Phish, Radiohead and YES: Live Concerts in Review



With 2018 coming to a close, Spotify users can now review their music history through a feature called 2018 Wrapped. This feature, which has been around for three years now, shows users cool statistics such as one’s number of minutes listened, most streamed songs and, based on one’s top artists and bands, one’s top genre. Although I rarely use Spotify for streaming, Spotify determined that my favorite genre was rock . . . and for good reason. Three of my favorite bands– Phish, Radiohead and YES– are all typically termed as rock bands. Yet, despite their collective grouping under the genre, these bands could not be more different. While listening to these bands alone demonstrates the vast variations which exist within the rock genre, nothing proves this more than experiencing each of these bands live. This year, I set out to do just that. 

I saw YES this summer at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. One of the most acclaimed progressive rock bands ever, YES, in their 50th anniversary tour, continued to demonstrate their greatness. Although no founding members remain in YES (note: there are now two incarnations of YES and each had their own 50th anniversary tour: YES and YES Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, and Rick Wakeman–this article addresses the former), its current members, including long time guitarist Steve Howe and Alan White, continue to evoke the features which led to YES’ distinctive sound–experimentation, harmony, and avant-garde lyrics. This commitment to founding principles made up for the lack-luster lights and atmosphere and resulted in a great show. While most of YES’ music does not quite match my tastes, I still hold tremendous respect for their contributions to music and am glad that I managed to see them live.

I had waited a long time to see Radiohead and this year I finally received the opportunity. I saw them twice this summer: first at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and second at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Each performance was incredible in its own way. In Detroit, Radiohead displayed its incredible versatility, playing both driving, dissonant songs such as “2+2=5,” and softer, intimate songs such as “Fake Plastic Trees.” Their performance, coupled with mesmerizing lights and the incredible atmosphere of the newly renovated arena, made for an unforgettable experience. While some set-list similarities existed in Radiohead’s Cincinnati show, overall, they played a lot of different songs and gave almost an entirely different show. Since the show did not sell out, my brother and I managed to get closer to the stage and that made it all the more memorable. The coolest moment from the Cincinnati show, however, occurred when Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien both gave me a wave before exiting the stage. Radiohead closed out both shows with one of their more widely recognized songs– “Karma Police.” Hearing a stadium full of people sing along to this song was nothing short of magical. It was a moment I hope to never forget.

I saw Phish twice at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL. Although I had seen them live before, I did not truly appreciate the awesomeness of their live sets until this year. Many people label Phish as merely a jam band. While they do jam, they always change the structure and sound of their jams, making their music extremely interesting and fun. One never knows quite what to expect from them because of their vast number of songs and the improvisations made within those songs. Their musicianship always mesmerizes me. Phish also possesses some of the nicest, loyal fans and their concerts always feature incredible light displays. Overall, Phish’s live concerts always guarantee a unique, unforgettable experience (go to one of their live concerts and you will understand what I mean). 

While 2018 gave me some incredible memories, I look forward to 2019 and the new musical adventures that await. Although I love to stream music and follow my favorite bands and artists online, nothing truly compares to the beauty of live concerts. Music, after all, surpasses the boundaries of sound. It represents a spectrum of emotions and these emotions are best shared with other people.

Is Prog Rock Really Progressive?

[Warning: I ramble a lot in this. My third (out of 4) semester of grad school just ended, and I needed to write something about prog.]

What does it really mean for rock music to be progressive? This question has risen in my mind over the last few days as I have been at my job at my university’s archives working on processing some records from the 1970s related to the university’s radio station. There is a lot of talk in the records about the station and many others in Chicago playing progressive rock. I’ve come across lists of the most popular music to play in radio stations across the country, and I was a little surprised to see names like Yes and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer present.

Other documents from the time loosely defined progressive rock as a genre of music that was forward looking. It also appears that there were whole radio stations in Chicago, on both AM and FM bands, dedicated to playing “progressive” rock. Today there are none. Earlier this year, Chicago lost one of it’s two remaining “classic rock” stations, which were known to occasionally play prog such as Rush, Pink Floyd, and even Yes. The “oldies” station (WLS FM) is playing more music from the 70s these days too.

The fact that there were multiple stations whose explicit purpose was playing “progressive” music suggests that the genre was popular. But just how popular was it? If we go by best-selling albums between the years 1969-1979, then we would have to assume that it wasn’t very popular at all. [This analysis would be a lot more fair if I delved deeper into the charts and looked at top 40 from that time span too, but stick with me anyways.] In that time frame, over 140 different albums topped the charts. Of that number, only 9.5% of them could be called “progressive” rock. That’s only 14 albums, which I shall list in chronological order: Continue reading “Is Prog Rock Really Progressive?”

