A regular to these things since the Progscape festivals in 1995/96, they never get old. I'll try to spare too much of the personal anecdotes...
Been a fan of the Fruit Fallen back to the days James Schoen was posting songs on his myspace a few years back. And he worked a merch table last year, so the climb up the ladder has been slow and steady...he assembled a great band for the show. Mike Tee played a wonderful bass, and Barry Seroff's flute reminded me a lot of Stephen Dundon of Molly Bloom. Barry had a lot of herky-jerky motions, and attacked the notes in the Roland Kirk style. The presentation was neat, with his cellist very nattily attired, and James in his very large hat. A fine set, with important contributions from every band member. Wonderful opener.
Not very familiar with their music, I just let it ride...powerful set. I was impressed with the vocals and the emotion of the music. I had played "Xot" on my show, and knew that one well - great tune, even if I've been mispronouncing it for weeks! The playing was technically right on, without losing any of the passion. I especially liked Scot Cleland's guitar work.
A lot to digest - which was a good thing - the music is hypnotic and builds, not very "in your face" - so having ten people on stage (the most this side of George Clinton) kind of worked. I was joking that Phideaux must have had some mind control going on, with the snappy Phideaux electronics on the belts and the little dance that each singer had. Of course, with all the players, it took me half to show to realize that Mat Kennedy was on bass (I'd forgotten he was playing the show). Mat's a good egg, and have seen him numerous times with Discipline (one of the all-time great bands). I have to blame some of it on his hat, which effectively hid him for long stretches. Valerie Gracious was the first of many powerhouse vocalists of the weekend. She had much help, and she carried the melodies nicely. I thought Ariel Farber's violin and vocal work was stunning. And two of the great names of rock, Bloody Rich and Johnny Unicorn! The highlight of the set for me was "Thank You For the Evil" (from Doomsday Afternoon). Fun tune. All in all, a good performance.
It Bites - back in 2005, I'd seen the Johns (Mitchell and Beck) at Summers End do a brief but excellent acoustic set. The final song was a cover of "Here Comes The Flood", done so well. Little did I know that John Mitchell would be a mainstay at the Prog festivals, playing Rosfest a few times, even teaming up with Beck for the awesome Kino show. I love John Beck's keyboard playing and pop vocal sensibilities (I missed his late late night singing by the pool, I was pretty messed up stomach-wise the whole weekend, drank only Friday night). Teaming Lee Pomeroy and Bob Dalton's vocals with the Johns was killer. I was right in front of Lee, and marveled over the sheer joy he exhibited. The only (small) regret was not being able to watch Bob Dalton on drums. It seemed like the drummers in general were hidden behind big ass cymbals. Or more accurately, I was too close and the floor was level.
(This is funny - my spell check wanted to change "Progscape" to "Prostate" and "Phideaux" to "Hideous")...
back to It Bites...they have such catchy numbers..."Midnight" sounds like it was covered by a million artists. Such a familiar chorus. What a fun show.
Back in college, "The Wake" and "Tales From the Lush Attic" were staples of my listening experience. Over time, I'd lost interest in the band, only recently recapturing it with the last two records, great efforts indeed. I looked forward to the show, and on balance, was pleased. Had a few grumblings, though - Mike Holmes' guitar was way too low in the mix. Add to that his Hackett-like interplay with the keyboards, he often got drowned out. Another was Peter Nicholls being too prissy, like he was at Nearfest. One of the amusing things about concerts is the band members looking over the sound people and moving their thumbs up and down to get the right mix. Peter does this a lot, and runs his sound guy ragged. He was really pissed at Nearfest, and also shot evil glances most of the first few tunes at 3rp. What was funny was, he'd sounded the best I've heard in a long time. I thought the vocal performance was excellent. Although he did defuse his consternation somewhat by doing the "this mike is useless" lyric, it's time to relax a bit - you won't get two more disparate personalities side by side on stage than Peter and John Jowitt. Ah yes, JJ - the "house" bassist at the Prog Shows, he's been with Blind Ego, Neo, IQ, Frost, and Jadis. Also, everyone has a John Jowitt picture (I have one that I will upload I hope soon) and he's a world class partier. "Old new" drummer Paul Cook was great, and I really liked the keyboard work of Mark Westworth (was good with Darwin's Radio a few years back). I enjoyed the set list, especially the Frequency cuts and "Gateway" from way back when.
