Page last updated 10/17/2009

ProgDay 2009

For the last couple of years I've written up long, rambling "reviews" of the ProgDay progressive rock music festival (ProgDay '07, ProgDay '08) complete with a bunch of photos and the bands' set lists. They make for nice little "time capsules" of the event, so here's a similar write-up for ProgDay 2009.

This year, I knew a couple of the bands going in - Ozric Tentacles is a pretty big name in prog rock circles, and I've owned a handful of their albums for a long while. I even saw them play once before in a little nightclub in Maryland, but the distracting light show and obnoxious drunks in the audience made for less than ideal circumstances, so I was looking forward to seeing them out at beautiful Storybook Farm with friendly people and plain daylight.

I'm also a big French TV fan, so I was psyched to see them. When I read in the ProgDay program that ex-Boud Deun guitarist Shawn Persinger had joined the band, I was really psyched. La Maschera Di Cera was a new band to me, but some of the members had played ProgDay previously in Finisterre's legendary 1997 set, so I kind of knew what to expect there. I had never seen Jimmy Robinson's solo act before, but I had seen him with Woodenhead at ProgDay '06, so I knew his set would be good. And the preshow band George Preston Herrett featured Brian Preston of ProgDay alumni Smokin' Granny and Freehand on bass, so there was another familiar face. But the rest of the bands were brand new to me, apart from the sample tracks that I downloaded from ProgDay's web site.

The ProgDay 2009 Band Schedule notice
This year I took a new toy to the festival. Every year since '97 I've attempted to record part or all of the festival, just for my own amusement. I don't "bootleg" them or anything, I just like to listen to audience recordings of shows I was at. I'll trade them or, in this age of torrenting and digital distribution just give them away, but I won't sell them. Anyway, for the last 12 years I've been recording to tape - gradually improving the system, adding better microphones, etc, but always using a cheap, walkman-style tape recorder to do the actual recording. Since blank tapes are getting harder and harder to find, this year I finally broke down and bought a digital recorder (a Tascam DP-004). It's really more of a "portable studio" designed to let musicians record up to four tracks of instruments and/or vocals and then mix the whole thing down into a stereo master. But it has a pair of very good microphones built into it, so I used it to record the whole ProgDay weekend. Some of the recordings came out great, others came out muffled, and a couple came out distorted (one to the point where it was unlistenable). They all came out more bass-heavy that I'm really happy with. Hopefully I'll get better recordings with it as I get more experience using it. I didn't fully trust the new gizmo, so I also recorded everything to tape. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but I actually prefer the tape recordings to the cleaner but less "live" sounding digital recordings. But it's so much easier using the digital recorder that this was probably my last year using tapes.

Anyway, on with the story...

The drive down from Pennsylvania on Friday wasn't bad. I took my usual route down 81 and then the Blue Ridge Parkway and then tiny back roads through most of Virginia. The weather was nice and the scenery was excellent, but that drive just seems to take forever, especially once I get off the parkway and have to start dealing with red lights and obnoxious Virginia drivers. I know we have our share here in Pennsylvania too, but I swear everyone in Virginia was trying to kill me. Anyway, after around nine hours on the road I finally arrived at the hotel.

