Page last updated 09/17/2012

ProgDay 2012

Hot Performances

Hotter Weather

Continuing my tradition of writing a rambling web page about ProgDay, complete with photos, set lists and CD reviews to act as my "scrapbook" of the event (such as my write-ups for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011), here's one for ProgDay 2012.

This year's festival was as much a heat stress test as it was a music festival. Our daughter Valerie has been wanting to go along to ProgDay for a few years now, so Michele agreed to come along for the first time since 1998 in order to watch Val in case I wanted to go to evening shows or hang out with friends. When Michele was there in '98, it was a scorcher and I've never been able to talk her into going back despite promises that it's not always that hot. Of course, this year she finally returns and it's easily the hottest year since '98, if not hotter. The temperatures were in the low to mid 90s, the humidity was pretty high and the sun was blazing in a mostly cloudless sky. It was a rough one, weather-wise.

Val started school the previous week, so she had been getting up early all week and also had to get up early for the long drive to North Carolina. On top of that, she went along to the preshow (because Michele wanted to see the Yes tribute band and Val's not quite old enough to stay back at the hotel on her own), so she only got about six hours of sleep Friday night. On Saturday morning, the combination of heat and sleepiness made her look like a miserable zombie, so she and Michele left Storybook after the first band, took a nap at the hotel and came back for the last band. That worked out pretty well, so on Sunday they did the same thing, only replacing the nap with lunch and shopping. Despite the feelings of abandonment, I soldiered on and stayed for all of ProgDay.

To be honest, one of the big reasons I wanted Michele to come along was to have a second driver for the trip down and back. It really helped (especially for the trip home). It still took nine or ten hours driving down (mostly due to construction) and even longer driving home (largely due to heavy rains and thick fog in the Blue Ridge mountains), but being able to switch drivers every couple hours made the trip a lot more tolerable. Especially on the way home when we got to interstate 81 and I started feeling like I was going to fall asleep behind the wheel.

Gnome The official Gnome of ProgDay
Despite the long drive down, we got to the hotel, got checked in, got into Carrboro and had dinner at a little pizza place next to the Arts Center and still got to the preshow shortly before it began. The theater was already fairly full when we got there, but Michele and Val wanted to sit all the way in the back anyway, which was fine by me because there was a handrail there that I could set my recorder on. Same as last year, I recorded all the bands I saw with my digital recorder and I'll be sharing those recordings with whoever wants them.

The Arts Center is laid out in a weird way. The performance space is L-shaped, because it bends around the corner of the lobby. The stage is where the two legs of the L meet, and there are a few tables set up right in front of the stage, but the rest of the audience has to choose whether to sit in the "west wing" or the "south wing". From where we were sitting, I couldn't even see the other half of the audience. Because of the oddly shaped room, I thought the acoustics sounded kind of lousy, but my audience recordings of the preshow bands actually came out pretty well, so maybe I just imagined the bad sound. For the last few years, the Arts Center has been the backup venue should Storybook Farm get rained out, and I'm really glad the festival hasn't had to be moved there.

The preshow featured two tribute bands (and, oddly enough, just down the block at the Cat's Cradle, a Beatles tribute band was also playing). First up was Minstrels in the Gallery, a Jethro Tull cover band. In my opinion, these guys stole the show (from themselves, as it turns out, but I'll get to that). They nailed pretty much every song they played, and the front man looked and sounded exactly like Ian Anderson. I've never been a huge Tull fan, but they managed to work all my favorites into the set list, including a huge chunk of the Thick as a Brick album and the semi-obscure gem Skating Away (on the Thin Ice of the New Day). I really enjoyed these guys - it's a shame they only got an hour to play since they were the opening band. Val, who plays flute herself, was very impressed by the singer's flute playing. Unfortunately, due to the low light levels in the Art Center and my not wanting to disturb others by using a flash, most of the pictures I took came out really blurry, but I've managed to salvage one of each of the preshow bands for this web page.

The Minstrel's set list was as follows: Nothing is Easy, Hymn 43, Teacher, Living in the Past, Bungle in the Jungle, Thick as a Brick medley, Skating Away, Cross-Eyed Mary, Aqualung, Locomotive Breath.

