Panoramic view of ProgDay stitched together with my Canon SD850IS & software. Best viewed in Large.
Friday morning we got on the road a smidge late due to sleeping issues, but we didn't HAVE to go at 10am, it's just that I wanted plenty of time to take detours and look at every little thing. I had borrowed zarobi's GPS for the trip and it was just wonderful! It couldn't handle taking the trip off highways until we crossed the MD/VA border (33 hours? I don't think so) but once it did it took us down 29/15/501 through Charlottesville. This was slightly less delightful than I'd hoped it would be, but we did get to stop in at one Antique Mall and find a few weird finds. I also noticed that as you head south, more and more retail operations of my childhood memory pop up, such as Roses & the Golden Skillet. There was some delight in the fact that for a certain percentage of the trip in NC, there were more cute tiny derelict houses than you could shake a stick at. Unfortunately, by the time we were near them the light was bad for picture-taking and there's really no shoulder to pull onto to take pictures. Disappointing.
We arrived at the Comfort Inn around 8pm or so and immediately kicked up our heels and enjoyed some CABLE, because well, it's not something we normally get to see! We ventured out just long enough to sate our road hunger with some greasy food at Bob Evans before returning to the hotel to work on polishing off season 3 of Grey's Anatomy. Come to find out in hidsight: prog people hang out around the POOL in the evenings. OH. I didn't even know there WAS a pool, so I was a bit bummed to find out that's where all the partying had happened. Oh well. Next year!
Saturday morning came quickly, and I had not had enough sleep! But knowing I could snore under my tent if necessary I pushed Jack around and was generally a nuisance and got us there by about 10:30 (supposed ProgDay start time being 10:00) where we found that, of course, the early bird gets the good tent spot. I was not too worried about this because a) being further away meant Jack could pleasantly read and more easily ignore the prog bands he didn't care about and b) the venue being what it is, if you are truly enthusiastic you can trot up front any time you want to see the band up close and personal. So we set about making camp and after a few lessons about tent stakes and the loan of a hammer from our neighbor were good to go.
Saturday Band Reviews:
Oblivion Sun: They had already started when we arrived, but were a perfect band for setting the mood. They put out a sound that I would consider quintessentially "prog" in the traditional genre sense of the word, and it's not big surprise with members from older, more famous prog outfits. That said, I didn't really absorb their music or there were not hooks that were really grabbing me, although I was happy to bask in the general wave of prog sound.
Naikaku: All the way from Japan! One of the younger and more aggressive bands of the weekend. One big turn-off for me was the lack of vox, but I will say that the instrumentals were the precise and accomplished performance of a much more mature band. Come to find out they actually have a keyboard player but he couldn't make it so their sound was a bit stripped down. I'd probably have enjoyed the set more with keys! Either way it was powerful and clearly a fave of the audience.
Frogg Cafe: This band indulges in something I call "noodle rock" during which you can't necessarily tell if they are improvising or not, but you are leaning towards 'yes, they are'. This, unfortunately, is not my bag. It's probably my own bias against jazz. I zoned out and enjoyed the weather. OH HA! I just looked them up and they actually have an improv album called "Noodles". *sigh* Well, that's why there's 8 bands over the course of the weekend, something for everyone.
Qoph: Started out awesome. I really was hoping for another Beardfish experience here. Then the lead singer got his Jim Morrisson on and I checked out. In and around this there were some neat songs and riffs, and his pants were truly a sight to behold, but in the long run it was just on the side of rock sensibility that is not my bag. Interestingly, the studio tracks I had heard before the trip are awesome, so maybe it was just that the stage presence was distracting me!
Day one was over, and we were beat from the sun. Even with some cover, it's still a tad grueling if you're not used to it - and it was WAY cooler (temp-wise!) than it was last year! We retired to the hotel, enjoyed a steak, and kept to ourselves. I was feeling a bit sad not to feel more a part of the "community" but as noted above, maybe next year, etc. We finished off GA season 3 with a hearty "WHATEVER". I am not discouraged! Surely they will not ruin my favorite character. (ha!)
