Category Archives: Concert Reviews

Quantum Fantay at ProgDay 2015

Quantum Fantay at ProgDay 2015 - Photo by Angel Romero
Quantum Fantay’s Jaro (bass), Tom Tas (guitar) and Pete Mush (keyboards) at ProgDay 2015 – Photo by Angel Romero at ProgDay 2015 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

I wasn’t very excited about the ProgDay program this year. Too much avant-garde and heavy metal for my current taste so I skipped most concerts. I would have liked to have seen the Eccentric Orbit concert which was the first one on Day 1, but that time on a Saturday made it impossible. So I attended the final concert on Day 2 and was really looking forward to listening to Belgian band Quantum Fantay.

By the time I got to Storybook Farm, jazz-rock band Marbin was playing the last part of their concert. Although I like some of their stuff on record, there was too much saxophone improvisation for me.

 

Quantum Fantay's Jaro (bass) and Gino Bartolini (drums) at ProgDay 2015 - Photo by Angel Romero
Quantum Fantay’s Jaro (bass) and Gino Bartolini (drums) at ProgDay 2015 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

I had time to check out the record bins and bought some Italian progressive rock recordings at really good prices. Italian progressive rock maintains the true spirit of symphonic progressive rock. Italian bands are consistently good and some of the finest acts coming out of Europe are based in Italy.

Quantum Fantay closed ProgDay 2015. The group is deeply inspired by British space rock band Ozric Tentacles. The live version of Quantum Fantay delivers a mix of space rock jams, world music elements and trippy electronics. The live emphasis seemed to be more on the space rock side than the electronic side.

The lineup that visited North Carolina featured original band members Pete Mush on synthesizers and programming; Gino Bartolini on drums and percussion; and Jaro on bass, didgeridoo, saxophone, and vocals. Guitarist Tom Tas is the new member of Quantum Fantay.

 

 Keyboardist and programmer Pete Mush (Quantum Fantay) at ProgDay 2015 - Photo by Angel Romero

Keyboardist and programmer Pete Mush (Quantum Fantay) at ProgDay 2015 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The North Carolina heat and humidity made the musicians thirsty so several festivalgoers generously purchased beer and shared various cold bottles with the appreciative musicians from Flanders.

The band presented material from its 2014 album Terragaia as well as previews of its brand new album “Dancing in Limbo” (Progressive Promotion Records).
Quantum Fantay originally started as an attic jam project between two neighbors, Pete Mush and Jaro. The duo grew into a band with the addition of Pete’s former classmate, Gino Bartolin in 2002. Jaro’s nephew, Charles Sla joined Quantum Fantay during live concerts.

The group’s first album was “Agapanthusterra” in 2005. Guitarist joined the band first as guest and later became a full member of the band. Quantum Fantay’s second album was “Ugisiunsi”, released in 2007. Their increasing reputation led them to perform at prestigious festivals like NEARfest (USA), Fonnefeesten and Burg herzberg, where they recorded their first live album ‘From Herzberg to Livingroom’.

Next came additional recordings, “Kaleidothrope”’ (2009), “Bridges of Kukuriku” (2010); “Bridges of the Old Fishingmine” (2011); and “Terragaia” an album that features members of Anima Mundi, Gracerooms and Strograss, and by Tom Tas (Neo Prophet, 23 Acez, Offworld). Tom replaced Dario Frodo in 2014 when Dario became a full member of Belgium’s heavy metal band Ostrogoth.

 

Alex Carpani Band with David Jackson at ProgDay 2014

Alex Carpani Band with David Jackson at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Alex Carpani Band with David Jackson at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The closing act on Sunday at ProgDay 2014 was another highly anticipated concert. Keyboard maestro Alex Carpani arrived from Italy with his band and a very special guest, former Van der Graaf Generator sax player David Jackson, who also appears on Carpani’s latest album.