Minstrels in the Gallery Minstrels in the Gallery
After about a 20 minute set break, the finale of Stravinski's Firebird Suite started to drift out of the PA system and about a minute later Going For the One took the stage. Three of the five band members are also in Minstrels - the guitarist and keyboardist are the same, and the Tull tribute's bassist became the Jon Anderson stand-in for the Yes tribute. As the Firebird finale approached its end, the band started playing along with it, exactly like Yes did at the beginning of the live YesSongs album. And like that album, they then launched directly into Siberia Khatru, which kicked off about an hour and 45 minutes worth of Yes music.

Musically, the band was pretty good. I noticed a few small flubs here and there, but mostly their covers were on the money. The weak point, IMHO, was the vocalist. He could sing as high as Jon Anderson (in fact, it sounded like he was singing even higher than Jon), but he seemed to be really straining to do so. Between songs when he did stage announcements, his voice sounded shredded. And by singing that high, his vocals sounded really brittle and harsh - he just didn't sound much like Jon Anderson, and didn't have as appealing a voice. The band also seemed to take the songs at a slightly slower pace than Yes did in their prime, although not nearly as slow as Yes did on their last live album. The set list was limited almost entirely to The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge (the latter of which was played in its entirety). It would have been nice to see them pull off something from Relayer or Tales From Topographic Oceans for a prog festival crowd - in fact, at one point an audience member yelled out for Sound Chaser, but the band just sort of laughed the request off. A highlight of the set for me was when the guitarist did a solo spot and dedicated the song Clap to the memory of long-time ProgDay supporter and frequent preshow band member Brian Preston, who died of cancer earlier this year. I'll miss seeing his bands Smokin' Granny and George Preston Herrett at the preshows.

Going For the One Going For the One
Here's Going For the One's set list (I love these cover bands - it's so easy to figure out the set list): Siberian Khatru, I've Seen All Good People, America, And You And I, Clap, Close to the Edge, Five Percent For Nothing, Long Distance Runaround, South Side of the Sky, Roundabout and an encore of Going For the One.

After the show wrapped up, Michele bought a Going For the One t-shirt (that's her favorite Yes album) and one of the band's bumper stickers (which is now decorating the back of her Yaris). We started driving back to the hotel, realized that we forgot to bring some things from home and had to search for a 24 hour drug store, finally found what we needed and got back to the hotel around midnight. Michele and Val went straight to bed, but I foolishly went down to the pool next door (we didn't stay in the official ProgDay hotel - we went with the Suites place next door) to say hello to some of the ProgDay regulars who I knew would be out there. I didn't stay long and was probably in bed by 1AM.

Saturday morning was a bit of a challenge because I like to be out at the farm as early as possible to claim a spot in front of the soundboard and set up my recording gear (which doesn't take nearly as long any more, now that I switched over to a digital recorder). But Michele is not a morning person (she works evening shift and is used to staying up until well past midnight and sleeping late in the morning). Plus Val had stayed up much later than she's used to and was tired to begin with. So getting everyone to co-operate with my plan of getting up at 7 and being out to the farm by 9 didn't go as smoothly has I had hoped. But we were still there by around a quarter to ten, and I still staked out a fairly decent place to set up.

Much to my enjoyment, Geoff and Jay were back as the stage managers this year. Geoff kicked the festival off by coming out on stage and encouraging us to "Prog out with your log out", a phrase he claims to have copyrighted, so don't steal it. Jay then came out and asked if anyone had any questions, prompting one guy down front to ask "What is prog?" Jay just laughed at him and encouraged anyone who felt qualified to answer the question to come on down and explain it at great length to that gentleman. He then quickly introduced Ephemeral Sun and the 18th edition of ProgDay was officially underway.

Michele and Val arriving at ProgDay Michele and Val arriving at ProgDay
Ephemeral Sun had played the ProgDay preshow back in 2005, but that show ran late and they were the last band, so I ended up leaving before their set. Apparently between that show and this one, the band switched from having a female singer to being a purely instrumental group. It was still nice to finally get to hear them. Between songs, their keyboardist announced that he has been attending ProgDay every year since 1996, so he was really thrilled to finally get to play the festival. I'm not sure what the deal was with the gnome that sat on a stool all through their set (see band photo and the close-up of the gnome at the top of the page). I saw Geoff taping the "cape" to its back just before the set started, so I'm assuming he put it there. I love that in the picture I took of the entire band, it kind of looks like they're all consulting the gnome as to what to do next.

