My Personal ProgFest: Day One

Next weekend, I’m off to Chicago for Progtoberfest III, where I will be able to take in some 39 bands over three days. It will be my first Progtoberfest experience, and I imagine it will be great!

There will be a few familiar names there, like Mike Keneally, Alphonso Johnson, and Thank You, Scientist.  There will also be more than a few acts I’ve never heard. This isn’t a problem. Few things in life excite me more than hearing new music from unknown bands.

That being said, the idea of hosting a three-day Prog festival loaded with old and new favorites set my brain spinning. And while many of my ideas vanish as quickly as they arrive, this thought process festered, and developed into something I just HAD to “organize.”

I’m a big football fan, but I’ve never gotten into “fantasy” football, which involves plucking your favorite players from all 32 teams to form one “perfect” team, and scoring points based on the performance of all those players. I simply don’t have that kind of time on my hands.

While checking out samples from the unfamiliar bands I’ll see next week, I took few minutes to organize my own “fantasy” ProgFest lineup. It didn’t take long to realize my festival could pretty much go on without end. Fun as that may be, I had to draw a line somewhere. So I limited my festival to three days and 24 bands. Eight bands each day should be more than enough. Rest assured, there will be a TON of quality notes played over this weekend.

After much careful thought, I organized my festival. Before I reveal my lineup, I feel the need to emphasize a couple of things:

1. Let us all understand, here and now, that this fantasy festival is just that: FANTASY. For any number of reasons, it would be IMPOSSIBLE to have such an event in the real world. Many of these bands have broken up. Some of the musicians have retired. Still others have passed away. It seems silly to point this out, but I KNOW someone is ready to tell me how this could never happen. I KNOW, OK?!? Thanks.

2. I’m only presenting one day at a time. So if you don’t see your favorite band listed today, please wait until I present the entire lineup. If your favorite act STILL isn’t there after three days, well I’m sorry. This is MY festival. Feel free to organize your own festival. I’d love to read about it.

We good? Cool!

And now without further ado, I present to you Day One of the inaugural CirdecSongs ProgFest!!!

Opening the show will be We Lost the Sea, performing their album Departure Songs. It is one of the most emotional recordings I’ve ever heard, and easily my favorite record of 2015. The album’s second track, “Bogatyri,” still brings tears to my eyes. This is a band highly worthy of your attention.

Up next is Sonar, unleashing a sound reminiscent of the 80’s King Crimson. They are imaginative and innovative, sounding like few other bands around these days. It would be a blast to see them live.

Now coming to the stage is Praxis, performing their amazing album, Transmitation Axis. Is this a prog band in the strictest sense of the word? I don’t know. More importantly, I don’t care! This is a band that must be heard to be believed. Hope you brought your earplugs. Something tells me it might get LOUD.

After picking up the remnants of the stage, we welcome John Wesley. His solo albums will soon become the stuff of legend, as Wesley is one of the more exciting guitarists performing today. Don’t take those earplugs out just yet!

Up next is Sound of Contact. I’ve become a real fan of their album Dimensionaut. Drummer/vocalist Simon Collins (son of Phil) and keyboardist Dave Kerzner are doing a great job of bringing prog even further into the next century.

Just when you thought you could catch your breath, out comes the Adrian Belew Power Trio, performing e. This is easily one of prog’s most underrated albums, and its innovation deserves to be recognized in full.

Now coming to the stage, please give it up for Steven Wilson! Prog’s heir apparent has been blowing minds with his work in Porcupine Tree and countless other bands, but he has truly found his footing fronting his own group. At least half of his set will be dedicated to performing the whole of The Raven That Refused to Sing (and other stories). To be honest, anything else he played would be a bonus. An incredibly awesome bonus!

At any other festival, that would be a great way to end the evening. Not here, my friends! CirdecSongs ProgFest has one more trick up its sleeve before we conclude Day One. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present Frank Zappa, performing the entire album, Lather! While I admit the 1972-74 Zappa bands are my favorites, Lather (pronounced like leather) gives fans and newcomers alike “The Full Zappa.” It’s all here: the jazzy pieces, orchestral compositions, silly novelty songs, a little avant garde, seemingly impossible compositions, and the red hot smoking rock guitar. You are about to attain a doctorate in Musical Genius over the course of this 3-hour set.

Well, that should be more than enough to send you home relatively exhausted. But not to worry: there’s plenty more where that came from! But for now, be sure to visit the merch tables on your way out, and drive home safely. And prepare yourself for Day Two!

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