 

Alex Carpani at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Alex Carpani at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

 David Jackson with Alex Carpani Band at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
David Jackson with Alex Carpani Band at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Ettore Salati (Alex Carpani Band) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Ettore Salati (Alex Carpani Band) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Joe Sal (Alex Carpani Band) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Joe Sal (Alex Carpani Band) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Alessandro Di Caprio (Alex Carpani Band) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Alessandro Di Caprio (Alex Carpani Band) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Giambattista Giorgi (Alex Carpani Band) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Giambattista Giorgi (Alex Carpani Band) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

If you’ve never listened to Alex Carpani and consider yourself a progressive rock fan, you really need to get a hold of his recordings. Carpani’s music is state of the art progressive symphonic rock, music of the highest caliber. He is undoubtedly one of the finest musicians to have come out of Italy in recent years.

Most of the superb material Carpani played came from his latest album, titled 4 Destinies. As you would expect, there was also memorable Van der Graaf Generator material.

Alex Carpani - 4 Destinies
Alex Carpani – 4 Destinies

Alex Carpani’s performance was a remarkable closing to the 20th anniversary edition of ProgDay.

Travis Larson Band at ProgDay 2014

Travis Larson Band at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Travis Larson Band at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The third act of Sunday at ProgDay 2014 was electric guitar virtuoso Travis Larson Band. This was a power trio who delivered a potent mix of hard rock, fusion and blues. Larson has an admirable guitar technique and puts together an impressive performance. His trio includes one of the United States’ finest bass players, Jennifer Young, and Dale Moon on drums.

 

Travis Larson Band at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Travis Larson Band at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Jennifer Young (Travis Larson Band) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Jennifer Young (Travis Larson Band) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Dale Moon (Travis Larson Band) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Dale Moon (Travis Larson Band) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The musical piece that stood out over the rest was the superb version of ‘Georgia on My Mind’ which is always a crowd favorite. Georgia on My Mind’ appears on his 2001 album Suspension.

To find out more details about Travis Larson, read Interview with Guitarist Travis Larson

Larson’s discography includes Travis Larson Band (1998), Suspension (2001), Burn Season (2004), Rate of Change (2006), Rate of Change Live (2009), Soundmind (2011), Shift (2013)

Backhand at ProgDay 2014

Backhand at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Backhand at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The opening act on ProgDay 2014, day 2, was Venezuelan band Backhand. The group had a grueling trip from Caracas. They flew into Miami and drove forever 11 hours to Storybook Farm in North Carolina. At the festival they were joined by Toronto-based vocalist Phil Naro (Druckfarben), who flew in from Canada.

Backhand is a Venezuelan supergroup comprised of some of the best musicians in the Venezuelan music scene. Even though they come from diverse backgrounds such as jazz and hard rock, their intention is to be the best progressive rock group in Venezuela.

Band members include Pablo Mendoza on guitar, Adolfo Herrera on drums and percussion, Oscar Fanega on bass, and Adrian van Woerkom on keyboards.

 

 Pablo Mendoza (Backhand) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero

Pablo Mendoza (Backhand) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Phil Naro (Backhand) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Phil Naro (Backhand) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Adrian van Woerkom (Backhand) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Adrian van Woerkom (Backhand) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Although the band’s concert contained some hard rock and blues-rock, most of their material leans toward symphonic progressive rock. The instrumental tracks revealed masterful guitar hero-style solos, great keyboard arrangements, outstanding bass lines, and a vibrant rhythm section. Most of the material performed at ProgDay 2014 came from the band’s debut album Through the Turbulence.

Oscar Fanega (Backhand) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Oscar Fanega (Backhand) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Adolfo Herrera (Backhand) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Adolfo Herrera (Backhand) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Phil Naro provided vocals in a handful of songs. Although I remember him sounding like Jon Anderson in Druckfarben, his live performance also showed Robert Plant influences. In fact, at a certain the band drifted towards a great Led Zeppelin vibe.

Backhand’s music has a socially conscious message, with lyrics that show their concern for the environment, hunger and other maladies.

The future of this band is uncertain. Guitarist Pablo Mendoza, who runs a music school in Venezuela, is considering moving to Madrid (Spain).