Sklenik - What a great band. They played under the tent outside as night was falling, and I found their performance lots of fun. Howard Levy had turned me on to them about six months ago, and I was very interested in seeing the "prog bassoon" in action! I didn't realize that J.P. Kozusko did double duty on the bassoon and guitar. The dichotomy of sound was jarring...and in concert they were more raw, and it really rocked. Got to talk to J.P. after the show and found out some neat things like Sklenik is Slovak for "glass house"....his (and mine) favorite GG record! Talked about a lot of different things...and got to see the bassoon which seemed to fold into a hundred different parts. I was joking that his Mom probably said "no electric guitar until you play your bassoon"! Look forward to hearing more in addition to the two releases they have out.
Persephone's Dream -
I'd been looking forward to Day 2 for months - Gravity sandwiched by Crack The Sky and King's X? Holy fuck. And before that were three excellent bands...Persephone's Dream was another band I'd heard little from. Was at a bit of an advantage by not drinking, so I was able to make their set. And also at an advantage by not knowing them. I was talking to my friend Dan, who is from Pittsburgh, and he said that their performances in the past left much to be desired. Lucky us...I had a blast. Recently, I've gained an appreciation of styles of music that if I played them in high school, I would have gotten my ass kicked. Azam Ali, Telesma, music with Mideast rhythms have captured my fancy of late. PD had a great sound. Again, the vocals were awesome. Jim Waugaman and Heidi Engel were double trouble, both with soaring vocal performances. The hit of the show was John Tallent, with literally a hundred percussion instruments. His front and center work on the last tune was superlative. My hands hurt watching him...and Scot Harvey on the drums was no slouch either. I was also happy to see one continuous piece of music...had a booklet to go with it but have not read it yet...
Wow. I'd been corresponding with Dena Henry for some time about the band, and she was kind enough to send me a "brochure" with the new record. I'd had "Allegory of Light" for some time - a fine record, if a little busy - "Realms of Eternity" is more concise, and an absolute masterpiece. When I got the mailing I was stunned to see Mark Boals on vocals. I'd seen him last year with Uli Jon Roth's band. He and Liz Vandall (a dead ringer for Cher, Mark and I had a chuckle about that after the show) absolutely crushed, belting out Scorpions classics like "Catch Your Train", "Sails of Charon", etc...so I was excited to see him live again. (We also laughs about Uli's loudness...I was right in front of his speaker and he warned me...). Mark did an excellent job of not becoming the focal point of the band, staying in the back until his vocal parts were needed. Would have liked to hear him doing "Immigrant Song" and "Highway Star", cut off from the set due to time. Paul Mihacevich was the best drummer I'd seen all weekend - just to think if he had shoes on, would have busted the kit! The performance was grand, and Carl Baldassarre ripped off two of the most bitchin' solos - one woke me up, I'd dozed off for a second (no reflection on the band - I once nodded off on my feet during Hackett's "Everyday", one of the best solos ever done). I only wished Sam Giunta was a bit more visible. He was placed almost directly behind Carl...a very small regret though, as I was able to hear him very well. Overall, an unforgettable show.
Glass Hammer -
Seen them at Progscape in 1995, and then the Nearfest performance...I enjoy everything I hear from them, but am not intensely familiar with all of their work. I do have the Wyzards that Steve Babb has done and enjoy that immensely. Didn't realize David Wallimann was with them, I like his music...should have known given the Tennessee roots and the Salem Hill connections of GH. Anyway, I always enjoy the virtuosity of Fred Schendel and the overall sound of the band. If I have any qualms about them it's that they cover a lot of musical ground, and the flow of the concert was a bit uneven. But I enjoyed every note. And another barefoot drummer!
Crack the Sky -
I have so many musical memories of them - seen them over 20 times, mostly at the Recher and Hammerjacks, both in Baltimore. Also, I've got Crack dollars, a busted drumstick thrown by Rick Witkowski (after a double drum solo) and pizza stains from the pizza Buster caught that they threw once...seeing them at a venue that was conducive to actually hearing the notes (like Rosfest last year) was exciting. At the other two venues, the drunks made it unable to hear Glenn Workman (yes another barefoot wonder) and his "Ice" keyboard solo. Anyway - they did their usual high-energy set. Original members Witkowski, D'Amico, and Macre (the latter two recently re-entering the band) are always on top of their game. Bobby Hird on lead guitar is also most fun.
