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Dennis Rea: Zero-G and the Sea Prog Festival

By Published: August 21, 2013
DR: The largest challenge by far has been getting anybody to pay attention in the press. I think it is fair to say that the Seattle music press is almost entirely fixated on indie rock and hip hop and this kind of neo-Americana folk music. Ghetto musics like the type that we present are about the most ignored music in town, and trying to get a preview or a review is like pulling teeth, so we have faced challenges in that regard. We have a handful of allies in the local press who have come out for us on occasion; otherwise, it has been pretty much word of mouth, our own web site and our web outreach efforts, and Facebook events and that sort of thing, the kind of thing you have to do nowadays.

AAJ: How did you get involved in the coordination of the Sea Prog Festival?

DR: I think you could say that Sea Prog was a natural outgrowth of Zero-G. None of my partners in Zero-G, and that now includes John Seman from the Monktail Creative Music Concern, none of those guys were involved in the organization of Sea Prog. But it was an outgrowth of Zero-G in that I saw numerous bands pass through our series that really knocked me out who were playing something that I would term progressive rock. Now I understand that that's a really loaded term and that is anathema to some people, but progressive rock in actuality has fractured into so many different subgenres that there is music that resembles the old progressive rock of yore, there is music that is basically power pop dressed up with some fancy licks, and then there is the avant-garde side of things and that is my primary interest and that is the type of music that Sea Prog is tilted toward most consciously.

What happened was one night at a Zero-G concert after a particularly inspiring set by some progressive rock band, I said publicly that I thought that we had enough talent in that genre in our town that we could hold our own damn progressive rock festival that would compare favorably to any of the others held in any other locale in the world, and I do strongly believe that. One of the people who became my partner approached me about that and he thought it was a good idea, and then a third person also approached me having overheard that and he agreed not only that he wanted to get involved but that he was also willing to put up some of the financing to make such a thing possible. Hence, we undertook the experiment that was Sea Prog.

With Sea Prog my initial idea was to showcase Seattle talent, and I still believe that after the first festival we have still only scratched the surface of that. At some point it became clear to us that to boost attendance it would be in our best interest to bring in a couple of ringers from out of town, so we examined our wish list and brought in Thinking Plague, who are based in Colorado but have a couple of members with Seattle ties so they were still technically tied in with our local community, miRthkon from the Bay Area, and Jolanda from Italy. The rest of the program was all Seattle bands.

We went out a bit on a limb. What we wanted to do, having seen these acts perform in dive bars, we wanted to create a situation where they could perform in a more dignified setting and be treated as the accomplished artists that they are; where they could actually make a little bit of money for a change, and get good sound reinforcement and loving care. That is basically what we wanted to create, and I believe we succeeded. Going into it, even right up to the time of the festival, it was anybody's guess whether this thing was going to be a flop or a mild success. Nobody was more surprised than the organizers when it ended up being a smashing success, and I think by pretty much any meaningful measure the first edition of Sea Prog was a roaring success.

That bodes well for the future. It is really too early to say where we are going from here, but it is likely that it will happen again and our venue of choice, the Columbia City Theater, has expressed interest in continuing to partner with us on this. That is a huge plus for us because, as far as I am concerned, apart from all of the fantastic music that was presented at the first Sea Prog, the star of the show was the venue. We just happened to make the perfect choice of venue.

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