Sensations’ Fix at ProgDay 2014

Sensations’ Fix at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Sensations’ Fix at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The last artist to perform on Saturday at ProgDay 2014 was one of the most anticipated bands of the festival, Italy’s legendary Sensations’ Fix. The group’s founder, Franco Falsini performed on guitar accompanied by a new generation of musicians: Candace Miller on synthesizers, Louis Sherman on baritone guitar, and drummer David Mecionis.

 

Franco Falsini (Sensations' Fix) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Franco Falsini (Sensations’ Fix) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Candace Miller (Sensations' Fix) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Candace Miller (Sensations’ Fix) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Franco Falsini and Louis Sherman (Sensations' Fix) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Franco Falsini and Louis Sherman (Sensations’ Fix) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Tragedy struck the band in July when drummer Hajji Majer died of an unexpected heart attack during rehearsal. The band decided to continue out of respect for what they thought Hajji would have wanted. David Mecionis, a good friend of David’s, took over the drums.

 

David Mecionis (Sensations' Fix) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
David Mecionis (Sensations’ Fix) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Sensations’ Fix was very different from most of the other Italian progressive bands of the 1970s. Instead of beautifully crafted symphonic rock, Sensations’ Fix played a highly innovative form of progressive music, combining rock with cutting edge electronic music and pioneering looping techniques. The group’s essential albums include Portable Madness (Polydor, 1974) and Franco Falsini’s solo recording Naso Fredo (Polydor, 1975). Both of these recordings are only available on CD as part of the Progressive Italia boxed sets.

 

Sensations' Fix - Portable Madness
Sensations’ Fix – Portable Madness

 

Franco Falsini - Naso Fredo
Franco Falsini – Naso Fredo

 

Greg Walker, owner of Syn-Phonic, one of the finest progressive rock mail order catalogs in North America, was one of the fans that traveled all the way from Utah to North Carolina to see Sensations’ Fix, one of his favorite bands.

The current version of Sensations’ Fix delivered the superb music that we expected, performing the memorable classic material that music collectors and fans have cherished for years.

Galactic Cowboy Orchestra at ProgDay 2014

Galactic Cowboy Orchestra at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Galactic Cowboy Orchestra at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The third act at ProgDay 2014 day 1 was American band Galactic Cowboy Orchestra. This eclectic group crosses multiple musical boundaries with total ease. The ProgDay performance included a lot of material from their excellent new album, titled Zombie Mouth. It was an exciting diverse mix of progressive rock, jazz fusion improvisation, indie rock and American roots music such as bluegrass.

The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, from Minneapolis, features four talented musicians who showcased their good humor and technical skills throughout their performance: Lisi Wright on electric violin and lead vocals; Dan Neale on guitars and vocals; John Wright on bass and vocals; and Billy Thommes on drums, percussion, and vocals.

 

Lisi Wright of  at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Lisi Wright (Galactic Cowboy Orchestra) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Dan Neale of Galactic Cowboy Orchestra at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Dan Neale (Galactic Cowboy Orchestra) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

John Wright of Galactic Cowboy Orchestra at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
John Wright (Galactic Cowboy Orchestra) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Billy Thommes (Galactic Cowboy Orchestra) at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Billy Thommes (Galactic Cowboy Orchestra) at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The instrumental tracks, many of which included notable improvisations, were the highlights of the band’s engaging show.

The band’s recordings include Looking for a Little Strange (2009), All Out of Peaches (2011), Songs We Didn’t Write 1 (2011), Songs We Didn’t Write 2 (2011), and Zombie Mouth (2014)

Kotebel at ProgDay 2014

Kotebel at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Kotebel at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

ProgDay is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend. Day 1 featured four bands, Zombie Frogs, Kotebel, The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, and Sensations’ Fix.

I arrived just in time to see Spanish symphonic progressive rock band Kotebel, one of the highlights of the festival. Kotebel is one of the leading acts in the symphonic genre, featuring the father and daughter team of virtuoso keyboard players and an equally skilled rhythm section and guitar player. Their music also has avant-garde elements although the symphonic side is the core essence of the band.

