Rick Wakeman, Call Your Agent Shawn Ahearn, president of Pangea Music, wanted to move his offices to the Bay Area from Southern California, but wound up only making it partway here. Now based in Santa Cruz, Ahearn and Pangea are responsible for the fifth annual International Progressive Music Festival, a two-day celebration of odd time signatures and space-is-the-place lyrics, which makes its Bay Area debut on May 29 and 30 at the Palace of Fine Arts.
Ahearn believes this is the right time for a prog-rock revival. "Young audiences are tired of grunge and punk rock," he says. And he also believes that San Francisco is the right place for the festival. Though he started the event at UCLA in 1993, Ahearn kept running into people from the Bay Area who were not only willing to make the trip south, but had also created an underground network of fans. "The mainstream media had written off progressive music," says Ahearn. "People who could play extended solos disappeared. Genesis and Pink Floyd on the radio disappeared. Hundreds of thousands of fans who were alienated were reunited through the Internet."
So the shows have grown from a one-day afternoon affair to a two-day showcase with official sponsors (including Adobe, mp3.com, and the Weekly), sales booths, and bands from Sweden, Britain, Japan, and elsewhere. Headlining on Saturday is Australia's Gong (though they'd have you believe they're from the mystical land of Planet Gong), and on Sunday, France's Magma. Both are long-standing masters of interstellar overdrive, and because what goes around comes around, they now possess a hip cachet.
Indeed, in talking about his band's new album, the dry and dull 13, Blur frontman Damon Albarn has been citing Gong as a major influence. "A couple of years ago he would've been shot on the streets of London for saying that," Ahearn says. Filling out the schedule for Saturday is Brand X, Par Lindh Project, and Bondage Fruit; on Sunday is Porcupine Tree, Lana Lane & the Rocket Scientists, and the Bay Area's guitar hotshot and walking KFC advertisement Buckethead, who's taking a break from a slot on the Ozzfest tour to put in an appearance. Ticket packages range from $30 to $90; call (831) 425-0434.
If R2D2 Falls in a Desert, Does It Make a Song? Star Wars has inspired a number of silly musical ideas: disco versions of John Williams' the-audience-is-listening-and-going-deaf-from-the-blare overture, Bill Murray whipping up actual lyrics to the tune, and that god-awful Ewok pop song that actually charted back in 1983. So you can't blame Dan Killoran for throwing his hat into the ring.
Killoran, a 29-year-old UPS delivery truck driver from Pleasant Hill, has created "Star Wars Forever," a song based exclusively on samples (314, to be exact) from the first Star Wars film. For six months, he tinkered with his keyboard sampler and processed sounds from the film -- not music, which Killoran says would be "cheating." The song clatters along electro-funk style, peppered with quotes from the movie ("We don't serve their kind here," "Help me Obi-Wan. You're my only hope"). Darth Vader's breathing provides a rhythm, with the main kick drum sound provided from the ka-thunk R2D2 made when zapped by Jawas in the desert.
"I'm not one of the [Star Wars] nuts," Killoran insists. But he admits his main goal is to get a hard copy of the four-minute-44-second song into the hands of George Lucas. Only George Lucas; he's not making copies of the track, though he happily played the song over the phone. ("We're having an audio revolution here," Killoran said, more to himself than us while setting up his stereo.) Lucasfilm Ltd. has a policy of not accepting unsolicited Star Wars-related materials, so Killoran's resigned to hoping against hope. Interested parties -- at Lucasfilm or otherwise -- can send an e-mail to Killoran at danstunes@AOL.COM; HIS SCHEDULE PERMITTING, HE'S WILLING TO PLAY THE SONG FOR THOSE WISHING TO HEAR IT.
AND IN THIS TOWN, THE BILL MONROE DRUM 'N' BASS REMIXES ARE SURE TO FOLLOW BEGINNING JUNE 2, RICHMOND'S LAST DAY SALOON INTRODUCES "FIVE ARMS," A WEEKLY SERIES DEVOTED TO BLUEGRASS, TRADITIONAL COUNTRY, AND OTHER RELATED AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC. THE ORIGINAL INSPIRATION CAME FROM LAST DAY SALOON OWNER DAVE DAHER, WHO'D BEEN ITCHING TO DO A COUNTRY NIGHT FOR A WHILE AND CALLED UPON CLARK TATE AND BILLY COHEN TO HANDLE BOOKING. TATE -- MORE FAMILIAR WITH BLUEGRASS MUSIC AS A PICKER AND GRINNER -- FIGURED IT WAS TIME TO BRING BLUEGRASS (AND ITS BASTARD SON, "NEWGRASS") WITHIN THE CITY LIMITS ON A REGULAR BASIS. PERFORMING AT THE FIRST SHOW ARE CROOKED JADES AND THE AVOCADO BROTHERS. CALL 387-6343.
CIVIC ISSUES RIFF RAFF'S ALL FOR HOMETOWN PRIDE, BUT JUST A THOUGHT: When Randy Newman performs "Rednecks" -- as he did last Saturday at the Warfield -- it's probably not in good taste for audience members to shout "Woo-hoo!" when he sings, "The Negro's ... free to be kept in a cage in the Fillmore in San Francisco."
-- Mark Athitakis
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