Xang, Abraxas, Arena, The Watch, After Crying, Ange

"Progrock festival, Sarlat June 10/11, 2000"

DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean


1st rock festival, Sarlat La-Caneda / France
June 10, 2000
Xang, Abraxas, Arena

June 11, 2000
The Watch, After Crying, Ange

Prologue / Vorab

It's June 2000 .. the time is right for taking a 2 weeks vacation. What's better than combining a vacation with a prog festival in a beautiful city in a foreign country ? So I packed my bags and started my journey to France, where the first (prog)rock festival took place in the medieval city of Sarlat on June 10 and June 11. This review contains two chapters on touristical sites of interest that I visited and then three chapters on the festival.

1. ... the mystery of Rennes-Le-Chateau

Perhaps some of you might know the theory of some historians, that Jesus lies buried somewhere in the beautiful and mystic Languedoc (south-east region of France, near the the spanish Pyrenees).

in the Languedoc

The places to visit are in and around the small village of Rennes-Le-Chateau (RLC). It's hard to find this village, especially if you drive to it from the south (like I did). You have to wind your car through a mighty ravine (Le eremitage of King George) of tremendous rocks. If you have passed the ravine you drive on small roads/paths right through the landscape, through fields, plains ... always surrounded by mighty and strange mountains ... you really feel like they are lurking at you all the time. After some time you see a small sign that points you to the small village of Rennes-Le-Chateau, which lies on a hill.


The village is about 5 km away from every other village and surrounded by many archeological sites and can be easier accessed via the town Rennes-Le-Bains. The village is small, very tight and nowadays has about 120 inhabitants. I will only tell you some basics on the mystery of Rennes-Le-Chateau. The rest you have to find out for yourselfs. (I'll give you some tips for that later on.)

The village is more than 3000 years old ... (neolithic graves were found here !). The history of the town is very interesting and full of wars, as it changed it's owners very often, among them: The goths, the gallic, merovingians, franks, the kingdom of Barcelona ... finally vagabund hords and later on the hords of the spanish Count Henri de Trastamare devastated the entire village and brutally murdered the people who lived there .... but the village of Rennes-Le-Chateau never died !!

The big mystery of this town is the mystery of the priest Berenger Sauniere and his female housekeeper Marie Denarnaud. Abbe Sauniere started as priest in RLC in 1885 and died in January 1917. They lived a poor life .. around the poor church that nearly layed in ruins .. until Sauniere started to restore the church. In 1781 the countess of Hautpoul of Blanchefort (a chateau between RLC and Rennes-Le-Bains) feels that time has come to die and tells a grand mystery to the priest of RLC, Abbe Antoine Bigou ... a mystery that was given from generation to generation but was kept in very secret circles. She also gives him secret documents. It is proven that this secret really scared the Abbe and as France went through political trouble at that time he decided to hide the documents in the church St. Magdalene of RLC. He realized that this secret must be preserved for the coming generations and so he decided to code the information into a latin gravestone that he put on the grave of the countess of Blanchefort. About 100 years later Abbe Berenger Sauniere was told this secret by the Abbe Henri Boudet, priest of Rennes-Le-Bains. This man, Henri Boudet changed gravestones and moved stone-crosses in the landscape in order to blur the traces of the mystery. Suddenly the countess of Chambord (member of the Habsburg family) gives Sauniere 3000 F in order to find the critical documents in the curch of RLC ... and Sauniere did find two parchments with coded information. The official tourist brochures only tell certain facts ... could be there was a treasure hidden inside the church of RLC. It is proven that Sauniere found a secret grave under his church. Some months later he was a very rich man, the church was restored with expensive efforts ... extremely expensive ... too expensive for such a "small" priest in such a poor village.

The official tourist brochures say, that the parchments and some gravestones might have pointed Sauniere to a gold treasure. Possible gold treasures could be: the gold of the westgoths, the treasure of King Dagobert (collected during his wars), the treasure of Blancas of Castille and so on. Nowadays some blocks of gold (melted arabian coins) and jewels were found in the area.

But if it was just a gold treasure, why did Sauniere and his houskeeper receive lots of payments from religious organizations from all over Europe after he told the Vatican his discovery ??? And why did Sauniere destroy some graves on the graveyard if he has found and spent/sold a gold treasure ? Strange behaviour for a priest.

It is proven that Abbe Sauniere went to the Louvre in order to get copies of some medieval paintings. Some historians and mathematicians have discovered secret geometry in these paintings.This geometry can be found again in older maps of the area around Rennes-Le-Chateau, in the parchments (the ones Sauniere found in his church) and on the gravestones that Henri Boudet has moved in the 18th century. What's this secret about ?