Premiere: International Prog Rock Outfit UMAE Premiere “Drift” Single

UMÆ - Drift

International progressive rock outfit UMÆ have previously launched two singles via PROG Magazine and Prog-Sphere.com, and coming today exclusively via Progarchy is the third single from the upcoming full-length debut “Lost in the View.” A new single titled “Drift” can be streamed below.

Vocalist and guitarist Anthony Cliplef, guitarist and backing vocalist Guðjón Sveinsson, and drummer Samy-George Salib have gathered a line-up of guest musicians for the debut album, with singer John Wesley (solo, Porcupine Tree), guitarist Eric Gillette (Neal Morse Band, Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress), keyboardist Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson, Miles Davis), and bassist Conner Green (Haken) being the most prominent names. 

About “Drift,” Anthony Cliplef commented: “I wrote the outro section years ago, on guitar. The outro and the rest of the song remained as two separate pieces for a long time, until I coincidentally played them back-to-back. From there, this became the seed of another track which Guðjón and I would collaborate on. I had lyrics for the outro, which were never used, however, the melody was still viable. We ended up putting in an ebow line using that very melody I had in mind, which G’s string arrangement would echo towards the end. In this track, Conner returns on bass, with an inspired bass line, brilliantly reflecting some of the vocal melody in the verses, and bolstering the building power of the outro. Jamison Smeltz, lays down an amazing sax solo towards the end, backed by a powerful string arrangement and rising tension on all instruments.

Guðjón Sveinsson adds: “Compared to the previous singles, this track displays more of the melancholic feel that is strewn around the album. Building up from stripped down verses to a grand ending, it gives off a range of related, yet distinct emotions.

“Lost in the View” is to be launched on January 3rd. Stream “Drift” below, and visit UMÆ’s official website for more information. Follow the band on Facebook and Instagram.

UMÆ_BandphotoCropped

Dream Theater Announce “Distance Over Time” Album, 2019 North American Tour

dtdot

I’m interrupting a summer (now gone) of digging deep into the recently-released Dave Matthews Band album, the two excellent Southern Empire albums (do pick them up), and my autumnal tradition of listening to all that is Big Big Train to report what’s been making the rounds on this midterm Election Day in America: Prog metal kings Dream Theater have announced a new album, “Distance Over Time,” which will be released 22 February, 2019.

The band will then hit the road for a North American tour starting in March, and while concertgoers will no doubt be treated to newly-released material from “DoT” (or, as a nod to Rush, should it be “d/t?”), the highlight of the tour will no doubt be the news of the band celebrating 20 years of their landmark album, “Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory.”

A short teaser from the forthcoming album, which was produced by guitarist John Petrucci and with sweet artwork by Hugh Syme, can be heard here:

Here are the “Distance Over Time” tour dates for America and Canada. The band also plans to follow the U.S. dates with a show in Mexico City in early May.

March 2019
20 – San Diego, CA
21 – Los Angeles, CA
22 – Los Angeles, CA
24 – San Francisco, CA
26 – Denver, CO
28 – St. Paul, MN
29 – Chicago, IL
31 – Milwaukee, WI

April 2019
2 – Detroit, MI
4 – Toronto, Ont.
5 – Montreal, Que.
6 – Quebec City, Que.
8 – Boston, MA
9 – Oakdale, CT
10 – Red Bank, NJ
12 – New York, NY
13 – Upper Darby, PA
15 – Washington, D.C.
17 – Nashville, TN
22 – Charlotte, NC
23 – Atlanta, GA
24 – Orlando, FL
26 – St. Petersburg, FL
27 – Jacksonville, FL
29 – Dallas, TX
30 – Houston, TX

May 2019
1 – Austin, TX

While I initially gave a solid review of their previous release, “The Astonishing,” I’ve since given it few listens when compared to the albums that came before it, especially the song-oriented releases (rather than concept albums). I don’t know that any information about the tracks on “Distance Over Time” has been made public, but I’m fairly certain that given the scope of “The Astonishing,” DT would likely return to a song-oriented effort on the next one, so I’m very much looking forward to hearing what’s next from the gang.

Interview with UMÆ

UMÆ_BandphotoCropped

Now here is an interesting and promising new Prog band. UMÆ is an internation trio featuring guitarist Guðjón Sveinsson, singer/guitarist Anthony Cliplef, and drummer Samy George-Salib. The band has recently launched a debut single “Turn Back Time” via Prog Magazine which features guest contributions by John Wesley (Porcuine Tree) and Haken bassist Conner Green. Their debut album “Lost in the View” is out in December, and beside mentioned gentlemen it also features Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson, Miles Davis) and Eric Gillette (Neal Morse Band). 