Digital Recorder
While checking in, I noticed that the guy in line in front of me looked familiar. Then I heard the desk clerk say "Oh, we have two Jim Robinsons staying here this weekend - are you Jim or Jimmy?" and I figured out that he was the guitarist from Woodenhead. I had gotten an email from a festival organizer saying that Jimmy would be interested in getting a copy of my audience recording of Woodenhead in '06, so I burned a copy and had it in the car. I ran out and got it, and handed it to Mr. Robinson in the lobby. I must have looked like a maniac - my eyes were bright red from smoking a cigar on the drive down, my hair was all screwed up from the wind blowing it around and here I am trying to hand a CDR to this musician who has no idea who I was. But he was very gracious about it and thanked me for the disc. The next day at ProgDay he came up to me and said he had listened to the CDR and really liked it, then insisted on giving me free copies of his Twangorama and Vibrating Strings CDs (which I was going to buy anyway). Jimmy's a really nice guy.  
But I'm getting ahead of myself. After checking in, I drove downtown to the Local 506 club and walked into the place because the door was open and there were people inside. The bartender gave me a strange look and said "uh, we don't open for another hour". So who were those people at the bar? Anyway, it turned out to be a good thing, because I had forgotten to bring headphones to monitor the digital recorder, and I had to run back to the car to get those. When I got back to Local 506, I realized that I had left my camera in the car and had to run back and get that. When I returned to the club, it still wasn't open but ProgDay organizer Michael Bennett was waiting outside so I got to have a long conversation with him (or a long listen - once you get Michael talking about ProgDay, it's best to just sit back and let the stories flow).

When the club finally opened, I paid the $10 cover charge (fortunately this year I remembered to bring along my Local 506 membership card, so I didn't have to pay the membership fee again) and quickly claimed the prime taper seat, straight back from the stage next to a small table. While I was setting my stuff up, Ted Johnson (who has played keyboards in a couple ProgDay preshows for National Holographic and Smokin' Granny) asked if he could share the table, then set up a really nice digital recorder on a long pole that (hopefully) got a great recording of the show. He used the same set-up to record George Preston Herrett's previous Local 506 show, and it came out so well the band was selling it as an official live album. George Preston Herrett (named after each band member's last name: guitarist Dave George, bassist Brian Preston and drummer Darren Herrett) took the stage around 9:30. They played a fusionish style of instrumental music, with a bit of ambient space rock mixed in here and there. Tasty stuff. From what I was told, the band has only been together for a few months, so they didn't have enough original material to fill a whole set. They filled out the remainder with covers of songs by Bill Bruford, John Scofield, Frank Zappa and Jeff Beck. It was a very enjoyable set, especially for this Zappa freak.

George Preston Herret's set list was as follows: Springnut, Back to the Beginning (Bruford cover), Hottentot (Scofield cover), an improv that merged into an original called Jimi's Clock (for a total of about 17 minutes of music), Black Napkins (Zappa cover), Sun Plower, Jass Lut and Blue Wind (Beck cover).

George Preston Herrett at Local 506 for ProgDay '09 Preshow
The other preshow band was Jaafar. They're another fusionish band, but with a strong middle-eastern flavor. This was apparently a very stripped-down version of the band, as they only had a bassist, a guitarist, a drummer and a percussionist. The cover of one of the live CDs they were selling shows what looks like about a dozen people on stage, so I guess they sometimes have a much larger line-up. The reduced size of the group led to a set that sounded much jazzier and less exotic, but the general flavor of the band's music still came through. By the end of the set I was pretty much wiped out due to driving all day and hearing two bands play a similar style of music back to back, but I still enjoyed them enough to buy the two live CDs they were selling.

The bassist was nice enough to give me the set list that was lying on the stage, without which I probably wouldn't have been able to figure out half the songs, even with two of the band's CDs: Ana Melkik, Inti Bes, The Life Devine (Mahavishnu Orchestra cover), Conclusion, Downtime, New song, Pharoah / Kheli Belik, Devine Duality, Joyful Participation in the Sorrows of the World, Lotus Feet (another Mahavishnu cover).

As usual, the preshow ended well after midnight and a lot of people had left early to get some sleep for ProgDay. And also as usual, I foolishly stayed up late every night of the three-day weekend and am still feeling totally exhausted a week later, but it was worth it. Between bands, I had overheard a certain recording studio head saying he needed a ride back to the hotel because the group he came with had gone back early to get some sleep, but he didn't want to miss Jaafar. So I gave him a ride back. He had downed quite a few beers and I thought there was no way he was going to make it out to Storybook Farm the next morning to record the bands, but when I walked out of the hotel the next morning there he was, already bright eyed and carrying gear out to his truck. Amazing.