(Since initially putting this page up, I've been told that the band had joking said on an internet forum that their new lead singer was a garden gnome. They were told by fans that the gnome better show up for their ProgDay performance, and sure enough, he did.)

Musically, the band was excellent. All instrumental, kind of symphonic with the wall-of-keyboards you'd expect from symphonic prog, but also with some harder edged guitar and dark textures that almost ranged into prog metal. A very smooth and tasty way to start off the weekend. I'm not at all familiar with the band's material, but it sounded like they didn't miss a note. I'm now wishing that I had bought at least one of the band's CDs, but that early in the festival I try to conserve money because I know I'm going to run out by the end of the weekend no matter what I do. And sure enough, I went to pay for lunch today and discovered that I only had $6 left in my wallet.

Ephemeral Sun Ephemeral Sun
Anyway, despite being unfamiliar with the band, I was able to piece most of their set list together from stage announcements: Springsong, a 20 minute excerpt from the 40 minute title track of their new album Harvest Aorta, a new piece that they haven't titled yet, Prism which went straight into an excerpt from A Song For Twilight, a new song that was announced as "Death Begets My Hairy Sorrow", ...Winter Has No Mercy and finally an eight minute song that I couldn't put a title to. I emailed the band and they were nice enough to get back to me the same day and let me know that the final piece was another section of "Harvest Aorta".

After Ephemeral Sun finished, I went back to the pup tents that Michele and Val had set up and was informed that Val really wanted to go back to the hotel and take a nap in the air conditioning. So I got everything I might need (mostly beer) out of the car and they took off.

The next band to play was one of the two non-US groups, Karcius from Canada. Apparently one of the French speaking parts of Canada, as most of their web site is in French. They were probably the youngest band to play this year, and their music mixed prog, pop and alternative rock. They were one of the few bands this year to feature lots of vocals, which were mostly in English. I wasn't really expecting to like these guys much, based on the sample tracks that were on the ProgDay web site, so following tradition of the past few years, once their set got underway I went to the back of the field, sat in the shade and enjoyed a beer, a cigar and a book. But as I sat back there, my attention kept getting drawn back to the stage. The band was better than I had been expecting, and it was particularly neat to watch the drummer because I was far enough away that the music I was hearing was about a half-beat behind what the drummer was doing.

Karcius Karcius
As I finished up the cigar and headed back to my seat, the band's front man announced that they were going to play something for the older fans in the audience, and then they kicked into a cover of Pink Floyd's "Dogs". They had to use pre-recorded acoustic guitar since they only had one guitarist and he was playing the electric parts, but otherwise they nailed the song. While they were playing the song, one of the attendees who had brought his dog along ran though the audience in front of the stage with the dog in tow.

They segued straight from "Dogs" into a heavy instrumental jam that was also pretty good, then finished the set with a vocal song. That last fifteen minutes or so of the set sold me on the band, but I still wasn't quite ready to break open the wallet and buy a CD. I was initially confused why some people I overheard discussing their set said they had really changed "Dogs" a lot, until I realized that they were counting the jam after the song as part of "Dogs", and I was counting it as a separate song.

I haven't been able to figure out all of Karcius' set list yet, but what I have so far goes like this: The First Day, (?), Elements III : Combustion, The Word, Why, (?), Brother, Water, Dogs (Pink Floyd cover) -> jam, improvised intro -> Rest My Head

The third band band on Saturday was one I was looking forward to, Accordo dei Contrari. They were the other international band this year, hailing from Italy and playing a classic Italian style of melodic prog with a bit of a biting edge to the guitar. I really enjoyed these guys' sample files on the ProgDay web site, and their live performance didn't disappoint.

They were introduced by Geoff, who started talking about all the great modern prog bands from Italy that have folded over the last few years. With each band he named, his voice got a little more hoarse and eventually he seemed close to tears. But then the clouds lifted and he remembered there was still a great Italian band around, one that he had the pleasure of introducing for their first American appearance. Ladies and gentlemen, Accordo dei Contrari!