Now have a look on the way like Sauniere restored the church of RLC. I will list only some of the suspicious things:

Tour Magdala
Tour Magdala in Rennes-Le-Chateau

So the gold treasure theory is the one side of the story. As I have mentioned before, historians with knowledge of mathematics and geometry have another theory: The geometry of the pictures, the code inside the documents, anagrams on gravestones and their parallels in older maps describe a certain spot in the area around RLC ... the place of a holy treasure ... perhaps the place where Jesus is buried ? I don't say that this is true. But it is for sure an interesting theory.

The rest is up to you. Discover the secret of Rennes-Le-Chateau for yourself ! There are lots of books about the subject. A mystic and spooky 3D adventure game from Sierra is based on this story: "Gabriel Knight 3 . blood of the sacred, blood of the damned". But it is wise to read some books first, especially the book on the secret geometry in the mystery:

Richard Andrews, Paul Schellenberger: "The tomb of God - The body of Jesus and the solution to a 2000-year-old mystery" (the book is released in different languages, the german title is "Das letzte Grab Christi - Die Geometrie des Heiligen Gral")

Rennes Le Chateau - Homepage

Gabriel Knight 3 website

Altar in the church of Rennes-Le-Chateau

Devil in the church of Rennes-Le-Chateau

Chateau de Arques
Chateau de Arques near Rennes-Le-Chateau

2. The medieval town of Sarlat

Sarlat is a beautiful, medieval city embedded in the dark hills of the Perigord Noir. More than 1.000 years of architecture live through lanes, roofs of roofing stones and fair and hot stone walls.
Sarlat became a city at the 8th century. Border between Kings of France and of England during the Hundred Year War, it became English later in 1360 then released ten years by Du Guesclin. The cathedral of Saint-Sacerdos was set up under Henri IV. From the 18th century, Sarlat snooze during 150 years before becoming again thrives with the arrival of the railroad.
The exceptional number of buildings registered or classified as historical makes of Sarlat the first European city in term of inheritance. Sarlat is for a long time the natural decor for many movies.

Sarlat - Overview

Sarlat - inside the town

Sarlat - inside the town

If you want to learn more about this city, feel free to visit: Sarlat Homepage.

3. Sarlat rock festival - introduction

The first Sarlat-rock-festival was organized by two concert organizing associations of private, enthusiastic music maniacs: ECLIPSE and TRIANGLE.

ECLIPSE is a team of 7 people organizing prog concerts in Bordeaux, existing since 1986. Until now they organized more than 30 concerts, including (amongst others): IQ, Quidam, Arena, Violet District, Pendragon, John Wetton, Ars Nova, Porcupine Tree, Galleon, Galadriel, Clepsydra and Ange. These people do all have their normal jobs ... the organization of concerts is done in their free time (and payed by their private money if the events don't break even). Most of these prog-lovers have other prog-projects, like running the french division of the Arena fanclub "The cage". The manager of Eclipse, Georges, is running the popular french prog mailorder SHOP 33 (similar to the german Empire mailorder). Besides of organizing prog gigs in Bordeaux, ECLIPSE helps in co-producing events in other french cities with their experience. You can contact ECPLISE by contacting Georges at Eclipse/Shop33, BP 8, 33440 St. Vincentde Paul, France, email: shop33@club-internet.fr

TRIANGLE is a young and new association currently consisting of 3 people, founded by Bruno Barriere and based in Sarlat-La-Caneda. Bruno had the great idea to organize a progrock-oriented rock festival in Sarlat and so he asked ECPLIPSE to co-produce this event. As ECLIPSE only arranged and organized gigs with two bands, the organization of a 2-day-festival with 6 bands was a big challenge for both organizations.

The festival took place in the Centre Culturel, a very functional and professional looking location for such events with a big concert hall, where mainly theatre or classical concerts are held.

3a. the first day: June 10, 2000 - XANG, ABRAXAS, ARENA

The first band to enter the stage on 18:30 was the instrumental-prog band XANG. The band, which now signed their brand new debut album to swiss Gallileo records, started their gig with The revelation/Gaia. After this song the crowd (approx. 180 people at this time) was applauding and screaming very loud. Wow ... what a great audience ! XANG continued with the atmospheric My own truth, followed by the soft beginning, but furiously ending Misgivings / Guernica. The band earned very honest and respectful applause, especially during and after The prediction / Deliverance and the epic Bitterness/Amertune which offered beautifully floating parts with emotional guitar, SAGA-esque straight parts and real rockin' moments. Especially the mighty church organ sound during some tracks - in combination with powerful guitar - were really great ! XANG played a very good gig with professional presence on stage (no singer !). They closed their gig with the orient-influenced epic Sacrifice which clearly demonstrated their technical and songwriting skills. I am sure, XANG have found many new fans here in Sarlat. It's very difficult to open a festival, especially if you are an instrumental band. XANG did very well, and even if the bass was not heard during 4 tracks (thats what the band told me, not many people in the audience realized it because of the strong keyboards), this gig was a success for this band who has a great debut album to discover !


