Far Corner Performance at M.A.R.S. Festival on June 9, 2007 [FULL REVIEW]
Far Corner - Live in Milwaukee, WI, September 2005 [FULL REVIEW]
Far Corner Performance at M.A.R.S. Festival on June 9, 2007
I have seen William Kopecky five times in person: twice with his band Kopecky, another two with this band Far Corner, and a third time in line to meet Chris Squire. We just happened to be at the same place in the queue, and it turns out Squire is his hero too.
I found it ironic that while people would hang around to talk to him and shake his hand, he was just like us in terms of wanting to meet an established bassist. I took this opportunity to perform an informal and impromptu interview. While you won't see the content printed anywhere, I can attest that this is an interesting man. He teaches English during the day, and practices and plays Avant-Garde in the evening.
What's interesting is that the styles he enjoys hearing and the ones he decides to play are not the same. While he follows Yes, his music is closer to Chamber Music. Likewise, it's hard to pigeonhole what he does into any particular genre, because it's very unique in nature. Some say it's Avant-Garde when others would be just as quick to call it Progressive Rock. What I can tell you is that it is intelligent, absorbing, and not like anything else.
While Kopecky controls the accelerators and brakes in his band of brothers, for the record, this baby is all Dan Maskes. Then again, Kopecky's bass is an essential part of this quartet.
Also in their company is an extraordinary drummer that makes Zoltan Csorsz appear to be sterile. Plus, they enlist a heavy metal cellist that makes this chariot a low-rider.
I am yet to get sick of their music, and this set was also a little bit different than their prior four performances, as it showcased a number of new songs.
The band was introduced by Mark Krueger (the host of Planet Prog on WMSE radio). It appears he was the one who discovered them and got their music out there.
This was one of the more sought after and looked after bands of the day. As it turns out, they brought their A-Game. They have really matured since I have seen them last, and they were pretty darn good the last time. Their style was the most innovative of the night. Kopecky is one of the best bassists out there, and it is hard to believe he operates out of my backyard (on a similar note, Daryl Stuermer is also another Milwaukee native). This goes to prove there is nothing wrong with local talent.
William Kopecky had on his chest a 13 with a circular outline. It was like he was Prog Rock version of Mr. Fantastic; but then again, the way he played, he might have been the Human Torch.
At the onset, Kopecky used some sort of device on his strings that I have only seen used by guitarists in the past. It gave the instrument a peaceful droning sound.
The first song was like the theme music to that Halloween horror flick. You could almost feel Mike Myers several paces behind your footsteps. From the album Endangered, they played "Inhuman" to "Do You Think I'm Spooky?" To answer this somewhat rhetorical question, I provide an affirmative, "'YES!" These both came from produce that was picked earlier in the year.
Around this time, Dan Maske gave a big thanks to Krueger for helping get his band off the ground, into the hands of fans, as well as onto the stage. He says he couldn't have done it without his assistance and promotion. It was Kreger who got him into Progressive Rock, and it is he who is responsible for much of what he does.
They followed this with something else from the new album. They do this style so well; it's almost flawless. The new material was highly-developed. It's the same format of bass, keys, drums, and heavy metal cello, but with awfully good, but dreadfully different compositions. As it played, many extra faces materialized in the background.
Maske mentioned that they would attempt something where they would try to be less geeky. In the past, they have jammed with such precision; you would have thought they spent a vast amount of time rehearsing this material in the studio. Yet, it's real-time and up-to-the-minute.
He says they will try to make stuff up as they go, but it's so pristine, you have to imagine they are using some kinds of memory tricks or mnemonics. He warns us that it could be anything and it might be dangerous. He jokes with a serious tone that people may even get hurt. This jam is all a blur, but like your favorite preservative or spread, it gels.
At this point, I am thinking that Kopecky could be a movie star. He has a strange and mysterious look about him; many times made more furtive by a sinister grin. I could see him as a cool Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow. With this thought, I think he is Progressive Rock's own Johnny Depp.
