Last updated: October 22nd, 2014

ProgDay 2014

The Twentieth Annual Outdoor Progressive Rock Festival

Year of the Dragonfly

This year the longest running annual progressive rock event (and only prog event held outdoors, mixing the beautiful music with the beauty of nature) turned 20. Actually, the 20th anniversary show won't be until next year (since the festival started in 1995), but this was the 20th annual show. Don't ask me to explain the math, it makes my head hurt.

Anyway, here's my attempt to document the event in a web page - a tradition that I started several years ago (see 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013).

image of a dragonfly on our tent This year my lovely wife Michele accompanied me with the plan being that as long as we were leaving her mom in charge of taking care of our daughter, we'd hit ProgDay and then go spend a few days at the beach for our anniversary. This worked out well at the beginning of the trip, as I had someone to split the driving with, which was a welcome change from all the years I've made that 8 or 9 hour drive down on my own.

We made good time and got to the hotel well before the Friday night preshow was scheduled to begin. Michele decided to skip the preshow and spend that time unpacking and getting a good night's sleep, so I headed into Chapel Hill on my own. After the traditional pre-show meal of pizza and soda at the Italian place just up the block from Local 506, I settled down on a bench on the sidewalk outside the club to wait for it to be open to the public. The guy sitting next to me on the bench was pounding away on a set of bongos, getting a good groove going. I had no idea who he was at the time, but realized later that he was the drummer for the third band of the evening, Triplicity. Now I know why his nickname is "Bongo".

Once the doors opened, I went in and set up my digital recorder on the table straight back from the stage, then grabbed a beer and chatted with some folks that I hadn't seen since last year's ProgDay. Eventually John Buzby took the stage, and the festival weekend was unofficially (since the preshow isn't technically considered part of ProgDay) under way...

Friday Night Preshow

Picture of John Buzby playing the preshow

John Buzby

Fans of the band Echolyn may be familiar with the name Buzby via that band's Chris, but John has also been in several bands over the years - Finneus Guage, Land of Chocolate and more recently Damn Fine Coffee. John took the stage as a solo act to kick off this year's festival, playing for a hour with just a single keyboard and microphone.

He played solo arrangements of music from his various bands, plus some new material. The songs mostly sounded passionate and angry, with Buzby banging out chords with one or both hands and occasionally playing a melody line while singing lots and lots of lyrics (which stood in contrast to the largely instrumental nature of most of the other bands this weekend).

To be honest, this set got old pretty quickly for me. I've never been a huge fan of Buzby's bands, having seen both Finneus Guage and Land of Chocolate play live before, so I wasn't expecting to like this set too much. I did enjoy some of it, but it all started sounding the same after a while.

The performance was also hampered by a VERY talkative woman sitting to my left, who wasn't paying attention to the show at all, she were just there to talk loudly over it to whoever would listen. Fortunately she left not long after Buzby's set ended, but unfortunately she turned out to be just a taste of what was to come - my recorder seemed to be a magnet for chatterboxes all weekend. Nearly every one of my recordings is marred at some point by people who decided to just hang out near the microphones and talk loudly, like they were at home in their living room rather than standing in the middle of the audience at a live performance. I can kind of understand it at Local 506, which is a nightclub after all (although they bill themselves as a "music bar"), but it was just as bad (if not worse) out at Storybook Farm. I blame cell phones - people have gotten too used to holding conversations wherever they happen to be, with no regard at all to what's going on around them. It's gotten to the point where someone should be making an announcement from the stage at the beginning of each day to remind people that they shouldn't be distracting other festival attendees, and if they feel the need for a loud, extended conversation, the should do it away from the audience area. OK, rant over - back to the preshow...

Buzby played for about an hour and by the time he finished the club had pretty much filled up. The people who were there gave him a big round of applause. If nothing else, it takes guts to go up there on stage alone and pour your heart out like that. It didn't take long to offload his equipment from the stage, and soon the next band was ready to go.

