Continuing my tradition of writing a rambling web page about ProgDay,
complete with photos, set lists and
CD reviews to act as my "scrapbook" of the event (such as my write-ups
one for ProgDay 2013.
My drive down to Chapel Hill this year was the smoothest one I've ever had. My daughter started high school the week before ProgDay, so she asked if I could drive her to school on Friday. She has to be there fairly early, so since I was already up and had packed the car the night before, I was on the road to Chapel Hill by 8am. Which got me through all those little towns in Virginia on the back roads I take before the school buses and rush hour traffic start clogging up the roads. Other than an overturned tanker truck on 81 that had traffic backed up for 10-15 minutes, it was a completely uneventful drive and I arrived at the ProgDay hotel around 4:30 in the afternoon. I'm pretty sure that's the earliest I've ever gotten there - I even had enough time to take a shower, change clothes and generally relax a bit before heading downtown to get some pizza at the place two doors up from Local 506 and then hit the preshow.
Even with all that, I still had to wait a while for the doors of Local 506 to open. At one point, they turned the "Open" sign on, so a few of us tried to go in only to be told that the club wasn't open yet. So then we waited outside until well past the official door opening time, and I kept telling everyone who came up that the club wasn't open yet. Finally one of the members of one of the bands was headed into the club and told us they had been open for a while now - they just never came out and told us. Made me feel like an idiot for turning away a bunch of people. Oh well.
While waiting in line, a woman next to me broke the news that the band Half Past Four, who had been scheduled to play the preshow, ended up getting turned back at the US/Canada border because they didn't have the proper work visas. The other bands joked that our tax dollars are hard at work keeping us safe from Canadian prog bands (fortunately Miriodor got through somehow). The lady I was talking with then told me that the singer from Half Past Four was supposed to do a cover song with the band 3rd Degree, and since the band had already rehearsed the song, they needed a female vocalist to fill in at the last minute. This woman's husband knew the band, so he literally handed her a song that afternoon and said "Learn it, you're singing it on stage tonight".
The first surprise of the weekend came a few minutes after I got inside and set up my recording gear. With no introduction, a Chapman Stick player got up on stage and just started playing. It turned out to be Rob Martino, who was able to fill in for the empty preshow slot at the last minute. He played a nice mix of classical sounding music, covers of Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull songs and original material for around 45 minutes. I liked his set enough to pick up a copy of his solo CD, "One Cloud". It's a nice disc, but I find I can only take a few tracks at a time. A solid hour of solo Chapman Stick gets a little samey, no matter how nice it is.
Here's Rob Martino's set list (as with previous years' write-ups,
any songs that I couldn't identify are represented with a question
mark): The Long Circle, medley: Reunion (Gentle Giant) / Cheap
Day Return (Jethro Tull), ?, The Call (a classical piece by
Ralph Vaughan Williams), Jack-A-Lynn (Jethro Tull), Differential,
After a very short break, the band I was there to see, Dreadnaught hit the stage. Apparently there's an Australian metal band by the same name that comes up first in most Google searches, but this would be the kick-ass, eclectic progressive rock trio that played ProgDay's main stage last year. They said during the show that they had such a good time last year that they just couldn't stay away, and sure enough I saw the band members hanging out all weekend at the hotel and out at Storybook Farm. They put on an intense set of genre-melding music this year that I thought was even better than the great set they played last year, but it may just be that I was more familiar with their material this time. Dreadnaught is the only band that I can think of who can mix disco and hard rock in the same song and make it sound like it should be a standard of the American songbook. They played a couple requests, "(She Got the) Bony Cleave" and "Stinkytown", plus their entire new EP and several songs from their back catalog. They even threw in a cover of the theme from "The Rockford Files" and teased us by mentioning that they once played a 45 minute block of nothing but TV show theme songs - I'd love to hear that. The guitarist said "We won't subject you to that", but the bassist fired back "No, it was great, we called it 'Dreadnaught She Wrote'. It was a lot of fun...well, for us". It was just a great performance all around, and I got to pick up the new EP and a copy of their 2001 album "American Standard", so it was a good night for me. I'm hoping they come back again next year - this Preshow set turned out to be one of the highlights of the weekend for me.
