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Prog Happenings

New Beardfish……soon!

Rarely does NOT going on tour ever result in an increase in a band’s popularity. Yet that was exactly the result when Sweden’s Beardfish, a modern mix of Zappa, Genesis, and their own unique flavors, missed out on what would have been their first American run with the latest (perhaps last) incarnation of the Progressive Nation tour back in 2009, due to financial issues with their label.

Apparently simply being temporarily included on the tour line-up was enough to spark the interest of North American fans, who have been anxiously awaiting news of new albums and potential live dates on this side of the Atlantic for years now. The band is certainly prolific enough, having producing five albums since 2003, so it’s not as if new fans have been suffering due to a lack of material to digest. Still, prog fans are a voracious bunch, so it was with great joy that news of the band’s latest album, Mammoth, reached our facebook pages, twitter feeds, and other channels for information late last year. Since then there have been a few juicy leaks here and there, such as some distorted and grainy live performance of two new tracks finding their way onto youtube (you can google them if you like, I personally think it will be worth waiting to hear the cleaner studio versions). The most enticing item however was released when front man Rikard Sjöblom (I dare you to pronounce that) appeared on the International Prog Rock Show to promote both Mammoth as well as his very enjoyable side-project “Gungfly”. The guys over at IPRS were kind enough to upload the edited version of the first track from Mammoth titled “The Platform”, which you can find below:

Note: If anyone can get me a stand-alone cut of the band’s cover of “The Little House I Used to Live In” that they played on this same show, I will love you forever.

Reviews of this album are already starting to pop up around the web on a few blogs (not this one! Unless someone with a promo copy is feeling super cool…*cough*), and they’ve been almost universally positive. Personally, Beardfish has been one of my favorite bands for the past two years, so I can’t wait to get my mitts on this new material. The album is set to land in consumers’ hands at the end of March, so be on the look out for it. If Mammoth is as good as I’m hoping it will be, it will cement Beardfish’s place as a major force in the progressive rock landscape for the foreseeable future.


Who Do I Blame For The End Of The World?

The most frustrating thing Portnoy has had to deal with? Being a Knicks fan.

I was trying to explain the situation to some of my friends today in the chat room we form daily instead of doing our jobs (note to co-workers: just kidding!) It would be like Paul McCartney leaving the Beatles because he was having more fun in Wings. It would be like Peyton Manning and Justin Timberlake leaving football and music so they could promote Panasonic televisions full time. It would be like Hulk Hogan leaving pro wrestling because he was having more fun on the set of Thunder in Paradise.

The departure of Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater has basically shattered the progressive rock world over the past 24 hours. Without trying to cast Portnoy as a villain here, his announcement last night has been received much how I imagine the American public received the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. A large portion of the fan base feels utterly betrayed, and no one, including Portnoy and the remaining members of Dream Theater, seem to know what is going to happen next. For now, the fan base has been scrambled, trying to understand what could have possibly happened to cause the such an unfathomable turn of events. Naturally people are looking for a party to blame, and everyone seems to be a target.

A lot of fans are blaming Avenged Sevenfold, whom Portnoy has been filling in with since the death of their previous drummer. The obvious metaphor, framing A7X as a hot young mistress seducing Portnoy away from his Dream Theater marriage, has been tossed around by more than one pseud- intellectual. I’d suspect playing with A7X influenced Portnoy’s decision, but I also doubt the guys in A7X made a conscious decision to lure Portnoy astray. He’s a well respected drummer who they seemed to look up to, and he was just as honored to help them in their time of need as they were to host him.


Prog Happenings: August 24th, 2010

Prog Happenings will be a semi-regular (don’t look at the date of the last one of these that I did) summary of the various events that have punctuated the prog landscape recently, as well as some of my thoughts on each. Basically they’re the events that don’t justify an entire post, but are still worth talking about. So without further stalling or laziness:

Wilson/Akerfeldt project in the works:

I did not have to make this image. Prog fans have been designing album covers for this project for awhile now...

For about 8 billion months (that’s only 666666666 and 2/3 years), rumors have been popping up about a Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) project. These rumor have been fueled almost entirely by fans coming to a consensus on their dream ‘what if’ scenario, instead of any actual facts or statements by the musicians involved. In fact all three have said at one point or another that the project would be fun, but that there has never really been any plan to make it happen outside of casual banter.

Well this past week Porcupine Tree’s official twitter feed finally broke the ice, kind of sort of maybe. A new Wilson and Akerfeldt project was announced, and fans are already drowning in their own tears of joy. The album will be called ‘Storm Corrosion,’ which provides very few clues as to what the product will sound like. The tweet specifically tells fans ‘not to expect any metal,’ but considering both musician’s vast spectrum of material, disclaimers like this only eliminate 1 option out of 1000.

