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Porcupine Tree Posts Round Up

Porcupine Tree was, for a number of years, my favorite new progressive rock band and, as a result, I tried to go see them as much as I could when I was not seeing Yes.  I have posted about them a number of times in this blog and you can find those posts below:

 

 

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Random Concert Ticket Photos

As my readers know, I am a very avid concert goer.  Granted, since I have had children, I have had less time and less money to dedicate to seeing shows, but I still try to get two or three in every year.

For fun, I have already posted some tickets before, which you can find here:

I have also been to a variety of shows that really do not fit into any categories and I have posted a sort of grab bag of tickets below for various and miscellaneous shows.

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  • Asia (a program from this show can be found here and a review here)

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Program From October 7, 2006 Porcupine Tree Concert

This post is part of my series of posts on progressive rock which you can see here.

On October 7, 2006 I saw the progressive rock band Porcupine Tree during their tour in support of the Deadwing album at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PAProjeKCt Six (the Robert Fripp (on electric guitar) and Adrian Belew (on electronic drums) King Crimson duo) opened the show.

The Keswick Theater often produces and distributes an event program at its shows, whether that show is a rock concert, ballet, or comedian or what-have-you, and the October 7, 2006 Porcupine Tree concert was no different.  I have taken photographs of that program and posted them below as fans may enjoy and be interested in what the band authorized for its show.

Enjoy!

 

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Program from 9/12/14 King Crimson Concert

This post is part of my series of posts on progressive rock which you can see here.

On September 12, 2014 I saw the progressive rock band King Crimson during their 2014 tour at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which featured a huge seven piece band with three drummers, two guitarists, a bass player, and a woodwind player.  I reviewed this concert, and that review, along with some pictures of the show, can be seen here.  It was easily one of the greatest concerts I have ever seen.

The Kimmel Center often produces and distributes an event program at its shows, and the September 12, 2014 King Crimson concert was no different.  I have taken photographs of that program and posted them below as fans may enjoy and be interested in what the band authorized for its show.

Enjoy!

 

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9/12/14 King Crimson Concert Review

This post is part of my series of posts on progressive rock which you can see here.

On Friday September 12, 2014 my friend Steve and I went to see King Crimson, that great pillar of progressive rock, live at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I have seen King Crimson or variations of it a few times over the years.  Specifically, I saw King Crimson live in 2003 at the Tower Theater in support of their then new album The Power to Believe.  That concert was amazing, albeit ear piercingly loud, but, as has been Crimson’s practice for many years, the set list consisted of only very recent material (relative to the date of the show) and group improvisation (I would note that, as it relied only on very recent material, the show was disappointingly short too as it was not even 90 minutes in duration).  Other than that, I have seen a Crimson subset (e.g.: a “FraKCtal”), ProjeKCt Six, and Robert Fripp as a solo performer, each open for Porcupine Tree at different times.  Of course, relatedly, I have seen Tony Levin live a few times in other contexts, namely with Liquid Tension Experiment, California Guitar Trio, and his own band.

Although I am an enormous King Crimson fan (they are in my top three with Yes at number one and (old) Genesis vying with Crimson for number two), I have not made a point to see them a lot mainly because, as I stated above, their practice has been to generally ignore older material in favor of the album or two immediately prior to the concert being played.  As much as I like new Crimson material, it is the old stuff that broke ground, made legions of devoted followers, and made me a fan, and it is that material I want to see and hear live.

