Friday, March 17, 2006

 
Every year I'm amazed at the linueup Rob LaDuca and Chad Hutchison put together for the NorthEast Art Rock Festival (NEARfest). Even though only a few bands have been announced, next year's lineup already looks one of the best.

I'm particularly happy to see that Akihisa Tsuboy's band KBB will make an appearance. Tsuboy has lent his amazing talents to a number of fine Japanese bands and KBB is one of the better ones. With a sound reminiscent of the fine 80's band Midas, KBB offers instrumental symphonic fusion featuring loads of violin excursions supported by lush keyboards - and the occasional Theremin (remember all those 1950's science fiction B-movies????). KBB can kick up the pace a bit, so comparisons to some of Jean-Luc Ponty's better works isn't out of order.

But the big news so far are French legends Ange. It took me a long time to warm up to the French symphonic scene, and Ange in particular. But an amazing performance by Mona Lisa at Progfest 2000 (captured on both CD and DVD by Musea Records) opened up the scene in a big way. On a recent road
trip I brought along the 1977 live recording Tome VI, just to get into the mood. If they can pull of anything
close to this, it will be a memorable show indeed.

Since Ange aren't headliners, how can Rob and Chad top Ange ?

Well, one headliner has been announced, Ozric Tentacles. I can't say that I'm overly excited about that - and given their downward spiral of late, they hardly seem worthy of a headliner slot. 2004 Sunday opener Hidria Spacefolk seem to be thefront runner of the space rock scene at the moment (although Giant Hogweed Orchestra and Scarlet Thread aren't to be overlooked), but maybe Ed and crew can throw together a show worthy of their past reputation.

For now we'll just have to wait for the next band announcement, which should be real soon now.

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A nearly compulsive collecting of unusual items is commonplace in the technical community. In my case it is obscure and forgotten progressive rock music.

If you aren't familiar with the term progressive rock, think back to the early to mid 1970s when theatric (often quite over the top) bands like Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes, and King Crimson filled concert halls. Complex compositions, side long suites, unusual instrumentation including flute, violin, and the unbiquitous Mellotron ruled the day.

As disco reigned and the technically sophisticated art rock gave way to punk, many of us in English speaking countries thought the prog was dead. Fortunately, quite the opposite. Not only was it migrating all over the world, it was also evolving into dozens of new musical classifications, some of which are quite far removed from the basic symphonic rock bands of those early days.

In the early 1990s, email discussion lists were forming, eventually being replaced by Usenet news groups such as alt.music.progressive and it's successor rec.music.progressive. While it may never reach the widespread (commercial) popularity of the 1970s, the Internet has helped connect collectors and artists. Without major label support, there is certainly a renewed interest in this musical style.

As with many Usenet groups, spammers and flamewars have driven many of the contributors away. Topic specific discussion lists have popped up, many of them taking advantage of the "free" hosting by Yahoo.

Without hesitation, the finest general discussion group about progressive rock is the Progressive Music Society. At the time of this posting, there were about 600 members, including artists, collectors, labels, and distributors. Newcomers as well as old-timers (that we will affectionately call prog-o-saurs) discuss all sorts of music. There is a weekly chat as well as some other fun activities (guess the album cover, etc).

If your tastes run to the avant garde then consider the avant-progressive discussion list, hosted by Cuneiform Records and Wayside Music's Steve Feigenbaum. This is a very active community including artists, labels, distributors, and collectors. While there is an occasional mainstream prog conversation, most of the discussion is about the more challenging musical genres, such as Rock in Opposition,
Post Rock, Zeuhl, Chamber, and other things that may be hard to classify.

Progressive Ears is a large community, and has essentially replaced rec.music.progressive as the "large" prog board.

For more information on the amazing amount of music that we can call progressive, visit the Gnosis Project. I'll post more about this fascinating project soon.

For an encyclopedic approach, the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock (GEPR) is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, network compendiums on this subject.

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