Dennis Rea: Zero-G and the Sea Prog Festival

Jack Gold-Molina By

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You have to remember that there is not a large audience for this music. Even in a city this size, it is pretty much a niche music, but when presented in a venue like that you get a modest number of people in there, it feels like a happening scene, and that energy transmits to the musicians on stage. The musicians were delighted to have great sound reinforcement, to actually be playing in a theatrical setting, and I am certain that they would all want to come back. I am certain that others are going to want to hop onboard the train in the future. I am certain that everyone who was there had a wonderful time.

The thing about a festival is that it is not just a series of gigs. It is also a social event. Progressive rock festivals, the ones that happen that are scattered around the world, the social element is a very important part of that. We tried to create an environment where people felt comfortable, relaxed, and encouraged to interact with one another. The theater proved to be perfect for that, because of its size and availability of a large front room with a bar where we were able to book some smaller acts in between the main stage sets, so there was some continuous activity happening. We also located it in a small, tight knit community, the Columbia City neighborhood in Seattle, where there were plenty of dining and drinking options right nearby. It made for just a great weekend out for a lot of people.

AAJ: Can you talk about what some of the challenges were of getting the festival going?

DR: We had the same challenges that Zero-G always faces in getting anybody in the press to pay attention. Apart from some enthusiastic notices in the internet progressive rock community, the worldwide community, locally we did not get any press at all until the final week before the festival. What press we did get was surprisingly enthusiastic and well informed. That was a very heartening indication that perhaps people's attitudes regarding this type of music may be softening, and I am sure that as word spreads of the caliber of the music that happened at that festival, people are going to maybe reconsider what progressive rock means in 2013.

AAJ: My final question is with regards to a complaint that you hear from a lot of musicians when they can't get into a festival or a series for some reason, not just here in Seattle but anywhere. So my question is: can you talk about why sticking to a specific mission statement, or at the very least a standard of musical performance, is important to the success of an independent music festival or series?

DR: We made no bones about the fact that this was a curated festival and as such it unashamedly reflected the tastes of the curators. It is possible that in the future we might open it up to an application sort of arrangement, but for the first festival we wanted to see a really strong lineup. We wanted this to succeed, so we booked some of the best quality acts that we could get our hands on. We approached other acts too, a lot of them were unavailable, but we didn't want to overdo it. I would say that if we were to do this again you wouldn't see any repeats the next time. We will continue to plum the Seattle scene for musicians that meet this broad criteria that we have established. I will say that we are not really interested in a lot of the music that would be termed neo-prog, which is really more song based. We are more interested in the more instrumental heavy type of music.

We are aware that there are people out there that probably felt left out. Just yesterday somebody posted on the Sea Prog page on Facebook: "Why weren't this band on the bill? They are so fantastic." The only answer I had to that was: because we had never heard of them. So I would advise people in that kind of a situation who want to get involved to do a little outreach. Outreach doesn't just mean reaching out to people who are organizing festivals and asking for a gig. It also means making yourself an active member of the community and showing your face at other people's gigs. Again, we are trying to overcome a tendency of people to kind of clump into different separate groups in this town who are jealous of each other. We don't want any more of that. I would say that those people who took a chance on Sea Prog that are people that we never saw before, they went home satisfied. They had a great time, they made new friends, they realized that we are not bad guys. We are not trying to monopolize the scene.

My advice to any hopefuls is get involved. Show your face at other people's gigs. Let us know you are out there. Let us check you out. Don't just remain in isolation and complain about never getting any gigs. Another thing, though, that has to be borne in mind when we are booking something like this is that it costs money to put on a festival like that. It costs a considerable amount of money. We want to raise enough money to be able to pay the musicians well. If you want to play on our festival but you have no draw because you are basically playing in your bedroom all of the time at some place way out in the suburbs, musically what you are doing might be very compelling, but there is an expectation that you are going to bring some people to the festival; to participate in making this a success.

Selected Discography

Dennis Rea/Wally Shoup/Tom Zgonc, Subduction Zone (Nunatak, 2012)

Moraine, Metamorphic Rock (Moonjune Records, 2011)

Dennis Rea, Views From Chicheng Precipice (Moonjune Records, 2010)

Iron Kim Style, Iron Kim Style (Moonjune Records, 2010)

Moraine, manifest deNsity (Moonjune Records, 2009)

Stackpole, Stackpole (First World Music, 2001)

Photo Credit

Steve Kennedy-Williams


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