In this song, there are fog horns, trains, and steam whistles. The quirkiness created laughter in the audience. The giggles didn't mix well with the music. This was so astounding; I couldn't comprehend why it didn't have everyone's full attention. Some people must not have been ready for this funky and innovative avant-garde. Aside from the disorderly conduct, I was so hypnotized and tired; I just about fell asleep and passed out. This improvisational piece was just as wholesome as a written song.
They continued to play ones that were so fresh, they were still hot from the oven. The next selection was "Flim-Flam Man." Maske made mention that this was to con us into thinking they could play. If it were a scheme, I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. They provided many seasoned, sneaky notes to throw the listener off their guard. On the last note, they shoved their fingers toward the sky. This demonstrated their exceptional timing.
Kopecky changed his bass at this time. He alternated between one that was exquisitely painted with a blue moon landscape and a second that was completely jet black. For this song, he chose the latter, but for most of his work, he danced around with the more vibrant bass like a deranged werewolf. When betting on black, he emitted an eerie presence like The Silver Surfer.
While I can enjoy this style for time to time, I would really like to see Kopecky and Maske do straightforward Progressive Rock. Maske, in particular, is an excellent keyboardist along the lines of a freaky Rick Wakeman.
They went back to their second and newest album, Endangered, and performed, "Not From Around Here." This had a foreign feel about it. While it was consistent with their sound, they were still engaging as the set ensued. They were in jeopardy of stopping before the crowd was done with them. In this song, there was a Rudess-like bridge. In concordance with my earlier thoughts, this one felt like a Tim Burton-Danny Elfman collaboration. It also featured a wise and unexpected drum solo that only broke for Maske's piano.
The guy seated next to me likes strings, but watched intently anyway. This song had poignantly-tricky pauses and the thorniest of time-signatures. For that reason, I can see its appeal to those who adore another sort of genus.
Far Corner dedicated the next one to fans outside the area and took a census with raised hands. It seemed to be an equal split, which made me wonder why they didn't promote this festival in the forums. You cannot market Progressive Rock to locals. As it turns out, the bands around the area made up most of the residential fan base.
To return to the track, I'll step down from the soapbox to wrap the rest of this upů
Keeping in step with earlier developments, they chose another from Endangered to close their set. This selection was called "Creature Council." In this piece, Kopecky looked mean. The song quite literally gave me muscle spasms.
In the end, you have to wonder why artists take on more than one project. I won't look a gift horse in the mouse. If these artists hadn't, you wouldn't get both Kopecky and Far Corner. Since Kopecky came first, I am happy William Kopecky decided to join another band. Also, Maske is a mastermind whereas the drums of Craig Walkner tie it all together. Last but not least, the strings of Angela Schmidt make it more or less unique.
This quartet is a special unit. They might as well continue to do what they do as they do it well. Even with no vocals and sparse melodies, it's somehow within reach.
Maske went nuts on the keys for the last passage. He doesn't look it, but this guy is killer. As I take notes, I think I must finish writing swiftly as it appears they are almost finished. I want to give the final drops my complete focus. This dark piece is heavy metal with brighter hues mixed into a metallic broth. It's a strong and useful alloy if you ask me, and it was an idyllic piece to end on. With this, they took their bows and tried to leave.
While the crowd was small, they were forceful enough to force a delinquent encore. What we got was a song called "Fat Corner." They hadn't said, but it seemed as if it was another jam as it was meatier than the all others combined, thanks to the bass, the tone, and the "Funky Town" beat.
Kopecky saved all his tricks for this unexpected phase. He played with his thumbs and snapped the twine from behind the neck. It was cool and it indubitably proved he was a guru. These were very impressive bass skills being demonstrated here, and they would have been missed if not requested. This is what I would deem an essential encore. It may have been the best song of the night both forward and back, and the bass skills were faithfully reminiscent of Jonas Reingold.
In the fleeting seconds that remained, only now did I realize the cellist was barefoot. F ar Corner is so far-out from the norm that minor details such as this are missed. As they work their magic, your senses are overwrought. They monopolize your ears with strange minutia and pleasantly-goofy stimulus. O nce their songs slide down your tongue, you are left with a truly sublime aftertaste on your palette.