 

Kotebel's Carlos Guillermo Plaza Vegas and Adriana Plaza Engelke at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Kotebel’s Carlos Guillermo Plaza and Adriana Plaza Engelke at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Kotebel fans arrived from various parts of the country, primarily the northeastern United States, but also from Florida, and there was also a photographer who traveled all the way from Mexico.

Although based in Spain, Kotebel includes musicians from Spain and Venezuela. The band’s leader, Venezuelan Carlos Guillermo Plaza is currently living in the Washington DC area. The rest of the band, including his daughter, Adriana Plaza Engelke (keyboards), flew over from Spain. The other members of the band that played at ProgDay include Carlos Franco (drums), César García Forero (guitars), and Jaime Pascual (bass).

 

Kotebel's Carlos Guillermo Plaza at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Kotebel’s Carlos Guillermo Plaza at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Kotebel's Adriana Plaza Engelke at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Kotebel’s Adriana Plaza Engelke at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Kotebel's Carlos Franco at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Kotebel’s Carlos Franco at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Kotebel's César García Forero at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Kotebel’s César García Forero at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Kotebel's Jaime Pascual at ProgDay 2014 - Photo by Angel Romero
Kotebel’s Jaime Pascual at ProgDay 2014 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Kotebel played a few pieces from its earlier albums and the complete Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble (2012), its most recent studio album. The band has a brand new live album recorded at Prog-Résiste Convention in Belgium that is only available as a digital download. Eventually, this recording will be released as a double CD.

Kotebel’s discography includes Structures (2000), Mysticae Visiones (2001), Fragments of Light (2003), Omphalos (2006), Ouroboros (2009), Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble (2012), and Live at Prog-Résiste 2013 (2014).

Related stories: Interview with Carlos Plaza on Kotebel’s Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble

Baja Prog 2014 Impressions

Baja_Prog_2014For this Baja Prog 2014, I grouped with two of my longtime music friends Arnaldo Rodriguez and Federico Mata. We coordinated pretty well to make the trip by visiting our friend Charlie Miller who lives in Los Angeles and has an impressive music collection.

We left Costa Rica on Thursday, March 27th, arriving in Los Angeles after midday. We went straight to Charlie’s home and then to do some grocery shopping and buy other stuff we didn’t bring from Costa Rica.

In addition to listening to music at Charlie’s home, we went sightseeing throughout Los Angeles and saw exhibition of vintage cars, later went to the Getty Museum, and afterwards to Antelope Valley High School, that’s in the town where Frank Zappa spent his youth. We also went to the Chinese Theatre where you find the stars from the worlds of music, theater and film; and later we climbed on board the Queen Mary where we admired the beauty of the vessel.

We drove to Mexicali on Tuesday, April 1 to get to the Baja Festival Prog 2014 Welcome party. Along the way we did some sightseeing around San Diego and Coronado Island.

Wednesday, April 2

Afternoon Concerts: Moraine and Haken

Moraine is a very good group with a mixture of rock and jazz and an impressive skill. A very worthwhile group from MoonJune Records. I listened to Haken but they didn’t surprise me much, although their music was pleasant.

Night Concerts: Museo Rosenbach and Neal Morse

Museo Rosenbach - Zarathustra
Museo Rosenbach – Zarathustra
Museo Rosenbach made an exquisite presentation of their masterpiece “Zarathustra” starting with pieces from the second side, then the main theme of the eponymous album; 20 glorious minutes with the excellent voice of Stefano “Lupo” Galiffi. They had a very solid and balanced sound. Real ecstasy. Later they presented several songs from their latest album Barbarica, but not completely as I recall. Good songs but not as progressive symphonic as Zarathustra, rather more guitar oriented.