Dreadnaught's set list: Clownhead, Corrupticus 5, Ballbuster, The Jester's Theme, (She Got the) Bony Cleave, James Thresher Industries -> Welding, Elba -> Derby Days, The Rockford Files, Surface Raid, Trophy Bride, Stinkytown, JPF, Tiny Machines, The Bear.
|Dreadnaught (well, 2/3 of them)|
The Preshow was closed out by the band
3rd Degree, who introduced
themselves as being from New Jersey, "but don't hold that against us".
Again, a Google search for this band turns up multiple other bands
by the same name, but this was the Jersey prog band who had played
ProgDay back in 2009 (the theme of this year's Preshow was ProgDay Alumni,
but that was somewhat ruined when Half Past Four couldn't make it).
3rd Degree play a brand of fairly accessible yet also somewhat complex neoprog with lyrics that tend to be political or have some sort of message to them. To be honest, based on their previous appearance at ProgDay and the sample files I had downloaded from the ProgDay web site, I wasn't really expecting to like this band much. But they had a few songs that I enjoyed (and that got stuck in my head), so I stuck around until the end of the show.
The highlight of the set, at least for me, was when they brought the aforementioned guest vocalist (I think they announced her name as Lara Marks) up to play a cover of Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up". The lead singer for 3rd Degree sounds like a dead ringer for Gabriel, so it was a good choice. The guest singer did an admirable job with the female vocal parts, considering she had just learned the song that day. I noticed that she had written the lyrics out, but as you can tell from the picture, it was really dark on stage and she couldn't read her sheet. So there were a couple lines missing, but overall it was great. The bass player did a nice job with the prominent bass line.
3rd Degree's set list looked like this: Cautionary Tale, Human Interest Story, Top Secret, You're Fooling Yourselves, Memetic Pandemic, Don't Give Up, ?, Free For All, Apophenia, Televised, The Millions of Last Moments, A Work of Art, The World in Which We Lived, Live With This Forever.
|3rd Degree and guest vocalist|
By the time 3rd Degree finished up, it was after midnight so I didn't
really hang around Local 506 long. I got back to the hotel around
12:30 and had a couple beers by the pool with some friends and the
drummer from Thank You Scientist. Eventually I bowed to the need for
sleep and was in bed by 2am or so.
I had the alarm set for 8am, but as usual the combination of being used to getting up early for work, sleeping in a strange bed and paranoia about oversleeping made me wake up way before the alarm went off. By 8 I had already showered and hit the breakfast bar, so I just drove out to Storybook Farm early, stopping for ice along the way.
I arrived at the farm long before the ticket gate was manned, but there were already a bunch of people there. I staked out a spot in front of the soundboard, set up my recording gear, applied sunscreen for the first of many times (and still ended up turning red) and did some CD shopping while waiting for the first band to hit the stage.
The weather wasn't as brutally hot and humid as it was last year, but it was still very humid and when the sun was on you, it was hot. There was a little scattered cloud cover, probably more on Sunday than Saturday, but there's a reason it seems like more and more people bring tents and sunshades every year. I was sitting out in the sun, as usual, and by 9am on Saturday I was already sweating through my t-shirt.
The performances out at Storybook Farm kicked off with the band Mavara, who are that most unlikely of things - an Iranian progressive rock band. From what I've read, they all live in the States now, but everyone except the drummer is originally from Iran. They were supposed to open the day on Sunday, but due to the scheduling conflicts of one of the other bands, Mavara got moved to Saturday and the whole ProgDay schedule got jumbled around a bit. Even the program, which was printed just days before the event, had the bands listed in a completely different order. I've talked with Michael Bennett, who does all the artwork for ProgDay and basically runs the festival nowadays, and he said he always waits until the last minute to have the t-shirts and programs printed, just in case. He also never puts the band names on the tickets because those have to be printed months in advance, and there have been problems in the past with bands dropping out at the last minute.
|Arriving at ProgDay - what I parked next to.|
Anyway, when Mavara took the stage I was pretty psyched to see them,
because how often am I going to get the chance to see an Iranian
prog band? Unfortunately my excitement wore off pretty quickly as
it sunk in that they're basically a neoprog/pop-prog band with
overwrought, accented vocals, which is a style of music that just
doesn't do much for me. Oddly, I found the sample MP3s that were
available on the ProgDay web site to be fairly enjoyable, so maybe
the band's music just doesn't translate well to a live setting. The
band had two CDs for sale, and I was tempted to buy one just so I
could tell people I owned a CD by an Iranian band, but in the end
I passed. I overheard the band's manager tell someone that band's
first album was sung with Persian lyrics, but she didn't bring any
of those along because she didn't think an American audience would
buy it. Which is a shame, because I think they would have sold like
hotcakes at ProgDay - I definitely would have bought one.
