Steven Wilson and Opeth have been announced as joint headliners of the 2016 Be Prog! My Friend festival in Barcelona.
They’re being joined by the likes of Agent Fresco, Magma, Between The Buried And Me, Anneke van Giersbergen, The Pineapple Thief, Textures, Obsidian Kingdom and Exxasens.
The festival is set to take place at the Poble Espanyol on Saturday the 2nd of July. Ticket holders will also be able to attend a free show on Friday the 1st of July at the nearby Sala Apolo.
Steven Wilson, who released his latest album Hand.Cannot.Erase earlier this year to critical acclaim, comments: “This is going to be a very special day, almost like a family event for me, with so many of my friends and favourite bands appearing on the same stage, and in such a beautiful location. I look forward to getting blown off stage by Opeth and Magma as expected!”
Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt, who recently celebrated the band’s 25th anniversary and headlined the festival in 2014, states: “We’re very happy to return to the Be Prog! My Friend festival. A beautiful site, great line-up with many friends there. It’ll be a memorable event for me as a musician but also as a fan. I mean Magma, Steven Wilson, Anneke and Bruce Soord and his posse. What can go wrong? Absolutely nothing! It will be great!”
The current lineup is as follows, with more acts to be announced:
SALA APOLO, FRIDAY the 1st of July
The Pineapple Thief
POBLE ESPANYOL, SATURDAY the 2nd of July
Between The Buried And Me
Anneke van Giersbergen
Agent Fresco, Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, 22nd November
Witnessing Lost Ground, Cleft and the incredible Agent Fresco at Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds on Sunday evening was akin to witnessing the destruction of all the hoary old myths surrounding technical and progressive music in one fell swoop. Even today, assessors of the scene still occasionally trot out cliché-ridden, by-numbers reviews of music that is damned faintly as too cerebral, too serious, too outré, too cold; a conclusion that is, certainly on tonight’s evidence, ridiculously wide of the mark.
Yorkshire trio Lost Ground delivers an emotive set of alternative math rock to an appreciative audience. Sublime chord progressions, propulsive grooves, wigged out time signatures and hearts on sleeves are the order of the day. An increased stage presence would, to these eyes and ears, take the band to the next level, but it’s a very minor quibble and James Akbar’s fluid drumming particularly impresses.
Cleft describe themselves as making 2-piece turbonoise speed-prog. The description is spot-on. Theirs is an electric brand of high energy, mind-bending rock n’ roll, featuring judicious use of loops and samples to flesh out their sound and sustain atmospheric interludes in amongst the calliope-tech-rock. Importantly, the duo’s set is also cut through with massive amounts of humour. Taking their music seriously, the pair never take themselves seriously, and it’s a joy to behold.
And so to tonight’s headliners, Iceland’s Agent Fresco.
Following the band’s critically lauded 2010 LP, A Long Time Listening, and the release of this year’s stunning follow up, Destrier – described by an enamoured fan in the front row of the Belgrave crowd, entirely accurately, as ‘outrageously good’ – it’s difficult to understand how Agent Fresco don’t have a higher profile in the UK. This show is, in fact, their UK headline debut following a stripped back acoustic set at this year’s TechFest.
Nevertheless, on a freezing cold Sunday evening in Yorkshire, the band have enough good-standing to draw a couple of hundred people out in to the winter night to witness a consummate performance of some of the most fearless, defiant and emotionally cathartic rock music you’re likely to hear all year.
Agent Fresco really are a band that defy categorisation, the ‘progressive’ tag somehow not truly managing to encompass the elements of pop, rock, metal, electronic and classical music that they successfully incorporate into their inspired and inspiring music.
However you label them, frontman Arnór Dan Arnarson is quickly able to simultaneously lose himself in his committed and emotional performance and yet still manage to take the rest of us with him. Stalking the stage with an excitable and nervous energy, he switches almost effortlessly between passages of delicate vocal prowess and a full on metallic scream as the mix of material from A Long Time Listening and Destrier demand.
His bandmates are equally impressive, Vignir Rafn Hilmarsson at times throwing his bass around like a trident, thrusting and slashing as if at an imaginary adversary that he plans to strike down with the power of music, and Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson beats on his drums as if his very life depended upon it. Only Þórarinn Guðnason gives a less immediately kinetic performance, and yet somehow is no less powerful for it, his relative stillness managing to convey a preternatural strength, like a still pond that nevertheless runs spectacularly deep.
Arnór Dan frequently takes time between performances to help the audience understand the context of key songs such as “A Long Time Listening”, “Wait For Me”, “See Hell”, and “Dark Water”, recalling his state of mind at the time of each song’s writing with eloquence, insight and good humour. It adds an additional layer of connection and understanding between band and gig-goer alike.