Mike Portnoy has not been officially linked to the project so far, which in my opinion is fine. Expectations for this kind of record are high enough without his participation, and if he did hop on board I feel as if the prog universe would come to a halt until the album’s release. Speaking of Portnoy…

Avenged Sevenfold’s new album debuts at #1:

How do we know this is a more casual gig? He only brought his 2-bass drum acrylic kit instead of the 3-bass drum acrylic kit

This is only prog-by-association, but it’s still cool. A bit of back story first. Avenged Sevenfold lost their drummer to a drug overdose (there’s still a little bit of controversy about this, but I figured any true rock star would want to die of a drug overdose and not for something as pansy as ‘natural causes’), but they still had an album they wanted to finish recording and then tour with. The band asked Mike Portnoy to step behind the kit for them, which he was humbled and very honored to do. A few months later the album lands on shelves, and to everyone’s surprise it hits #1, knocking Eminem’s overrated album off its perch.

This is basically the most commercial success any progressive rock artist has seen in decades, even if he’s working for another band. Portnoy also didn’t write the parts he’s playing, but at least he’s playing a kit of his own design (i.e. f’ing huge), so there at least a slim chance that A7X’s success will create new Dream Theater and prog fans. Regardless, it’s a fun moment for the prog community and both A7X and Portnoy deserve credit for their achievements.

Robert Fripp, Motivational Speaker:

The court of the Crimson King produces the best results with as little upper management oversight as possible.

Fripp has always been an eccentric character, so there’s not a lot of activities that he could take part in that would shock his fans. He’s also loquacious in his own quirky way, at least when he chooses to be (I’ve always thought he would make great Cheshire Cat in an all-prog Alice in Wonderland. Also, Tony Levin as the walrus). Well apparently his sister feels that the oddly conversational, oddly professorial tone that he takes in every interview I’ve ever seen was worth tapping into.

According to http://robertfrippspeaks.com/ you can now book the Fripp siblings at your next event, and if you’re lucky they may even talk about something having to do with your organization! Seriously, Patricia Fripp has been a motivational speaker for a long time, and I guess she eventually realized, or Robert eventually agreed, that it would be fun and/or profitable for the two of them to team up. I don’t know how much value my organization might get out of having Robert speak at our next gathering, but I do know that I’d enjoy the hell out of it. How many CEOs are King Crimson fans remains to be seen. If the IT guys were in charge though he’d be booked to the point where we’d never get another King Crimson album again.

Rush Parties Like It’s 5770:

I'm blatantly stealing this photoshop job from audioperv.com. I will repent on Rush Kippur.

I know my generation gets a facebook-wide hard-on once a year when Discovery Channel’s shark week comes around, even though 90% of us didn’t give two shits about going to the aquarium when our schools dragged us there as children (and we apparently have 0 memory as well, since there’s barely any new programming each time around). I can accept this though, because prog fans have their own marathon to look forward to every year (ok, so it hasn’t happened every year, shut up).

On September 8th, starting at sundown (ha!), VH1 Classic will be doing their quasi-yearly ‘Rush Hashanah’ marathon. This year’s programming includes the rock doc Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (which I reviewed previously), the record-breaking concert Rush in Rio, the premiere of Classic Albums: Moving Pictures and Classic Albums: 2112 , and an all-rush themed That Metal Show featuring Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. Neil Peart will be performing a 8 minute shofar solo that will be played in lieu of commercials. I’m also sure the following clip will be played 500 times, and I’ll enjoy it every time:

Prog Happenings – November 4th

Prog Happenings will be a semi-regular summary of the various events that have punctuated the prog landscape recently, as well as some of my thoughts on each. Basically they’re the events that don’t justify an entire post, but are still worth talking about. So without further stalling:

Dream Theater Wins ‘Spirit of Prog’ Award at Classic Rock Awards (http://bit.ly/23iZRW)

This past Monday Classic Rock, a UK hard rock magazine, had their yearly Roll of Honor awards, and Dream Theater was presented with the ‘Spirit of Prog’ award. Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman presented the award to band leader and drummer Mike Portnoy and had some very high praise of the group during the presentation.

For all the crap I dish out on Mike Portnoy and Dream Theater on this blog, I’m glad they got this award. Without them prog would probably be a dead genre, and Portnoy in particular has done a lot to promote progressive music in the main stream. I personally wouldn’t have ever become enamored with the genre if it wasn’t for Dream Theater, so I think this award is absolutely deserved by the band. This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop ripping them though.