When I heard that King Crimson was to go on the road with three drummers/percussionists, I thought that was interesting but not enough to go see them live as they have had two drummers/percussionists many times before (e.g.: 1972/’73, 1994/’95/’96, and 2007-present) and a third drummer did not seem to tip me in favor of paying the price of admission, especially if they would just play newer stuff.  Then I heard that venerable woodwind player Mel Collins would be rejoining the band.  Collins played with the band on their second, third, and fourth albums (1970 – 71), the classic Red, as well as their most recent offering A Scarcity of Miracles.  Now, the addition of Collins is interesting because, by and large, King Crimson has left the material of the early 1970s behind and I hoped that his presence in the band would inspire Fripp to mine King Crimson’s very rich back catalog.  Indeed, aside from a couple of tracks on Red, King Crimson has not had a woodwind player since 1971!  So, needless to say, adding one again in 2014 sent a clear message to me as to what the band’s intentions were for this tour.  Subsequent internet rumors confirmed that Crimson would be playing a generous swath of old material on this tour that has basically gone unplayed for four decades, so that sealed it for me: between the three drummers, Collins, and the material to be played, I now had to go see this show!  Indeed, I am happy to say that at this show, King Crimson played material from all eras of their history except the 1980’s and their lone album of the 1990’s (Thrak), which is fine by me as that material is my least favorite anyway (save for their latest album).  To make this happen, Crimson also featured players from all throughout their history and a new guy (Bill Rieflin) to boot!  As of this writing I am thirty-seven years old and I never thought I would ever hear some of this material played live by King Crimson and for that I will always be thankful I had the opportunity to see this show!

The venue was absolutely beautiful.  It usually is the theater for the Philadelphia Orchestra but I guess they also allow other artists to use it as well.  It is large with interesting curved walls, is made almost entirely of nice wood, and has a large pipe organ in the back wall.  A great setting for a great band.

As you will see below, after some basic information I will give an overview of the show, make comments on some individual pieces, and post some photographs of the show.

The band fielded the following line-up for this show:

Set List (the albums from which the songs are drawn are in parenthesis):

The only word I can think of for this show is “face-melting.”  This was one of the best concerts I have ever seen, bar none.  It was amazingly tight, intense, and relentless.  I thought the three drummers might create a noisy cacophony that would overtake the rest of the band, but thankfully that turned out not to be the case.  There were times when the drums became a little strong, but they never crossed the line and were generally tasteful and well arranged.  They did, however, take an already intense band to a level they had not yet achieved before.  There was clearly a pecking order among the drummers.  As one may expect, they tried a lot of different variations, but, generally speaking, Harrison was the “lead” drummer with Mastelotto supporting him and Rieflin providing a lot of color.  Rieflin also doubled as a keyboard player, especially for the older stuff.  I think the very expanded line up and multi-instrumentalists allowed the band to really flesh out their sound and capture many of the overdubs found on the albums.  Collins’ role was interesting.  Obviously he played the role he carved for himself on the pieces he played on originally.  When it came to the other material on which there was not originally a woodwind instrument in the music, Collins would often play in place of David Crossviolin or viola (King Crimson featured a violin and viola in its middle-1970’s period) or harmonize with the guitars or improvise a solo or melody over the rhythm created by the band (e.g.: during “Red” he would play a saxophone over some of it).  Although Fripp seems like an imposing and inflexible figure, I have to say that he is surprisingly (to me) an extremely unselfish lead guitar player.  He very often allowed Jakszyk to play his own lead parts (or shared them with him) or solos and, when Collins did not, Fripp would duplicate some of Cross’ violin/viola parts on his guitar.  I have to say that one of the best parts about seeing a concert, especially of a talented band playing challenging music, is seeing how the band can “pull it off,” and this show, with its three drummers and woodwind player to boot, was no exception!  The only thing missing from this show that has always been a feature of a King Crimson concert was improvisation.  There was no group improvisation, as has been so typical of Crimson for decades and even many of the solos did not vary much from the albums at times.

