Progtoberfest IV Is Coming!

Reggie’s Rock Club and Music Joint has officially announced the line-up for Progtoberfest IV.  Sponsored by InsideOut Music, the festival will be held on the south side of Chicago Friday through Sunday, October 19-21.  Tickets go on sale Friday, June 1 Tuesday, June 5 at 12 noon CST at Ticketfly.  Here’s the line-up, with event and band links included wherever possible:

Friday, October 19 – Reggie’s Rock Club:


Friday, October 19 — Reggie’s Music Joint:

  • The Nick D’Virgilio Project (Fort Wayne, IN — jazz-rock fusion with colleagues from Sweetwater Studios)
  • Tempano (Venezuela)
  • Inner Ear Brigade (San Francisco, CA)
  • No More Pain (Old Bridge, NJ)


Saturday, October 20 — Reggie’s Rock Club:


Saturday. October 20 — Reggie’s Music Joint:


Sunday, October 21 — Reggie’s Rock Club:


Sunday, October 21 — Reggie’s Music Joint:


Ticket prices are as follows:

  • Single day general admission (standing room in Rock Club):$75
  • Single day general admission VIP (including poster, BBQ buffet and meet & greets): $100
  • Three day general admission: $175
  • Three day general admission VIP: $240
  • Three day Above Stage VIP: $275 (general admission seating in Rock Club balcony; my choice for Progtoberfest III)
  • Three day Seated VIP: $325 (reserved seats up front on Rock Club main floor)
  • Three day Red Chair VIP: $400 (reserved seats up front in Rock Club balcony)
  • There are additional Ticketfly service fees, but they’re reasonable.

I had a great time at Progtoberfest III last year, and I hope to make it to at least one day of this year’s festival.  This time around, I’m especially impressed by the variety of genres represented (including a generous amount of jazz-rock fusion) and the healthy mix of national/international big names (getting Soft Machine is a genuine coup), local favorites and hungry young artists.  See you there?


soundstreamsunday #108: “Many Mansions” by Sonny Sharrock

sharrock1Sonny Sharrock’s Ask the Ages (1991), with its depth-defying groove and meet-up of ambition and gravitas, is the portrait of a maturing artist hitting his stride.  Sharrock was 51 and riding a creative wave — one foot in the free jazz he brought his guitar to in the 1960s, one in the “collision music” envisioned by musical partner and producer Bill Laswell — when he made this record with a sympathetic band of jazz leaders:  drummer Elvin Jones, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, and bassist Charnett Moffett.  A pleasurably melodic challenge, Sharrock’s last record before his passing in 1994 manages to be both a ripping rock guitar album and an American jazz classic, steeped in themes of race, religion, and identity.

The participation of Jones and Sanders is key to creating this mood, their link to John Coltrane making for that ghost’s heavy presence, but Sharrock’s post-Hendrix tone and attack works a territory not dissimilar to Pete Cosey’s and Reggie Lucas’s contributions to Miles Davis’s live records in the 1970s, or Eddie Hazel’s Funkadelicisms.  There is a lot of satisfying growl here.

The penultimate tune in the set, “Many Mansions” takes John 14:2 across a droning chord sequence, a woozy blues backgrounding Sanders’ shrieking solos and Sharrock’s responses.  The deft touch of Jones and Moffett keeps us wading in the water, moving towards an undertow of deep meditation.  Original album version here as well as an incendiary performance from Frankfurt in 1992.

Powerful, spirited, spiritual.

Note: the image of Pharoah Sanders and Sonny Sharrock is in all likelihood from a Sanders-led tour in the late 1960s, when the two initially collaborated.  It’s just too good an image not to use in description of the music.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

soundstreamsunday #107: “Dada Was Here” by the Soft Machine

softmachine1Given his breadth of tastes, it’s reasonable to think that Jimi Hendrix‘s invitation to the Soft Machine to support him on his tour of the States in 1968 was a calculated act of subversion, upending the guitar god cult and the power trio temple he’d built along with Cream.  The group was an underground darling, the French loved them, and although a rock trio — guitarist Daevid Allen’s departure in 1967 didn’t seem to faze them — they operated on a different kind of wattage, preferring the lower registers of distorto bass (Kevin Ayers, then Hugh Hopper) and organ (Mike Ratledge), beasts that closed in around Robert Wyatt’s peerless drumming.  What lyrics they used tended towards the surreal, either in delivery or meaning, as opposed to the era’s psychedelicisms, and along with their monster chops betrayed the members’ schooling.  They would come to be regarded as the core of the Canterbury Scene, even as they rejected the notion of any such thing, and while key to the development of progressive rock in Britain, their first records, with Wyatt, are diverse affairs defying categorization (hence, doubtless, their influence).  As the band drifted away from jazz experimentation in a rock setting and increasingly towards a watered jazz fusion — its more powerful form they certainly helped to invent — their power diminished.