The second band of this evening was the polish progrock legend ABRAXAS. The band was founded in 1987 and played several gigs in Poland but as their music was not treated seriously enough it became very silent around this band several times. After two revivals another event darkened the skies above the band: the death of bass-player Radek Kaminski (by car accident). Founder Adam Lassa and his musicians took another effort to revive the band and they succeeded. In 1996 the debut album was released and up to now we can count 5 releases (the second and third album were released in a polish and english re-recorded version with translated lyrics). In 2000, the band has just released a great live album "Abraxas - Live in memoriam" and a remastered edition of their 1996 debut.
I have read many articles on ABRAXAS, but never heard their music. The music of ABRAXAS has lots of atmospheres: dramatic, exciting, poundering, complex, straight'n'melodic, heavy rockin' ... all of this elements mixed perfectly together in smooth songwriting. The audience was drowned in ambient floods and grabbed by dramatic/epic atmosphere. Although the vocals aren't a big skill of this band (not very catchy melodies, not very varied), the performance of this band and the great compositions were enough to take the crowd by storm. Especially with the long tracks Tomasz fray torquemada, Pokuszenie (great guitar solo at the end) and Czakramy ABRAXAS increased the joy of the audience to an overwhelming extent.
ABRAXAS were the big and positive surprise of this evening, not only in my opinion as could be seen by the enthusiastic atmosphere in the audience. You simply have to check out this band .... the brandnew live album (78 minutes) gives you a great opportunity !


Finally ARENA entered the stage, starting with the great opener Chosen of their new album. After some moments I felt very cold ... would this be another gig of ARENA missing to build a warm bridge between them and the audience ? No it wasn't ! Luckily (sorry to say that) the power supply of keyboards and guitar broke down. After some minutes Clive Nolan and John Mitchell took care of the situation telling a story of their keyboard technician nearly drowning in Brasil ... until Clive's microphone was plugged off, too. These problems really weren't nice for the performing band, but they were very essential for building a bridge between stage and audience. As Clive's micro was working again, he continued his little story in a nice and entertaining way. ARENA restarted their gig, playing Chosen again. Was it really the same band on stage ? ARENA now seemed fresh, motivated and aggressive. 35 minutes later the entire power supply on stage gave up in the middle of track. Would ARENA be able to strike back again after this fallout ? Yes they were ! Especially guitarist John Mitchell walked miles on stage and seemed to have endless energy resources. It was a pleasure to see him play and to watch him chase the new bass player Ian Salmon (still in Janison Edge) several times around Mick Pointer's drumset. BTW: Ian did a great job on bass ! The new singer Rob Sowden could not convince me on stage. He sounds great on CD but live ... I don't know ... perhaps it was because he seemed not self-confident enough in order to really reach the audience. But at the end ARENA did well ... they were able to make the audience forget two breaks. What a pity that the lights went on and the gig was ended too early ... so there was no The visitor at the end of the show. Some people judged ARENA to be the best band of this first day, for me it was ABRAXAS. ARENA was the most professional band without any doubt, but somehow ABRAXAS performed closer to the people.

Arena: Clive as entertainer


3b. the second day: June 11, 2000 - THE WATCH, AFTER CRYING, ANGE

The second day went smooth without any problems, forming a great conclusion of a great festival. The first band to enter the stage at 19:00 that night were the Italians THE WATCH. Although they sounded like they fell into a big pot of boiling Genesis during their childhood, they did their job very well by fascinating the audience with sureal performances of their singer. His movements and performances always added very much expression to the mystic complex music. For me it was nothing spectacular new (pot of boiling Genesis) but the audience liked them very much and gave them a big hand. Especially after a Genesis cover the crowd went mad ... by the way ... you can't do something wrong by playing a Genesis cover on a prog festival ;-). The skill on all instruments was quite high and now you can guess what I did not like: the vocals. Why do lots of prog bands have these boring default voices who aren't able to bring live, charisma and soul into the air. I missed some longer melodies in the singing ... but luckily the performance of the singer was so great that you simply can't turn away from their show. There are only few progbands that have the atmosphere of 70ies prog without having too much clichee in their songwriting .... TWIN AGE from Sweden were one of this bands .... to bad that they split. The audience luckily ignored all parallels and enjoyed the gig of THE WATCH and so again the festival organizers had a very good opening band on the second day, too.

