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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Beardfish

NEARfest 2009, Bethlehem PA

Review by Julie Knispel

It’s a cliché in most genres that long time fans are always looking for the next "big thing"…that band that picks up from where the past masters left off and drives the musical style forward.  I’m not going to say that Beardfish is the next "big thing," but they’ve got as much of a chance of being it as any other band. 

People who got to see them perform at NEARfest 2009 may well agree with that statement.  For close to 90 minutes the band rocked hard, showing energy, stage presence, and chops that rival most other bands. Rikard Sjöblom, author of the band’s material, singer, keyboardist, and guitarist, excelled at each of his contributions to the band’s sound.  His vocals are fluid and flexible, shifting with ease from pleasing tenor to screams to falsetto to guttural growls as the need required.  His guitar playing was superb, and his work behind the Hammond was graceful yet powerful.  Robert Hansen has enough stage presence for an entire band, dancing around, swaying, shuffling, all the while pounding out some thick and tasty bass grooves for  Magnus Östgren to latch onto.  Lest anyone think he were forgotten, David Zackrisson’s guitar playing was tasteful, yet always leaning on the edge of total abandon.

The band made sure to blast out of the gates with a bang; “Roulette” and “The Gooberville Ballroom Dancer” showed that the group was going to play on their terms, lyrical controversies be damned. Sjöblom really shone on “Gooberville,” rocking hard and thrashing out the rhythm guitar parts with punkish intensity.  Beardfish tossed in another few tracks from both parts of the Sleeping In Traffic albums, as well as a few select pieces from The Sane Day and their debut release, Fran En Plats Du Ej Kan Se.  For many audience members, however, the allure and intrigue was whether or not the band would pull any tracks from their forthcoming release, Destined Solitaire.  Thankfully they played the title track from that release, which featured a bit of death metal growl added into the already heady mixture of Gentle Giant inflected, Zappa inspired madness.  Unfortunately the release was not available for pre-purchase, so a single listen was far from enough to build any kind of impression.

Beardfish made a lasting impression on people who had not yet had the opportunity to experience their music before.  For those who have seen them, or at least had more than passing familiarity with their albums, their performance was yet another piece of evidence that these guys have the stuff necessary to take things to the next level.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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