As they say, “all good things must come to an end”, even amazing progressive rock festivals. But, Day 3 was undoubtedly a hell of a way to close out the festival, with amazing sets from IZZ, Evership, Mystery, and Eddie Jobson!
New Yorkers IZZ took the stage on Sunday to kickoff what was called “The Church of Prog”. A couple of awesome things about IZZ- 1.) they had 4 singing members (two men and two women) and frequently broke into multi-part, SATB harmony, which was delightful.
2.) They had two drummers; one who handled “regular” drum duties and another who played auxiliary percussion. The two drummers made for some very big sounds and some cool instrumental interplay. 3.) They played catchy, interesting, and very palatable prog rock. That’s not to say it wasn’t complex. There were some really awesome harmony clusters and some very complex instrumental passages. Though Jared and I were less familiar with their music, we both left with an interest to check them out and learn more about them.
The next band, Nashville’s very own Evership, was one of the most anticipated acts of the events. Their self titled debut is one of the strongest first albums we’ve ever heard at Proglodytes, and though Jared had seen them live at RoSFest, I still hadn’t caught them live. The band played an incredible set, with several songs from their debut album, and a few new tracks from their forthcoming album, Evership II which is set to be released on October 19 of this year.
The new tracks, in my opinion, have a bit of a harder edge to them, which I really appreciate. The band was fantastic, and one can’t speak of Evership without pointing out the terrific voice and presence of singer Beau West.I heard several people say he was “Mercury-esque” and it certainly fits, as his expressive tenor and engaging stage presence made for a great show.
My personal favorite from the sets were the opening and closing songs, “Silver Light” and “Flying Machine”. I am so excited to hear what the brilliant Shane Atkinson will come up with on this new record and on subsequent records.
After Evership’s set, we were treated to a Q&A with Eddie Jobson, who needs absolutely no introduction. It was an informal chat, and it was a lot of fun to hear him talk about his early musical opportunities, his experiences playing with UK, Curved Air, Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth, and others. In the Masterclass portion, Eddie talked about the physics of sound, and helped us understand how physics and math shape our experience as a music listener. Having such an accomplished musician amongst us was a rare treat, and his insights were precious and priceless.
Next, French-Canadian proggers Mystery had the great honor of being introduced by Michael Sadler, their fellow countryman. Mystery was one of the most anticipated bands of the weekend as well, and they put on a wonderful show, playing a wide variety of music from past and present. With a catalog dating from 1992 self-titled EP all the way up to their 2018 release Lies and Butterflies–arguably one of their strongest records to-date–these guys have established themselves as a major name in the genre. They proved on Sunday that they have the chops to back it up on stage with a world-class performance. What’s more, there was a strong chemistry between the band members on stage, with each band member appearing to genuinely enjoy themselves. Such a stellar live performance left us with the feeling that this line-up may be the best in the band’s history.
Jean Pageau was an extremely engaging frontman. Between costume changes, flute solos, keytar playing, and even a venture out into the audience to high five any audience member who wanted a high five, Jean sang his parts with so much feeling and expression, and it was hard to take your eyes off of him while he was performing.
There were a number of stand-out songs from the set. The mood of the performance shifted from the delicate passages of the 15-minute epic “Chrysalis” (complete with butterfly costume) to the heaviness of “Delusion Rain.” The performance wasn’t limited to the band’s most recent albums though. They also played songs from the Benoit David era. One of my personal favorites was the song “Pride” from The World is a Game. Pageau delivered the lead vocals flawlessly and relatively true to the original.
The closer to ProgStock was the legendary Eddie Jobson, performing the music of progressive rock supergroup U.K. with some of the world’s finest musicians (and that is not a hyperbolic statement). Playing the part of drummer Bill Bruford was Thomas Lang, who I have been a fan of for over half of my life. Alex Machacek (who I had seen previously on Cruise to the Edge) handled Allan Holdsworth’s guitar parts. On bass and vocals, the tremendously talented Marc Bonilla played the formidable part of John Wetton.
Lang played Bruford’s parts with precision, but he also put his style into the playing as well. There was also a smoke machine behind him, which was funny for several reasons. Firstly, because he’s an attractive guy- i.e., smoking. Secondly, one can’t forget the fate of Spinal Tap’s drummers, and we certainly were relieved when Thomas Lang didn’t spontaneously combust midway through his solo (which was one of the most technical and impressive solos I have ever witnessed live).
Marc Bonilla’s treatment of Wetton’s parts was masterful. He managed to sound very much like Wetton without it feeling like an impression, and it was a fitting tribute from one music legend to another. Alex Machacek played Holdsworth’s parts, which are incredibly unique and difficult, with laser-like precision. One of my favorite guitar solos of all time is the solo from “In the Dead of Night”, and I was so pleased to hear Alex handle the solo with such care and accuracy. Alex is truly a musician’s guitarist, once described by Holdsworth himself as “fucking nuts”, which is about as amazing of an endorsement as one can hope to receive from such a guitar innovator, so hearing Alex play Allan’s parts was a treat.
And, of course, Eddie Jobson lived up to his name. He opened the night with “Alaska” from U.K,’s self titled debut, and the heavy synth intro shook our seats. The set included a variety of tracks from U.K.’s discography, along with Eddie Jobson’s solo work and even a gorgeous instrumental rendering of “Trilogy” by Eddie and Marc, on piano/keys and acoustic guitar, respectively. One of the things I realized first on Sunday during Eddie’s Q&A- Jobson was only 23 when U.K.’s first album was recorded, which speaks even more to his brilliance. Eddie has previously announced that he was done with touring, which made this wonderful night of music all the more special.
Afterwards, the band made their way to the lobby to sign memorabilia, and the night ended in the bar down the street, The Waiting Room, where artists, staff, and audience members mingled and reminisced and took selfies. After lots of goodbyes, we headed back to our hotel, with our hearts and heads full.
Extra photos: (All photos credited to Jared Everett)
Thanks for your update on ProgFest 2018. We were not able to attend so your detailed overview was great to read.