Here's the set list, to the best of my ability to figure it out. I'm not very familiar with Buzby's bands, and he didn't announce many titles, so there's a lot of question marks to indicate songs that I didn't know the titles of:

?, ?, ?, Are We Near It, song introduced as an "unfinished tune", song introduced as being "about my deadbeat uncle", Crumbling Down, ?, ?, ? ?, These Changes

Picture of the MPS Project playing the preshow

The MPS Project

I wasn't sure what to expect from this band - they didn't provide any sample MP3s to the ProgDay web site, but the site's description of them as a progressive jazz band in the tradition of Return to Forever and Weather Report sounded promising.

The group was a keyboards, bass and drum trio named after the keyboardist's initials. They turned out to be my favorite band of the preshow, and one of my favorites of what was as weekend of great bands. Their music was mostly very melodic, with lots of different keyboard sounds. The bassist switched to playing acoustic bass with a bow for one song that sounded very spooky and avant garde at first, but eventually resolved into something more melodic.

Picture of the MPS Project playing the preshow The band threw in a few interesting covers, starting with a take on Chick Corea's "500 Miles High". They played a version of Rush's "Entre Nous", but as a very jazzy instrumental. And as the set closer, they brought up the guitarist from Triplicity and played a tribute to Mahavisnhu Orchestra.

I really enjoyed this set a lot - it was perfect for the preshow. Probably too jazzy and not "prog" enough for the main ProgDay stage, but a really nice way to kick off the weekend. The keyboardist announced during the show that he only had a couple CDs to sell, so I made sure to hit him up as soon as they were done playing and bought one. It's called Goes Without Saying and based on my first couple listens, it's a keeper.

Thanks to the CD and stage announcements, I was able to work out the full set list:

Goes Without Saying, Blue Winter (with extended intro), Nameless, Walk the Walk, The Ladder, 500 Miles High (Chick Corea cover), Oracle Bones (with upright bass), Entre Nous (jazzy version of the Rush song), Mahavishnu Orchestra tribute (not sure if it was a specific song or not).

Picture of Triplicity playing the preshow

Triplicity

Between sets when I was talking with the keyboardist from MPS Project, he warned me that the next band would be much louder than his band, and he wasn't kidding. I think the volume level was mostly driven by the drummer, who didn't play the drums so much as attack them. The guitarist and bassist were cranked up pretty loud to keep up with him.

Triplicity is kind of a hard band to categorize. If I had to pick a genre, I'd say jazz fusion, but there are also elements of prog and metal in their sound. Odd time signatures, polyrhythms, flashy solos - it had all the trappings of prog, but still sounded like a mix of jazz and metal.

The band was selling a 4-song DVD of live performances recorded with multiple cameras in a studio, but they don't have a full-length album available yet. I bought the DVD since it was only $5 and I hoped it would help me identify the set list, but I don't watch music videos very often so this will probably be a "watch once and then file away" disc.

I liked this band, but after a long day in the car and with this being the third performance in the span of a few hours, I was starting to droop by the end of the set. They wrapped things up around midnight and I went straight back to the hotel, intending to crash. I stopped down at the pool area after parking my car, and found that many of the ProgDay regulars were hanging out there, so I got a beer from my room (taking care not to wake up the wife) and went out for about half an hour. But I was determined not to overdo it too early this ProgDay weekend, so after the one beer I went to bed.

Even though I bought the DVD the band was selling, I wasn't able to work out much of the set list. Fortunately, a friend of the band downloaded my audience recording from Dime and figured out the entire list:

Sandblaster, Insomnia, Relentless, Pendulum Sky, Happy, Babylon, Six to Five, Seven, Frankenstein (Edgar Winter cover), Roundabout (an original, not the Yes song), Ramshackle, Payback, Cimera, Chrome Warp, Maelstrom

Saturday

Saturday morning as usual I woke up long before the alarm was set to go off, so I showered and hit the breakfast buffet and then started loading up the car. Eventually I had to rouse Michele, and soon we were headed to the Burger King on Jones Ferry Road a few miles from Storybook Farm so she could get breakfast. While we were there, she noticed a Subway and a grocery store in the vicinity, so later in the day she took my car and got subs and supplies for dinner. But first things first - we got out to the farm around 9:45, and we soon had our tent set up at the back of the field and I had my chairs and recording gear set up in front of the soundboard. It wasn't long until the first band took the stage...
Picture of Zombie Frogs playing at ProgDay

Zombie Frogs

The first band of the weekend to hit the stage at Storybook was the perfect wake-up call. The Zombie Frogs are a prog metal band made up of a bunch of young guys from Berklee. While their music was definitely heavy, they were sufficiently melodic and diverse to sound more "prog" than "metal". The keyboard player in particular gave them a more symphonic sound than most prog metal bands. But with the sychronized head-banging, flying dreadlocks and overload of enthusasim, they certainly had the metal stage presence down perfect.