Mavara's set list: Period of Innocence, Atomic Unit, Endless Illusion, Heaven and Hell, Remote Place, ?, Something is Lost, Forgotten Inside, ?, ?, Season of Salvation, ?, Old Pain
Following Mavara, I did a little CD browsing, re-applied sunscreen, got some lunch from the food vendor (very tasty grilled chicken with various spices and seasonings) and set up my recording gear for the next band.
I came to the realization this year that I've been using
the digital recorder incorrectly for the last few years - I've always
set the input levels as low as they would go because the little red
"overload" lights would flash whenever there was a particularly loud
bit (usually the kick drum when the drummer gets excited). But it
turns out that that overload light is based on what's coming in
through the microphones, and the level settings have nothing to do
with it. So I've been "wrecking" my recordings by setting the levels
so low that I often couldn't hear stage announcements and would pick
up the loudest instruments (usually drum and bass) and not much else.
So this year I ignored the overload lights and kept the input levels
set about half-way to max. The recordings came out better - you can
hear everything in the mix a little more clearly, and you can hear
the stage announcements a lot more clearly, but the drums and bass
are still frequently overloaded. I think next year I've got to try
to remember to sit further back, maybe behind the soundboard, or find
some way to block a little of the sound coming into the microphones
so it doesn't get overloaded.
But enough of that - the next band to take the stage was this year's entry from the Cuneiform label, the French Canadian avant-prog band Miriodor. I described these guys as "accessible avant" and had a couple people tell me that's the perfect description (despite being an oxymoron). Their music is mostly (entirely?) instrumental and somewhat angular, with odd time signatures and frequently multiple things going on at once, yet they still manage to make it catchy and melodic, with a bit of a sense of humor. There's not a whole lot to look at on the stage - just a bunch of guys playing music.
Miriodor are a band that should be right down my alley, but for some
reason they just don't really click with me. I've got three of their
albums, including the new "Cobra Fakir" which they were selling at
ProgDay although it hasn't been officially released yet, and I've
seen them live twice, but they just have never really grabbed me. I
can appreciate and enjoy their music, but it has never "wowed" me,
and I've never been in the mood to listen to a Miriodor album. As
usual, their ProgDay performance was well played and enjoyable, but
failed to really "thrill" me much.
The best laugh of the weekend came at Miriodor's merchandise table after their set - the guy in line in front of me bought the new CD, and handed a band member two fives and five ones. The band member said "No, it's $15", to which the customer said "Yeah, that's what I gave you." The band member counted it again and said "Well, now you know why we play in 7/8 - because we can't count to 15".
Miriodor's set list: Envoûtement (Bewitchment), Écart-Type, Avanti!, Le fantôme de M.C. Escher (The Ghost of M.C. Escher), Cobra Fakir, Titan, Speed Dating sur Mars, Scarabée (Dung Beetle).
Next up was Corima from California, although they're really from the planet Kobia by way of the Aztecs. This band's sound check let me know the audience was in for something special, and their performance didn't disappoint. The show started out with the band chanting in unison for a few seconds, then the music began softly and quickly built up to a frenzy that only let up for a few minutes of mellower playing here and there throughout their 75 minute set. The band is often compared to Magma, and with good reason - they sound just like Magma, at least the fusiony, otherworldly, made-up language, repetitive to the point of trance-inducing aspects of Magma. Corima's vocals also approach Magma's style, but they don't go as far as having a chorus of singers to back them up. They just do the chanting thing, usually while simultaneously playing music that would challenge any musician. The violinist who was also doing lead vocals was particularly impressive, and the drummer at times sounded like three drummers playing at full speed. The sax player helps the band's music stand out from being a pure Magma clone, although I could have done without some of the squealy and super-high-pitched soloing he did. I realize that technically it's quite impressive when a sax player can do that, but sax players take note - it's just painful to non-sax players.
The comment I heard most often about Corima was "I was exhausted just
listening to them", used in both a positive and negative way. Some people
had had enough after their first piece, while others enjoyed the whole set.
