No genre better epitomizes the work of Bob Moog than progressive rock. Characterized by complicated thematic arrangements, symphonic ambitions and an experimental demeanor, the genre was born out of the sounds of the Minimoog Model D in the early ‘70s. Moog gave keyboardists like Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson an otherworldly instrument to push the boundaries of classic rock and give birth to the modern concept album.
For prog fans looking to see how the genre has evolved over 40 years, Moogfest brings two bands fronted by former King Crimson members: Adrian Belew and his power trio explore the sometimes arresting limits of the electric guitar, while Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto of Stick Men make fast-paced, distorted riffs that somehow retain their headbanging quality among bustling time signatures and breakneck key changes.
Prog is often critiqued as being music for musicians; a genre that places technical ability over more soulful expression. But no matter where you place yourself in the argument (if you think electronic music is just a bunch of rotary-knob twisting, or that prog rock is instrumental wankery), Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) will make you reconsider your live concert experience. Combining triggered synth baselines and sequenced sound effects with jazzy live percussion and a fully instrumented band, STS9 elevates repetitive grooves and classic elements of lounge to something wholly progressive and effortlessly danceable.
Battles takes the prog-ock format, adds a laptop, a loop station and one peculiarly tall crash symbol, and flips the genre on its head. John Stanier drives the band’s constantly building intensity with incredibly precise drumming that you’ll be hard-pressed to believe is unquantized. — J.C.
With virtuosic graduates of the School of Rock, the Adrian Belew Power Trio brings the former King Crimson frontman’s guitar work into the spotlight. Belew’s tone embraces a huge pedal board, and in his effort to replicate sounds from violent ambient environments, is as imaginative and experimental as it is wide-ranging. — J.C.
Umphrey's McGee combines the improvisational grooves of a jam band with progressive technique. Over the years, the band’s live sound has evolved to be more and more eclectically electronic, making hyperactive style switches that can turn the audience from an electro-house dance party into a mosh pit. — J.C.
A composer and multi-instrumentalist session musician who’s worked with Tom Waits and Lou Reed, Shahzad Ismaily makes music sometimes soft and ethereal, sometimes bizarre and experimental. This year’s Moogfest marks a rare standalone performance for Ismaily. — J.C.
The foundation for Stick Men is guitar tapping, a technique where rather than strumming, sound is activated solely from fingers pressing strings against the fretboard. Tony Levin is master of the Chapman Stick, a 10- or 12-string bodyless guitar that plays upright with both hands on the neck. It makes for especially choppy phrasing — a perfect mix with the quick drumming of Pat Mastelotto. — J.C.
Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) places building a deep rhythm over embellishing solos with their brand of livetronica. It's usually a struggle for electronic bands to develop a sense of spontaneity in their live sets, but STS9 effortlessly incorporates MIDI controllers and drum pads into the getup of a post-rock band. — J.C.
Fareed Haque’s Math Games Trio makes the funk band relevant with the structure of exploratory, free-form jazz and thick basslines. Haque, voted “best world guitarist” by Guitar Player magazine, plays the Moog Guitar, one of Moog Music’s newest inventions, which allows him to control his sustain — or turn it off completely — without post-processing. — J.C.
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