PROGJECT WRAPS FIRST AMERICAN TOUR
WITH HEADLINING PERFORMANCE AS PART OF “CRUISE TO THE EDGE”
The recently formed ProgJect—acclaimed musicians Michael Sadler, Jonathan Mover, Mike Keneally, Ryo Okumoto and Matt Dorsey—successfully brought “The Ultimate Prog Rock Experience” to venues coast to coast from April 1-30 and then wrapped the tour May 1 with an on-land headliningshow in Florida as part of “Cruise To The Edge” (before it set sail the next day). They performed the classics and epics of Genesis, Yes, King Crimson and ELP, along with some Pink Floyd, Rush, Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel, Gentle Giant and more. See a new Q&A with band leader Jonathan Mover below.
ProgJect’s tour was highlighted by a two-night stand at Iridium in NYC on April 19 & 20, at which Derek Shulman (Gentle Giant) and Eddie Jobson (UK, Zappa, etc.) were in the house to see them play. In a tip of the hat tothe band, Robert Fripp (King Crimson, etc.) posted a video clip ofthem playing their Crimson medley of “Lark’s” and “Nightmare” on his Facebook page and YouTube Channel.
ProgJect is now “looking at a West Coast run in early August to include the Pacific Northwest and California,” says Jonathan Mover, “and then late-August through mid-October across the States again, including some Canadian dates. Next year,” he adds, “aside from doing the US again, it looks like we’ll be heading to the UK/Europe, Mexico and Central/South America, and hoping to play some dates in Asia too.”
The band’s two-plus hour set of Prog Rock classics and epics encompassed such songs such as “Cinema Show,” “Firth of Fifth,” “Squonk,” “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression–Pt. I & II,” “Siberian Khatru,” “Roundabout,” “Heart of the Sunrise,” “21st Century Schizoid Man,” “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic, Pt. I & II”, “Xanadu,” “La Villa Strangiato,” “Have A Cigar,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Solsbury Hill” and “Living In The Past,” to name only a few.
MICHAEL SADLER (SAGA)
JONATHAN MOVER (GTR, Alice Cooper, Joe Satriani, The Tubes)
Drums, Percussion, Vocals
MIKE KENEALLY (Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani)
RYO OKUMOTO (Spock’s Beard, Asia, Chris Squire)
MATT DORSEY (Sound of Contact, Beth Hart)
Bass, Pedals, Guitar, Keys, Vocals
ProgJect–the brainchild of drummer Jonathan Mover–came to fruition out of his childhood dream of playing Prog. “Prog Rock is the reason I play drums,” Mover explains, “but by the time I turned pro, Prog in the classic sense was over. And, although I got to work with some Prog-associated artists, such as GTR (with Steve Hackett and Steve Howe), and Marillion, my career took a decidedly different, though incredibly fortunate path, working with artists such as Alice Cooper, Joe Satriani, Aretha Franklin, The Tubes, Shakira, and others. That being said, I never lost my desire to play the Prog I grew up listening to.”
He adds: “The idea and inspiration came in 2019 from my getting a last-minute rescue call to play with the Genesis tribute band, The Musical Box. That not only relit that childhood fire and desire but made me realize: if there’s an audience for Genesis, and an audience for Yes, and Pink Floyd, and ELP, and King Crimson…there’s an audience for all of them. So, why not play them all, since I love them all, and assemble a team of extraordinary musicians that feel the same as I do? And they, like me, wanted to play a variety of Prog from all our favorite bands, and therefore thought more of the concept of an ‘homage band,’ instead of a tribute band.”
PROGJECT TOUR END Q&A WITH
Congratulations on the first ProgJect tour. Has any single show or shows, stood out in your mind, in particular…and why?
JONATHAN MOVER: Thank you. That’s actually a tough one to answer, because from the very first night on, each show has gotten stronger and better. But, if I have to choose a few, I would say the following: the Tupelo in Derry, NH because it was a packed home-town show, the band played great, and it was the halfway point through the tour, so in many ways, we all felt accomplishment at having been able to do all this so far without management or an agent. The second night at Iridium in NYC was a definite highlight because Derek Shulman (Gentle Giant) and Eddie Jobson (UK, Zappa, etc.) showed up to see us play, and play we did. It’s also the night Robert Fripp posted a video clip of us playing our Crimson medley of “Lark’s” and “Nightmare” on his Facebook page and YouTube channel. What an honor that was! The Landis Theater in NJ and CPPAC in Largo, FL were also great shows, not only because they’re beautiful theaters with great sound systems, but the lights were fantastic as well and made for some amazing photos. And we could not have ended on a higher note than headlining the pre-cruise concert for Cruise To The Edge. A thousand people and they were ready for us. We got a standing ovation just taking the stage, and then three more throughout the show–we really played our asses off. I’m not on the cruise, but Michael [Sadler] has been reporting back that the overall opinion is we’ve now raised the bar too high! That being said, one thing that has stood out at every show is the audience. As just mentioned, we’ve had multiple standing ovations every night and cannot begin to thank so many wonderful people for coming to see us play, and for loving what we’re doing. The audiences have been outstanding—as have been the venue owners and promoters. We’ve been received and treated so well, and every evening ends with an invitation to come back and play again.
Press and fan reaction online have been very positive as the band has honored the enduring legacy of prog-rock. Can you talk about the connection you’ve been making with them at the band’s performances?
MOVER: There are many connections, but I think the main and most important one is the love for this music in particular. I know how much I love playing it, as do the others in the band, and it certainly seems equally matched in how much the audience loves hearing and seeing it. That connection in and of itself is incredibly powerful and so is the confirmation and affirmation that we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons, and we plan to continue doing this so for a very long time.
Can you describe the musicality and dynamism of the show and how it has grown from gig to gig?
MOVER: We were actually talking about this just a few days ago. It’s funny, even with plenty of rehearsals, it still takes performing in front of a live audience to really dial things in and find out exactly what works and/or how to make something work better. You find out the better places to speak to the audience, and with how the show ebbs and flows, you make adjustments accordingly. For example, when reading the audience’s reaction to some of the pieces we’re playing, we tweaked some endings to either not cut off the applause, or to surprise them immediately with another song and hit ‘em with a one-two punch. Also, we as players are listening to each other more and more and adjusting ourselves as well. So, it’s really just getting tighter and better each night.
Any fun stories from the tour stick out to you?
MOVER: Leaving Mike Keneally behind at one rest stop…fortunately he was only [patiently] waiting for about 20 minutes before we returned to pick him up. Luckily, he found it as amusing as we all did, though I think he was sad to go; he really seemed to bond with the cashier. Ryo taking the mic one night and trying to tell a joke to the audience in his broken English…say no more. There were lots of laughs on the bus.
Where does ProgJect go from here?
MOVER: Onwards and upwards. We’re all committed to this for the long run, so our plan is not unlike most others in that we’ll be touring every year and presenting new setlists and [re]arranged material as we go along.
Might there possibly be new original music?
MOVER: Hard to say at this point. I think it’s quite possible that we’d explore some ideas at some point, since we all do write and we’re all now starting to play on each other’s recent solo records, but that being said, ProgJect is an “homage band”, or if you will, a “tribute band to a genre”, and we don’t want to lose that, deviate from it, or confuse the audience. So, if something original does come up, we’d have to think carefully about how to present it.
L-R: Matt Dorsey, Jonathan Mover, Ryo Okumoto, Michael Sadler, Mike Keneally
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