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
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
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
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.
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 :-) )