Lainey Schooltree’s Badass Rebel Prog @schooltree

Check out this great interview with Lainey Schooltree, in which she offers a sociological meditation on the definition of prog:

There’s a range of self-identifying prog fans, from purists extolling classic conventions to those with more expansive, flexible conceptions of the genre; lots of debate flows from that rift, but it generally falls within the expected confines. Like other art forms and fields in the 21st century, one of the things on the table for the ruling class during social change is relevance; the time for inclusivity as a choice is coming to a close as important social movements (Black Lives Matter, Time’s Up) promote wider understanding of the dynamics of privilege. People of color and women comprise many renowned hip artists and influencers. There are certainly people from various backgrounds making music that qualifies as prog. Whether they choose to identify that way, though, will depend on whether it’s desirable to do so. You and I have talked about wanting to see a rebranding of sorts for prog. Personally I’d like to see it framed as the set of musical preferences chosen by badass rebels who subvert consumerist norms by embracing (and ideally pioneering) unconventional complexities across genres. A take on the rock-n-roll spirit, prizing innovation and experimentation. And since it’s almost sorta kinda cool to be a nerd these days, there’s some hope for popularity (or at least reducing the stigma).

Another thought is that we’re moving toward a more fluid use of genre (not unlike other social paradigm shifts happening right now), which contextualizes how musicians identify. “Progressive” is increasingly likely to be applied as part of a set of descriptors than an identity. It’s less a thing you are and more a thing you do. I think that’s ultimately a good thing for culturally decompartmentalising it. Barriers are being broken down, man. It’s an exciting time to be making stuff, for all its challenges

If you somehow haven’t managed to get Heterotopia yet, well, what are you waiting for?

A badass rebel, indeed, one who is pioneering unconventional complexities across genres…

Kruekutt’s 2017 Favorites: New Albums & Videos

by Rick Krueger

After the jump are the new albums and videos from 2017 that grabbed me on first or second listen, then compelled repeated plays.  I’m not gonna rank them except for my Top Favorite, which I’ll save for the very end.  The others are listed alphabetically by artist. (Old school style, that is — last names first where necessary!)  Links to the ones I’ve previously reviewed are embedded in the album titles.

Continue reading “Kruekutt’s 2017 Favorites: New Albums & Videos”

Progtoberfest: Day 1 Report

by Rick Krueger

On Friday, October 20, hundreds of dedicated proggers converged on Chicago from around the country — and even from across the globe.  The location: Reggie’s Rock Club & Music Joint on the Near South Side, only two blocks away from the former Chess Records, the birthplace of great discs by Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones and countless others.

Reggie’s has two main rooms, both dedicated to Progtoberfest this weekend.  The Rock Club is designed for concerts, with a raised stage, a main floor, an upper level mezzanine —and a wire fence decor motif throughout.  The Music Joint has a tinier stage tucked into the back of a narrow bar and grill.  This weekend, merch tables were crammed into every inch remaining on the main floor, and patrons less interested in the music (or needing a break from the density of the sound) took advantage of Friday and Saturday’s warm weather to eat and drink at sidewalk tables.  An upstairs space that held a record store until recently was turned into the VIP/Meet and Greet lounge for the duration.


Due to the usual complications of traveling to and around Chicago as the weekend starts, I got to my spot in the Rock Club just as Schooltree was taking the stage.  With only an hour on the schedule, they powered through highlights of their Heterotopia album, condensing the narrative to zoom in on its main character Suzi.  The set left no doubt that Lainey Schooltree is a major talent; her songwriting chops, keyboard skills and vocal versatility all came through loud and clear, grabbing and holding the audience’s attention.  The rest of the band bopped along brilliantly too, with the ebullient energy of Peter Danilchuk on organ and synth leading the way.


The crowd for Schooltree was solid, but hometown heroes District 97 were the first group to pack the place, filling both seats and standing room on the main floor.   The band took no prisoners, blasting right into riff-heavy highlights from their three albums that showed off every player’s monster chops.  Soaring above the din, Leslie Hunt pulled in the crowd with her astonishing vocal power and range.  New songs were mixed in that sent the audience head-banging and prog-pogoing with abandon.

Continue reading “Progtoberfest: Day 1 Report”

Concert Review: Heterotopia Live @schooltree

Lucky are the few to have seen the masterwork Heterotopia live!

Here’s an excerpt from an excellent review of Schooltree’s September 29th concert:

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to attest that Lainey Schooltree has chased that Holy Grail and brought it back to the land of the mortals in the form of [a] 100 minute epic called Heterotopia. She has kept her covenant with the ancient gods of progressive rock and delivered a work that deserves a place in the pantheon. After seeing Heterotopia in its embryonic state, I was especially excited to see how it translated in a proper live setting in its final form. Not only did it exceed my already high expectations, but I left having the sense that I had witnessed the launch of a significant work that demands to be judged on the global stage.

