Progtoberfest: Day 2

On to Day 2 of our daily Proglodytes festival review!

Both Cedric and myself had some personal trip stuff to take care of in the morning, so we weren’t able to catch the first couple acts, which is unfortunate. We heard great things about The Gabriel Construct and the School of Rock (which apparently played Supertramp’s Crime of the Century from start to finish!).

The first band we were able to catch was Ad Astra. Despite a major setback ( their drummer had to cancel), they managed to turn things around and use backing tracks. Cedric said their set was very solid, and reminded him of a heavier Eric Johnson. Overall, a solid act that had its flashy moments but was never too over the top.

Alpha Lighting System was up next. They are a younger band from Mexico, and they had really impressive prog chops. Their music was angular and complex, but still highly melodic. I appreciate the octave doubling on the synths- it made for a heavier sound in a very keyboard heavy act.

Farmhouse Odyssey was also a younger crew, with a lighter, pleasant vibe and sound. That isn’t to say that the music wasn’t complex- it was! But it was more youthful and jazzy than many of the acts we had seen thus far, and was a nice departure from the more avant-garde or experimental acts, for sure.

One of the most highly recommended bands of the weekend came next- Boston’s Strange Changes. With the unadulterated weirdness of Disco Volante-eta Mr Bungle and the anarchy and energy of The Cardiacs, with some highly technical Zappa thrown in for good measure, these guys made all of us forget our own names. In between bursts of bizarre, dissonant breakdowns, they would throw in a few measures of smooth jazz. They’d go from funk to free form to ska without skipping a beat, all with an agility, hyperactivity, and seamlessness that is very hard to achieve. I haven’t heard it done this well in a long time. If Kindo had an evil twin brother, Strange Changes would be him.

Valdez, led by the incomparable Simon Godfrey, played highly melodic pop-prog, with great harmonies and big choruses. Tight, melody driven, cerebral pop rock is hard to pull off well, but Valdez delivered with catchy, memorable songs.

Jersey based The Twenty Committee played really well crafted, epic sounding prog, with strong vocals and harmonies. Their music had a strong narrative quality, driven by the voice of Geoffrey Langley,who is currently the touring keyboardist for Renaissance. I was very surprised to hear them burst into a pretty great, though unexpected, cover of Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ In The Years”.

The Cyberiam are a relatively new band, and I had heard about them because they were just announced for ProgStock 2019’s Mainstage. Though they had a catchy and generally palatable sound, they also brought some edge and aggression to their sound, with almost djent-y moments throughout their set.

Finnish Jeavestone played high energy prog rock, with an emphasis on the rock part. They almost approached their music with a punk-ish energy, and their harmonies were tight and solid. They also had a lot of fun on stage, and that was definitely infectious.

Bubblemath is a band that has made a name for themselves among the more experimental music scene. I was really impressed with their ability to play music that was highly abstract and experimental, but had a groove. There were some very dissonant and beautiful moments throughout their set. They were a very solid ensemble, despite the high level of complexity and sometimes dissonant/unintuitive chord changes.

ABACAB was predictably delightful. They are a really solid, skilled tribute band, and they played those Genesis tunes with so much enthusiasm and accuracy. They also played a set that included some unusual choices. They did a track from every album, starting with ABACAB and going backwards. It was cool to see “Burning Rope” and “Return of the Giant Hogweed”, among other less played tracks.

Nick D’Virgilio also treated us all by playing Rael in a rousing rendition of “In The Cage”. it’s never the wrong time to play Genesis music.

Soften the Glare was next. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this group, other than the possibility of heaviness, as the bassist, Ryan Martinie, is formerly of Mudvayne. So, I was pleasantly surprised to hear some extremely funky, heavy instrumental groove metal. Ryan owner the stage, and definitely had the presence of a metal bassist. Both of us agreed that Soften the Glare was one of our favorite bands of the weekend. Their set was just the right blend of groove, skill, and presence.

Dinosaur Exhibit featured a talented ensemble of veteran musicians, among them violinist Jerry Goodman (known for his work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra). Their music was bluesy and soulful, but had just the right amount of proggy eccentricity to keep us from grooving too hard. The collective talent on that stage was massive.

Paul Wertico played some immaculate jazz fusion. Paul is a tremendously talented drummer, and if anyone was unsure of this previous to the set, there is no doubt they will leave convinced of his incredible ability. His band, however, was also incredibly talented too! This group was a musician’s dream- solid grooves, highly technical runs, killer improvisation…and I was very pleased to hear harmonica in at least one of the songs.

Neal Morse finished off the night with a wonderful performance that was an extension of his Life and Times tour. It definitely had a Storytellers feel to it. He played a few songs from his new singer/songwriter album Life and Times, but he also played tracks from his solo work, Transatlantic, and even Spock’s Beard. He told several funny stories about his composition of different songs, including a long impromptu medley of songs that included the color yellow in the title.

Nick came and joined him on the last two songs, Spock’s Beard classics “The Doorway” and “Wind at my Back”. Nick and Neal’s voices blend so wonderfully, and it’s always a joy to hear them sing together.

This day was another insane day of music, and we are prepped and ready for our final day! Stay tuned for Day 3.


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