Baja Prog 2003


From: David Levkovitz <>
Date: Sun Mar 9, 2003 9:11 pm
Subject: BajaProg
Just got back from the festival. As always it was great! Alfonso sure knows how to put on a great 4 day party. Here are my quick impressions of the different performances.
Missed Gallina Negra. Still driving down from LA.
Ars Nova - I have seen them 3 times, and find them boring. Both keyboard players can play very well, but the drummer is sloppy, always behind, and only has one fill. Their compositions go nowhere, they are just a bunch of keyboard noodling.
Cast - I have really liked them in the past, but this time they didn't seem to have the kind of energy and power that they displayed in previous performances.
Alquilbencil - The first great surprise of the festival. They were quirky and complex but never lost sight of the melody.All were great players, especially the keyboardist. A little jazz, a little Crimson and even a little klezmer.
Trespass - more Emerson like keyboard noodling. a lot of people enjoyed them. They were good musicians, but lacked any interesting melodies.
Index - Mediocre NeoProg. Left early. I heard they did a nice cover of Los Endos.
Cabezas de Cera - Now we're talking! This is what prog is supposed to be. They are definitely new, unique and unusual. They are comprised of Chapman Stick/guitar, drums/edrums (a very minimalist kit) and sax player. The have a small Crimson influence (mostly in the stick playing) but the way they weave South American influences in are both subtle and beautiful. The drummer is a phenom, the stick/guitar player is stellar and the horn player can play almost every reed instrument there is. They got many, very spontaneous standing ovations.
Richocher - very mediocre Neo. I heard nothing progressive. Great singer and good musicianship, but very simple, mundane songs and melodies.
Ankh - I am not sure what all the fuss is about these guys. They lost their violinist, who was their only saving grace last year.
Entrance - fairly decent "by the numbers" prog. Sounded a little like Tempus Fugit from Brazil.
Pig Farm on the Moon - I liked these guys quite a lot. Great interplay between both, very talented guitarists. Singer (who looked about 17) had a very good voice. Nice melodies (they started sounding a little similar after a while), fairly tight playing and some Prog Metal intensity from time to time.
Magenta - they had a first class performance. A lot of power and emotion. Great playing by all members and a great performance by Christina Murphy. She has a great voice and is sexy as hell on stage.
Ange - truly majestic. I can't say enough about their performance. Great theatrical prog. Christian DeCamp has a great stage presence. His son on keys is also immensely talented. The guitar player was one of the best guitarists of the festival. They don't do anything extremely complex, but their melodies and the way they build the drama in their music are incredible.
Focus - never one of my favorite bands of the 70's although I did like much of their stuff, were slightly disappointing. This Van Leer was in good form, but they came off sounding like the ultimate Focus cover band. Which is not far from the truth. Van Leer heard them play as a cover band and they kicked out their keyboardist and started calling themselves Focus. Sorry. No Jan Akerman, it's not Focus. Very nice version of Eruption, one of their best pieces.
French TV - these guys were hot! Quirky, over the top complexity, and played impeccably. If you took a Happy the Man composition and stuck it in a blender then tried to play it you might get a little close to their performance.
Amorok - Very nice performance. Never heard them before. Kind of like Finistere meets Azigza at Andy Latimer's house. Well... not really, but you get the picture. Beautiful melodies, played extremely well. Great female vocalist. Very nice Hackett like guitar work. Great sax player (and she was beautiful also)
PLP - Never liked them in the past, but as a 3 piece they were very enjoyable. Maybe it was Hasse Brunnesson on drums (Flower Kings percussionist and Samla Mama's Manna drumer), maybe it was Bill Kopeky's bass performance (maybe the best of the show). Or maybe it was Par Lindh toning down his over the top bombast.
PFM - First it was Le Orme, then it was Banco, then Il Biletto Di Bronzo, now PFM! I have seen all the best Italian prog bands, I can die happy. Ok, so they did 3 pretty crappy songs off their later commercial albums, they did their classics and played the hell out of them! Mussida blew up his guitar, so there was a 15 minute pause in their set, but who cares. Is there anything better than those Italian melodies? They also had the violin player from Deus Ex Machina with them, the boy can play!
That's about the best I can do with only about 4 hours sleep. If anyone went, please feel free to critique my reviews.  Dave