As usual, Fripp entered the stage from the opposite side from rest of the band.  Once he got situated on his stool and behind his wall of electronics, the show began in earnest.  They all wore some variation on a three piece suit.  The stage presentation was interesting: all the drummers lined up front while the other four stood on risers behind the drummers.  There was virtually no stage presence or visual show at all.  The stage was brightly lit and equally lit on all parts of it.  There were no spotlights or changing light colors or any sort of visual element to the lights at all.  It was lit just as the orchestra would be lit, for the utilitarian purpose of allowing the band to see one another and allowing the audience to see them.  Also, the band did not appear to have any amplifiers of their own on stage.  They used the venue’s public address system to play their music.  I am not sure if the lights and sound set ups as described above were due to the venue’s rules or the band’s choice, but neither adversely affected the music.  Consistent with having very little stage presence, all players stood in their place (or sat in the case of Fripp) rather stoically and played their music, and rarely engaged personally with the audience.  Indeed, as common for him, Fripp sat facing the band instead of the audience. Their lack of audience engagement even extended to them not having any inter-song banter.  They just began their show, played one song after another, and finished.  In fact, as my friend Steve noticed, they never (at least not as we noticed) even counted off the tempo to begin a piece of music.  Each piece began as if the band were of one mind.

The sound mix was challenging with the three drummers pounding away.  I can say that only on a couple of occasions did the sound get a little muddy which, unfortunately, almost always caused Collins’ saxophone to get lost in the mix.  In saying that, I have been to enough concerts to know that a good mix for my section of the theater is not necessarily good for another, and vice versa, so one cannot be too critical of the mix.  I do have to say that Levin’s playing very often got buried by the two guitars and the woodwinds.  Granted, he is the bass player and is supposed to lay down the bottom, but I would have liked to hear him a little better throughout the show.  Luckily, the band was tasteful in that the seven players did not all insist on playing something at all times if the music did not warrant it.  Interestingly, I have been to many many many concerts and this is one of the only shows I can think of where no one in the band ever gestured to one another or to a sound man off stage to adjust his volume levels.  I am not exaggerating when I say that they all entered the stage, played their songs one after another without fanfare, and then concluded.  The only light moments were, on occasion, between some of the songs where they would play goofy and spliced clips of interviews with the band and a sometimes inarticulate interviewer.

Some of the songs had some interesting highlights which I note below:

  • Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part 1

As much as I looked forward to this show, I was a little skeptical as to how they would pull it off, and opening with this piece is a bold statement.  After the drummers played the tuned percussion opening and Fripp’s guitar played Cross’ violin part to introduce the piece, all of my concerns washed away when Jakszyk played the opening guitar line (which was originally played by Fripp on the album) in literally (to my ears) the exactly same tone and sound as the album.  I knew then this was the real deal and this was going to be a fantastic show.  This piece was as it should be: complex percussion, loud and crunchy riffs, and a foreboding quiet sections (where Collins’ flute replaced Cross’ violin).

  • Pictures of a City

I was surprised to have heard this piece as it has not been played since 1970!  This is the first song off their second album and when this was played I knew the band was going to be going deep into the back catalog!  Unfortunately, Collins’ saxophone was little buried in the mix at times.  Jakszyk’s voice was not quite as clear, pure and choir boy like as Greg Lake‘s voice (who originally sung on this song and is my favorite singer) but it got the job done.

  • The ConstruKction of Light

Collins played a saxophone over some of the more complex guitar lines which was an interesting addition.  On the album, this track segues seamlessly into a second part of this song (tracked separately) which includes vocals in order to conclude it.  At this concert, however, the band elected to conclude it differently by merely allowing the music to gradually slow into a gentle pastoral section led by flute, in a way very similar to how the Genesis song “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” concludes.

  • One More Red Nightmare

This is one of my favorite Crimson songs.  Collins was really able to wail away during the instrumental sections.  Interestingly, between each main guitar riff, each drummer took his turn playing the drum breaks.  Jakszyk tried his voice on this John Wetton (the original singer of this song) tune, but, like his attempt to sing Lake’s material, his voice just is not quite right.  This time, Wetton’s voice is a little too soulful and harsh for Jakszyk to duplicate effectively.  As expected, this piece was loud and intense and aggressive.  Fantastic.

