocalist Eric Emery was outstanding, with a very technical approach, and a passionate delivery. The second single Dissent was instantly recognisable as Skyharbour made many fans very happy with their performance.

Monuments were the band of the day in my opinion. Taking control of the packed Factory Theatre the instant, they walked on-stage to a hero’s welcome. Bringing their massive sound to the stage the image the band presented is one of un-relenting power. Especially when the bassist unfurled and windmilled his dreads, which must have hit the roof they were that long. While vocalist Chis Baretto apologised for not being a hundred percent, though it was hard to tell, he put everything he had into masterpieces like Mirror Image and Atlas. They also performed a brand-new track that had not been released yet, which sounded killer. While Monuments used lots of backing tracks, its unsurprising, as their music is thick with layers, but this did take some of the load of the vocalist. Monuments owned the Factory that night, as the crowd churned and seethed, spitting up a few crowd-surfers, when Chris Baretto himself wasn’t diving into them. A great show.

The Ocean were the official headliners for the day, a professional outfit, bathed the stage in thick smoke and ambient lighting before hitting the stage. Only showing the band’s silhouette, it was as powerful to look at as it was to listen to as their wall of sound advanced on the crowd from their convulsing shadows on stage. I could only stick around for two songs from The Ocean but they are well named as it seems their sound is as powerful as an ocean.

Line-up: The Ocean (Germany), Monuments (UK), Skyharbor (India/USA), Circles, Chaos Divine, City Of Souls (NZ), Toehider, James Norbert Ivanyi, Glass Ocean, Opus Of A Machine, Lo!, Hemina, Red Bee, Anubis, SEIMS, SNVFF, Hashshashin, Sevsons, Shanghai, Numidia

Reviewer: Jonathan Hurley
Photocredits: Mira Live Photography