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Live Review: Progfest Brisbane

22 January 2018 | 4:20 pm | Carly Packer

"By the time it's over, it feels like we're just tiny beings floating in an ocean of their capabilities and talents, trying not to drown."

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Opening up the stage for Progfest 2018 at Brisbane's The Triffid are locals and true pioneers of 'party-prog', He Danced Ivy. They rip into the set with a fresh, intimidating energy that makes us wonder how we're going to keep up if the rest of the day continues like this. 

Instrumental prog masters Balloons Kill Babies are next to take the stage with their overwhelming tapestry of songs, sounding like a huge storm brimming with rain and thunder, looming over the crowd and sending us off in awe, like a summer thunderstorm.

After a quick duck outside for some air and a beer, the ringing of bells herds us back into the live room and Brissy quintet Kodiak Empire are ready on stage to bring us together into a dynamic blend of experimental prog rock with a bit of a twist. The five-piece bring a renewed sense of energy to the room and you can feel the tension and excitement start to build.

Our first interstate act of the day are soon on stage, Adelaide five-piece Dyssidia. They instantly grab our attention with a keyboard melody opening up the first song and the next thing we notice is the eight-string bass guitar thumping along with it. Frontman Mitch Brackman's vocal range is put through the works, sometimes sounding as a delicate whisper, a whimpering murmur or a writhing, screaming beast. It's a work of art and a stellar performance, our favourite of the night so far.

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We take a break from the live room to have a drink and grab some food in the beer garden and get wrapped up in talking to many of the other guests, all delighted by the day's performances. There seems to be a bit of a wait for the next act and while we wait we're distracted by conversations, and the DJ pumping out tunes so loud that we miss the bells heralding us in for the next act.

After we realise our mistake, Brisbane's very own versatile Osaka Punch are hammering it away by the time we make it through the close-pressed throng of bodies trying to navigate The Triffid's beer garden and into the live room. They're a band that have paid their dues on some influential stages and probably made a deal with the devil to become so ludicrously good at what they do. We're blown away with their rendition of Salt 'N' Pepa's exultant 1986 hit Push It.

Spacey and spiritual, psychedelic and progressive, Melbourne's AlithiA are entrancing and ethereal, and it feels like we've been transported someplace else entirely. It's hard to put a finger on what sets this band apart, but it's something like a fever dream, oddly beautiful and mutated, serene and disturbing, but altogether completely captivating.

Voyager are like a pop-prog dream come true. There's truly nothing like them, so it's a dream come true to see them live and in the flesh. For this writer, it's hard to imagine that a prog-metal band so influential hails from Perth, Australia and sits so high on a shelf alongside idols such as A Perfect Circle, Deftones, Opeth and the like, but seeing them perform in front of us gives us no doubt they belong there. The room is so full it's almost a mission to take a step in any direction, but the crowd still writhes like an unchained beast.

Finally it's time for the main event, Norway's own Leprous. The room is already very-nearly packed and not a soul leaves, as so many more start trying to get as close as they can. Their opening track is massive inside the full room, the emotion breaking over each person in the crowd like a wave. They're eclectic and electric, an avant-garde spectacular. It's almost a mission to breathe halfway through their set after such a day, but we push on, working our way closer in the crowd for a better look. The peculiar harmonies, experimental riffs and entrancing synth resonate through the room. By the time it's over, it feels like we're just tiny beings floating in an ocean of their capabilities and talents, trying not to drown. Truly mesmerising.