Picture of Zombie Frogs' drummer, bassist and guitarist The front man for the band kept marveling at how cool ProgDay was. He said something like "Look at you all in lawn chairs! Normally we play for a bunch of guys beating each other up." He was also very amused by "Soap Bubble Melvin" (see the write-up of Freak Kitchen from 2011) and invited her to come along for the rest of their tour. The whole band seemed to really enjoy the ProgDay experience. They hung out all weekend watching the other bands and interacting with fans, even to the point of tossing a football around out in the field. At the end of the weekend, I noticed that on the sign on their merchandise table, under "ZOMBIE FROGS", they had written "LOVE PROGDAY!"

I'm glad I hit their table immediately after their set and snagged a copy of their CD (which has a really cool looking computer-generated psychedelic frog on the cover) because I heard later in the day that they quickly sold out. I also noticed a few people on Sunday wearing Zombie Frog t-shirts, so I guess they went over well with most of the crowd.

Here's Zombie Frogs' set list: Ionized, Mad Ratter, Anura, Awaken, Awake But Not Alive, Make Total Destroy (Periphery cover played by just the drummer and keyboardist), Kamikaze Babushka, Potentially Broken Orange, Void -> keyboard solo -> Leviathan

Picture of Kotebel playing at ProgDay

Kotebel

This was possibly the most "classically progressive" band of the weekend, meaning that their music was a mix of classical and keyboard-driven prog that wouldn't sound out of place at all alongside some of the classic prog albums of the 70s. With their duel-keyboard line-up (in addition to guitar, bass and drums) they were able to play some fairly intricate music. After warming up with a five minute song, the band's keyboardist and main composer, Carlos Plaza, announced that the next piece would be a 43 minute piano concerto. Yeah, it was that kind of set.

Picture of Kotebel playing at ProgDay It certainly didn't hurt that the other keyboardist was a very attractive young lady, Adriana Plaza (possibly the band leader's daughter?) I'm pretty sure there were more pictures taken of her than any other ProgDay musician since the year Ars Nova played part of their set in skimpy outfits. But she wasn't just a pretty face - she performed a good bit of the keyboard parts, and did so flawlessly.

After playing Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble which makes up the bulk of their most recent album, the band devoted the rest of their set to playing shorter pieces, each inspired by imaginary creatures (the Hippogriff, Satyrs, etc). Most of this portion of the show was drawn from their 2009 album Ouroboros.

All in all a very enjoyable set, and one that definitely appealed to fans of "old school" prog. During the set I hit their vendor table and bought the Concerto and Ouroboros albums, figuring they would probably sell out fairly quickly. Later I went back and also bought Omphalos, but decided against Structures since I had already spent $50 on Kotebel merchandise. Now I'm wishing I had just shelled out the extra $15 and bought them all.

Kotebel's set list was pretty easy to figure out, since the songs all came from their latest two albums, and one piece they played took up half the set. Plus they announced several song titles:

Hades, Concerto For Piano and Electric Ensemble (I. Adagio Maestoso, II. Lento Cantabile, III. Vivo Scherzando, IV. Allegro Moderato), The Flight of the Hippogriff Part II, Satyrs, Simurgh, Amphisbaena.

Picture of the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra playing at ProgDay

The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra

This band drew mixed reactions from the crowd. I heard one person saying they were too country for a prog-rock festival, and another guy I know said that if he wanted to listen to bluegrass, he'd go to a bluegrass festival. My wife didn't care for them either, claiming they were too repetitive and predictable.

