Reggies Rock Club on the south side of Chicago becomes the prog capital of the world for Progtoberfest II. Hosting 27 acts over three days, both new and old, European and American, the festival certainly has enough variety to satisfy the masses.
It kicks of on Friday with District 97 showing why they’re so well respected, with the band displaying their technical chops and singer Leslie Hunt belting tunes out in dramatic fashion.
As the night goes on, the crowd gather to hear Emerson Lake & Palmer tribute Fanfare. They start out with Tarkus, to thunderous applause. Later in the show, drummer Jonathan Schang (District 97) and multi-instrumentalist Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa) guest for A Time And A Place.
Closing out Friday are prog-fusion band Brand X. The performance is improv-laden and has a different sound than that of the original studio albums. The group’s original members – John Goodsall (guitar) and Percy Jones (bass) – still have plenty of juice left, especially the latter, who plays the most complex bass patterns and time signatures of the night.
The second day features a pleasant surprise in Metaphonia, who are one of the most well-received bands of the whole weekend. They sound rather like early-70s Chicago and fusion-era Jeff Beck. It’s comparable to Dream Theater but with more flute.
Edensong give proceedings a more metal edge, while The Security Project perform a selection of Peter Gabriel and King Crimson songs. The final band of the night, The Fringe, are something of a prog supergroup. They feature drummer Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard), guitarists Randy McStine (Sound Of Contact) and bassist Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings). Their songs have Muse-like pop melodies, alternative riffs and a foundation of complexity.
The final day begins in style with General Zod playing the entire Mahavishnu Orchestra album The Inner Mounting Flame. This is done so well that if you close you eyes, you could almost hear John McLaughlin and company on the stage.
The finale of Progtober Fest II comes courtesy of The Carl Palmer ELP Legacy. The man himself leads an exceptional trio through a set of ELP tunes, and even throws in 21st Century Schizoid Man. Palmer can still pound the hell out of his kit!
In a brief moment addressing the crowd, he mentions the passing of Keith Emerson, and his genuine emotions are clear during Pictures At An Exhibition, which is performed in its entirety. The set ends with a Palmer solo that showcases what he’s still capable of.
A long ovation lets him know he’s greatly appreciated after what is a memorable climax to the festival.