I fell somewhere in between - I liked the whole thing, but my ears were
pretty worn out after a while. I definitely knew I wanted to buy one of
their CDs, but I screwed around for a while after the set ended, and by the
time I finally got up to their merchandise table, there was only one CD left
and someone else was about to buy it. As a joke, I snatched it off the table
before he could pick it up, and he figured that if I wanted it that bad, he'd
just listen to a friend's copy and he let me buy it. The CD sounds very
restrained compared to the live performance, but it's still pretty intense.
I think Corima is tied with Dreadnaught's preshow set for my favorite
performance of the weekend.
Corima's set list was pretty easy to figure out because they only played three songs, each in the 20 to 25 minute range: Corima Iss De Hündin!, Quetzalcoatl and a new song that the violinist said had the working title "Brutal 3", with one of the other band members offering the correction of "Brutal 2". The first two songs are actually split up into a bunch of sub-sections, each with their own title, but I'm not going into that much detail here - buy the CD if you want that info.
The final band on Saturday (at least out at Storybook Farm) was Oblivion Sun. This band was formed by keyboardist Frank Wyatt and guitarist/vocalist Stanley Whitaker from the '70s prog band Happy the Man. They played material from both of the Oblivion Sun CDs, plus a few fan favorites from the Happy the Man days.
I know the majority of prog fans love this band, and Happy the Man is
now considered a legendary prog band, but I've just never really gotten
what all the fuss is about. There were a few songs during this set that
I sort of liked, but I found the majority of it kind of dull, just like I did
the last time they played ProgDay. So I took this opportunity to sneak back to the
back of the field and have my annual cigar, beer and book break. From what
I could hear back there, the music was nice enough, but kind of reminded me
of the prog equivalent of elevator music. Stan Whitaker mentioned on stage that
the band had come in tied with
King Crimson in a fan vote on what bands they'd like to see on the "Cruise to
the Edge" progressive rock cruise ship - personally I'd much rather see Crimson.
There were a couple Oblivion Sun songs that I couldn't come up with titles for, but here's the set list as far as I could figure it out: Deckard, Chapter 7.1, Service With a Smile, Catwalk, Dead Sea Squirrels, Open Book, Everything, ?, Fanfare, ?, March of the Mushroom Men, The High Places (the whole suite), encore: Steaming Pipes.
As the band played their encore and wrapped things up out at Storybook for the day, I finished my cigar and started carrying stuff back to my car. Along the way, I ran into a group of ducks who were utterly unafraid of people and were scouring the grounds for dropped food. I managed to get really close to them and take a couple pictures.
Once the band finished, I loaded the rest of my stuff in the car (leaving a lawn chair and tarp in place to hold my spot) and drove back to the hotel for a quick shower and change of clothes, then headed back to Local 506 for the Saturday Night show. I stopped at the same pizza place and had a few slices, then ran to the club just in time to hear the opening band's vocalist say "We're Hephystus, and we're going to kick your ass" as I was setting up my recorder. Unfortunately all the seats were already taken by the time I got there, so I had to stand next to the table where my recorder was and try to keep people from standing in front of it or crashing into it. Soon the band launched into their set and fulfilled the ass-kicking promise.
I really wasn't expecting to enjoy Hephystus
all that much based on the sample MP3s on the ProgDay web site. The band could
be described as prog-metal, but they're definitely more metal than prog. They
played a 45 minute set of what was probably the heaviest, angriest-sounding
music ever associated with ProgDay, but the weird thing was that I kind of dug it.
By the end of the set, I was bouncing around a bit and doing some very mild
head-banging (so as not to look like some middle-aged doofus "rocking out").
I was on the fence about whether or not to buy their CD, "Burn the Page", but a
couple beers later I decided to go for it. I'm glad I did, because the CD is a
lot more varied than the live show was, and I actually like most of it. Most of
what the band played live was new material that's not on the CD - maybe they're
going in a heavier direction.
Since most of what the band played was new, I had trouble coming up with much of Hephystus' set list, but here's what I got: ?, Choices, No Compromise, Burning Bridges, Perspective, Origami, ?, ?.
