The North East Art Rock Festival, or NEARfest for short, was a multi-day event celebrating the resurgence of progressive and eclectic music in the United States and around the world. The event was held annually in early summer in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, approximately one hour north of Philadelphia and less than two hours west of New York City. The festival was founded in the spring of 1998 by Robert LaDuca and Chad Hutchinson, with the first event occurring in 1999. NEARfest quickly grew to become the most prestigious progressive music festival in the world.
In 2008, the festival celebrated its 10th anniversary with NEARfest X and marked the last event organized by Hutchinson and LaDuca. NEARfest and New Jersey ProgHouse veterans Jim Robinson, Ray Loboda and Kevin Feeley were their successors.
On March 25, 2011, due to insufficient ticket sales, the management announced that the 2011 festival's edition had been cancelled. On October 13, 2011, Hutchinson, LaDuca and Feeley announced that NEARfest would return in 2012. However, on October 17, 2011, a subsequent announcement indicated that NEARfest Apocalypse, held the weekend of June 22, 23, and 24th, 2012 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania would be the final edition of the festival. The lineup for NEARfest Apocalypse was announced live on the long-running Gagliarchives Radio Program on Saturday, October 29, 2011. On May 24, 2012, it was announced that Eloy had to cancel due to medical issues, and on May 29, 2012, it was announced that U.K. would take their place as the Sunday night headliner. The May 2008 issue of SPIN Magazine listed NEARfest as one of the top 72 festivals in the United States.
NEARfest Records was launched in 2003 to release selected live performances from NEARfest. The first compilation DVD, "NEARfest 2005: Rising to the Surface," was released on April 10, 2007. Other releases include live CDs of Steve Hackett, Djam Karet, Nathan Mahl, Thinking Plague, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Glass Hammer, Steve Roach, Pure Reason Revolution (out of print) and Hidria Spacefolk (out of print). Despite the festival having ended in June 2012, NEARfest Records will continue to be an on-going concern.
From 2001 to 2008, the ever-changing festival logo was designed by British artist Roger Dean, famous for his work with Yes and Asia. Starting in 2009, Mark Wilkinson (Marillion and Fish album covers) took over the logo duties for the show. For the final edition of the festival in 2012, NEARfest Apocalypse, both Roger Dean and Mark Wilkinson provided artwork. Both artists also attended the show. Prior to Roger's and Mark's involvement, there were two other logos for the show. The NEARfest 2000 logo was designed by Paul Whitehead, who is known for his album artwork for Van der Graaf Generator, Genesis, and the Italian prog rock band Le Orme. The inaugural NEARfest logo was designed by co-founder Chad Hutchinson in 1999. In addition to Roger Dean and Mark Wilkinson, Annie Haslam of Renaissance has attended several NEARfests to display her oil paintings in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2012.
NEARfest 2002: Echolyn-Carpe Diem
Spock's Beard, IQ, Solaris, Mastermind, Larry Fast, Crucible, Scott McGill's Hand Farm, Ice Age, Alaska, and Nathan Mahl
Transatlantic, Happy the Man, Anekdoten, Pär Lindh Project, Iluvatar, Il Balletto di Bronzo, DFA, Thinking Plague, North Star, and Nexus
(Official Preshow: Echolyn and Priam)
Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Porcupine Tree, Deus Ex Machina, After Crying, White Willow, California Guitar Trio with Tony Levin, Djam Karet, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, The Underground Railroad, and Under the Sun
(Independently organized preshow: Land of Chocolate, The Red Masque, Electric Sheepdog and Wine of Nails)
Steve Hackett, Nektar, Echolyn, Caravan, Isildurs Bane, Enchant, Miriodor, Gerard, La Torre dell'Alchimista, and Spaced Out
(The Laser's Edge/Cuneiform Records Preshow: McGill/Manring/Stevens, Doctor Nerve, and Dysrhythmia)
Camel, Magma, The Flower Kings, Änglagård, Kraan, Tunnels, Glass Hammer, Alamaailman Vasarat, High Wheel, and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
(The Laser's Edge/Cuneiform Records Preshow: Miriodor, Woodenhead, and IZZ)
Strawbs, Univers Zero, Mike Keneally Band, Planet X, Richard Pinhas, Sean Malone, Metamorfosi, Pallas, Yezda Urfa, and Hidria Spacefolk
(Progressive Arts Preshow: The Musical Box)
Le Orme, IQ, Present, Kenso, Steve Roach, Matthew Parmenter, The Muffins, Frogg Cafe, Wobbler, and Knight Area
(Progressive Arts Preshow: PFM and Proto-Kaw)
Keith Emerson, Ozric Tentacles, Ange, FM, Michael Manring, Richard Leo Johnson, Niacin, Riverside, Guapo, and KBB
(Progressive Arts Preshow: Hatfield and the North and The Tony Levin Band)
Magma, Hawkwind, Pure Reason Revolution, Magenta, La Maschera di Cera, NeBeLNeST, Indukti, IZZ, Robert Rich, and Bob Drake
(Progressive Arts Preshow: Allan Holdsworth, Secret Oyster and One Shot)
NEARfest X (2008)
Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Liquid Tension Experiment, Fish, Peter Hammill, Synergy, Echolyn, Discipline, Radio Massacre International, Mörglbl, and Koenji Hyakkei
PFM, Gong, Van der Graaf Generator, Steve Hillage Band, Trettioåriga Kriget, Beardfish, DFA, Cabezas de Cera, Oblivion Sun, Quantum Fantay
Steve Hackett, Eddie Jobson's Ultimate Zero Project, Three Friends, The Enid, Riverside, Pineapple Thief, Iona, Forgas Band Phenomena, Astra, and Moraine
NEARfest 2011 (cancelled)
NEARfest Apocalypse (2012)
U.K., Renaissance, Van der Graaf Generator, Änglagård, Mike Keneally Band, Twelfth Night, Il Tempio delle Clessidre, Gösta Berlings Saga, Helmet of Gnats, and Aranis
NEARfest Apocalypse 2012