Picture of the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra playing at ProgDay The "too country" criticism makes me wonder if those people bothered to listen beyond the opener, "Wabash Cannonball" (which, admittedly, was pure bluegrass). And my wife's "too predictable" complaint I don't get at all - this band's music is all over the map. They played some jazzy sounding numbers, some proggy stuff, the guitarist played a solo acoustic piece ala Steve Howe, the violinist took some wicked solos, there was one song that kind of reminded me of Phish and there was even an extended improvisational number over a drum-loop that sounded almost technoish. It was one of the most diverse sets I've ever heard from one band, and personally, I liked it a lot.

The band focused on playing songs from their new album, Zombie Mouth. I bought the disc at the show and I'm really digging it - it has the same wide range of styles that the live show did. The only track I'm not wild about is "Floating", which seems to be one of the songs that they're really pushing. I don't know, a heavy rock song about the death of a soap bubble just doesn't grab me. Soap Bubble Melvin kind of missed a trick here - this was one of the few songs where she didn't send streams of bubbles floating out from backstage. Maybe she was being ironic.

Anyway, I enjoyed this set. I would have liked to have heard the band play a couple more cover songs like they did at the ProgDay preshow a few years ago, but the originals were great. One audience member kept asking them to play "Orange Blossom Special", until the bassist joked "What do you mean? This whole set has been 'Orange Blossom Special'."

Between the stage announcements and the fact that I own all their albums, I had no trouble figuring out the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra's set list:

Intro -> Wabash Cannonball -> violin solo -> Raga Piloo, Wrong Shui, Not at All, Zombie Mouth, Memo 9, The Broken Marionette, Galacticity, Straight to the Top (acoustic guitar solo), Going Nowhere Fast, Floating, Five Up Front, Give Me More (2nd ever live performance), Dark Matter, Odd Men Out, The Blaze

Picture of Sensations' Fix playing at ProgDay

Sensations' Fix

This was the only band this year that I had heard of prior to the festival (not counting Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, who I had seen at the preshow in 2011). I had never heard any of their music before, but I remember people discussing an Italian prog band called Sensations' Fix in near-legendary terms on the old progressive rock newsgroup a few times back in the day. It appears that all of the band's albums are long out of print - you can't even buy them on Amazon, unless you're willing to settle for MP3 downloads. Hopefully this ProgDay appearance will be the start of a revival and will help get their albums re-released on CD.

Picture of Sensations' Fix smoking at ProgDay Based on the sample files of the band that were up on the ProgDay web site, I was expecting a keyboard-heavy band somewhere between symphonic prog and space rock. But the live performance was more along the lines of psychedelic jams that were either completely improvised or were loosely based on songs from the band's albums. It reminded me a bit of early Pink Floyd, and that's a real good thing in my book.

The band is really a guy named Franco Falsini and whatever musicians he currently has lined up to play under the Sensations' Fix name. I heard that the drummer from the 70s incarnation of the band was originally supposed to play ProgDay, but he had a fatal heart attack during a rehearsal several months ago. Despite the tragedy, the band eventually decided to continue on with a new drummer and were able to keep the ProgDay date.

The set started with Falsini coming out, strapping on an oddly undersized guitar, lighting up a cigarette and getting a little keyboard/electronics loop going on a laptop. He then proceeded to play wailing, improvised guitar lines over the loop while simultaneously puffing out prodigious clouds of cigarette smoke. Eventually the bassist came on stage and joined him, both in smoking and in adding bass lines to the improv. Finally the drummer and keyboardist came out and joined in, and eventually the improv turned into more recognizable songs from the band's back catalog. That's assuming you've ever heard the back catalog - I had to get someone on the Dime a Dozen site who was a big Sensations' Fix fan to help me identify most of the songs.

At one point the keyboardist's father, who lives in the Chapel Hill area, came up and joined the band on saxophone for an extended jam. He only played the one song and then left, which initially confused me because I knew that one of the headliner bands was an Italian group who were going to have David Jackson of Van der Graaf Generator playing saxophone with them, and I thought that might have been it. But it turned out Jackson was with the next day's headliner.

The band played a very short set for a headliner - after just an hour and fifteen minutes, Falsini let the last song kind of peter out and then suddenly announced that it was getting too dark to continue playing (although sunset was still at least half an hour away). Despite the short length, the set seemed pretty popular among ProgDay attendees, and when I put all my recordings up on Dime, this set got more than twice the downloads of some of the other bands.