Soap Bubble Melvin's Hat Soap Bubble Melvin's new line of hats (see Freak Kitchen from 2011)
The band played a fantastic set of symphonic prog in the classic style. The guitarist would sometimes add a bit of a growl or a slightly avant edge to the music, but overall it was what you'd expect from a really good, keyboard-oriented Italian prog band. I remember wishing my wife and daughter would come back early because I figured they would like this band, but no such luck. Later, when I was listening to my audience recording of the band, Michele overheard some of it and asked why she hadn't heard any bands that good at ProgDay. Don't get me started.

Given the way the guitarist looked (thick black beard, dark tan), I wonder if he got a second look from the TSA when the band flew over from Italy. Kind of sad when that's the first thing you think of upon seeing someone. On a brighter note, the keyboardist was so excited about playing in the US for the first time, at the Sunday night party he went around and thanked every person in the room for inviting the band over, even people like me who had nothing to do with it.

Towards the end of Accordo's set, they brought up a guest saxophonist to play a solo on one of their songs. I had no idea who the guy was, so I assumed he was a friend of the band. Much to my surprise, when the next band hit the stage I discovered he was the sax player from Birdsongs of the Mesozoic.

Here's Accordo's set list: Pui Limpida e Chiara di Ogni Impressione Vissuta part I, Dark Magus, Gondwana, Arabesque, Set, O.M., G.B. Evidence, new song (?), Lester (with Ken Field on sax), last song (?).

Accordo dei Contrari Accordo dei Contrari
The final band on Saturday was Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. They were one of two avant-prog bands from the Cuneiform label to play ProgDay this year, prompting label owner Steve Feigenbaum to make his first appearance at a ProgDay in a while (at least I don't remember him attending recent festivals). On Sunday when Dr. Nerve played, bandleader Nick Didkovsky spotted Steve sitting in the middle of the crowd and joked about how he's not surprised that he found the ideal listening position, then pretended to visually measure the distance from each PA stack to where Steve was sitting.

But back to Birdsongs. Their music is almost more modern classical than rock. Very composed, with two keyboards (usually piano and synthesizer) counterpointed by guitar and saxophone. The band doesn't have a drummer, instead they use complex pre-recorded percussion triggered from a laptop computer. At one point during the show, the guitarist was having trouble getting the computer to start the next song, leading the pianist to quip that their drummer, Mac, must be drunk.

I like this band, but for me a little goes a long way. The music is kind of dry and I have to be in the mood for it. I enjoyed their set, but I agree with the couple people I heard expressing the opinion that maybe Birdsongs should have gone on third and Accordo should have been the "headliner". After a long day sitting in the sun and heat, "intellectual" music wasn't quite the thing to listen to as the sun went down. But still, I did like what the band played enough to buy their most recent album (to add to the couple other ones I've bought at past festivals).

That night I got to talk to the pianist for quite a while at the pool party. He found that I work near the area where he grew up, so we discussed recent doings in Mechanicsburg, PA.

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic Birdsongs of the Mesozoic
Fortunately Birdsongs announced the titles for all but one of the songs they played, and I had that unannounced one on CD, so I was able to come up with the complete set list: Our Prayer, A Band of Deborahs (Not Debbies), Coco Boudakian, Ptinct, This Way Out, Birdgam, The Pearly Eyed March, Ruane, Petrophonics, Sirius the Scorching, Faultline, The Insidious Revenge of Ultima Thule, One Hundred Cycles, Make the Camera Dance, Theme From Rocky and Bullwinkle, Ptoccata, The True Wheelbase, Lost in the B-Zone.

When the Saturday show ended out at the farm, I had planned on going to Local 506 to see the band Mind, who played a Saturday night show. I even remembered to take my Local 506 membership card this year, and that was one of the primary reasons Michele came along, so I wouldn't have to leave Val at the hotel by herself. But after sitting out in the heat all day, I was really dehydrated and I honestly think I may have been bordering on a heat stroke - I was having a really hard time staying awake, and my face felt really hot. So I decided to skip the Saturday night show and just go out to dinner with my wife and daughter. I feel bad about it, because I had been trading emails with one of the band members the week before and had sort of promised him I'd come to the show. Sorry.