Neal Morse made his presentation and I could tell that his band was very good. All songs were related to God and Morse’s conversion to Christianity. He was accompanied on drums by Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. At least we didn’t join hands and sing Hallelujah…

Thursday, April 3rd

Afternoon Concerts: Frak , GNU Quartet and Il Castello di Atlante .

Frak played very well and the music is nice, they are Mexican from the Tijuana are and they even made some satirical comments between songs that were pre-recorded, some were outstanding, while others were grotesque … Their keyboardist was painted blue with a long nose like Pinocchio.

GNU Quartet performed their music very well, a string quartet with excellent songs. Their violinist supported New Trolls last year.

People liked Il Castello di Atlante a lot because his music is very communicative and friendly. Their singer is very versatile and stepped down several times from the stage and one of those times he got the audience to sing a chorus with him … it was very satisfying to hear them live.

Night Concerts: Moon Safari and Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)

I really liked Moon Safari. It was a good addition to this edition of the Baja Prog. Their music is well constructed and very communicative. At the end they did an a capella encore, although I can’t remember the title.

Premiata Forneria Marconi
Premiata Forneria Marconi
As always, Premiata Forneria Marconi provided a really good show and I was surprised at the length of the concert, nearly 2 hours 40 minutes. They started playing songs from their first album with a review of their entire music career which is over 40 years old. They played their classics played in a crisp form with a very balanced and managed sound.

Earlier that day we had connected with an Italian with a PFM badge. It was none other than their sound engineer. He helped us meet with the musicians after the concert ended. We walked to the sound board and he introduced us to Iaia, the Italian promoter from D&D who treated us excellently and took us backstage where the musicians were. There we waited another 30 minutes and had a nice conversation with Iaia. She was interested in PFM performing in Costa Rica and she mentioned the possibility of doing it between September and November as they have a tour scheduled between Brazil and Mexico (cannot remember if they will also tour the USA).

The musicians finally came out, visibly tired. They treated us exceptionally well and I told them that it was the third time I had seen them perform and other details of the previous concerts. Both Mussida as Djivas recalled those moments, apparently unique, associated with the fact that I am not the only one seeking their autographs.

Friday, April 4

Afternoon Concerts: Felix Martin, CAST + GNU Quartet, IO Earth

Honestly I did not listen too much of Felix Martin because we were invited by a Costa Rican based in Mexicali to breakfast and to visit the city and its outskirts so we arrived late to his presentation. What I heard was pretty improvised and interesting.

Later we watched CAST + GNU Quartet which is always a delight to hear this great group. Alfonso Vidales’ son now accompanies the band as vocalist (he doesn’t have an excellent voice but put effort into his presentation).

I liked the other group, IO Earth and especially the young female singer who was very nice. It is a young and exciting group.

Night Concerts: Saga, Gianni Leone + Osanna & David Jackson

Regarding the first group, Saga, I had heard them many years ago and, honestly, I never liked them. As a group I can say that they are very solid but musically they didn’t attract my attention and I still do not like them much.

Osanna - Palepoli
Osanna – Palepoli
Osanna closed the evening with special guest David Jackson and halfway through the concert concert Gianni Leone joined. They started with songs from their first album L’Uomo and developed an amalgam of songs, mixing pieces from L’Uomo and Palepoli together as if they were a single composition. It was impressive that they played Prelude, Tema, Variazioni e Canzoni which is part of the soundtrack of the film Milano Calibro 9, accompanied by parts of the movie behind the group. I had never seen it before, not even in pieces. David Jackson was there from the beginning, always a great showman with two saxophones or the like at once. When Gianni Leone entered it was with a piece from YS (il Balletto di Bronzo), with a great organ solo played on a small Hammond organ. In reality, Osanna’s entire presentation was exceptional.

Saturday, April 5

Afternoon Concerts: Elora and Spock’s Beard

Elora is a group of talented young artist and I liked them quite a lot. The singer entered the stage covered as a medieval monk. She later uncovered and surprised many with her beauty. A great group with a good future.

Spock’s Beard caught my attention although I’m not a big fan of them. What I heard was very solid. The keyboardist climbed on two keyboards being almost in the air .