We arrived on the scene (having left our folded up tent with another kind progger) to realize that hey, most people just left their tents set up all night. We should have done that. Another lesson learned! Us untrusting northerners, sheesh. Just as we got things put to rights, the pleasant sounds of grinding fiddle and rocking drums-and-bass burst forth upon the scene.
Sunday Band Reviews:
Skeletonbreath: YEAH!! Here is another case of a trio making a noise suited to a much larger band. There wasn't a thing missing, to my mind, in this blistering performance. The energy drew you in and held you there - I went and sat up front for the whole (sadly brief) set. To give you an idea of how much they captured everyone's mood that morning, the entire crowd stood for an extended ovation, and after learning that the drummer was new and didn't know the rest of the band's songs, demanded to hear the first song again! Not being a bass aficianado, I normally can't comment on the skill or art of said instrument, but in this case I have to say I was really impressed at the musicality teased from the instrument. To give you an idea, theirs was the only CD I bought. And lucky me - they are a philly/NY band so there's even a chance I could see them again. (I lament that I will never again see live my fave band from last year, due to an ocean in the way.)
Advent: This was obviously the biggest and most anticipated band for many festivalgoers. I really liked the sound they made due to obvious and documented folk and classical roots, but you really couldn't take it in unless you were up close, and I was tired from an hour of LadderGolf in the hot sun, so I relaxed under the tent and didn't get the full brunt. I also think they must have been having monitor issues because the vocal harmonies were tentative. My notes on the band were that I might really enjoy their studio efforts so as to get the best listening to subtleties. However - they got HUGE BONUS POINTS by whipping out a cover of Genesis' "In That Quiet Earth". And, I thought, rather well & effortlessly.
Nemo: Nemo came to ProgDay from France, and had a more subtle and varied approach than many of the other bands. When they opened up, I thought to myself "oof, I do not like the sound coming out of that keyboard". But then as their set went on I found the material more and more interesting and the band seemed to warm up and shake off some jet lag or something. By the end I was pretty enthusiastic and in retrospect, I wish I'd picked up one of their discs for further perusal.
And that is the last band I have to report on, due to the fact that I had heard 3 open for Porcupine Tree (well, admittedly, through the wall of the Ram's Head Live since I was eating dinner) and wasn't really moved. So, being exhausted and sunburned and fretting about my tattoo (you are not supposed to put on sunscreen in the healing period) we packed up and went back, saying adieu to the beautiful, bucolic Storybook Farm for another year. In retrospect, I also kind of regret not sticking around for 3 after reading some writeups of their performance (plus, apparently amazing drum feats were performed). OH WELL. I was crusty and cranky and dirty!
A side note about my tattoo: It was extremely weird to be somewhere where EVERYONE knew what my tattoo was about. And cool. Extremely cool. "You must be a big Genesis fan." HA! Even the prog fans think I'm weird. Next year, I vow to endure to the bitter end. The long walk across the field is always so sad, and I think it will be less sad if I have listened to every single damn band and wrung every last bit of wonderful music and pleasant views out of the experience. I was also a little more social on sunday and met a few people from Progressive Ears who encouraged me to get to RoSfest, which is certainly on my list, but I have missed due to rock camp.
I have tried and failed a few times now to get into words what it is about this particular fest that makes it so calming to my soul - the right people, the right setting, and the right music. I find it hard to imagine anyone would be disappointed in the experience, even if they didn't like the music. It is a great place to just be, and to have the sensory input of expertly played, inventive tunes layers on even more atmosphere.
We got up Monday morning and headed home by way of Richmond, stopping in for a nice long visit with Jack's sisters. One of whom is probably having a baby right... now! So send good birthing & new baby thoughts and vibes in that direction! And since then I've been back in the real life stuff full force and had my first BIO quiz and so on. Weee!