  • HooDoo (new for this show)

This was a mellow, quiet, and pastoral instrumental piece for electric upright bass and two flutes.  Jakszyk unexpectedly played the second flute.  This piece was composed for the tour.

  • Red

As expected, this piece was aggressive and meaty.  Levin played his electric upright bass during the quieter parts which effectively reproduced the bass cello played by Mark Charig on the original recording.  Moreover, at times Collins improvised a saxophone solo over the rhythmic parts to this piece.  The three sets of drums added an interesting dimension to this piece by making it somewhat march like.

  • Sailor’s Tale and The Letters

I was so surprised to see these tracks from the very obscure and mostly ignored album Islands.  What a delightful surprise!  The enlarged band line up was able to fully play all of the parts on the album and really flesh out the sound; the keyboards and Levin’s electric upright bass did well to capture the music as found on the album.  The cymbal work by the three drummers was very tastefully done; at one point they were playing light taps in sequence one after the other.  Jakszyk, now reproducing  Boz Burrell‘s voice, did a really good job presenting his vocal parts.  He really captured the tone and sound of Burrell’s voice.

  • Level Five

This is another song where Collins, having no role when the song was recorded, took the opportunity to play some improvised saxophone lines over some rhythmic parts.

  • Hell Bells

This was a drum trio piece written for this tour.

  • The Talking Drum

This is one of my favorite Crimson pieces, and the three drummers really took it to the next level.  I just wish Levin’s bass was not so buried in the mix on this.  Collins and Jakszyk added interesting dimensions as well, sometimes covering Cross’ parts and sometimes not.

  • Starless

What a classic King Crimson piece; some consider it the best ever.  I have seen this track played live once before by the band U.K. which features John Wetton who sung on this song originally with Crimson.  King Crimson played this song live before it was recorded for the Red album (as can be heard on The Great Deceiver) and the band used a violin in the piece and no woodwinds.  When it was eventually recorded on Red, Cross and his violin were out and Collins and his saxophone was in, as that is as it was in at this concert as well.  I am not sure which performance I liked better.  U.K. had Wetton’s soulful voice and authentic bass playing along with Eddie Jobson‘s amazing keyboard and violin playing.  At this show, Fripp played the mournful guitar lines as only he can play them, Rieflin played the keyboard lines, and Collins played the saxophone parts he recorded forty-years ago.  All I can say is that this piece of music is simply amazing and this concert was no exception.

  • Encore: Hell-Hounds of Krim

This was another drum trio piece written for this tour, this time very reminiscent of “B’Boom” from Thrak (which was originally a drum duo piece).  

  • Encore: Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man

The band closed with the very first song from their very first album which, as it happens, may be their most famous.  The blasting saxophones and searing guitar were vintage Crimson excitement.  Levin’s bass was buried again, but it did not really matter.  Although the band played it a little slower than the album, the fast runs and abrupt starts and stops were impressive nonetheless.

And now for some photographs!

Tony Levin takes photos from his perspective of the show and blogs about his concerts, and this one was no different.  You can find his blog entry on this show here.  In the photos from the stage that Levin took, you can see me five people to the right of the big guy in the red shirt on the third balcony; below is a photo from Levin’s page and you can barely see my head.

Finally, Steve and I took some photos at the show as well and they are posted below.  Steve took the first two and I took the rest and Levin’s photo is posted last.

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Progressing Toward the Avant-Garde: A Definition of Progressive Rock

Fifteen years ago (May 1999) I graduated from Penn State University as a member of the Honors Program.  In order to graduate from the Honors Program I had to write a thesis that was out of my discipline.  My discipline, and what I eventually secured a bachelors of science degree in, was Public Policy.

Prior to my senior year in college, when I wrote my Honors Program thesis, I spent the better part of a year wracking my brain as to what I could possibly research and write about that was out of my discipline and remotely feasible for me to do.  What other discipline could I possibly write about in a credible fashion without having to, more or less, go to college for it?