So we drove back to the hotel, I showered and got cleaned up, and we went to the Japanese steak house next door. It was a pretty good meal, but I still wasn't feeling very well and couldn't eat much of it. Fortunately the room we got had a refrigerator, so I was able to take the leftovers home.

After dinner, Michele and Val went back to the room and I went next door to the Saturday night pool party. Most of the regulars were there, and I recall talking with a few band members and drinking a few beers, but not much else. There was an attractive Asian woman swimming in the pool who seemed to be drawing most of the guys' attention from the conversation. Other than that, the evening is kind of a blur - I don't really even remember leaving the pool or what time I got to bed, but I don't think I stayed very late.

McChouffe bottle gnome and monkey Could this be a relative of the stage gnome, and who's that little fellow eyeing my beer?
Sunday morning went a little more smoothly than Saturday - I got up around 7:15, took a shower and then started bugging Michele and Val to get moving. We did the free breakfast bar at the hotel then hopped in the car and headed to Storybook Farm, stopping only to pick up some water, Gatorade and ice. We got out to the farm around the same time as the previous day, and I got the prime recording spot right in front of the soundboard.

First up on Sunday was Dreadnaught. This was another band I was looking forward to, based on the sample tracks on the ProgDay web site. I was a bit disappointed that they were just a guitar, bass and drums trio because the sample tracks had had some violin on them, but once the band started playing any disappointment quickly evaporated.

Musically they're all over them map, showing influences from hard rock to bluegrass, but the live performance mostly comes across as heavy, complex prog rock. They seem to have a big sense of humor, making funny comments between songs and doing a few songs with odd lyrics. At one point they covered a John Entwhistle song about being a clone or something like that.

At the Sunday night party, the band's bassist kept a group of us entertained with some hilarious stories. One was about how he went out of his way to put together a Captain costume (as in Captain and Tennille) ostensibly to wear on stage but mostly to spite his wife who was sure he'd never be able to do it. Trust me, the story was really funny the way he told it. One of the ProgDay regulars, Rich, had worn a Captain's hat that day out at the farm (which is what prompted the story), so he said "It must have amused you to look out in the crowd and see a Captain's hat", to which the bassist replied "No, it INFURIATED ME!"

Dreadnaught's set list was a bit difficult to figure out since they didn't announce many song titles and often tended to segue straight from one song into the next, but using the sample MP3s from the ProgDay web site and the 2-disc compilation album I bought from the band, I came up with the following:

Ballbuster, (?), The Drill -> Danny, Gulf of Tonkin -> The Boston Crab -> Tiny Machines, 5.905 (John Entwhistle cover), Nag Champ-a-laya, One Trick Pony -> R. Daneel Olivaw -> Clownhead, James Thresher Industries -> Welding, Barefoot Kicker, The Jester's Theme -> Deneb -> Tournament -> Derby Days, (?), new song (no title given).

Actually, I'm not sure about "Tournament" - they said they were going to play "a sequence" of songs from their album "American Standard", and I'm sure they played the other three, and Tournament slots in there in the album, so I'm guessing they played it. Also that last (?) might be two songs - at one point they paused for a few seconds and the audience clapped, but then they kept right on playing.

Dreadnaught Dreadnaught
Next up was the band that I thought would divide the crowd and send the symphonic and neoprog fans running. Doctor Nerve was the other Cuneiform band of the weekend, and they're pretty damned avant garde. I've owned their CD "Did Sprinting Die?" for several years, and it's one that I rarely listen to because it's a little "out there" even for my tastes. But at the pool party the night before, Paul Sears had assured everyone that Doctor Nerve would tear the place up and burn the stage down, and everyone would love them.

Sure enough, Paul was right. Even people who don't normally go for avant prog seemed to love them. They had a HUGE sound due to their eight piece line-up (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, trumpet, sax, trombone and bass clarinet). The first couple songs they played were super-complex, but were also super high energy.

