Monday, August 17, 2009

A Tale of Two (or Nine) Concerts - Part II

OK, we're back. So, where was I? Oh yeah . . .

You'd think that ten bands over two days is all you could handle, but wait, that's not all! To tide us over during the (overly long?) set changes, 3RP provided some additional musical entertainment in one of the tents setup in the parking lot outside.

On Saturday afternoon, the gap filler was Chapman Stick player Rob Martino, who explained how happy he was to play for people without having explain what a Stick was or who Gentle Giant was! It was the first time I've been able to see a Stick get played up close. It really takes a great deal of dexterity and coordination to make the most of the instrument and Rob had it. He played a mix of ethereal, ambient, original numbers as well as some "name that tune" covers (all solo). Great for a relaxing lunch (during which IQ's bassist inquired about the jumbo hot dogs!).

That evening, I almost missed the other act under the tent, a local trio called Skelnik, a group of young kids dedicated to doing things the old fashioned (i.e., analog) way. Their keyboard player, surrounded by a trial of organs and an RMI electric piano (never seen one of those in flesh before) was wailing away on not one but two Arp Odysseys (or those!) when I arrived. Fun stuff, although I only heard the last couple of tunes. There were some other folks doing the tent thing on Sunday, but I missed them.

3RP, Mk. II - The Swag

One of the cool parts of a prog festival is that it's not just about music, it's about commerce! In addition to the bands performing (and several others - caught up with Robert from 3rDegree out under the big top), several vendors set up inside the hall to hock CDs, DVDs, and what have you. Like an addict who stumbled into a crack house, my self control was overwhelmed. I walked away on Saturday night with 21 new albums:

  • Singularity, Of All the Mysteries (2007 USA)
  • Frogg Cafe, Creatures (2003 USA)
  • Mandrake Project, A Miraculous Container, (2009 USA)
  • OSI, Blood (2009 USA)
  • Oblivion Sun, Oblivion Sun (2007 USA)
  • Martin Orford, The Old Road (2008 UK)
  • Steven Wilson, Insurgentes (2009 UK)
  • Caravan, In the Land of Grey and Pink (1971 UK)
  • Agents of Mercy, The Fading Ghosts of Twilight (2009 Sweden)
  • Beardfish, Destined Solitaire (2009 Sweden)
  • Sinkadus, Aurum Nostrum (1997 Sweden)
  • Karmakanic, Who's the Boss in the Factory? (2008 Sweden)
  • Trettioariga Kriget, Elden Av Ar (2004 Sweden)
  • Gazpacho, Tick Tock (2009 Norway)
  • Cabezas de Cera, Cabezas de Cera (2000 Mexico)
  • Deus ex Machina, Imparis (2008 Italy)
  • Morglbl, Gotesk (2007 France)
  • Lazuli, En Avent Doute (2007 France)
  • Wigwam, Being (1974 Finland)
  • Pollen, Pollen (1976 Canada)
  • Present, High Infidelity (2001 Belgium)
Yes, I have a problem, but I think it's extinguished for a while! In my typical anal retentive fashion, I've broken things down into groups to make digestion easier. Look for some special Album of the Day installments next week once I have an idea of what I've got. The only thing I'm sure of right now is that the Present album doesn't sound a damn think like the REO Speedwagon album of the same name!

All in all, it was a great fest and I really enjoyed it. In a perfect world, a more diverse lineup would have been nice and maybe five bands a day is just too much (both NEARFest and ProgDay have four a day). But that's just quibbling. I'll definitely be back next year.

So, eight concerts (essentially) in two days would have been enough for anybody, right? Not quite.

In Which K Endures the Hazards of Love (in more ways than one)

As it happened, the Friday after 3RP, The Decemberists were in Pittsburgh at the lovely and historic Ryham Theater. Although I'll not drag K to a fest full of prog (I love her enough to spare her that!), I can't go to a real concert all by myself, can I? Of course not! So I dragged K downtown after we returned from our trip.

The Decemberists are touring in support of their latest album, The Hazards of Love, a concept album/rock opera released earlier this year. They're doing the whole thing in one lump for the first half of the show. I expect that won't last past this tour (which involves a couple of extra musicians/back up singers), so since I really like the album I wanted to see it live in the flesh. Damn it, I missed Tommy and The Lamb . . . and Brave when they came around - not again!

Never having seen such a thing, live, I have to say it's quite a thing to come out and play an hour's worth of music straight through without a break. No reaching out to the audience and it's asking an awful lot of them, so it takes a great deal of skill to pull off. Luckily, The Decemberists have that talent and the first half of the show rocked. Although K was not as transported as I was, we did have this brief conversation after Shara Worden brought the house down during "The Wanting Comes In Waves":
K: I want to be her.
Me: Why? Because she's the bad guy or because she's got pipes?
K: Both!
So, it wasn't a completely painful experience for her. Nevertheless, I know she was there solely for my benefit and I love her for it.

The second set was quite a bit more "fun", as you might expect. I was honestly a little bummed by the setlist, as they ditched a couple of things they'd been playing regularly for a couple of new tunes. To get some idea, of the two hours worth of pre-Hazards stuff I had on my MP3 player, they played exactly none of it! Still, a minor quibble. You can't really complain when the encore includes a historical reenactment of the defense of Fort Pitt, assuming it was ever attacked by Napoleon (I don't think it was).

Altogether, a fun show in a great venue that was packed. It would, honestly, be a great 3RP venue, if the fest grew a little bit. Until it does, tho', it's back to the Roadhouse!

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