Ironically, what I did not realize until the summer between my junior and senior years, was that the sounds flowing into my ears nearly twenty-four hours a day since 1991, which also occupied many hours of life in books and in person, would become the subject for my thesis.  As I sat in my bedroom, with my stereo near constantly blaring music from the band Yes, or other progressive rock bands, it suddenly hit me that my thesis subject was there the whole time: I would write about the band Yes (for those who do not know, I am an enormous Yes fanatic).  After spending some time researching and developing ideas, I expanded from writing about Yes to writing about the genre of music Yes plays, which is progressive rock.

I was lucky to have written this thesis when I did.  Progressive rock, which got its start around 1967, saw its heyday around 1971 – 1977 (peaking around 1974) when it was a huge concert draw and selling millions of records. The late seventies saw punk knock progressive rock down a peg and the eighties pop revolution (thanks, in part, to Michael Jackson) saw progressive rock nearly disappear (most bands folded) or change form to what we now call “arena” rock (or “AOR”) which includes bands like Styx and Journey and such.  As a result, the 1980s and at least the first half of the 1990s reduced progressive rock bands to either extinction, change in form (e.g.: Yes and Genesis became pop bands), and/or nostalgia acts.  Yet, strangely enough, perhaps because enough time had passed, the late 1990s saw a renewed interest in progressive rock that lasted over a decade thereafter, which, as a result, saw the come back of many progressive rock bands, the formation of new progressive rock bands, the popping up of progressive rock festivals up across the US, and the production of many books, articles, and interviews about/with progressive rock and its history, music, bands, and musicians.  So, needless to say, in 1999 I unexpectedly had access to this resurgence and the new wealth of material produced therefrom in order to flesh out my thesis.

Unfortunately, while progressive rock did make a come back, it was not the comeback that was hoped for that would raise the genre back into the top of the charts and cultural influence and relevance.  In saying that, from a personal point of view, I relished the resurgence regardless of its modesty as it has allowed me, as a fan, to do what I never thought would happen: see in concert many bands long broken up and have access to new music produced by old and new bands alike.

Progressive rock, as one may gather from clicking the link above, is not an easy category of music to describe by any means.  As progressive rock fans all tend to have their own spin on what the genre is and what is consists of, I thought I would take a stab at it myself.  So, I went ahead and listened to my entire music collection (which is included in the discography appended to my thesis) and did fairly deep research into music, music theory, music history, and music influences, and developed, I think, a fairly credible thesis.  As the Honors Program at Penn State included some additional funding to students to help advance the writing of the thesis, I was also able to enhance my music collection with a wide variety of CDs from a lot of diverse and obscure artists.

Looking back at my thesis, fifteen years hence, I realize that my writing is not as sophisticated, mature, and/or polished as it may be now; and, I am sure fifteen years from now I will look back at my writing today and think the same thing.  So, if you decide to read my thesis, please offer a little grace to my twenty-two year old self who wrote it.  This thesis was my first foray into extensive research and very long form writing, so I am sure it could be vastly improved upon today.

So, if you are interested and/or are a progressive rock fan of some sort, I have taken the time to scan and post my thesis below in six parts (it is quite long with a fair amount of photographs, references, and discography) to read.  I am glad to have this blog in which to post my thesis as, before today, it existed exclusively as my own hardcopy at home.  I am glad I am able to convert it to a digital form in order to preserve it longer than my hardcopy may survive.

Thanks and happy reading; here is my Penn State Honors Program senior Thesis: Progressing Toward the Avant-Garde: A Definition of Progressive Rock

progressing toward the avant garde – part 1

progressing toward the avant garde – part 2

progressing toward the avant garde – part 3

progressing toward the avant garde – part 4

progressing toward the avant garde – part 5

progressing toward the avant garde – part 6

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