Night Concerts: Shylock and Fish

I loved Shylock and the development of their instrumentals is excellent, very French for those who want to venture into this musical group. All the pieces are named with a number and only one or two had particular name.

Fish as festival closing act was passable as much of his songs are more rock than progressive, although he performed a couple of classics from his Marillion era.

Something Unique About ProgDay

Festival audience at ProgDay 2012
Photo by Angel Romero
This is my 2nd year back as a (mostly) spectator at ProgDay and once again I am reminded of what a special event this really is. Other festivals may have bigger names on the stage, and more people in the audience, but there is something unique about ProgDay that really has to be experienced to understand.

I have been to and / or participated in, 15 out of 18 ProgDays and 2012 was another fantastic time. I realize that since I am still partially involved in the organization this may come across as biased, but damn if I don’t still love this thing and think it is an awesome experience.

The main people involved the organization these days; Michael, Debi, Helaine, Geoff, Jay, Deb, Chris, and others have continued to pull off a top notch event that is stronger than ever. For what it is worth here are my impressions of the 2012 event.

Ephemeral Sun
I was flying solo this year as my wife could not make it. I arrived at Raleigh-Durham International (RDU) airport about 4:00 PM on Friday night and after a stop at Total Wine in Durham to pick up some brew for the weekend I arrived at the Comfort Inn around 5PM. Almost immediately I started running into familiar faces, cracked open a beer and started the weekend.

The usual group that I hang out with has a tradition of going to Kanki’s Japanese Steak House on Friday night so we headed over there about 7:00 PM. I had thought about going to the pre-show, but after a great dinner it was almost 9:00 PM so a bunch of us just went back to the hotel to watch the Michigan State / Boise State Football game and then listen to some music. I think I got to bed somewhere between 1 and 2:00 AM that night.

Saturday morning it was hot and very humid. I headed out to the farm with my cooler and chair, got things set up under our group’s canopy, sat down in my trusty Detroit Lions chair…and it broke (hope that is not an omen for the season). Luckily my friend T.J. had packed an extra chair so I had someplace to sit for the rest of the weekend.

Ephemeral Sun came on a little after 10:30 and I was able to catch about 20 minutes of their set before I had to head up to work my first shift at the front gate. What I saw was really enjoyable and I was able to hear the rest of their show from back at the gate.

Karcius
Photo by Angel Romero
After my gate shift I grabbed some lunch at the Greek Caterers and have to say that I was really impressed. I got the pork chop plate and it was excellent.

Karcius came on stage next and I got to see their whole set. I really enjoyed these guys and think that their most recent album is the best of their career. The new vocalist has a great voice and they featured a lot of material from the new album. The band also threw in some of their older all instrumental material and closed with a really killer version of Pink Floyd’s “Dogs”.

After playing the first 3rd of the piece fairly straight forward the launched into an extended jam at the end that transcended the song into more than just your typical cover. I really enjoyed these guys a lot and hope I get the chance to see them again.

Accordo Dei Contrari
Photo by Angel Romero
I was back up at the front gate when the Italian band Accordo Dei Contrari hit the stage, but what I was hearing from a quarter mile away was very impressive. Deb Sears came and relieved me a bit early (thanks Deb!) so I was able to catch the end of their set. Man, these guys were great and the last part of their set that I caught really smoked.

Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic came on last and put on another high quality set. These guys were great musicians, but had a tough act to follow after the high energy performance that Accordo had put on before them. In hindsight I think the lineup might have worked better with Accordo closing the day and Birdsongs going on number 3, just because the energy level was a bit higher, but Birdsongs put on a very nice set and were obviously having a great time.

After the show was over we went back to the hotel and a bunch of us met across the street at Applebee’s for dinner and to watch the Michigan / Alabama game. We got back to the hotel before the game was over, but since it was such a blowout I decided to go down by the pool where more familiar faces were hanging out drinking a few. I stayed out by the pool until somewhere around 2:00 AM and finally went in and hit the sack.