Jaafar at Local 506 for ProgDay '09 Preshow

Before driving to ProgDay, I had my first run-in with the hotel's disappointing breakfast bar - the waffle iron didn't work right, the toaster burned the bagels and there were no plates. So I ended up eating a raw bagel out of a styrofoam bowl then getting in my car and driving out to Storybook Farm.

I was determined to get there early enough to set up my recording gear in the prime spot in front of the soundboard, and ended up arriving so early that the ticket booth wasn't set up yet. Fortunately, festival organizer Steve Sly was at the gate and I know him pretty well so he let me head in a little early. The weather was beautiful - in the low 80s, not a cloud in the sky and very low humidity. The sun would get to be a bit nasty later in the afternoon, but for now I enjoyed the morning while setting up my chairs, microphones, tape recorder and new digital toy.

I still had about an hour to kill until the first band came on. I helped some friends set up their tent and carry stuff from their car, then I wandered over to the vendor tent and looked at some CDs, but didn't buy anything. For some reason I wasn't really into buying CDs this year. If I liked the bands that played, I generally bought a CD or two from them to help support the band, plus I bought one used Steve Vai disc that I couldn't pass up for $2, but that was it.

Around 10:30 the official "Welcome to ProgDay" announcement was made, and the first band, Brave, took the stage. Brave is a hard band to describe. They have a violinist in addition to the standard guitars, bass and drums, plus a female vocalist with a high, clear voice who also played some keys. Musically they were kind of a mix of neoprog and metal. I overheard someone describing them as "too 'weird' for mainstream music fans, not heavy enough for metal fans and not quite proggy enough for the prog purists", which is a pretty good description. But if you like neoprog and prog metal, you'd probably dig them.

Here's Brave's set list, which mostly came from fellow ProgDay attendees who posted the set list to the Dime a Dozen site: Escape, Don't Go Away, Passages, New Beginning, Sleepless / Without You, Driven, Hold On, Hero, Among the Leaves, Sooner or Later, Words, Trapped Inside.

Brave at ProgDay '09
As mentioned above, I was looking forward to the next band, French TV. The line-up that bassist and de facto band leader Mike Sary brought to ProgDay this year was sort of an underground prog supergroup. There was Mike himself, plus Shawn Persinger of Boud Deun and Prester John fame, keyboardist and sax player Warren Dale who is in the band Trap as well as French TV, another keyboardist and sax man Steve Katsikas from the band Little Atlas, and a drummer whose whereabouts outside of French TV are unknown to me. Together they put on a set that was easily the equal to their great ProgDay 1997 and 2002 preshow sets. In addition to some classic French TV material ("The Secret Life of Walter Riddle" was a highlight), they also played a lot of new songs that will be on their forthcoming album and covers of songs by Little Atlas and Boud Deun. Being a long-time Boud Deun fanboy, I was really thrilled to hear their arrangement of "Hartford's Coffin", complete with piano and saxophone and nice, jazzy solos from most of the band members. At one point Shawn Persinger sat down on one of the monitor speakers with his guitar in his lap and just enjoyed the rest of the band playing his composition. Overall the set was probably the most "avant" of the weekend, but it was also accessible enough that most people in the audience seemed to enjoy it.

The band has a huge sense of humor too. Mike kept pronouncing Shawn's last name wrong (it's supposed to be purr-sing-er, but some people pronounce it purse-singe-er). When Shawn finally called him out on it, Mike said "Fine, I'll say it right - Stan Purse-singe-er ladies and gentlemen!" Later when they were announcing that each band member had solo CDs for sale, Shawn talked about his Prester John discs and said "The other guys' CDs are good too, but if you only have enough money to buy one..."

Fortunately Mike Sary announced most of the song titles because a lot of what they played isn't available on CD yet. When I got home, I sent Mike an email asking for help filling in the blanks in the set list, and here's the list he sent me: Ska Face, Something Else (aka 7 Come 11), Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously, Paranoiac (Little Atlas cover), March of the Cookie Cutters, You've Got to Run it Out Dawson!, Hartford's Coffin (Boud Deun cover), Conversational Paradigms, The Secret Life of Walter Riddle.