Read an interview with Anthony and Guðjón below.

Hello! Thanks for responding to this interview. How have you guys been lately?

G: We’ve been great thank you! Excited for the release, and hard at work preparing for it.

How might you introduce yourselves to new potential listeners?

A: UMÆ is an experience; emotional; meaningful; energetic; somber; melancholic. We are all over the board, but I swear it is cohesive. [laughs]

What inspired the name of the band — UMÆ?

A: Guðjón and I were spitballing a lot of ideas during the demoing phase, some more jokingly than others, but we settled on this one, which uses Icelandic characters, but doesn’t mean anything in Icelandic. I like the idea of a word that isn’t already defined. It gives us the opportunity to define it by the music and artwork we create and associate with it.

How did UMÆ initially form as a creative unit?

A: Well, I went on a trip to a prog festival, where I ended up meeting and playing music with Guðjón, Samy, and many other people. We all had similar interests in music, and we all enjoyed sharing the stage together.

After I returned home from the trip, I was inspired by the jamming, so I decided to contact Guðjón about possibly collaborating on some music. I sent some rough demos, he shared some examples of his own, we shared bands with each other. From there, we laid out plans for me to travel across the ocean to Iceland and start writing. Very soon we sent demos over to Samy and convinced him to commit to the project.

Lost in the View album art

You are about to release a debut album titled “Lost in the View.” Where did the inspiration for it come from and how did you go about the whole process of writing and recording it?

G: In essence it just comes down to our love of music, and willingness to create. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific inspiration for the exact music featured on the album. Some of it was written well before we started working on it together, as far back as 10 years, which was the case for the already-released single “Turn Back Time”. The lyrical concept came as a sort of reaction to the music, and we soon found ourselves writing around that concept.

Over the 6 initial weeks that Anth spent in Iceland, we recorded and arranged demos for the whole album. We started in my living room; plugged in a guitar and played whatever was on our minds. In about three weeks we already had the basis to all the songs. The remaining three weeks were spent arranging the song structures, filling in blanks and sculpting the general vision for the sound of the record. Some of these early demo recordings even made it into the final product. We focused on retaining the initial feeling we got from each and every part, and enhancing it further with the arrangements, and later on lyrics.

The recording process took place literally over the world. We recorded drums with Samy in Toronto over an intense 3 day session. Over the course of a year, we’ve built the layers on top of these bed tracks, with recording taking place in 4 locations in Iceland, 5 different home studios in the US, and more recently, in Sweden. We’ve been tweaking and adding stuff along the way down to these very last days.

UMÆ is a trio in its core but the upcoming full-length release features quite a number of guest musicians, including John Wesley (Porcupine Tree), Conner Green (Haken), Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson) and Eric Gillette (Neal Morse Band). How did the collaboration with each of them come about? How much did they actually contribute in the writing phase?

G: Once the music started coming together, we soon started looking at people that we thought would be a good fit for various parts of the album. We had a good feeling about the music, and decided to aim high from the get-go.

Fairly early in the process we reached out to Conner, who was up for the task, and eventually played on most of the album. At that time all the foundations to the songs were already laid out on guitar and drums, along with some of the main melodies. We left it up to him to interpret the bass parts, and were really happy with the end results.

On the keyboard front, most of the album features Magnús Jóhann, a brilliant young player from Iceland who we worked closely with. On two of the heavier songs however, we wanted to try a little different “flavor”, and figured Adam Holzman might be good fit. So we contacted him; thankfully he was up for it and was able to find a time within his touring schedule to record it. Similarly there the songs were already laid out, and we presented our rough idea of the sounds we were going for. His take on it ended up being just right.

We wrote and recorded all the vocals initially, but didn’t feel our voices were the right fit for certain songs. Samy had encountered John Wesley around the time we were exploring options for these songs, and presented the idea of his involvement. He was up for giving it a shot, and when we heard his take on “Turn Back Time” we were immediately sold.

On one of the tracks we entertained the idea of having a guest solo spot. Eric Gillette responded quickly to our inquiry, and before we knew it we had a killer solo in our hands! He’s such an amazing player, and we’re really stoked to have him appear on the track.

What can be expected from the upcoming album? Would you say the released single for “Turn Back Time” is an accurate sample?

G: Yes and no. The track contains some of the main themes from the album, and lyrically is somewhat representative of the concept, but definitely does not cover the wide range of influences we tap into throughout the album. It’s a good start of the journey that gets a nod here and there, but the atmosphere shifts to a bleaker tone as the album progresses.