When they finally slowed down enough for Nick Didkovsky to talk to the crowd, the guy showed his skill as a front man. He said something like "So, we're your new favorite band now", and most of the crowd agreed. In addition to his interaction with Steve Feigenbaum, he also guided the crowd through the audience participation part of the program. The band played the start of the next song, which alternated 4/4 passages with a 3/8 section. Didkovsky said "We're going to balance the light side of prog, represented by the band Yes, with the dark side, represented by King Crimson. If you're a Crimson fan, raise your left fist and sing along with this song by singing "Cat's...Foot...Iron...Claw...DI.CI.PLINE...21st...Century...Schizoid...Man". If you're a Yes fan, raise your right fist and sing "I've Seen...All...Good...People...Round.A.Bout...So Satisfied...I'm on...My...Way". They then attempted to play the song and get people to sing along - it was a total train wreck, but it was funny. Nick commented "Well, that's the sort of thing you think of during a 10 hour van ride to the festival".

As the set progressed (no pun intended), it got a little less crowd pleasing and more avant garde, but overall it was a fantastic show. I've already had a couple people tell me they want a copy of my audience recording if it comes out OK.

Here's Doctor Nerve's set list: Splinter, If You Were Me Right Now I'd Be Dead, Armed Observation, Sister Cancer Brother Dollar, Nothing You Can Do Hurt Me, Beta 14 OK, Meta 01 (audience participation number), Meta 04, She Closes Her Sister with Heavy Bones -> guitar solo -> Swallow the Neck of the Guest who Hisses When You Pass, Trash, Uses Probe Form, I Am Not Dumb Now, Spy Boy, Painting With Bullets.

Doctor Nerve Doctor Nerve
While Doctor Nerve played, the skies around Storybook Farm grew dark in all directions, and it looked like the possible thunderstorms that had been predicted for the afternoon and evening were going to strike. During the quiet parts of Nerve's set, thunder could be heard rumbling in the distance. In fact, one delicate guitar and piano duet turned into a trio that included the thunder. But while the storm constantly threatened for around half an hour, only a few drops of rain actually fell on ProgDay.  
Dark Skies over Storybook Badly done composite of two pictures showing the dark skies over Storybook Farm

Later that day when Michele and Val came back, I asked why it took so long for them to get out of the car. Michele explained that they were changing into their "cheap" shoes because they assumed Storybook Farm would be a sea of mud. Apparently it had been pouring down rain on them the whole drive back, even just a couple miles down the road from the farm. Somehow the storm managed to dump buckets of rain on the entire area, but completely missed the festival.  
By the time the third band on Sunday was about to start, I was pretty much brain dead from the heat, beers and having already seen eight bands. So I couldn't for the life of me remember who was next or what type of music they played. When three guys in matching white outfits took the stage, I kind of dimly remembered them being a fusiony kind of band. Then Consider the Source tore into their first number and ripped my head clean off. Those three guys were all monsters on their respective instruments.

I did my usual wandering around taking pictures of the band for the first few minuets of their set. While I was behind the stage, I watched the drummer for about five minutes and was just amazed at how good he was. Later in the set they announced that it was only his fifth performance with the group.

The bassist could play the supporting role or he could come to the front and play a flashy slap-and-pop solo. The guitarist had a double-necked guitar - the top neck was fretless and was fed into some sort of processor that could make it sound like everything from a vibraphone to a chorus of alien voices. The saxophone sound was particularly impressive - somehow it simulated the breathy tone and vibrato of a real saxophone so well that even though I was watching the guitarist play it, my brain was convinced there must be a guy behind the stage playing sax.

The band's music was very fusiony, but it also included some Indian and Middle Eastern influences. Not as much as I was expecting though, based on descriptions I had read of the band. As soon as their set was over, I went to their table and bought all three CDs they had available.

I had some trouble figuring out the band's set list, because for the most part they just went right from one song into the next with barely a break, and didn't annouce many song titles. I figured out the back half of the set list from the CDs I bought, but there were a few songs from the beginning of the set that I couldn't get. Here's what I ended up with: (?), Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong, (?), (?), \__/ (introduced as being a sign language title), Abdiel, You Go Squish Now, I'll Fight for the Imp, Do Not Shrink Me Gypsy, Blue Steel, Moisturize the Situation.

Consider the Source Consider the Source
The final band of the weekend was Iluvatar. The band is really popular with a lot of folks, especially people from the Baltimore area where the band is based, but I'm just not wild about them. They're a neoprog band, playing very much in the style of Genesis and other big-name 70s prog bands, and I've just never been able to develop an appreciation for neoprog. So I'm probably not the best person to render an opinion on their set. The funny thing is, when Val heard their music, she said they were the only band of the weekend that she didn't really like, because she thought they were kind of boring. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Actually, I'm making it sound like their set was terrible, and it really wasn't. In fact, it was very good if you like neoprog. They had tons of keyboards and played everything really well. And while I'm not a fan of the genre, I have to admit there were a couple of their songs that I kind of enjoyed.