At the Sunday night pool party, Falsini came over to the table where I was sitting with a group of people and I got to overhear part of a conversation about the importance of dynamics in music - imagine an Italian accent saying "You might hear a piece of music at low volume, and it means nothing to you. But then the next day you hear it up here (hand held high overhead) and suddenly it is FANTASTIC". At one point he asked if anyone had any rolling papers. When no one could find any, he assured us it was just for tobacco and produced his tobacco pouch. Still no one had any, so in the end he took a cash register receipt and rolled some tobacco up in that and smoked it. Interesting guy.

As mentioned above, I had to get some help figuring out the set list. One thing I tried was just randomly searching for Sensations' Fix songs on YouTube, and that turned out to be surprisingly effective - I got two song titles that way. The rest came from that guy on the Dime site. I might have been able to figure out a couple of them from the 2-CD "unreleased songs and alternate mixes" set that the band was selling at the show, but fortunately he saved me the trouble. Here's the set list:

Opening (improvisation), Smooth and Round, Fullglast, Under Water, Leave My Chemistry Alone, Boat of Madness, Space Jam to D-Minor (with saxophonist), Map, Strange About Your Hands, improv, Fragments of Light.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

I've been spoiled in recent years by there being both a Friday night preshow and a Saturday night show over ProgDay weekend, but this year there was no show on Saturday night. In a way, it was kind of a relief because it meant less running around to do. And really, eleven performances in the span of three days is more than enough.

So when Sensation's Fix finished, I was ready to go get dinner. But after sitting out in the field and sweating all day, Michele insisted on going back to our room to get cleaned up first. We had sprung for an upgraded room with a whirlpool tub, and I have to admit it was worth the money. After sprucing up, we went to the Japanese steakhouse across from the hotel. Afterwards we went down to the pool area for a while, and I had a couple beers and talked with friends while Michele sat as far as she could get from the crowd and played with her phone. Eventually I guilted her into at least coming over and saying hello, but the Saturday night party was quickly dying, and before long pretty much everyone had left to get a decent night's sleep.

Sunday morning we took things at a fairly leisurely pace, since our tent and chairs were already set up out at Storybook Farm (many people just leave their stuff there overnight), and we still ended up getting out to the farm around 20 minutes or so before Backhand were due to hit the stage. It had been announced the evening before that they wanted to start 15 minutes early at 10:15 because they had more material to play than the opening slot usually allowed for. But by the time they finished soundchecking and were ready to play, it was almost 10:30 anyway. Which gave me plenty of time to unload stuff from the car to the tent and to get my recording gear set up.

Picture of Backhand playing at ProgDay

Backhand

ProgDay has hosted a few South American bands in the past, but it's a fairly rare thing. So this group that hails from Venezuela was a welcome addition to that continent's contribution to the festival. Actually only three fifths of the band are Venezuelan - somehow the guitarist, bassist and drummer got hooked up with a keyboardist from the Netherlands and a vocalist from Canada to form a sort of international prog consortium.

Presenting the plaque to Roger image of Backhand's drummer Before the set began, Michael Bennett took the stage to welcome the crowd to day two of the 20th ProgDay, and then marked the occasion by presenting a plaque to Roger the sound guy, who has been running the audio at the festival almost since the beginning.

When the band initially took the stage, they were a quartet of drums, bass, guitar and keyboards, and they started off with the lengthy instrumental piece "IntrospeKtion". When that wrapped up, their vocalist, who had been standing off to the side of the stage, came up and joined them for the lyrical song "Hold the Light".

They continued in that vein throughout the set, with the vocalist leaving the stage for an instrumental or two, then coming back to sing a song or two. To be honest, I could have done without the vocalist entirely. He wasn't a bad singer, but whenever he came on stage, it was like the band shifted from being a kind of blues-based prog band to being more of a stadium rock or neo-prog band. I liked a lot of the instrumental stuff, but the songs with lyrics put me off. It didn't help that the vocalist had a weird pronunciation of the letter "R". For example, the one song featured the word "forest" repeatedly, and he sang it each time as "fowest".