According to the weather forecasts Sunday was supposed to be cooler with a chance of thunderstorms, but when I walked out of the hotel room about 10:00 AM it seemed as warm if not warmer than the day before. There was some cloud cover though which helped a bit.

Dreadnaught came on at 10:30 and I was immediately blown away by them. I moved up closer to the stage to get the full effect and really enjoyed their performance. These guys have been around for more than a decade, but I am just discovering them now. They played quite a bit of new material and I suspect this should be an album on everyone’s radar in the coming months. The Pork Chop that I got on Saturday from the food vendor was so good I decided to do another one on Sunday. Great stuff!

Dr. Nerve
Photo by Scott Friedlander
Next up was Dr. Nerve, a band I was prepared to check out with an open mind. I once again had front gate duty, so only got to see about the first 30 minutes of their set. These guys are incredible musicians. Some of what they did I liked, some did not do as much for me. They are certainly engaging live performers. Only seeing the first 30 minutes it is kind of hard for me to judge this one, but they seemed to go over really well with the audience.

A lot has already been mentioned about the storm that was rolling around the area while Dr. Nerve was on stage. While I was up at the gate I had one car pull up asking if the festival was cancelled. I asked them why would it be cancelled, and they said because it was storming like hell just 5 minutes down the road. Aside from a slight sprinkle the festival never had a drop. A bullet was dodged on that one for sure.

My front gate shift over, I was back on the field for Consider The Source. I have one of these guys’ albums and figured I was going to like them. They came out and blew a lot of people away. Instrumentally these guys are killer and anyone who likes mondo shredding really would this band. It was extremely hot by this part of the afternoon so I stayed back under the canopy up until their last song when I went up closer. These guys are young and going places I predict.

There was a pretty long break between acts at this point as it appeared that Jim Rezek’s massive keyboard rig was taking a while to get set up. I believe the band had to cut a few songs from their set unfortunately due to a late start (not sure on this, but is what I heard).

Iluvatar has been one of my favorite bands for years and were doing only their 2nd show (I think) with their new lead singer. I thought he did a very nice job and although his voice is a bit different from Glen’s, it works well with the material.

Like Dreadnaught, Iluvatar did a bunch of new material and this will be another album on my radar screen in the coming months.

Iluvatar
A few other people have remarked that Iluvatar seemed really loud and I noticed that too. In fact they seemed to be the loudest band’s I have ever heard at ProgDay. I don’t even remember Freak Kitchen being that loud last year. I think they probably could have heard the band all the way back to Carrboro.

I did notice that the sound crew (Roger Brady and co.) appeared to have a new P.A. that was definitely an upgrade from past years. I don’t know that much about the specifics of P.A. systems, but there were at least one or two more speakers on each side of the stage than in past years.

After the last notes rang out, I helped a bit with cleanup and then we headed to our old favorite Barbecue joint for dinner only to find it had closed and gone out of business. We regrouped and eventually went to Bailey’s after making several wrong turns along the way. While in the restaurant it started to downpour outside, by the time we got back to the hotel it had not let up at all pretty much nixing the usual pool party.

I went down to the lobby of the hotel and people had already started gathering there passing around coolers of beer left over from the weekend. The rain never let up so the party stayed indoors. Many great micro-brews were consumed and I finally went to bed about 4:30AM.

I had made the smart decision to schedule a late afternoon flight, so I did not have to get up until almost check out time on Monday. I hit a barbecue joint for lunch that was recommended by a guy at the hotel (can’t get good Barbecue up in Michigan so I have to try to hit it in North Carolina) and then headed to the airport.

Ended up back in Michigan around 8:30PM, very tired, but very happy. It was great to see a lot of old friends and make some new ones. One thing I noticed was an increase in the number of younger people at this show. We sold quite a few student tickets while I was working the gate which is a market ProgDay has been trying to tap into for years. I think a combination of an increase in local promotion and some of the bands (Consider The Source drew a few for sure) made the difference. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue.