Here's Iluvatar's set list (with thanks to the band's keyboardist, Jim Rezek, for filling in the titles of the new songs when I posted my recording to the Dime a Dozen site) : Sojourns, In Our Lives, Resolution, Le Ungearie Moo Moo, Eagle, Haze, Holidays and Miracles, Open the Door, Across the Coals, Waiting For the Call, Better Days

I had volunteered for "trash duty" on Sunday evening, so while Iluvatar played, Michele, Val and I packed up our gear and started scouring the grounds for trash. I think that might have been Val's favorite part of the festival - she's a budding environmentalist and likes to help whenever she can. While we were picking up trash I noticed that several other people were also not waiting for the band to be done to start breaking down their camp sites. I've been told that that's normal practice, since by the time the band finishes playing it's almost dark out and people want to get their tents down while there's still daylight. I had never really noticed it before though.

Dragonfly This guy decided to come visit the tarp over the soundboard during Consider the Source's set
By the time everything was cleaned up, Storybook Farm had pretty much emptied out and full darkness was coming on. So we hopped in the car and drove back to the hotel. I tried to convince Michele and Val to go to the Armadillo Grill with me, but I looked really grungy after sitting out in the sun all day, so they wisely insisted that I go take a shower first. Once we got to the hotel, it turned out they weren't that hungry because they had eaten a late lunch or early supper while I was out at the farm. So I cleaned up and ate my leftovers from the Japanese place the night before.

By that time the Sunday night pool party was calling me, so I took my cooler out to the car to load it up with beer...only to discover that it was pouring down rain. Just torrents of it coming down. I wasn't sure if there was even going to be a party, so I grabbed an umbrella out of my car and walked over to the Comfort Inn - I shouldn't have worried. Nothing stops the Sunday night ProgDay party. Everyone who would normally be out by the pool was hanging in the lobby instead. A couple coolers of beer had already been broken out, but I actually started my evening with a cup of coffee from the hotel's coffee bar. It was lukewarm and pretty horrible, but it woke me up out of the drowsiness I had been falling into.

After that I went back and got my cooler of beer, and by the time I got back to the lobby the party was in full swing. Someone had set up whiskey bottles and shot glasses at the coffee bar, and another table was covered with wine bottles. Members of at least half of the bands that had played that weekend were hanging out chatting with fans.

The actual details of the evening are starting to get pretty fuzzy in my mind, but I remember that by 2am or so most of the party goers had given up and gone to bed. But the hard-core group that always seems to be the last ones to give up on ProgDay weekend (myself included) stayed until around 4am. Rich kept telling the story about how just as he was going to go to bed at NEARFest, Steve appeared and talked him into drinking until dawn. At ProgDay, just as everyone was about to give up and go to bed, we discovered another cooler that someone had left behind that was still stocked with beer, and next thing we knew it was 4:30, going on 5am. At that point there was no denying that the party had run its course, so the last five or six of us called it a night and stumbled off to bed.

Iluvatar Iluvatar
The next morning, Michele and Val were nice enough to load the car up and go out for breakfast without waking me up. Finally, around 9am, they wanted to hit the road so they rolled me out of bed. I staggered blearily to the shower, managed to get myself presentable, went down to the breakfast bar and wolfed down a couple small omelets and some pastries, then we hit the road. Much to my relief, Michele took the first shift of driving and got us all the way through northern North Carolina and southern Virginia. Other than a stop for coffee along the way, we drove straight through to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

About five miles before the Parkway, we caught up with hurricane Isaac and Michele had to drive down steep, twisty mountain roads in a pouring rain with logging trucks coming the other way. So when we got to the first rest area on the Parkway, it was my turn to drive. I managed to get us up the 60 miles of normally very scenic mountain roads...through a driving rain and fog so thick I could barely see 10 yards in front of the car. The worst part was getting stuck behind slower moving cars - they couldn't pull over at one of the overlooks to let me pass because by the time you saw the overlook in the fog, you were already past it.