After an extraordinary, solid hour and a half of this spellbinding spectacle, the vocalist and songwriter takes time out to thank the crowd profusely and namecheck some of the key members of crew who have finally managed to bring Agent Fresco to the UK. He and the band’s gratitude are palpable, and the sweaty, smiling crowd – some of whom have been singing and screaming every syllable back to the stage – seem equally appreciative.
That recent album Destrier is essentially the sound of a man navigating his emotional response to being the victim of an act of physical violence (the album draws specifically upon Arnór Dan Arnarson’s assault that left him bloodied, battered and with a broken eye socket) seems entirely fitting in these troubled times. That the experience of witnessing this incredible band live should prove to be as powerful and cathartic for the audience as it might have been for Agent Fresco in making said album seems only just. It may be the band’s first real foray in to the UK, but based on this remarkably fine performance, it certainly won’t be their last.
Agent Fresco continue on their UK tour:
Nov 23rd: Glasgow, Ivory Blacks
Nov 24th: Milton Keynes, Craufurd Arms
Nov 25th: London, Dingwalls
Read our recent interview with Agent Fresco’s frontman Arnór Dan Arnarson here.
Agent Fresco have shared a video for their track “Howls.”
The song is lifted from the Icelandic tech-rock band’s most recent album, Destrier, released in August via Long Branch Records.
The clip was filmed at Agent Fresco’s sold-out show at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik.
As frontman Arnór Dan Arnarson explains: “Baldvin Z, the award-winning director who also directed our video for ‘Tempo’, initially called me to congratulate us on our new album and our talk led us quickly to the idea of a new collaboration.
“I knew that we had to work with the song ‘Howls’ and we both thought it would be fun to try and use that triumphant sound and visually captivate the magical atmosphere before and during our sold-out concert, where Destrier was performed in its entirety by a total of 15 musicians.”
He continues: “This video is meant to be a tribute to our dear friends who joined us on stage and to the audience who made this an unforgettable experience.”
Agent Fresco will be playing the following UK shows as part of their European tour in support of Destrier:
Nov 22nd: Leeds, Belgrave Music Hall
Nov 23rd: Glasgow, Ivory Blacks
Nov 24th: Milton Keynes, Craufurd Arms
Nov 25th: London, Dingwalls
Check out the video for “Howls” below and read our interview with Agent Fresco’s Arnór Dan Arnarson here.
This week’s new and notable music releases in one handy list!
Faded Gloryville, Lindia Ortega
Down To You EP, Young States Genexus, Fear Factory Destrier, Agent Fresco Live In Tokyo 1975, Miles Davis Full Metal Whore, Lord Of The Lost Automatic, Don Broco Abyss, Chelsea Wolfe The Anthropocene Extinction, Cattle Decapitation Deathless, Miss May I Electric Blood, Biters The Antichrist Imperium, The Antichrist Imperium Positive Songs For Negative People, Frank Turner The Last Stand?, Gimp Fist Evil Power, Deathhammer Downfall Rising, Wombbath
Icelandic 4 piece Agent Fresco have shared a video for their new track “Wait For Me.”
The track is lifted from the band’s new album, Destrier, scheduled for release on the 7th of August via Long Branch / SPV.
Says Agent Fresco frontman Arnór Dan Arnarson of the song: “I was inspired to write this song with Agent Fresco as a result of an experience I had when I was performing with Ólafur Arnalds in Copenhagen a few years ago. I was five years old when we moved to Denmark from Iceland. When I was 20 I lost my father to cancer and I returned to Iceland with my sisters, mother and my father in his coffin to hold his funeral. I stayed behind in Iceland after his funeral, thinking I was only going to live here for a year or two, but Agent Fresco happened in 2008 and making a career in music has now become my life.
He continues: “So back again to the story, I had been touring with Ólafur for some time and before our gig in Copenhagen I asked him if I could dedicate my last song to my family and my best friends, who were all in the audience. But when that moment in the program finally came, everything became just way too intense for me, thinking about the death of my father, the birth of my sisters’ children, the death of my friends’ parents. I’ve been absent from my loved ones through so many life-changing moments. Time hadn’t stood still simply because I was in Iceland and realising that was just heartbreaking. Those are the thoughts and feelings I wanted to capture in Wait For Me.”
Check out the video for “Wait For Me” below, and read our recent interview with Arnór Dan Arnarson here.
Agent Fresco will return to the UK for a series of tour dates in November:
22nd Nov: Leeds, Belgrave Music Hall
23rd Nov: Glasgow, Audio
24th Nov: Milton Keynes, Craufurd Arms
25th Nov: London, Dingwalls (upgraded from The Black Heart)