I moved back to Lexington, Kentucky in 2003. At the time, I had been playing drums and singing for a jazz-fusion band a la Phish, mainly because that was the style of music that had the widest appeal/the music that I could stomach playing. My true musical love was progressive rock, but I just thought it was too outlandish to ever expect there to be a legitimate progressive rock band within 100 miles of where I lived.
For this reason, I was so thrilled to learn about Dream The Electric Sleep. They have all of the trappings of a great progressive rock band: profound lyrical themes, interesting album visuals, and excellent technical skills. For this, they have been building larger followings in places where progressive rock is a bigger deal. Last year, they were nominated by the Progressive Music Awards in the Limelight category for new bands that were gaining traction or starting to get noticed. Their highly acclaimed album ‘Heretics’ showed a band that was both adventurous and highly palatable. Their follow up, Beneath a Dark Wide Sky, just further cements their status as a rising force in the progressive rock world. And not only that, they were all from no other place than Lexington, Kentucky.
Dream The Electric Sleep performed at Cosmic Charlie’s on August 20. They played with two other fantastic groups- The Wild Jays and Jandergan. The Wild Jays opened the night, with a really interesting sonic mixture that sounded at times like early Radiohead and other times like My Morning Jacket. Guitarist Trevor Wilmott impressed with soaring vocal lines and solid tone. While not conventionally “prog”, The Wild Jays were a great primer for the rest of the evening.
Jandergan then took the stage. I had heard of Jandergan from friends of mine, and had heard some of their music on Bandcamp. Jandergan is sort of a hybrid between a lot of different styles, among them math rock, post rock, and progressive rock. I really enjoyed Jandergan’s music. As a lifelong progressive rock fan, it was pretty great to hear a band that handled odd time signatures well that was also melodically interesting. The vocals are very pop-oriented, with almost punk-ish lilts of certain phrases and words. As far as the music went, there were lots of great and unusual harmonies and some really awesome rhythmic interplay between instruments, and there was a lot of prominent keyboard work that made for some very interesting sonic shapes throughout the night. My favorite track of the night was their instrumental from their first release, Neighbor, called Sequoia. I can definitely say that I look forward to hearing great things about this band as they continue to polish their sound and write new music. As a sidenote: as a prog rock fan, I learn certain things that are useful at concerts. One such thing is that if you are bobbing your head in 7/8, and you find yourself out of meter by the end of the measure, have no fear! Just keep on bobbing for another 7 count in syncopation and it will eventually even out.
Dream The Electric Sleep closed the night with a live rendering of their latest release. They opened with ‘Drift’, which is an atmospheric introduction to the loose narrative of the album. As soon as they segued into their single, ‘Let the Light Flood In’. One of the most impressive things about the night was the ability of a small group to fill the space with atmosphere and sound. This may have been helped by the presence of Billy Newsome, who filled in on backing guitar duties. Dream The Electric Sleep brought it throughout the night, with pitch-perfect performances of their latest material. While certain songs in their past have had good hooks, I was reminded at this concert that they have written several hit-worthy songs on this album, from the soaring ‘Let the Light Flood In’, to the somewhat poppy ‘Flight’, to the crunching urgency of ‘Hanging by Time’, to the harmony laden anthem of ‘Headlights’. Their encore was a pretty powerful and epic rendition of their song, ‘The Joneses’, from their album ‘Lost and Gone Forever’. Dream The Electric Sleep presented themselves as a band that had a clear artistic vision that they took great care to reproduce in a live setting, through expressive instrumentation and tight vocal lines. They don’t have specific plans for a nationwide tour, which saddens me, because I think they are a seriously talented group that I’d hope more people would have the ability to see and enjoy.