We stopped at the Raven's Roost overlook about five miles from the end of the Parkway for a rest stop. There was an actual raven roosting on the rock wall of the parking area. I tried to get a picture of it, but as I approached it flew off - the photo I got ended up turning out pretty nice anyway, with the barely visible bird flying through the thick fog. After if flew off, we could hear it loudly cawing at us from somewhere in the fog, angry that we had disturbed it. The sound was really creepy. Also at the Raven's Roost, Val took the photo at the bottom of this page, which ended up looking very much like a Roger Dean album cover.

Raven in the Fog Raven flying from foggy Raven's Roost
Leaving the Parkway, we soon found ourselves in the hell known as interstate 81 north at the end of a holiday weekend. Since we were all hungry, we stopped at a Chili's for a late lunch/early dinner. After eating, I continued driving on 81 but soon found myself so sleepy that I was afraid I would drive off the road or plow into one of the cars in front of me that were going from 70mph down to a sudden stop with no warning. So I pulled into the first rest stop that came along and Michele took over driving. But she couldn't tolerate 81 either, so we soon plotted a path through northern Virginia using back roads. Much less stressful, but it took forever to get home. We finally arrived back at our house around 9:30pm, a little over 12 hours after leaving Chapel Hill.

That just leaves writing a quick blurb about the CDs I bought this year. I was kind of surprised to find at the end of Saturday that I'd only bought two discs, so on Sunday I did a little more shopping and ended up with eight albums (which was still a pretty small haul compared to previous years).

The first thing I bought was the new Mahogany Frog CD, "Senna", which I went looking for first thing Saturday morning. Found it at the Of Sound Mind table. A lot of what they played at ProgDay in 2010 was new material, and fortunately a lot of it ended up on Senna. Great CD, probably my favorite purchase of the weekend - I've been listening to it in the car again and again. My first spin was while driving through the fog-bound Blue Ridge mountains, and somehow the music fit perfectly.

The only disc I bought by one of this year's ProgDay bands on Saturday was Accordo dei Contrari's "Kublai", which was a no-brainer purchase. Good stuff - classic Italian prog. I just wish they had had copies of their first album for sale.

On Sunday I bought Birdsongs' "The Iridium Controversy", which I had meant to buy on Saturday but forgot. Like the other Birdsongs albums I own, this one is a nice, modern classical approach to prog. Very composed. Heavy emphasis on complex rhythms, keyboards and intricate guitar and sax lines. All with one of Roger Dean's better recent album covers.

As mentioned above, right after Consider the Source's set I went and bought all three of the CDs they were selling (plus a lighter stamped with the Consider the Source logo). My favorite is probably the earliest of the three, "Are You Watching Closely?", which sounds a little more exotic and melodic than the later ones, which are more shredder/fusion fests. "That's What's Up" is another good studio album (although I think some of the songs were recorded live). And I like the name of the live album - a silhouette of a couple having sex followed by "! We'll just do it live!" Since the band's music is almost all instrumental, they give their songs interesting titles like "Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong" and "You Go Squish Now", plus a song with a sign-language title.

The Doctor Nerve EP "The Gift of Shame" was another no-brainer, both because of their impressive live performance and because the CD was a limited edition item available only at ProgDay. It's only about 20 minutes long, but Michele made me turn it off when I played it in the car because she said it was giving her a headache. When I was driving home from work the other day I ended up listing to the whole thing twice at full volume, and I was really digging it.

And last but not least, I picked up the 2-disc compilation album that Dreadnaught was selling, called "High Heat and Chin Music" (High Heat is disc one, Chin Music is disc two). I wish they had had some of their actual albums on sale instead of just a "best of" but the set does seem to cover their career pretty well, including a few previously unreleased tracks, and you can't beat $15 for a 2-disc set. The music is really eclectic - all over the place style-wise, from hard rockers to jazzy numbers to punkish songs to near-bluegrass. Some of it is serious, some of it is tongue-in-cheek. Nice set. The more I listen to this one, the more I like it.

And thus ends another great ProgDay weekend. I'm already looking forward to next year...

Valerie's Roger Deanesque tree photo Valerie's Roger Deanesque Tree Photo