After Hephystus' brief set, there was a quick change-over of equipment and within half an hour the French jazz/metal fusion trio Mörglbl were ready to rock. This band is relatively well known in prog circles due to their heavy touring schedule - guitarist Christophe Godin announced that this was the third time they've played Local 506 in the last six years, but I think he meant ProgDay in general as one of those performances was out at Storybook Farm. They also played NEARFest and Orion studios and have done a lot of self-promoting in the meantime, so the crowd for this show was by far the biggest I've ever seen at a ProgDay Saturday Night show. Usually most people are burnt out after sitting in the sun all day watching bands and just want to get dinner, have a few beers and go to bed on Saturday. But Local 506 was as full as I've ever seen it.
|Blurry picture that somehow perfectly captures Hephystus' set|
Mörglbl was promoting their latest CD, "Brütal Römance", so they played a lot of
tracks from that one, but they also hit their back catalog (going all the way back
to their first album) and threw in a couple covers. They did the lounge-jazz version
of "Highway to Hell" that seemed to confuse a couple local college kids who had
wandered into the show. When they left the stage after
their main set, they went out the back door of the club where bands usually load in
from. The crowd kept chanting "one more song!", and eventually the drummer came
back in to thump the kick drum and keep the crowd fired up. Finally a couple
voices at the back of the room started shouting "Mörglbl, Mörglbl!"
When the crowd turned around to see who it was they discovered that Godin and
bassist Ivan Rougny had run the whole way around the block and come back into the
club from the front door and were spurring on the calls for an encore from the back of
the crowd. When they got back on stage to play the encores, the still-winded
Godin gasped "That was a bad idea - we're in our 40s, we can't run any more". But
they managed to crank out three encores, finishing the evening with a 10 minute cover of
Smoke on the Water.
Here's Mörglbl's full set list: Gnocchis on the Block, Brütal Römance, The Monster Within Me, Fidel Gastro, Les Mécanismes du Temps, Highway to Hell, Mörglbl Circus, Golden Ribs, Glucids in the Sky, Metal Khartoom, encores: The Tale of Thibault, Myspacebook, Smoke on the Water.
When Mörglbl finished up it was close to midnight and I was completely spent after getting up early two days in a row, plus driving 500 miles and watching nine bands in the space of 40 hours or so. So I hit the merch tables, bought the Hephystus CD and the new Mörglbl disc and was momentarily confused when Mörglbl's drummer complimented my shirt (I was wearing a Magma t-shirt, and it didn't occur to me until later that both bands are French). Then I zipped back to the hotel, had a few beers out by the pool with friends and talked about the music of the day, and was probably in bed by 2am, although the latter parts of Saturday are already starting to get a little fuzzy in my memory.
I had a clearer picture of Mörglbl, but loved these poses
Sunday morning I managed to sleep a little later than the previous day, but I was still up before the alarm went off and was out at Storybook Farm well before the first band hit the stage. I was ready to wrap up another great ProgDay with four more bands.
The first of those bands was Out of the Beardspace. This was the closest ProgDay has ever come to hosting a hippy jam band - the band all live together in a house in New Jersey, and one summer lived on a farm together growing their own food and playing acoustic instruments to avoid dependence on the electrical grid. They even went as far as building solar panels to power the keyboards. And, of course, they practiced their music to the point where they're one of the tightest bands you're ever going to hear. It seemed like nearly every guy in the band played multiple instruments and switched frequently - I even saw the keyboardist and bassist change places in mid-song.
I really wanted to like this band, and to some degree I did enjoy some of the actual music, but I just wasn't wild about the vocals and lyrics. The guy who did most of the singing has a voice that just rubs me the wrong way, especially on the last song where he just screamed most of the way through it. And the lyrics, when I could make them out, were a little too touchy-feely for me - I just couldn't connect with them. The one about how the grounds keeper at the farm they lived on didn't like them because he just couldn't understand them was particularly bad. All in all I did enjoy the set, and I can understand why other people really like the band, and I was even tempted to buy one of their CDs. Heck, I'm still toying with the idea of going to the "Beardfest" music festival they host in New Jersey each summer. But as much as I'd like to like them, this band just didn't grab me.
Beardspace's set list, as far as I could figure it out: Grungadelic, Train Ride Samba (Parts I and II), ?, Jasmine, ?, ?, Moles, Kwisatz Haderach, Arizona, untitled new song, Red Moon, encore: Twenty-Seven.