Decked out in goth chick glam, Schooltree herself seemed content to let Heterotopia speak for itself. And that’s exactly as it should be. While so many are eager to confer automatic legitimacy and priority to “womyn in rock” these days, Lainey Schooltree has simply thrown down a gauntlet of stone cold artistic achievement. Heterotopia is a musical monument that stands tall in the valley of its ancestors and demands to be judged alongside them. I may not have seen Yes, Pink Floyd and Genesis back in their heyday. But I did see Heterotopia at Oberon in 2017. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a perfectly comparable experience.

Heterotopia: Illustrated Libretto, 2nd edition CD @schooltree

The illustrated libretto book publication and the 2nd edition CD digipak are now both available for Schooltree’s incredible concept album, Heterotopia.

You can buy them online at schooltreemusic.com with Apple Pay (or pay by credit card). Don’t miss your chance to own this magnificent souvenir of one of 2017’s greatest artistic achievements!

Schooltree: “Day of the Rogue” from Heterotopia @schooltree

This video shows the world premiere live performance of the penultimate track from Schooltree’s superb rock opera Heterotopia. This happened on March 31, 2017 at the OBERON in Cambridge, MA.

The Heterotopia double album is now available at http://schooltree.bandcamp.com

Lainey Schooltree – vocals/keys
Tom Collins – drums
Peter Danilchuk – organ/synth
Ryan Schwartzel – bass
Sam Crawford – guitar

Video by Rob Schulbaum

Synopsis: Schooltree “Heterotopia” Act II, Part 2 @schooltree

In my review of Schooltree‘s masterpiece Heterotopia, I noted that the album moves in three phases: first, an incredible Act I that (like the whole album) never flags in excellence; then, the beginning of Act II which has four outstandingly classic songs that are all the more astonishing simply for being buried in the middle of this amazing prog opera and yet take it to a whole other level of musical accomplishment; finally, there is the remainder of Act II which (more than any other of the tracks on the album) offers a theatrical dramatization that is absolutely spellbinding in the manner of the best Broadway musicals.

As promised, here is the concluding synopsis of the album’s storyline as it concludes in the latter half of Act II:

Suzi passes before a mirror in which her zombie body confronts and warns her not to go near the river, from which no one ever comes out alive. Go there and you’ll destroy us both, she says. (You & I)

Suzi is derailed by this exchange and begins to lose herself and forget where she is going. It feels like she’s been on this road forever – or maybe just one really long day. Under a lamppost she sees a flash of light – it’s the centipede cat, which she now barely recognizes, as if from another life, and follows once again. It leads her to the river. (Into Tomorrow)

At the edge of the river its siren song calls to her, offering solace, peace at last; all she needs to do is leap into it. Suzi knows she must jump in with her resolve intact or be swallowed by the abyss. She falls in and sinks. At the bottom of the river, she begins to dissolve, but at the last moment remembers what that she has learned in Otherspace and uses it to move through the meaninglessness “like a ghost through a wall.” (The River, Bottom of the River)

Beyond the “wall,” Suzi finds and awakens Enantiodromia, and asks her to take her fair hand and make her whole again. But awakened Enantiodromia is changed from her former self; looking around at the darkness arisen during her slumber, she is the black-handed reaper now, bringing balance to the land once more, now by using her black hand to annihilate that which does not belong in this world, and attempts to begin with Suzi. Suzi pleads with her to stop, explaining she is only half of what she’s supposed to be, telling Enantiodromia of her quest though endless night outside of time to wake her. “I am not a shadow, just a girl; an exiled soul in the wrong world.” Enantiodromia tells her that she’s been in this world too long and is no longer just a girl; she cannot return her home. But as repayment for awakening Enantiodromia, she allows Suzi the chance to go back to take control of her zombie body, and return as one to her, at which point she’ll take them both together to the next place. (Enantiodromia Awakens)

Suzi returns to the mirror and faces her self, finally understanding the power of the ghost, making a connection between worlds and operating her zombie body like a puppet, using her will to control it. They merge, not quite whole but moving together, and slowly march toward Enantiodromia the Reaper. As Suzi gets ever closer, she becomes sick with disease as her body fails. But she marches forward nonetheless, facing the end, she is ready to become whole, if only to die in doing so. Enantiodromia takes her hand. Suzi’s body is destroyed and she dies in a triumphant blaze of glory. (Zombie Connection, Keep Your Head, Day of the Rogue)

Having achieved mastery in both worlds, Suzi is able to use her mind to grow her body from her head like a seed in the air downward to the ground. NeoSuzi glimpses what utopia could be for the first time, as something that can never be possessed, but experienced. (Utopia)