I did enjoy watching the drummer though. That guy was into it. I don't think I've ever seen a musician make the collection of "rock faces" that he did, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Overall this was a very strong ProgDay, one of the best in recent memory, and one of the rare years where I can honestly say that I liked every single band to at least some degree (most of them quite a bit). But if forced at gunpoint to name a least favorite band of the weekend, Backhand was probably it for me. On the other hand, I was told by several people that they were one of their favorite bands of the weekend, so it all comes down to taste.

I was able to figure out most of the set list from the sample files that were up on the ProgDay web site, and the few that weren't up there were available for listening from the band's web site. So here's the full set list:

IntrospeKtion, Hold the Light, Spider Riff, Tears From the Sea, The Big Red Wall, Wonderful Peace, A Million People Crying (parts 1 and 2), Me Myself and I, Hardwood, Roller Coaster, Crime Story

Picture of Necromonkey playing at ProgDay

Necromonkey

Based on the sample files from the ProgDay site, this was the band that I was most looking forward to hearing. They take the classic symphonic prog sound and update it with drum machines, electronics, loops and all sorts of other effects. In fact, I was kind of surprised when the band took the stage that there weren't more unidentifiable gizmos on stage - it was basically the standard keys, guitar, bass and drums set-up, with the bassist having an extra drum to pound on occasionally, and the drummer having a bank of keyboards and electronics.

image of Mattias Olsson looking intense at ProgDay image of Mattias Olsson looking happy at ProgDay Necromonkey is a prog "supergroup" of sorts, featuring drummer Mattias Olsson from the well regarded 90s prog band Änglagård, and keyboardist David Lundberg from Gosta Berlings Saga. The two were doing some work together in a studio in 2010 and really hit it off, discovering that they had similar ideas in mind for creating a modern prog album. The result was the first Necromonkey album, and they enjoyed working together so much that this band has become their main focus.

While I thought no drummer would top the entertainment value of Backhand's drummer, Mattias Olsson came close. At times, he seemed almost in a zen-like state of meditation as a played, while at other times he'd stare intently a his bandmate Lundberg. And when each piece was over, more likely than not he'd break into a big grin.

As I mentioned above, all weekend long it seemed like there were at least half a dozen conversations going on around me at any given time while the bands were performing, but I noticed that during even the quietest parts of Necromonkey's set, you could hear a pin drop at Storybook Farm. The music was almost hypnotic, and they seemed to have the crowd entranced a lot of the time.

image of David Lundburg from backstage I bought both of the band's CDs before the set started, because I figured they might sell out quickly. From what I've heard, before they even finished playing it was impossible to find a copy of their first album. After comparing the live performance to both discs, I'm pretty sure the majority of the set was either new songs or mainly improvisation, or both. They finished strong by playing "Knock Knock Hornet's Nest" from their first album (which the guy in front of me had been calling for the whole set) and then ending with the entire twenty minute title track from their latest album.

At the Sunday night pool party, Mattias and David were trying to talk Michael Bennett into giving them a slot next year - they enjoyed the festival so much, they want to come back and play again as soon as possible. Micheal explained that ProgDay very rarely ever books the same band two years in a row, but they weren't taking no for an answer. Personally, I'd be fine with them coming back again next year, because I really enjoyed their set. Oddly, listening back to my audience recording of it, it doesn't sound as good as I remember it being at the time - I guess you had to be there.

The set list was especially tricky to figure out, since not only did the band play some not-yet-released songs, but the stuff from their albums was so radically re-arranged in most cases that it was very difficult to recognize. Fortunately I got some help from a Necromonkey aficionado on Dime who somehow had access to the unreleased material and between the two of us we came up with the full set list:

Asshole Vote, Being Pluto (unreleased), Kinky Panda (unreleased), Every Dead Indian -> drone -> Knock Knock Hornets Nest, (A) Glimpse (of Possible Endings)

Picture of the Travis Larson Band playing at ProgDay

The Travis Larson Band

The Travis Larson Band was a solid choice for ProgDay - their music can definitely be categorized as "prog", in that it's instrumental and full of flashy displays of virtuoso musicianship. On the other hand, the songs tend to be short, melodic and hook-laden, so there's a lot of appeal for people who like the music to be catchy and immediatly accessible.