But for a while, dada was there, and “Dada Was Here,” from 1969’s Volume 2, is an exact explanation of prime Soft Machine, working freely and with a wry, concealed grin.  Sung in Spanish, it is a series of queries with the inevitable answer of i-don’t-know, backed with a breezy post-bop (fuzz) bass, piano, and typical outta-this-world drumming.  There’s a hint of autumn to it, of turning leaves and melting clocks, and in that parallel world where things are as they could be and we appreciate grasp equaling reach, it’s a hit record.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

soundstreamsunday #105: “Light My Fire” by the Doors

doors3The Doors built its finest work around straight-ahead rock’n’roll, adding a whirling, baroque jazz samba momentum from the alchemy of keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore, all schooled in the post-bop cool permeating, by the mid-1960s, the many stripes of a blossoming California pop music scene.  Jim Morrison brought the goods of fame, an impassioned thunderhead vocal whether singing his own lyrics or Krieger’s (the band’s most successful writer), and a hip pin-up beauty boosting the band’s pop darling status.  (There is great irony here, as the New York Factory crowd crowed over Morrison’s veneer — with appropriate Warhol-esque fascination — and Morrison himself did everything he could to make and then deface his pretty boy shell, revealing the rot within, in one of rock’s most infamous stories of self-creation/immolation.)  At the core of Elektra’s push to advance American rock in the wake of the British Invasion, the Doors — along with label mates Love, the Stooges, and the MC5 — subverted from within, using their musicianship and Morrison’s undeniable charisma to chart a course for a freedom in pop music that contained the seeds of both progressive rock and punk.  In this they were like the Velvet Underground, although their east coast analogue never achieved anywhere near the popular impact of the Doors (V.U.’s influence notwithstanding).

Of their six studio albums with Morrison, all of which have their strengths, the self-titled debut is the Doors’ most cohesive LP.  Released in the first days of 1967, it counterpointed the hippie cheer of the Sgt. Pepper era, playing to rock’s shadowy furies and heavily influenced by the day-glo punk creep of Love, a band greatly admired by Morrison and which, although still months away from its masterpiece Forever Changes, had already taken the dive into the seamy pop noir that Los Angeles inspired in those who saw desperation in greater relief the brighter the sun shone.  It was a darkness with extreme definition, fascinating to both Arthur Lee and Jim Morrison, and the Doors came out of the gate startlingly fully formed in concept and execution, with Manzarek’s keys and Krieger’s unusual, flamenco/finger-style guitar conjuring a smooth jazz carnie ride driven by Densmore’s muscular but lithe drumming.  Nothing else sounded remotely close to the Doors, thanks in large part too to producer Paul Rothschild and engineer Bruce Botnick, who used the studio as if they were recording a jazz group, attaining a clean, lively separation absent from the period’s rock recordings.  Chalk this up to Elektra’s genius and artist-first philosophy.

Krieger’s “Light My Fire” was the band’s first great success, although its shortened radio single eviscerates its midsection, which contains one of rock’s great guitar solos and instrumental interplay that made its artists’ statement clear: this wasn’t the Wrecking Crew or session players, but a group intent on pushing limits as a band, as if that in itself meant something.  Even the simple final line — “Try to set the night on fire” — Morrison treats as life or death (to this day few singers can build towards and deliver the final utterance of a song as Morrison could).  More revolutionary for its time than it now might seem — and diminished by Oliver Stone’s clunky telling of its creation — “Light My Fire” and the first Doors record as a whole established the notion of a rock group as artistically independent from its record company, a sea change in American music in the late 1960s.  For all of the attention focused on Jim Morrison’s histrionic deterioration and Ray Manzarek’s eulogizing of the Lizard King, the Doors were a cooperative, artistic effort that continues to influence, and haunt, rock groups that hew the edge.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

Time Has Shown The Wiser: Fairport Convention at Fifty

It came about this way: I received a 180-gram reissue of Genesis’ Trespass for Christmas. In a documentary on the making of the album Tony Banks said the band’s first truly progressive work had been inspired by listening to groups like The Nice, Family, and Fairport Convention.


Fairport Convention? I think I once saw a passing reference to “progressive folk” applied to their work, and was familiar with their definitive album, Liege & Leaf — a statement on their growing affinity with the English folk tradition. While Trespass has some folk-inspired moments it’s anachronistic to say Liege influenced Genesis’ 12-string arrangements and composite chords. I went back to Fairport’s debut, Fairport Convention, recorded in November 1967 (man, something about British bands and fall recording sessions) and released in the spring of ’68.

Oh my.

Continue reading “Time Has Shown The Wiser: Fairport Convention at Fifty”

Bruford: Seems Like a Lifetime Ago, 1977-1980 — A Review

by Rick Krueger

I think it’s fair to say that this 8-disc set is going to be my reissue of the year.  It’s pure delight from first to last, covering three brilliant studio albums, two distinct live sets (one previously unreleased) and a fascinating batch of rough-draft outtakes — all spearheaded by paradigmatic progressive rock drummer Bill Bruford.

Continue reading “Bruford: Seems Like a Lifetime Ago, 1977-1980 — A Review”