Out of the Beardspace
The second band of the day, Thank You Scientist,
struck me as kind of a cross between Beardspace and Corima. The Corima comparison came from
their high-intensity, near-manic music that featured both violin and a horn section. But
where Corima sounds like a dead ringer for Magma, Thank You Scientist has more of a
The Beardspace comparison comes from the fact that the vocals killed any chance of me fully enjoying the band or buying their CD. The odd thing is that when I was talking to the drummer previously at the hotel pool, he was saying that the band didn't really come together until they found the vocalist - he changed them from a technical band that only other musicians liked to a more melodic, accessible band that everyone could enjoy. But he had just the opposite effect on me - his in-your-face, high-pitched, dramatic singing style just put me off. I heard other people compare the band to Mr. Bungle, a band I love, or the Mars Volta, a band I kind of like, but to me it sounded like a funky speed-metal band backing Michael Jackson, which just didn't work for me. Which is a shame because I liked the band whenever the vocalist wasn't singing, and their encore cover of "I am the Walrus" was freakin' fantastic.
Thank You Scientist's set list: Feed the Horses, untitled new song, Blood on the Radio, working title: Summer Song, Suspicious Waveforms, working title: Not Safe for ProgDay, In the Company of Worms, My Famed Disappearing Act, encore: I Am the Walrus.
Thank You Scientist
Based on the sample MP3s from the ProgDay web site, the next band,
Herd of Instinct was one the
bands I was most looking forward to. Their sample songs covered a lot of different
styles, from atmospheric to Crimson-like rocking. From checking the liner notes of their CDs,
I discovered that they're on Djam Karet's label and had a member of King Crimson play on
their first album, so that explains the Crimson-by-way-of-Karet feel to their music.
The band featured a Warr guitar and an electronic drum kit, which gave them a different sound from any of the other bands that played out at Storybook this year. I heard some complaints that the band had "zero stage presence" - they basically just stood (or sat) and stared at their instruments as they played, and occasionally made brief announcements between songs. Personally, I was fine with that - the first two bands of the day had more than enough stage presence to make up for the Herd, and I was ready to just sit back and relax while listening to some good music. In fact, I might have gotten too relaxed...at this point I had had enough of sitting in the sun so I accepted a friend's invitation to sit under his tent in the shade, and soon we were exchanging and imbibing some great beers. So the back half of Herd of Instinct's set is kind of a blur to me, but I did enjoy their performance enough to buy both the CDs they were selling. As a bonus, they were offering a deal where if you bought both of their albums, you could pick a CD out of a box of random discs they didn't want any more, so I picked up a free copy of Tool's "Lateralus" which I had never heard before. Back when the album was really being hyped in the early 2000s, I almost bought it but was afraid the band would be too "metal" for my tastes - as it turns out, I do enjoy the disc, so it was a nice to get a copy for free.
Herd of Instinct's set list: S. Karma, Dead Leaf Echo, Brutality of Fact, ? (may have been multiple songs), New Lands, theme from the movie Halloween, The National Anthem (Radiohead cover), Alice Krige pt. 1, ?, Praxis, Room Without Shadows, Hex.
Herd of Instinct, minus the keyboardist who's behind that pole
The final band of a very long weekend was simakDialog
from Indonesia. I believe at least one or two members of this band were previously in
the band Discus who had played ProgDay about a decade ago, and between having seen that
band and hearing the samples of simakDialog, these guys were probably my most anticipated
group of the weekend. Especially when they started setting up and band members started
bringing exotic percussion instruments onto the stage. Unfortunately, during the sound
check while I was up by the stage trying to get pictures of said percussion instruments,
the increasingly-dark skies finally opened up and a torrent of rain came pouring down.
I sprinted back to my seat and covered my backpack and recording gear with a tarp, then
joined the growing crowd squeezing into the various tents at the back of the audience area.
When the rain finally stopped, the ProgDay organizers decided to start simakDialog's set about a half hour early, just in case. The band started playing, and I think there might have been some confusion as to whether this was the performance or whether they were still sound checking, but eventually the audience settled in to watch. The band wasn't quite as exciting as I had been hoping for, but some of that might have been a lingering sluggishness from all the beers I drank during Herd of Instinct's set.
simakDialog's stage set-up may have influenced my impression of their music - the keyboardist, bassist and guitarist were on the left side of the stage, and the three percussionists were on the right. The guys on the left were on chairs or standing, but the percussionists were sitting cross-legged on the stage. Because of this, it was kind of hard to see the percussionists, and the impression I was left with was of a jazz trio playing light fusion music in an Indonesian restaurant while a speaker system played traditional percussion music in the background. The two parts fit together well though, and apparently the band's name translates to something like "listen carefully to the dialog", so maybe this was all intentional.