French TV at ProgDay '09
Next up was the Japanese band Qui (I can't find a web site for them). The owner of the Japanese progressive rock label Poseidon (whose name I've unfortunately forgotten even though I talked to him at the Sunday night pool party for quite a while - nice guy) who has been hooking ProgDay up with great bands for the last few years (think Naikaku and Ain Soph). This year he brought Qui over. Their sample tracks had sounded very jazzy and Canterburyish, nice enough but nothing to get excited over. Their live show put a whole new spin on things. The music was indeed very jazzy, but they brought a ton of energy to it. The flute player really shined, including one solo that started out melodically but gradually "decayed" (for lack of a better term) until it was just rhythmic clicking noises. Very cool.

The standout star of Qui's set though was the percussionist. He was a mad man. During an early drum solo, he yelled at the drummer through a megaphone to drive him to a nearly frenzied performance. He also made stage announcements with the megaphone and yelled at the audience through it to get us fired up. When he wasn't playing standard percussion equipment, he would bring out baking sheets and other odd items and pound on those, and at one point he came to the front of the stage and played a solo on a metal folding chair. He even left the stage and did a little cheerleading in the crowd.

Qui at ProgDay '09
When their set ended on Saturday, Qui wasn't done. They brought their instruments back on Sunday and whenever there was "down time" between bands they volunteered to play semi-acoustic sets or host drum circles under the food pavilion. At one point they had the drummer and flautist from Edensong playing along with them, plus an audience member who had brought his own clarinet and some other folks who grabbed miscellaneous percussion instruments off the picnic table and joined in. I even saw Mike Sary try to volunteer his bass services, but I don't think the band understood what he meant.

They were a very entertaining bunch of guys. Here's what they played on the main stage, as far as I could figure it out: Puyol, Dachou no uta, Minamo ni tsuki, ?, improv / jam (?), Kasumiotoshi, Astratto, Sedefore, guitar solo / improv (?), 5gatsu6ka.

Qui and Edensong jam
The final band on Saturday was La Maschera Di Cera. The band's bassist, Fabio Zuffanti, played with Finisterre during their now legendary 1997 ProgDay set (parts of which have shown up on at least four live albums that I know of). I think some of the other members of La Maschera were also here in '97 with Finisterre, as were a couple of the guys who just came along for the ride this year. On Saturday morning as I was heading back from the breakfast bar, a guy in the elevator saw my ProgDay '97 t-shirt and said, with a faint Italian accent, "Oh, were you here in 1997? I was the band Finisterre". Stuff like that seems to happen a lot at ProgDay. Anyway, the band's set was classic Italian prog - lots of keyboards, very melodic and with a lead singer who sounded like his life depended on putting every ounce of drama he could into his performance. Very old-school. The audience ate it up.

Personally, I've been a little burnt out on melodramatic symphonic prog for a while now, and the band was asking $20 per CD, so I only ended up buying one disc from them. Fortunately most of what they played came from that CD, so using it (and some Google research), I came up with most of the set list:

Pre-recorded opening music, Doppia Immagine, Nova Luce, Orpheus, Un Senso all'Impossible, ? (with band intros), Fino all'Aurora, Ode Al Mare (Finisterre cover), Schema v.s.d., La Maschera Di Cera, Il Grande Labirinto (which may have segued into another song, I'm not sure).

La Maschera Di Cera at ProgDay '09

Once Saturday's music ended, I packed up my recording gear and folded up my chairs and headed back to the hotel. Along the way I stopped at a great little Tex-Mex restaurant in Carrboro called the Armadillo Grill. It doesn't seem to be very popular with the locals, but I try to stop in there every year when I go to ProgDay, because the food is really good (although almost at the top limit of my spiciness threshold). Back at the hotel the Saturday night pool party was just getting started, but we almost immediately got thrown out of the pool area by security. One of the ProgDay folks tried to reason with them to no avail. They wouldn't even let us take the plastic pool chairs out on the lawn like we did last year, instead insisting that we use the much nicer wooden ones from the breakfast area. Now what kind of sense does that make?