image of the bassist and guitarist jamming together close-up image of Travis Larson The band's power-trio, guitar-hero style of art rock reminded me a lot of early Joe Satriani albums like Surfing With the Alien or The Extremist. I've always liked those albums, so this band clicked with me. But I had been waiting all weekend to take my traditional "cigar break" in the shade of the tree line behind the audience, and I foolishly picked Larson's set to do so. I ended up really enjoying what I could hear of the music and wishing I had stayed to watch their set. In the end, I "compromised" by buying all four CDs they were selling at their merchandise table.

While announcing the band, Michael Bennett mentioned that ProgDay was lucky enough to book this band on one of the few days they had available between a west coast tour and an east coast tour. A little later between songs, Travis Larson added that this was the first time they'd ever driven so far to play a 90 minute set, but he appreciated the fact that ProgDay presented a ready-made audience for his style of music. Apparently they normally play for college crowds, which he described as drunk guys hitting on girls while trying to dance to music in 5/8. Which he said inspired the song title "Attention Deficit Disorder".

This was a banner year for female musicians at ProgDay - on Saturday there was the keyboardist from Kotebel, the violinist/vocalist from The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra and the keyboardist from Sensations' Fix. Sunday added Travis Larson's bassist, Jennifer Young, who Larson mentioned was named one of the "top 25 girl bassists" by Bass Player magazine, although he said he thought she was just one of the top bassists, period. At one point in the set she played a solo bass piece she had composed, which then segued into an introduction for "Georgia on my Mind".

These guys were not only great musicians, but they were super-friendly, hanging out after their set, offering to autograph CDs and even jumping in the pool with some of the ProgDay regulars at the Sunday night pool party.

The set list was drawn mostly from the band's latest album Shift, and between all the CDs I bought and stage announcements, I was able to work out the full set list:

Shift, Bright Eyes, Point of Balance, Forest For the Trees, Zok (inspired by the "punch sound effect cards" on the old Batman TV show), Above Below, Dreamcatcher, Grace to Wonder (bass solo), Georgia On My Mind (Ray Charles cover), Watchman, Fuzzy, World's Edge, intro -> Winter Still, Nevele, Attention Deficit Disorder

Picture of the Alex Carpani Band playing at ProgDay

The Alex Carpani Band with David Jackson

This band was probably the most pleasant surprise of the weekend for me. I didn't really know what to expect from them going in, other than that the sample files from the ProgDay web site painted them as a pretty standard symphonic prog band. Their guest saxophonist, David Jackson, is famous as a member of 70s prog band Van der Graaf Generator, and he played with them for the entire set. The thing is, I've never really cared for VDGG all that much.

Picture of the Alex Carpani Band's vocalist Picture of David Jackson playing two saxophones at once So I guess I wasn't expecting much from this set, but the band quickly won me over. This was classic big, passionate Italian prog mixed with Van der Graaf Generator covers. The vocalist was excellent, not only the best one of the weekend, but one of the best that ProgDay has seen in a while. David Jackson was charming as only a slightly eccentric British gentleman can be. Even the VDGG songs sounded great to me in a live setting.

The band was promoting Alex Carpani's latest album, 4 Destinies, so in the course of the show they played that album in its entirety, scattered between all the cover songs. I ended up liking this set so much that I not only bought all three of Carpani's albums, I even bought two David Jackson solo discs. Having listened to Carpani's Waterline and The Sanctuary a couple times now, I almost wish they had played some material from those albums instead of so many covers.

It must have been dragonfly mating season or something, because all weekend long, dragonflies were everywhere. There was one that perched on a support cord of our tent early on Saturday (see photo at top of page) and stayed there most of the day. During the Alex Carpani set, David Jackson even commented on all the dragonflies, saying that in England they call them Imperials, and that they made him feel like he was at Woodstock. He even tried to lure some to him with his flute at one point.

