Live - The Orion Space Rock Festival, Orion Studios - Baltimore, MD, Oct 18, 1997

From Aural Innovations #1 (January 1998)

The Orion Space Rock Festival (the weekend of October 18th in Baltimore) was certainly a blast. A totally cool crowd, some great bands and an amazing lightshow. I think everybody there had a wonderful time as the vibes were excellent. The crowd was laid back and the Orion studios was a very mellow venue with a comfortable feel to it. And what really made the night for all was the multiple layered light show. They had like six overhead projectors, a 16 mm projector, dozens (!) of light effects, mirror balls, the was a very well done presentation that was just a joy for all of us lucky enough to attend this event.

Anyways, on to the bands...The first band was Fingerpaint, who I wasn't familiar with. They consist of just two guitarists, with one playing a mountain of effects, and the other playing a synth or two along with his guitar. Fingerpaint created a really neat mountain of space and ambient, but very intense. I think this might have been all improv. It was hard to tell, but when it was on (75% of the time) it really moved me. They kinda reminded me of a heavier Spectrum, but definitely doing their own thing. I noticed more than one member of the crowd falling asleep, but it wasn't from boredom. Fingerpaint got into these space tones that were so relaxing that one's brain went into super mellow mode. I enjoyed them a lot.

Quarkspace was up next. Their set was well received. I enjoyed them okay, but they were a bit light for my tastes. They were VERY tight, and did what they do extremely well, I just like a bit more heavy of a sound. The keyboard sound was clean, and the music was very classic progressive, but still up to date. They were fun, and the lightshow for their set was really beautiful. The audience had a blast.

After a two and a half hour setup (including some tech problems), Escapade came on. Noone I talked to had heard of them, so I didn't know what to expect. I was quite blown away by their very psychedelic wall of noise led by an amazing drummer...their short set was one of my favorites of the night, with excellent jamming all around...the CD I bought says that "all Escapade music is composed spontaneously and collectively", and I have to say, if this was all improv, it was some of the best pure improv I've seen. I picked up one of their CD's and I've been playing it a LOT since the show.

Next up, was Architectural Metaphor from Massachusetts: a really neat sounding band that's hard to pigeonhole as they didn't have a definable sound. They had a good synth undercurrent, with a complex, yet primal drum sound (the only way I know how to describe it!), all headed up by my favorite guitarist of the night pulling some incredible screams out of his ax as he had an amazing pile of effects. The sound was consistently intense, and interesting...they even played a Velvet Underground song! Highly enjoyable and nice folks too...

The headliners, per se, were as announced "America's Oldest Space Rock Band" entitled Alien Planetscapes. I thought they were the best of the night overall. Really tight, but REALLY spatial. The keyboard-synth-flute player, Doug Walker (or Dr. Synth), was spectacular, (when I saw his vintage Arp Odyssey, and other beautiful analog synths, I knew I'd be blown away). They played a completely over the top show, with a wall of wonderful noise that was constantly interesting, sorta like King Crimson on crack . Most of the crowd had stayed, and all that did were blown away. A really impressive set from a group that has literally over 100 (?!) releases under their belt, including their first CD which I've been playing over and over since this show.

Finally, after a long day (11 Hours total at the end), everybody started packing, burnt out, but in a good way I think. I had a blast, and hope this happens again next year...I just want someone else to drive.

The Orion SpaceRock Festival is part of the Orion Progressive Rock Showcase Series. Click here for more information.

Reviewed by Matthew Grace

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