The adjective ‘fearless’ is bandied around a lot in prog – not least because most progressive musicians are tenacious in their need to expand the boundaries of their art.
Even outside the music, it’s undeniable that the scene thrives on a cocktail of heart and courage. Juan Antonio, founder of Spain’s premier prog festival, Be Prog! My Friend, is no different: “Be Prog! has no public help from the city council or any other organisation so we’re dependent exclusively on the ticket sales,” he says. “We think the only way to grow is by taking risks.”
Antonio founded Be Prog! in 2014, when lots of Europe’s alternative festivals were pulling down their awnings. But his plan was to do something more offbeat. “We believed in a different kind of festival, where bands could play almost complete shows in beautiful locations – such as Poble Espanyol in Barcelona. I was working as a promoter doing club shows for many prog bands in Spain and I felt that there was an audience demanding something like that here.”
Antonio grew up on a diet of extreme metal, before ‘gateway’ bands like Anathema and Opeth opened his eyes to more traditional progressive fare, and the zen-like name of the festival reflects his own experiences of music discovery. “It came from Bruce Lee’s words: ‘Be water, my friend.’ We wanted to encourage people to be ‘progressive’, musically speaking – to open their mind and try diverse artists such as Camel, Meshuggah, Anathema and Opeth. We wanted to dare the more closed-minded prog public to explore the different sides of the current scene as there are many interesting bands to discover.”
We want to dare the prog public to explore the different sides of the scene.
Purists may bridle at hearing Camel and Meshuggah in the same breath, let alone on the same bill, but Antonio wears this diversity as a badge of honour, which was vindicated when Devin Townsend congratulated him on his line-ups. And with Prog favourite Steven Wilson set to headline this year, Antonio has every right to be bullish. “The plan is for people to think of Be Prog! as their inescapable date of the summer.”
Visit the Be Prog! website for the latest line-up.