What’s your songwriting process like?

A: Guðjón kind of touched on that already, but I’ll elaborate a bit. When I compose a piece from beginning to end, like our aforementioned single, I typically work from a melody and or chord idea, and sometimes just a rhythmic idea. I like to use programming software to document the guitar I’ve come up with, then build the other instruments around it. It’s all midi programmed, but it gives me a good sense of what the song could sound like.

When Guðjón and I were co-writing songs, there were many times where he had a riff or two, I had a riff or two, we placed them in order, and basically connected the dots by filling in the middle. Sometimes we had no idea how we were going to make two parts connect, but we managed to pull them together. So that’s a bit of a deeper glimpse into the process.

What are your ultimate hopes for UMÆ as a band?

G: Hopefully we’ll eventually manage to make a living out of making and performing music. Anything beyond that is a bonus really.

I’m kidding, world domination of course.

Do you have any bigger plans for the future?

G: Bigger? For sure, although we can’t really say much at this point, other than that these plans are currently in formation.

The last words are yours.

A: To keep up with UMÆ, our single releases, album release, touring plans, and all other major news, go to https://www.umaeband.com/

Thanks for having us on this interview!

 

Stay in touch with UMÆ by following them on Facebook and Instagram.

RAINBURN’s Vats Iyengar Talks New Album “Insignify”

Rainburn4

Indian prog rockers Rainburn return on November 7th with the release of a new album “Insignify” (read our review here). In an interview for Progarchy, singer and guitarist Vats Iyengar tells us about the meaning behind the band’s name, their working process, new songs, and more.

Hello! Thanks for responding to this interview. How have you guys been lately?

Thank you for hosting us! We’ve been good. Gearing up for the album release, and also starting rehearsals for the tour soon.

How might you introduce yourselves to new potential listeners?

I’d say our music covers a lot of ground and touches upon many different styles without sounding forced or gimmicky. We also have a nice mix of the old and the new, some modern music and some classic influences. If you like emotionally-heavy music that is creative and diverse, you should check us out.

What inspired the name of the band — Rainburn?

We wanted an oxymoron, to suggest that we cover a wide spectrum of music, from soft to heavy, moments of light and darkness – and everything in-between – in our music, so we went with this name. Our drummer, Praveen, came up with the name. It’s a pretty established tradition as far as band names go. Like Black Sabbath, for example.

How did Rainburn initially form as a creative unit?

We had a keyboard player in the beginning and only one guitarist (me). It was actually his idea that we form a band together. We added a bassist and a drummer soon after, played quite a few gigs with that lineup, even recorded a couple of demos. But as we started finding our sound, we decided two guitars worked better.

Insignify

You are about to release a new album titled “Insignify.” Where did the inspiration for it come from and how did you go about the whole process of writing and recording it?

‘Insignify’ has been a two-and-a-half-year labour of love that started as a seed in my head. It took a long time to take shape and form fully but once it did, the music was created very quickly, because the concept was so clear and detailed. I think it’d take a few listens, at least, to fully digest and “get” the album. The record was mixed by Thejus Nair, a brilliant young engineer who operates Eleven Gauge Recordings in Bangalore, our hometown. Mastering was done by Tony Lindgren at Sweden’s Fascination Street Studios, where so much good progressive music comes out of these days.

What can be expected from the upcoming album? Would you say the released singles (“Suicide Note” and “Mirrors”) are accurate samples?

They’re fairly good samplers but as to whether they’re completely representative of the album – not by a long way. Apart from what’s in those songs, we have moments of funk, fusion, a bit of jazz, even a vocal fugue on the record. No two songs really sound alike.

What’s your songwriting process like?

It’s usually me writing and making demos at home that I then present to the band, and they tailor or modify their parts according to their style. But for some stuff, we changed the formula. Like, ‘Someone New’ started with Praveen composing an entire drum track that I then wrote riffs and melodies over. That was a very interesting way to write!

What are your ultimate hopes for Rainburn as a band?

To be an internationally touring band, to make some great records so we can leave a musical legacy behind and – the holy grail – to be able to sustain ourselves, financially, with our music.

Do you have any bigger plans for the future?

Well, we’ll be going on a national tour early next year – our second one. And hope to play some gigs outside India next year as well.

The last words are yours.

To your readers – If you’ve somehow managed to read this far, I hope you’ll check out our album when it’s out (November 7th). Listen to the two singles for a taste, and also to the snippets we’ve been posting on our Facebook page of various songs from the record.

To Progarchy – thank you for supporting our music.

For more info visit Rainburn.com, and follow the band on Facebook and Instagram.