Greg Walker is a well-known name in the international community of progressive rock fans as the man behind Syn-Phonic, one of the biggest online purveyors of CDs and other musical goodies – possibly the one offering the widest range of material, and definitely one of the most knowledgeable (and friendly) people in the business. US-based fans will also remember him as the organizer of ProgFest, a successful run of festivals that took place between 1993 and 200o in the Los Angeles area.
After retiring from the festival business, and spending the next decade concentrating on the promotion of progressive rock through his extensive catalogue (including regular appearances at the major prog festivals such as NEARfest and RoSfest), in 2011 Walker decided to throw his hat into the arena once again. A self-professed fan of European prog, with a particularly soft spot for the Italian scene of the Seventies, Walker planned a pull-out-all-the-stops extravaganza that would offer to the US prog audience the unique opportunity of seeing a number of cult Seventies bands together on the same stage.
Though his original plans of holding the event in 2011 as a replacement of sorts for NEARfest 2011 (hence the punning name of Farfest), even if somewhat later during the year, were foiled by the impossibility of finding a suitable venue at a rather short notice, Walker took advantage of the extra time allowance to assemble a line-up that sounds like a dream come true for fans of the European scene of the golden age of prog. The event, spread over 4 days, and scheduled to take place at the impressive Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware (pictured above) – a very convenient location, situated halfway between Washington DC and New York City, and close to major airports such as Baltimore and Philadelphia – will host a whopping 13 bands, some of them still active, others reformed just for the occasion.
True to his passion for Italian prog, Walker has given pride of place to Italian bands, with the recently reunited Latte E Miele, Locanda Delle Fate, Alphataurus and Maxophone. Three French bands of the Seventies – Atoll, Pulsar and Shylock – will also appear, as well as Poland’s SBB and “Prog Andaluz” standard-bearers Mezquita. The only two bands from English-speaking countries will be legendary US outfit Cathedral (who will perform their famed 1978 album Stained Glass Stories in its entirety) and London-based band Cressida, one of the protagonists of the early English scene. The lineup will be completed by two highly-rated bands from more recent years, Anekdoten from Sweden and Wobbler from Norway.
As the above paragraphs make it abundantly clear, Farfest 2012’s main target are not fans of progressive rock in its more contemporary incarnations. The event is geared towards the “nostalgia crowd” – those people who think the Seventies will never be equalled in terms of musical output, and who have a personal “bucket list” of bands to see before they throw in the towel for good. Even if one might disagree with this direction, there is no denying that event will be remembered for a long time, and may well provide a much-needed shot in the arm for the ailing US festival scene. It remains to be seen if a successful response in terms of audience will convince Walker to repeat the event (originally planned as a one-off) in the future.
Patron tickets – which, at $ 350 are rather expensive, though they give access to the best seats, as well as providing financial support to the event, increasing the chance of its survival – have been put on sale in mid-April. General ticket sales will open on May 21 at 10 a.m.. The Grand Opera House has 1,200 seats, so there should be enough room for everyone interested in attending. Farfest 2012 has its own website featuring very thorough information on the event, as well as pages on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, which can be accessed from the main site.