Rain over ProgDay
The music was nice enough, but it was kind of making me drowsy after such a long,
sleep-deprived, beer-soaked weekend. So it came as kind of a shock when the canopy over
the soundboard suddenly blew over and landed on my head. No damage was done, and it
certainly woke me up - I was desperately trying to protect my recording gear while
people were grabbing the canopy and lifting it off me. The vocalist from Beardspace
was one of those trying to rescue me, and he politely suggested that I move out of the
way, but I wasn't about to let my recorder sit there unprotected. Eventually they got
the canopy back over the soundboard, but not for long...
Through all this, simakDialog continued to play on, looking like they hadn't even noticed the black clouds piling up to the south, the winds picking up or the chaos going on in the audience. But soon the winds picked up again, a couple more tents went crashing over, and various people's cell phones started warning them of an official flood watch issued for the area. The ProgDay organizers had no choice but to end the festival a little early. The power was cut to the stage - the band kept on playing unamplified for a few more minutes, but finally the announcement was made that ProgDay 2013 had come to an end. I feel bad for simakDialog - after coming all that way to headline ProgDay, they only got to play for an hour, maybe less.
simakDialog's set list: Stepping In, Lain Parantina, For Once and Never, This Spirit.
I packed my stuff up as quickly as I could, then helped fold up tables and chairs and
asked around to see what everyone was doing for dinner. I ended up going to the
Armadillo Grill because it's been an annual tradition of mine ever since 1999 when
most of ProgDay was held at the Cat's Cradle, but before I was even into Carrboro the sky
opened up again and it poured down
rain for at least an hour. Ending ProgDay early was definitely the right decision.
After dinner I joined a group of friends at an Irish Pub on Franklin street for drinks. The highlight of the conversation was a spontaneous game of "name that 70s one-hit-wonder". At least that was the highlight that can be published on a public web page.
When I got back to the hotel there was no one out by the pool. I figured the traditional Sunday night party must have been moved elsewhere due to the weather, but since it wasn't raining out any more, I went for a swim anyway. Eventually someone came out for a smoke and told me the party was in the conference room next to the breakfast area, so I dried off, changed clothes, grabbed my cooler and joined the party. Things get really hazy after that, but I remember tripping over someone's cooler and almost killing myself, Phil producing an iPad and showing us a video of Phish playing "Watcher of the Skies" (which prompted me to listen to Genesis Live when I got home), the party eventually moving out to the pool and me finally giving up and going to bed around 4:30am. From what I've heard, the handful of hard-core folks who were still out there all went to bed not long after that.
|The Sunday night party, still hours from ending|
The rest of the story follows a familiar pattern if you've read any of my other ProgDay
write-ups. Got up too early Monday morning (although I did manage to sleep until after
the breakfast bar had already been shut down), checked out, drove blearily up to
Roxboro, NC where I found a Biscuitville to get some pretty bad coffee and a greasy
biscuit sandwich for breakfast, and eventually made it to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
About mid-way up the Parkway I stopped at my usual mountaintop bench to light a cigar,
and when I went back to the car I overheard a woman asking someone for directions to
Washington, DC. She had been driving on 81, couldn't stand it any more and told her
GPS to re-route her, and once she got up into the mountains she lost the GPS signal - another
reason why I'll just stick with maps, thanks.
After helping her out with my map I continued my journey, finished the cigar, eventually got on 81 (which was bad, as always, but not as fear-for-your-life bad as most years) and eventually got home. Instead of going directly to bed, which is what I should have done, I started posting about ProgDay on the ProgAndOther mailing list and then started processing my audience recordings. Now it's over two weeks later, and I'm still dead tired. Still totally worth it though, as it is every year. I'm already looking forward to next year's 20th anniversary show.
Normally at this point I do a review of each of the CDs I bought, but I already covered most of that above. The only disc I didn't mention was one called "Chapter One" by a band with the unlikely name of I Know You Well Miss Clara. They're related to simakDialog (I think the guitarist is in both bands) and sound somewhat similar, except that Clara doesn't have as much percussion and has slightly harder-edged guitar sometimes, and also sounds a lot like Canterbury prog at times. Of everything else I bought, the stand-out discs (at least after the first couple listens) are Dreadnaught's "American Standard" and "Have a Drink with Dreadnaught" and Corima's "Quetzalcoatl". But I'm pretty happy with all 12 discs I picked up over ProgDay weekend - there's a lot of good stuff in there, and not a clunker in the bunch.
|ProgDay 2013 Stuff|