The Watch
The Watch

The next gig was one of the greatest, weirdest, best, hottest and whatever performances that I have ever seen in my life. THE WATCH prepared the audience with familiar sounds and now the crowd was bombed with a great contemporary "progrock meets jazz and fusion"-attack of the hungarians AFTER CRYING. The musicians of this stunning band are all studied and classically trained musicians ... and they are experienced like hell, too. That's at least how it looked like. It's very hard to describe their music ... I'll try it this way: Take the freakin' experiments of KING CRIMSON, add some ELP, some bombastic neoprog and some jazz/fusion-elements and mix it to a mindblowing cocktail which is still catchy although it is complex at the highest level ... but again ... very weak and below average vocals that do not have a long breath. (This band would kick even more butt with charismatic vocals !) The audience was quite of overwhelmed and stunned during the first songs ... I think none of the people who did not know this band was expecting such a fireworks of music. But after some tracks the audience was ready for the music and the electrifying atmosphere unloaded in a great explosion, as the band played several solos, i.e. Torma Ferenc simultaneously on guitar and keyboards ... Fripp would have liked this one ! , or Pejtsik Péter doing a tremendous "classic meets prog" solo on his cello. The keyboarder Winkler Balázs sometimes played breathtaking fast melodies on his trumpet, which added the jazzy atmosphere to the performance, and so did the drummer Madai Zsolt of the band. The last Conclusion became a big party then, turning the hall into a steaming hell. Great dramatic walls of big progressive music clashed together with great complexity and very mature music-techniques ... melting to an earthquake for mind, soul and heart of every fan of big music. The band included excerpts of the Empire-March (Starwars) into the drum solo and during the song on the trumpet. One of the big skills of this band is that they really live their music live on stage and that they act very naturally. For me AFTER CRYING were the sensation of Sarlat 2000 because AFTER CRYING is more than music ... it is contemporary art packaged in music that goes under your skin. If this music does not touch you, you must be dead or not open for BIG music.

After Crying
After Crying

It was a very wise decision to let ANGE to the last gig of this festival. ANGE are very popular in France (and only there) and many ANGE fans came to see them. It would have been very difficult for another band to get the crowd back, which was still in AFTER CRYING-enthusiasm. But as lots of people knew ANGE and their songs the great atmosphere continued. ANGE seems to be a typically french band which is hard to "export" to other countries. Somehow the melodies of the vocals sounded very french to me (and that's not because of the french vocals !) and as I don't understand the french language I could not access their music at all, although they had very good instrumental parts. Especially Hassan Hajdi on guitar and Thierry Sidhoum on bass were a pleasure to listen to and to look at, as they really enjoyed to play in front of this audience. Their very good keyboarder Tristan Decamps seemed to be inspired by J.M.Jarre, the french keyboard grandmaster of the 80ies and very early 90ies. BTW: Tristan has a great voice, too !
But the most charismatic element of ANGE since the beginning of this band (ANGE exist since the 70ies) is singer Christian Decamps. As I saw him the first time I had a picture in my mind: This man sitting in a beautiful french landscape in the garden of his windmill-house, some sheep and goats around the garden, a glass of wine on his table while writing poetry or short stories. I don't know why, but it seems I were right. I was told that he is writing novels besides of writing the lyrics of ANGE. Some fans of ANGE told me, that the lyrics of ANGE are some form of poetry, too ... dealing both with classic themes like love and hate as well as with problems of daily life or problems/questions of modern society. And it was easy to read from the lucky and fascinated faces of the audience that the lyrics were more than just words or average lyrics. But Christian is great performer and entertainer as well. No matter if he was singing, playing the acoustic guitar , playing the additional keyboards or if he was performing the lyrics (i.e. by talking to - and even spitting on - a devil hand puppet) ... the aura of ANGE filled the hall.
Even if the music of ANGE is dramatic and very alive I am missing melodic hooks in most of the songs ... but as it seems there are only two possibilities: either you love this band (if you do I am sure this builds a very intense relationship to their music) or it flows by ... even fans agreed on this opinion.


Ange at the end of the festival


the atmosphere
great atmosphere

This festival showed how a festival has to be organized. Bring the festival to the people (not the other way round), choose a city in which there are not much alternatives for doing things on Friday/Saturday evening, and call it "Rock festival", no matter if it's prog or not. More than 620 people on the first day and more than 700 on the second day ... simply great ! Given the fact, that this was the first big festival organized by Eclipse/Triangle, everybody must say, that these were two perfect days with good organization, nice atmosphere and very sympathic people. The fallouts during the ARENA-gig were a dark cloud at the end of the first day (I did not care, shit happens !) ... but the audience did not react angry or dissappointed at all and as the audience went home very pleased and happy on both evenings, this festival was a success ... both morally and (like I've been told) financially, too ! I'm looking forward to next year. There won't be any new festivals in Corbigny but France can be proud of a new attempt which will become real big the next year ... Sarlat 2001 ! Hopefully I won't be the only german progger in Sarlat then ! 9 points

A big "Thank you" to all the nice people I've met there

The organization team

See you next year ... on Sarlat 2001 !

© 06/2000 Markus Weis / DURP - Tales from the progressive ocean - http://www.durp.com/