Due to lack of sleep and non-lack of beers, the Saturday night party is a little blurry in my mind. I remember talking with the guys from French TV for a while, and having a conversation with a woman who I met last year who liked ELO (I think her name was Kim). I found out on Sunday that she has her entire right arm tattooed with images from early Genesis albums. Now that's hard-core.

Eventually the party got down to just me and a guy named Alan, who it turned out had just married an old friend of mine named Grace. She was returning to ProgDay after an absence of several years and brought her new husband along. It turned out Alan is a big Zappa fan, so we talked about Frank until the wee hours of the morning. Eventually I had to bow to the need for sleep, so we took the last of the chairs back indoors and said goodnight.

Sunday morning I decided not to even bother trying the hotel's breakfast bar (it was packed to the rafters with people when I looked in), so instead I drove to a little diner on route 501 that I had eaten at a couple times several years ago. Unfortunately the place had gone downhill since then - the food wasn't very good and the coffee was just plain awful. Oh well, I guess I just wasn't meant to eat breakfast this year. I quickly paid the bill and drove out to Storybook.  
The weather on Sunday was pretty much the same as on Saturday, with perhaps a tad more cloud cover. I had left my chairs and tarp out overnight to mark my spot (everyone left their tents there, so I figured my chairs were OK), so all I had to do was set up the recording gear and I was good to go.

The first band on Sunday was Deluge Grander. They were introduced as the "avant" band of this year's festival, but to me they seemed to fall pretty squarely into the symphonic prog camp, with just a hint of avant prog here and there. Their most recent album, "The Form of the Good" almost seems like a lost Genesis album, cover art and all.

Their performance started out as a trio of guitar, drums and keyboards. After the first song a sax player joined them for the rest of the set, including the nearly half-hour long "Inaugural Bash". After that song a female vocalist came onstage for the last two songs. She had a very good voice, but the music changed quite a bit to become more vocal-oriented, less complex and more ballad-like. They kind of lost me during the first song that she sang, but I liked the set-closing song and the earlier stuff they had played enough to buy their two CDs. The more I listen to their CDs (and the audience recording of their set), the more this band grows on me. They were my "sleeper favorite" of this year's ProgDay.

Deluge Grander's set list looks a little short, but that's because most of the songs they played were in the 10-20 minute long range: A Squirrel, The Tree Factory, Battalion, Inaugural Bash, Gratitude, Aggrandizement.

Sorry, I didn't get any good pictures of Deluge Grander
The next band did ProgDay a huge favor. At the last minute, the French band Morgbl had to cancel due to visa problems, so Edensong had literally one week to get the band together and prepare for ProgDay. They did well, but they were stuck with a bad time slot. I don't know about most festival-goers, but by the middle of the second day I'm starting to get a little burnt-out. Plus the sun was getting really hot and I wasn't into the religious themes of the band's lyrics, so after a couple songs I bailed and went to find some food. To be honest, the guitarist's stage annoucements came across as more than a bit condescending towards the audience, and that was part of what turned me off to the band too. I listened to the rest of the band's set with half an ear from back in the pavilion. I remember the flute player being very animated on stage, and when he and the drummer jammed with Qui later, I regretted not paying more attention to their set. It's also not often you get to see a band with a flautist and a cello player, so I wish I'd watched a little more of their set.

Since I didn't buy any CDs, I can only go by stage announcements for Edensong's set list. Here's what they said: ?, The Sixth Day, Water Run, Reflection, The Reunion, introduction to ?, Beneath the Tide. (That second to last song was an old song they were going to play because some high school friends were in the area and joined the band just to play that song, but they were running out of time and could only play the introductory section).