Instrumental Virtuosity on Day 1 at Progday 2012

Karcius
Photo by Angel Romero
On September 1st, in the afternoon, I headed to Storybook Farm for the 2012 edition of Progday, the longest running progressive rock festival in the United States. This year Progday has a focus on the jazzier and avant-garde side of progressive rock.

Judging by the license plates I saw, there were quite a few festivalgoers from Maryland, Massachusetts and other states in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Unfortunately, I missed the first act, Ephemeral Sun, from the United States, who performed in the morning.

I was looking forward to listening to Canadian band Karcius, from Montreal, and they didn’t disappointment me. Karcius played a mix of instrumental and vocal tracks.

Simon L’Esperance (Karcius)
Photo by Angel Romero
The group features four great instrumentalists, Simon L’Esperance on guitars, Thomas Brodeur on drums, Mingan Sauriol on Keyboards and Sylvain Auclair on bass and vocals. Simon L’Esperance treated the audience to several outstanding guitar solos using various techniques. The least interesting moments to me were the occasional outbursts of tired heavy rock. Meanwhile, Sylvain Auclair engaged the audience in English and demonstrated his talent as a vocalist.

Karcius was formed in 2001 by Simon L’Esperance, Thomas Brodeur and Mingan Sauriol. Sylvain Auclair joined the band in 2009. Although Karcius’ foundation is progressive rock and jazz fusion, they incorporate pop, world music, classical and electronic music to their sound. Their discography includes Sphere (Unicorn Digital, 2004), Kaleidoscope (Unicorn Digital, 2006), Episodes (Unicorn Digital, 2008) and The First Day (Unicorn Digital, 2012).

While waiting for the next act, I had a chance to check out some of the vendors. Peter Renfro, the original founder of Progday has released some excellent compilations of live performances made at Progday throughout the years, under his label called Proglodite Records. The most appealing is a mammoth 7-disc boxed set titled Progday Encore? These collections are an excellent opportunity to sample live performances by some of the finest progressive rock bands in the past two decades. You can still get the following collections: Progday Encore?, ProgDay ’98, ProgDay 1995, ProgDay 2001.

Accordo dei Contrari
Photo by Angel Romero
The next performance was by Accordo dei Contrari from Italy. This instrumental quartet is currently one of the finest exponents of Canterbury-style progressive rock. Accordo dei Contrari features four outstanding musicians. Keyboardist Giovanni Parmeggiani fascinated the audience with his dazzling solos. The rest of the band includes Cristian Franchi on drums, Daniele Piccinini on bass and Marco Marzo on guitar.

Accordo dei Contrari was founded in 2001 in Bologna, Italy. The idea was to develop original instrumental music. The group operated as a trio with Cristian Franchi on drums, Giovanni Parmeggiani on keyboards and Alessandro Pedrini on guitar. In 2003 Daniele Piccinini joined the band on bass, but soon Alessandro Pedrini left.

Giovanni Parmeggiani (Accordo dei Contrari)
Photo by Angel Romero
The band became a quintet in January 2004 with Cristian Franchi on drums, Giovanni Parmeggiani on keyboards, Daniele Piccinini on bass, Marco Marzo on guitar and Vladimiro Cantaluppi on violin.

The violin experiment only lasted two years. In 2006 Vladimiro Cantaluppi left Accordo dei Contrari. The group recorded Kinesis (AltrOck 2007) as a quartet. Kinesis won the Progaward for the best Italian album of progressive rock in 2007.

Accordo dei Contrari collaborated with Richard Sinclair (former Caravan, Hatfield and the North, Camel). They recorded their second album titled Kublai in July 2010.

I was not able to stay for the last band of the day, legendary Boston avant-garde progressive rock band Birdsongs of the Mesozoic.

Later that night, Memphis band Mind was scheduled to perform at the Local 506 rock club in Chapel Hill. I was not able to go the concert, but I checked out their debut CD Structure (2012). It’s a wonderful recording of progressive rock with symphonic, psychedelic, blues and fusion elements. We’ll be reviewing the album with more detail in the future.