They came from Sweden, Poland, France, and Israel, all for one reason -- to rock. The ProgStage 2012 festival brought together several international and local acts in the genre of progressive metal, art rock and alternative hard rock. The festival took place on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the Kinneret.
Arutz Sheva's Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast was there. For the full podcast including interviews and music excerpts click here.
Top selling acts such as Pain of Salvation, which includes members from Sweden, France, and Iceland performed as well as Andromeda and The Flower Kings, both from Sweden, Osada Vida from Poland and others. Israeli acts included Orphaned Land, Frog, Solstice Coil, Sanhedrin, Sumo Elevator, Distorted Harmony, Ha-Arnav Ha-Lavan and more. Master classes were featured as well with musicians teaching about composition and performance technique.
Patrick Losinsky, organizer of the event spoke to Arutz Sheva: "I have been here for over 20 years and it was always my dream to have such a festival," he stated. He is also the founder of the band Artland. Born in the former Soviet Union, Losinsky said he feels that he has an international outlook. "My father is from Poland, my mother is from Ukraine and my adopted mother is from Australia," he said.
He didn't venture to guess how Israel compared to his place of birth in terms of progressive rock, but did say that there are many new bands in Israel and new ones being formed all the time. "I don't know how many there are but we are trying to recognize them all. That's why we were here."
The three days offered many new up-and-coming Israeli groups an outlet to perform as well as the headliners. It was a far cry from last year's debut festival which took place in Petah Tivka in the Sharet concert hall and included four bands. The event organizers said they felt there is a real niche for progressive rock in Israel.
One young band seems to agree with that sentiment. The members of Frog, all young Israelis from the area near Kfar Yarok in the north include a cello player, pianist, electric guitarist, drummer and bass player.
"I think that most Israelis have very creative minds. Everywhere you go, the music is more and more complex. It's outside the mainstream. This is the kind of style we like -- to have a different sound in our ears," stated one member.
The most well-known Israeli band was Orphaned Land, known for their mixing of hard-edged metal and Sephardic liturgical prayers. They performed on stage with an oud player and Jewish-Yemenite musician Shlomit Levi.
In total there were 14 bands from Israel and three from overseas. "I always like to mix music and find a good balance between classical styles and new styles," Losinsky stated. "I came from the progressive rock of the late 70s and early 80s like King Crimson," he said.
King Crimson, the well-known British band seemed to be a favorite of others as well. The Israeli band Bubble Bath, whose band leader Ronit Levy sported multi-colored dreadlocks, performed King Crimson cover songs. At least half of the bands had a decidedly metal feel.
But concerts were not the only thing happening at the festival. Held on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, many camped out and slept overnight. The stage was set up next to the Dugal water park and the water slides and inner-tubes saw a distinct increase in young men with long hair and black t-shirts. However there was a fairly diverse cross section of attendees in terms of age and gender. Even some Europeans came all the way to Israel just for the event.
The organizing team took efforts to attract young couples and families as well as the youth. "Our priority was not only to get people to come to an ordinary concert for a couple of hours listen to music and go home," Losinsky stated. "We had events for kids such as a "gymboree", face painting and games. Parents could enjoy the music an bring the kids too."
Other activities included dance sessions, yoga lessons, a drum circle and, most popular, the masters classes. Each of the international bands spoke in English to the audience about performance technique, composition tips and other musical concepts. The master's classes were attended almost as well as the actual performances.
The Flower Kings find their influence in such 1970s bands as Pink Floyd, Yes and Genesis. "We try to have one foot on the future and one foot in the past," they said of their style.
Formed in Sweden, they also have one member from Germany. "We hope to play some good music for the Israeli people and enjoy the beach here at the Lake Tiberias," stated bass player Jonas Reingold. "I was a bit surprised when people at the airport came up and said 'oh you play in a band? Welcome to Israel!' It was a warm welcome," he commented. The band also said they were looking forward to a tour of the country especially Jerusalem.
One of the most well known bands was Pain of Salvation, led by singer and songwriter Daniel Gildenlow. The band leans toward the metal genre but has often incorporated symphony instruments and other avant garde sounds into their music. Founded in Sweden, the band includes members from Iceland and France. Daniel's speech at the masters class was the most well attended. He spoke for about two hours and answered questions about his philosophy on life, spirituality, reality, music and his broad ranging concept albums.
As for their pre-conceived notions of Israel, the band members said they didn't really have any. Echoing the sentiments of the Flower Kings, they were simply excited to perform in front of an audience in a place they had never been to before.
Regarding the potential dangers of traveling to the Middle East, Gildenlow stated, "I am a sucker for statistics, which makes me feel less vulnerable. Sure the possibility is always there to be bombed or kidnapped. But the statistics are greater to be killed in my car on the way to the airport rather then to happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time."
A ProgStage festival is planned for the coming year and organizers hope to expand the event even further. For a full interview and music samples, download the Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast by clicking here.
All photos: Ben Bresky
Ben Bresky is a music journalist living in Jerusalem. He hosts The Israel Beat Jewish Music Podcast interviewing a wide range of Jewish and Israeli musicians from Carlebach to klezmer, from hassidic to trance. For mp3 archives click here.
Gabriella Licsko is a lecturer and historian who made aliyah from Hungary. She holds a B.A. in cultural history and an M.A. in Jewish studies. She is the former show host of Israel National Radio's Welcome to the Tribe. For podcast archives click here.