Edensong's flautist, bassist and cellist
Edensong's soundcheck had run into all sorts of problems, so the festival was running behind after their set. Fortunately the next performer was guitarist Jimmy Robinson, who didn't need much setting up - just a vocal mic and an acoustic guitar (actually two, he played both 6-string and 12-string). His performance started so soon after Edensong that I barely had time to get my recording gear set up. He played a solid half-hour set of rapid-fire strumming and picking, finger-tapping and neck-bending. He got more sound out of an acoustic guitar than some bands get out of a full line-up of instruments. After doing some great original songs from his album Vibrating Strings, Jimmy played two covers by the Byrds and Led Zeppelin. During the latter song, two guys in different parts of the audience simultaneously burst out into a spontaneous Robert-Plant-like "Ohhhhh yeahhhh!", much to the crowd's amusement. Robinson plays so hard and so fast that he actually starts to rip his picks apart, so between songs he rubbed them on sandpaper to smooth them out. This set was over way too soon, but it was billed a "solo spotlight", not a full set, so I guess that's why it was so short.

Here's what Jimmy played: Big Blue, Hammers, Vibrating Strings, Brian O'Neal, Pepi, Eight Miles High (Byrds), Kashmir (Led Zeppelin)

Jimmy Robinson at ProgDay '09
The next band was another fairly "mainstream" group called 3rd Degree (WARNING: their web site immediately blasts you with music, so if you're checking it out at work, turn your volume down). While searching for the band'ts web site, I discovered that there are at least three different bands called 3rd Degree on the web, but that site definitely belongs to the guys who played ProgDay.

I knew from the sample tracks on the ProgDay web site that these guys probably weren't going to be my sort of thing, so I went to the back of the field during their set and smoked a cigar and read a book (while I was reading, a big yellow butterfly landed on my book like it wanted to see what I was reading). From what I heard, the music sounded similar to the band Brave, but with male vocals and without the violin. The highlight of the set for me was when they did a cover of the Genesis song "Me and Sarah Jane". Listening back to my audience recording of their set, the band was a little proggier than I had thought - I noticed a Gentle Giant influence that I had missed at first.

Being unfamiliar with the band I could only go by stage announcements (and the sample files from the ProgDay web site) for the set list, but here's what I came up with:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opening, Apophenia, It Works, Be There, ? (introduced as "a new song", but no title given), Free For All, The Proverbial Banana Peel, ? (introduced as "a tiny medley of two songs), A Work of Art, ?, Scenery, The World in Which We Lived, Me and Sarah Jane (Genesis cover), Ladder, The Economic Petri Dish, ? (something about the O.J. Simpson trial), Cautionary Tale.

3rd Degree at ProgDay '09
And now we come to the headliner band for the weekend, Ozric Tentacles. I wasn't sure what to expect here - the band's more recent albums have seemed to get more and more electronic and sound more and more like dance music and not space rock or prog. So I wasn't sure they'd go over at ProgDay. But my fears were for naught. They put on a fantastic performance. The music just flowed over the field and even motivated some of the normally reserved ProgDay crowd to get up and dance. The only other band that has ever pulled that off was Kraan in 2002. The band had their own sound guy run the soundboard and the results were astounding. ProgDay, apart from the occasional interference from nearby radio towers (which hit the Ozrics, big-time), usually gets surprisingly good sound for an outdoor festival. But this Ozrics set was just crystal clear. Nearly other-worldly. It couldn't have sounded much better if they had given everyone headphones plugged into the sound board.

The only drawback was that the band no longer has a flute player. If they still did, it would have made the fourth band of the weekend to feature lead flute (along with Qui, La Maschera Di Cera and Edensong), which would have to be some sort of record.

