CRS Progday
ProgDay 98, September 5th and 6th 1998
Storybook Farm, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

by Jerry Kranitz


ProgDay 98. Year four. This is getting to be a tradition. And it's certainly come to be a favorite weekend of the year for me and my wife. We arrived in Chapel Hill about 2pm Friday, checked into our hotel and crashed for a couple hours. An extra treat was in store as a pre-festival show at the Local 506 near the UNC campus was scheduled that evening featuring Smokin' Granny, Dark Aether Project, and Ozone Quartet.

Smokin' Granny was one of my favorites from ProgDay 97 so I was really pleased to be able to hear them again. Consisting of electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and a wild midi something or other horn, the Grannys play an energetic, often quirky instrumental rock that is like an accessible form of RIO. Volare's Steve Hatch played electric guitar and this provided an edge to the band's sound I didn't hear last year. They said something about having a CD out soon so I'll be waiting with baited breath.

Next up was Dark Aether Project. A stick, guitar, drum lineup theirs was a kind of a Discipline-era Crimson sound. They had a vocalist on several numbers which I didn't really think fit the music, though I might think differently if I sat down and listened to their CD. Instrumentally I enjoyed them. Regrettably, the long drive and several beers brought on an overwhelming case of fatigue. So having seen Ozone Quartet three times before (counting Cloud Nine) we decided to call it a night.

Saturday:

Everyone has heard about Storybook Farm, but for the sake of newcomers to r.m.p. I'll describe it briefly. The festival is held in a huge beautiful meadow surrounded by trees and offers more shades of green than I've ever seen in my life. A bandshell is at the far end and a large covered picnic area offers shelter to those needing to escape the oppressive North Carolina sun. I wish we could camp there!

First up was Crucible from Connecticut. Crucible played a Trick Of The Tail/Wind & Wuthering influenced brand of neo-prog that reminded me a lot of Illuvatar. The crowd really liked them and they certainly play that style well. But I was antsy for the next band Boud Deun.

From Virginia, Boud Deun plays manic, complex instrumental fusion that sometimes strays into the avant garde. Sometimes all the musicians (guitar, bass, violin, and drums) seem be soloing at once making the music wonderfully hectic. I like their recorded work, but they are definitely a band that needs to be experienced live. One of my weekend favorites.

Next up was yet another Connecticut band, Soundscape. For prog metal fans Soundscape must have been a dream. I'm not a huge fan of the genre, but I enjoyed their set. They were all excellent musicians. The band really rocked out and you could tell they enjoyed being there.

The scheduled headliner that evening was the Par Lindh Project, but plane delays caused a rescheduling. A two-man keyboard/drum duo from Pennsylvania called Alaska was next. For only two musicians these guys produced a surprisingly full band sound and the crowd really enjoyed them. Kind of a cross between Kansas and ELP. Following Alaska was veteran ProgDay stage manager Brett Kull... who also happens to have been the guitarist with Echolyn. Brett did a short acoustic set of Echolyn and other tunes. I think he said this was only the second time he'd done this. Having been a HUGE Echolyn fan I was happy to be able to see him perform again.

Mexico's Cast, scheduled earlier, stepped into the Saturday headliner slot and proceeded to play their beautiful, soaring brand of classic progressive rock. There aren't a lot of neo bands I really rave about but I think these guys are great. Celebrating 20 years of playing together the band is a tight ensemble of musicians performing gorgeously crafted music.

Sunday:

The only problem with sitting outside in a large open meadow is you have to put up with the sun. There were twice as many canopy tents as the day before and I wondered if perhaps the local K-Mart got cleaned out that morning.

Opening the show this morning was A Piedi Nudi from Italy. I'd heard a lot about this band and was absolutely blown away by their brand of classic Italian prog with a heavy rockin' edge. ProgDay has featured amazing Italian bands for three years running now and I hope this becomes a tradition because each has been a weekend favorite of mine.

Next up was the ProgDay "house band" Discipline. I hate it when people refer to these guys as neo because that doesn't adequately describe what they are about. Discipline's music is a dark Hammill/Van der Graaf style and centers around Matthew Parmenter's eerie songs. The band played nearly all of last year's Unfolded Like Staircase and two songs I'd not heard before. If you've not heard Discipline you NEED to check them out.

Sweden's Par Lindh Project is sort of like ELP with a great guitar player. Very classically oriented progressive these guys got the ProgDay lawn chair wave ovation. Their own material was very strong and I think I heard Flight Of The Bumblebees, Amazing Grace, and they did ELP's Jerusalem.

The Flower Kings were the ProgDay 98 closing band. Roine Stolt is a good guitar player and the band's music sometimes got downright headbangin'. But once again fatigue and the sun set in and we left a bit before their set was over. My vote for best of the weekend: Boud Deun, A Piedi Nudi, and Discipline, with a serious nod to Par Lindh and Cast.

The big news of the weekend was that 1) for the first time ProgDay broke even instead of being a financial loss for Peter Renfro; and 2) despite discussion about moving the festival next year Peter's opening comments in the Program state that "ProgDay and Storybook Farm are inseparable". Amen Peter. Bring on that damn sun its worth it. (But I really wish we could camp out at Storybook :-) )

 

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