Picture of David Jackson playing flute to a dragonfly Picture of vocalist getting audience member to sing The band concluded their main set with a cover of Premiata Forneria Marconi's "Impressioni de Settembre" (since September was literally only hours away). That got them a huge standing ovation and demands for an encore. So they came back out and played VDGG's "Theme One", which is normally a three or four minute long song. But they stretched it out to half an hour with each member of the band taking a solo, and eventually the vocalist leaping off stage and taking the microphone around to random audience members to let them sing along. They even called Michael Bennett up on stage to sing with Alex Carpani.

More than two hours after taking the stage, the band finally had to call it a night as darkness started creeping into the sky (otherwise I think that encore might have gone on for another half an hour). I've heard a couple people (including my wife) who were of the opinion that that encore went on way too long and having all those solos wasn't a good idea, but what the heck. I thought it was a fun way to wrap up a solid weekend of progressive rock.

While figuring out the set list, I actually had a harder time identifying the VDGG covers than the Alex Carpani songs, because I'm not all that familiar with the former and they announced the titles of all the latter. But eventually I worked it out and came up with this:

Darkness (11/11) (VDGG cover), The Silk Road, Sky and Sea, Killer (VDGG), The Infinite Room, "the Lemmings bit" (teaching the audience how to scream like a lemming), Man-Erg (VDGG), Time Spiral, Impressioni De Settembre, Theme One (with solos and a bit of Sex Machine thrown in for good measure).

Picture of sunset at ProgDay

Sunday night and Aftermath

Eventually the sun set on ProgDay XX, and it was time to pack up and head back to the hotel. After cleaning up, we went out in quest of dinner. Michele had wanted to go to the Boston Market we saw while driving out to Storybook Farm, but when we got there we discovered that they close early on Sundays. So then we drove around aimlessly looking for another place and eventually settled on a burger chain resturant called "Freddies Steakburgers" that we had never heard of before. We were able to get in just before they closed and got burgers and cheese fries (which Michele really liked) and then had to have the staff unlock the doors to let us out.

Back the hotel, Michele decided to start packing and get to bed early, because she knew I'd be in no shape to drive the next morning. I put on a swim suit and took my cooler of beer down to the pool. There wasn't much of a crowd there yet, so I swam for a while and then got out and had a couple beers with the folks that were there.

Around midnight, the "throw Paul Sears in the pool" event finally came to pass, and once Paul went in a whole bunch of other people jumped in too. I went back in and took part in a game where we threw these glowing balls back and forth across the pool. At one point, the guys from Necromonkey were in the center of the pool, leading someone to yell out "Necromonkey in the middle!"

After the pool cleared out, I settled in at a table with some ProgDay organizers and band members, and several beers later I realized that the crowd had thinned considerably. I checked my watch and much to my surprise discovered that it was almost 4am. Since I only had a couple beers left, I hung out with the late-night crowd until almost 5:00, but finally had to bow to Phil and his friend Phil and head in to bed.

Apparently climbing in and out of the pool in the middle of the night and then sitting around for several hours in a wet swim suit drinking beer turned out to be not the best of ideas. After leaving Chapel Hill, my wife and I went to Virginia Beach for a few days for what was supposed to be a romantic anniversary trip. Once there though, I soon found myself with a fever and feeling like death warmed over. I managed to walk the boardwalk a few times, and even went out for an evening on the town (which turned out to be a big mistake), but I just kept feeling worse and worse.

When we got home, my wife insisted that I finally go see a doctor, and what I had assumed was just a bad cold or possibly the flu, he diagnosed as a serious ear infection. After missing a couple days of work and taking a week's worth of antibiotics, I finally killed off the infection, fever and eventually the incessant coughing. But I still can't hear out of my left ear very well, which is a real nuisance since I have all these shiny new CDs to listen to.

Hopefully I'll eventually get back to 100% health and be able to give all the CDs I bought a good listen. My total ProgDay purchases ended up being 18 CDs and two DVDs, in addition to all my audience recordings and a few more CDs I bought at an Orion Studios show this weekend. Once I've digested all that music, I'll try to come back and update this page with some CD reviews. Until then, I'm looking forward to ProgDay 2015, which looks like a go - at the end of Alex Carpani's set, Michael Bennett bid farewell to the crowd and then said "I hope to see you again next year - I mean, I hope you'll be here, because we DEFINITELY will!"