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer Reform for Performance at High Voltage Festival in the UK(http://bit.ly/4hZq83)

ELP, one of the classic prog rock groups that your average music fan might at least recognize the name of if they were alive during the 70’s, will be reforming for one performance at the new High Voltage Festival being held next July in the UK.

Older prog fans are giddy with excitement over this. Personally I’m going to be interested in seeing how the band has aged. While they didn’t stop making music on their own, the group last performed together in the 1990s. I’m predicting that they won’t be lighting any more cannons on stage, MAYBE one if they’re feeling spry. Seriously, Greg Lake is one of my personal prog bass heroes, so I’m praying there will be a recording of this at some point.

Mars Volta Fire Drummer Thomas Pridgen. Maybe. Kind of. Anyone know if this actually happened?

Rumors are flying all over the web right now about the current status of the Mars Volta and their drummer Thomas Pridgen. A recent show was canceled with fans at the venue being told by security that the band had fired their drummer during sound check. The band and Prigden have been totally silent about the rumors thus far, which only adds to the speculation. Fans are fairly split right now on 1) whether or not this is true, 2) whether or not losing Pridgen would be a good or bad thing, and 3) who should take his place (Zach Hill and former drummer Jon Theodore seem to be the most popular choices).

I personally love Pridgen, so I hope these rumors are just that, rumors. That being said, the Mars Volta’s line-up has always been growing and shrinking on the whims of Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, so I’m preparing myself mentally for this rumor to be true. I’d love to see Theodore back with the group, as he’s a drummer with great energy, great chops, and a unique style behind the kit. However I’m guessing the door between Theodore and the band has been nailed, screwed, and welded shut, so I don’t expect that reunion to happen any time soon. Keeping my eye on this one…

Between the Buried and Me/Cynic/The Devin Townsend Project/Scale the Summit Announce US Tour (http://bit.ly/8IDu0)

Almost as if to prove that progressive rock is starting to flourish in the US again, fans will be able to feast on this prog smorgasbord starting in January of 2010.  BTBAM have seen an absolutely huge growth in their popularity since appearing as a supporting act on last year’s Progressive Nation tour, large enough that they are headlining this tour that contains two other prog heavyweights, Cynic and Devin Townsend.

Cynic is a band no one in the world knows outside of prog historians, as they recorded one integral album in the history of prog before disbanding. Their reunion was something prog fans have been asking for for over a decade, so the fact that they’re serving as a supporting act here is kind of surprising. Devin Townsend is one of progressive rock’s mad scientists (in fact, I think we ONLY have mad scientists). Some consider him to be a more metal, more more balding, more Canadian Frank Zappa. He’s one of the darlings of the prog online community, and living proof of how the internet has impacted the genre. Scale the Summit is another beneficiary of the Progressive Nation tour, having been the opening act on this past year’s US leg. They’re very young but many people see this as being a good thing, and predict many quality albums in their future as the band continues to mature.

A comical, probably unintentional coincidence on this tour is that it features bands with growling vocals (BTBAM), computerized vocals (Cynic), weird-ass vocals (Devin Townsend), and no vocals (Scale the Summit). If you’re the kind of person who’s bothered when the douche bag next to you at a concert is singing louder than the band, you won’t have any problems on this tour.

Umphrey’s Mcgee S2 Shows Walk The Line Between Progressive and Hippie Bullshit (http://bit.ly/2zNYtv)

Progressive jam band Umphrey’s Mcgee has come up with a very…creative concept for some of their shows. Their “Stew Art Series” lets fans suggest themes that the band then uses as inspiration for a totally improvised concert. Fans can use cue cards, text messaging, and other media to suggest themes before and even during the show, and it’s up to the band to them turn these concepts into music.

While I think this is certainly a ‘progressive’ effort, I’m unsure of whether or not this will actually translate into quality music. UM is absolutely the band to undertake this effort, as I think they’re among the best improv jamers on the planet, but this just seems like an exercise in hippie silliness to me. To be fair I’ve only heard the samples from the first show that the band has provided on their blog, so I don’t know what the overall product has sounded like so far. The list of themes I’ve seen fans come up with have also been fairly entertaining, like ‘mudslide on mars’ and ‘Chaka Khan at an Iron Maiden show’.

Cracked Tells You How to Be a Prog Rocker (http://bit.ly/2FYtec)

While I wanted to cover most of this in the second half of my post on Stereotypes in Prog rock, cracked.com has done a great job in poking fun at the genre I love. Check it out if you want a good laugh. Now I just need to figure out how I can write the second half of that post without looking like I blatantly plagiarized from this…

Thank you!

A ton of people have started reading this blog in the past few days, so I just wanted to say thank you to anyone who stops by. Hopefully you like what you see and will keep coming back to read my bullshit.