Between songs, band leader Ed Wynne kept commenting on how nice it was to be able to see the audience and not have a bunch of strobe lights making it hard to see his instruments. For a couple songs he had to borrow an acoustic guitar from Jimmy Robinson because his own wasn't putting out any sound, and with typical British backhanded charm, after playing it he said "Well, that wasn't the worst guitar I've ever played". Another great line came when someone in the crowd yelled out "Play some space rock!" and bassist Brandi Wynne came to the mic and said "I'm sorry, I don't think we know any space rock".

I own a handful of Ozrics albums, but I probably wouldn't have been able to figure out the full set list on my own. Fortunately someone more versed with the band than I am wrote the set list out for me at the Sunday night pool party back at the hotel: O-I, Og-Ha-Be, Mooncalf, Saucers -> synth jam, Sunscape, Erpland, Pyramidion, The Throbbe, White Rhino Tea, Sploosh!

If it had been even remotely possible, the Ozrics surely would have gotten an encore. It was one of the best ProgDay sets I've ever seen in 13 years of attending. But unfortunately the sun had already gone behind the trees and darkness was coming down fast, so they had to stop there. As it was, the sound crew had to pull a bunch of trucks up to the stage and use their headlights so they could see what they were doing while taking down the equipment.

Ozric Tentacles at ProgDay '09
One last disassociated memory from the weekend - another long-standing ProgDay tradition came to pass. I forget which band was playing at the time (I'm thinking it was La Maschera Di Cera, but I'm not positive), but one of the dogs that was brought to the festival wandered up on stage, looked at all the band members to see if any of them were his owner, then wandered off again. I wish I had gotten a picture of it.

As usual, when ProgDay ended I didn't want to leave Storybook farm, so I stayed until well after dark, trying to find some clean-up detail or something to do. But there wasn't anything so I just hung out and talked with people. I had an interesting conversation with the Ozric's sound guy, who told me about some past shows, including how he and the band sat on the roof of a theater in Maryland after a show once and watched an approaching thunderstorm. Sounds cool.

Eventually I finally headed back to the hotel. I opted to skip the big get-together dinner with all the ProgDay regulars and just had some fast food on the way back. My plan was to try to take a little nap before the big Sunday night party, but I ended up listening to some of my audience recordings instead and eventually went down and swam in the pool for a bit. When people started showing up for the party I went back to the room and changed into regular clothes and loaded up my cooler with some Sam Adams Octoberfest.

My memories from Sunday night are even hazier than those from Saturday, but I remember offering the guys from Qui some of my Octoberfest beers, which quickly made me their buddy. I tried to talk to them for a while, but I don't speak any Japanese and they only spoke limited English, so it was rough going. Eventually the drummer from Edensong, who had spent a few years in Japan, came over and acted as translator.

The party seemed to zip by, and next thing I knew we had been thrown out of the pool area again (this time because we were being fairly noisy at a really late hour), and a group of about six or seven of us moved indoors to the breakfast area. I remember the flute player from La Maschera sitting quietly on the floor, listening to the conversation and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes one after another. Eventually the party got down to the usual suspects - me, Rich and Phil. Around 4:30 I couldn't keep my eyes open any more and had reached my beer saturation point, so I said I was going to bed. Phil immediately said he was going too, as if he had been waiting for someone else to end the party. I think Rich, who had the advantage of being from a couple time zones over and having a late flight out the next evening, would have stayed up all night.

The next morning I woke up around 8:00 - I just can't seem to sleep late in a hotel room for some reason. I popped my headphones on and listened to some of my ProgDay recordings, hoping I might drift back to sleep, but no such luck. So at 8:30 I got up, showered and packed. At 9:15 I went down to the lobby and checked out and discovered that the breakfast bar had already been shut down and cleaned up for the day. Even the coffee dispensers were empty. Have I mentioned yet how disappointed I was with the hotel this year?

