Review and Photos by contributor Joel Barrios – The 13th edition of the well-known Rite of Strings Festival was held at The Majestic Theater in Gettysburg Pennsylvania a week ago. RoSfest, the brainchild of George Roldan, has firmly established itself as arguably the premier festival in the United States (and likely among the most important worldwide as well) to celebrate the progressive-rock music scene.
This year George Roldan and his staff had to overcome a real myriad of difficulties. First was the sudden and tragic of Riverside’s guitarist Piotr Grudziński, incident that shocked the prog-rock community to its roots, and brought sadness and tears to many hearts, mine included. Riverside held the Saturday’s headliner spot and they had to be substituted by the US stalwarts Spock’s Beard, marking their second appearance in a row after they headlined last year’s Saturday. Second Electric Strawbs was on the verge of almost cancelling their participation due to logistic obstacles while obtaining their visas in time. They were meant to be the Friday’s headliners and ended up playing a near-to-an-hour set on Sunday, after Bent Knee and Zebra gave up some of their set time allowing the UK legends to play their four show in 48 hours, dedication and passion deeply acknowledged by the crowd with the standing ovations they received.
Despite the shortcomings the festival was a complete success, promoting bands like the tremendously promising No More Pain, a foursome of novel guys from New Jersey who really showed they are ready to sign with a big label; and also bringing the audience the opportunity to enjoy the first live performance of The Fringe, the progressive-rock trio including Randy McStine, Nick D’Virgilio and Jonas Reingold. Some other heavy-hitters in the prog-scene like Magic Pie, Spock’s Beard and Dave Kerzner offered stellar performances, joined by less known acts like Comedy of Errors, Kinetic Element and Bent Knee, which also left an excellent impression in the crowd.
Special mention for the prog-veterans Electric Strawbs who despite the already mentioned tribulations came to stage and for a little less than an hour played their mystical blend of rock, folk, Celtic and ambient music which has endeared them to audiences across Europe and North America for the last 25 years. Even the hard-rock legends Zebra came to stage to close the third night and received standing ovations with a balls-to-the-walls energy-pumped show.
The organizers put up a raffle with proceeds going to the family of Piotr Grudziński. The raffle items were a guitar signed by all the musicians taking part of the festival and a beautiful black and white paint of Piotr made by the artist Christiaan Rodi and based on a picture taken by my friend and excellent photographer Peter Rajaniemi during Riverside’s performance at ROSFest in 2013. A very touching video rolled out in the big screen prior to the Spock’s Beard’s set on Saturday night.
During three consecutive nights progressive rock fans were treated with some of the best progressive bands in the world. ROSFest is definitely a helluva experience which we recommend to you if prog-rock in any of its variants runs through your veins.