John Palumbo is always a good ringleader. He doesn't play much anymore, his voice is shot, and he's quite aloof at times, but he's a strong personality. I've seen him do an acoustic show with Witkowski (they did "Snow White" among other rarities) and in an acoustic show after Syd Barrett died at a record store, so know he can play. But he usually just loafs around the stage nowadays. Well I was all settled in, and much to my disgust I could only hear Rick Witkowski's guitar...VERY loudly. I stuck with it through "From the Greenhouse" - I knew it was Rick's lead, so I braved that part. But "Nuclear Apathy" (their best song) was muddy...I moved to the back center with Dan and we had a blast. He'd seen them in the old days and not since (except for Rosfest) - and we were digging them like schoolkids. And the "Solid Gold" dancer near us! Crack the Sky is always fun. Even more so when they do "Flashlight" and songs like that, shelved of late for proggy songs like "Go" and "Zoom" (which has a chorus directly lifted from "Comfortably Numb". Highlight for me is always the "Ice" jam, and "A Sea Epic", where Palumbo calls God "babe" and "the dude"
Gravity - They must have brought some friends cause they packed the parking lot. NYC had McCartney on the roof. We had Gravity in the lot! I spin "Into Oblivion" a lot, and have featured it on my show - good instrumental metal, heavy on the punch, easy on the wank. Live, they exhibited more freedom and passion, and that resonated with many. So many people ran up and said, "this is great"! Good to see these young men get an audience - they should be going places. Better get Howard some glasses next year to read the winning numbers, so I don't miss the first two songs ...
King's X - Another band that I have a long history with. I've seen them do unbelievable things live, such as the 17-minute version of "Vegetable" at the Thunderdome. I told Ty and Jerry after the show that I thought their arms were going to drop off. In recent year's I'd not seen them do a full show. They've been opening up for Extreme, Joe Satriani, etc. and do 6-8 song sets That ain't right. So seeing them in the front row, a full show, with my best buddy Jeff...it simply does not get better.
A few things I was amused by - there was a roadie situated near Dug, whose job it was to shine a light when Dug would check his settings, or clear the cords from his feet when he sang. He was a fast as a tennis ball boy and must have darted out a dozen times. Also entertaining was the big goof who planted himself in front row center. Dug says, "You're fucked up man, you've had too much to drink"...he did give some good performance art to songs like "Pray for Me" with his histrionics. Also, Dennis Haley and John Jowitt rushed the stage during "Over My Head". I didn't realize John was such a King's X fan. We had a good talk about that later. And the boy (I'd estimate he was early teens) in the second row just following every word and note, with his Mom who looked a bit befuddled by our Big Man in the Front - that gives me hope for our youth.
These three are consummate professionals. Set up their gear, check it out, and go. Ty Tabor is amazing, he just plays and there's no wasted effort. God does he love to riff. Jerry hits the drums like they just stole his wallet. He has three arm motions and that's it, like a conductor. And of course, Dug is the man. He was in top form...I especially like the placement of left-handed Dug and right-handed Ty so that the instruments face each other.
The set list was killer. They did not do a lot of newer stuff, which pleased me. When they did, it was hot tunes like "Pray for Me", "Alright", and "Move". Nothing from Ogre, Manic, or Bulbous. Opening song mainstay "Groove Machine" was awesome, and "Looking for Love" got the blood moving. "Black Flag", "Dogman", "Summerland", and early record surprises "Pleiades" and "What Is This" were great - and of course "It's Love", Black Flag", and "Lost In Germany", just so good. And hearing "We Were Born To Be Loved", the tightest song on the planet, in both concert AND soundcheck, was a highlight. Spent most of the sound check informing intruders that yes, the patron tickets WERE reserved.
Finally, Dug always has a holy man type story during "Over My Head". This installment was about how "it's a terrible thing for a man to be doing something he doesn't like doing". And of course all that week I kept thinking about that at work. Thanks, Dug... I think.
Again, too many personal memories and happenings to mention. I'm ready to do it all again at Progday, this time with a better stomach. Howard Levy, you are one bad man. I thank you more than you know.