So I hit the road, trying a new route home. The hotel is right next to Interstate 40, so I took 40 West thinking I'd hit a connecting road after about half an hour that would take me north to Lynchburg, VA. After an hour or so of driving, I realized that I had missed my exit, so I stopped in a fast food joint called Biscuitville to have some breakfast and look at a map. I came up with a new route that turned out to be a winner - I found a small road that connected 40 to a four lane highway called rt. 220 (I think) that ran all the way north to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Once I hit the Parkway, sleepiness really overcame me, so I pulled into a scenic overpass and took a half-hour nap. That was enough to get me the rest of the way home. Another ProgDay in the books.


As mentioned above, I didn't buy too many CDs this year, but here are some thoughts on what I did get:

George Preston Herrett, Live at Local 506 - sort of an "official bootleg", with very good sound. If you like power-trio fusion music, this is a good one.

Jaffar, Kollektion and Live Volume 1 - the Middle-Eastern influences are much more apparent on these live CDs than they were in the show I saw, which makes for an interesting blend of jazz and world music. These (and the GPH) are great for headphone listening at work.

Warren Dale, The Burden of Duplicity; Little Atlas, Hollow; Trap, Insurrection - a few "side band" projects of the guys from French TV. The Warren Dale album is almost orchestral in nature - very compositional, often with sparse instrumentation. If I remember right, he was selling it for $2, which is a steal for such a good disc. The Little Atlas disc has some tracks that I enjoy (like the one French TV played live, Paranoiac), but some of the other tracks are a little too vocal-oriented, but maybe they'll probably grow on me in time. The Trap CD sounds very similar to French TV, lots of twists and turns in the music. I really like it. FTV covered one of the songs on that disc when they played the ProgDay preshow in 2002.

Qui, Qui - this is a very nice disc, very jazzy music with a laid-back attitude. There's one track that sounds like a group improvisation that maybe goes on a little too long, but otherwise this is a highly enjoyable CD. I also bought the DVD the band was selling - "Super Live!" (doesn't that just sound like a Japanese title?), but haven't watched much of it yet. I wasn't going to buy the DVD, but these guys brought so much entertainment to this year's ProgDay (especially with the impromptu jams on Sunday) that I wanted to show my appreciation.

La Maschera Di Cera, Lux Ade - this is about what you'd expect from an Italian prog band that prides themselves on playing in the "classic" prog style. Very melodic, very bombastic, impassioned vocals, the whole nine yards. I also bought an "official bootleg" they were selling of Finisterre live in Milan in 2000. It's a great performance (they even have an additional percussion player), but unfortunately the disc itself is just a CDR and skips badly during the last 10 minutes or so. Annoying.

Deluge Grander, August in the Urals and The Form of the Good - I never would have gotten the play on words of the first track on "August" if the keyboardist hadn't announced it from the stage as "In-Aug-Ural Bash". This band grows on me a little more with each listen. To be honest, when I listened to "August" during the drive home from ProgDay, I kept checking the track times to see if it was almost over yet. And "Form of the Good" sounded really derivative of early Genesis the first time I listened to it (even the album art looks similar to early Genesis albums). But the more I listen to them, the more I like those CDs, and the more originality I hear on them.

Jimmy Robinson, Vibrating Strings and Twangorama - I'm really digging these CDs. I've always liked solo acoustic guitar stuff, and "Vibrating Strings" is a nice mix of singer/songwriter type songs and flashy guitar virtuoso music. The Twangorama disc is more of a full band effort, featuring a couple members of Woodenhead and a couple other New Orleans guitarists. I listened to that one while driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way home, and it fit the scenery very nicely.

Last but not least, the Steve Vai Passion and Warfare disc I got for two bucks. It was actually donated to ProgDay to sell for whatever money they could get for it to help cover the costs of the festival. I was talking to the guy who donated it later, and he was a little dismayed that they only asked $2 for it. He got rid of it because it had too much guitar-wanking for him, and I was afraid I might have the same opinion of it (I only bought it because of the low price and the Frank Zappa connection). But I like the album - sure, there's a high level of wankery about it, but it's well done and melodic wankery, with a sense of humor.

Well, that's it until next year's ProgDay. See you then.

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