March 28th, 2007
Monday night at the High Noon Saloon fans of progressive rock and more adventurous music generally got a real treat. In addition to the great set of progressive rock covers by Madison’s prog cover band, PROG, a trio still fairly new to Madison opened – Arp of the Convenant. AotC feature Mark Siegenthaler on keys (ARP and Fender Rhodes), Brad Townsend on bass, and Nick Zielinski on percussion. (He also had a laptop next to him.)
The band played a set which showcased many styles. It seemed to meander from jazz to fusion to Krautrock to space rock and then back and forth all over the map. And, if the format brings ELP to your mind, then know that AotC have little in common with the prog stalwarts. A bit here or there may remind one of “Rondo” live but there’s no Hammond organ to be stabbed. Purely an instrumental endeavor, each member shone brightly. Siegenthaler eschews modern keys in favor of old analog synths. At times he played a melodic lead while at others he was culling unearthly sounds from his ARP that sounded as if they were heralding the arrival of Cthulu himself. Townsend had his bass running through an array of effects pedals which allowed him to alternately be half of the rhythm section and play melodic lines. Taking a page from the John Entwhistle book of stage performance, he barely moved the entire time. Oddly enough, it was left to Zielinski to banter with the audience between songs as the old synthesizers were readied for the next song. His droll sense of humor was quite the contrast to his energetic playing. Whether he was running away on the hi-hat or all over the modest kit, his playing propelled the music forward but he also knew when not to play and wasn’t ostentatious.
They opened with a medley of “Bad Alternator” and “Turbo Christians” and played most of their eponymous album including “Jennifer”, “Triple Tree”, and “Arp Theme Song” which is my favorite tune of theirs at the moment. I like it so much, that I’m going to give you a clip of them playing it. The photo is an active link for the .mov file.
In addition, they also did Hammerhead’s “Blow By”. I was duly impressed by AotC and look forward to seeing them again. Their album is on my to-buy list.
After a change of equipment, PROG came out and put on another spirited show. They opened with “The Knife” by Genesis which gave Scott Eagle a chance to turn the amps up to 11. The rest of their set consisted of:
Living in the Past
Thick as a Brick
And You and I
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway/Carpet Crawlers/IT
Get ‘Em Out by Friday
Eagle was all fired up and I suspect he has bruises on his chest from beating it with his trusty tambourine which he kindly lent to Michael BB during “Living in the Past”. He was too busy playing the flute whilst wandering through the crowd making friends with every boy and girl. Plus he was kind enough to dedicate “And You and I” to The Dulcinea. During the set break, bassist Gordon Ranney came outside and chatted with The Dulcinea and me. We discussed with great consternation Scott’s sudden launch into the opening riff of Asia’s “Heat of the Moment”, amongst other things. I guess it’s fair to say that she and I are now fixtures at PROG gigs, though the band likes her better because, well, she’s better looking than me. I hope to use her to influence them to add “Squonk” to their setlist. I subjected The Dulcinea to a battery of Genesis concert videos (1976-80) over the weekend and I think that, if I do that again a few times, she’ll willingly lobby on my behalf.
The official PROG Dance Squad rushed to the front of the stage during “Roundabout” and shook their booties. If anyone doesn’t believe me that dancing occurred, I will offer video as proof. Let me end with two observations: 1) Michael BB needs to wear his Rick Wakeman cape again. 2) Let Gordon sing lead! If you’re not gonna let him sing lead, then at least do a song with some more intricate harmony singing. You guys needn’t do “Knots” but how about “I’ve Seen All Good People”? “Don’t surround yourself with yourself” – I can hear him now…