During the break, Willliam Kopecky asked his girlfriend if she had any money and then he split with her; not to be seen for the rest of the night. Even for someone so covert and enigmatic, he found a peculiar way to exit.
- from Progressiveworld.net, by Josh Turner
Far Corner - Live in Milwaukee, WI, September 2005
While Kopecky was the main act, I actually came for Far Corner. I've seen Kopecky play live on a separate occasion. They were great, but my curiosity was tuned into Far Corner this time instead. Through the rumor mill, I've heard many positive comments about this quartet, but I had never heard a lick of their music. Seeing to the fact they were performing in a nearby city at a venue I've come to adore, I figured now was as good a time as ever to expose myself to them.
They are relatively new to the scene of progressive rock. They released their debut self-titled album in 2004. The album featured eight songs (it actually contains ten tracks; three of them go together in a suite). Also, for a progressive rock band, their pieces are surprisingly short. The exception is a track called "Fiction" that runs over 16 minutes. As a result, you would think they would be running on fumes in order to complete a concert.
This was not the case as we got to hear two songs off their next album and two improvisational pieces. By adding four songs that weren't on the album, they were able to scrounge up enough material to make it a nine-song set. They started with "Silly Whim" and "Going Somewhere," which are actually the first two cuts off their album. Then, to my surprise they went straight into this improvisation piece. They continued to color outside the borders. Wasting no time, they went into this alluring piece called "Creature Council," which happens to be a song on their next album. This was followed shortly thereafter by "The Turning." At this point, they squeezed in another song off their next album, which was tagged "Do You Think I'm Spooky." After playing through a song titled "Tracking," they fit in yet another improvisational piece. Before wrapping up, Far Corner concluded with my favorite cut of all, "With One Swipe of the Mighty Paw." This was a great closing piece. At the time, I was beginning to tire. Right before I had a chance to let out a yawn, this fat cat meowed and brought me to back to full attention.
Even though I was unfamiliar with the bands discography at the time, it seems others were in the same boat as me for at least half of the show. I liked that they incorporated these unexpected pieces, even if they weren't quite ready for pressing at the mint. Nevertheless, you would have never known the difference between the new, old, and even the improvised pieces. The concert featured a well-balanced diet between different types of songs and in the end; it was all high-quality content.
I'm not such a fan of avant-garde. I like melodies and I like to follow along. I arrived just as the first song went underway. As I sat down, I was perplexed by the rhythms they randomly jump between. My first thoughts were, whoa, this is going to be a long night. I guess you could say I didn't "get" the music at first. In the short pause between the songs, I got a chance to collect my thoughts, reseat my chips, and restart the system. I still had an ounce of attention span left. When they began to play "Creature Comforts," I noticed a change within me. Rather than scouring the song for microscopic traces of melodies or searching for its missing voice, the rhythms began to penetrate me. I started getting into the groove (later, I found the same experience when I played through the album). Their music takes a moment to lock into place. The only real place to start is at the beginning. I recommend against arriving late. In any case, from my enlightenment on, I was following along with ease through the rest of their set. I can see the source of the positive reviews people have shared about this band.
Dan Maske is the keyboardist and backbone of the band. Without his nimble fingers running up and down the keyboard, the music would be a lot less fun. William "Bill" Kopecky is a special edition and as you would guess, his unique style of bass playing that one would find in Kopecky is audible here as well. While Far Corner is a far cry from sounding like Kopecky, there are a few slides and scales from the bass that do coincide. Then there is Angela Schmidt on the heavy-metal bass. This doesn't necessarily make the music sound heavy, but it does add to its distinct flavor. Last, but by no means least, is Craig Walkner on drums. What's odd is that he plays his drums like a piano by tapping out notes and quickly changing gears. For a band that is mostly avant-garde, it is hard to believe, but the drummer is the most melodic player in the band. If anything, it is Bill who regulates the rhythm, while Craig makes up the melody.
To a degree, it may have been overkill to stretch the concert out with the two improvisational pieces. This wasn't so much because these pieces were lacking, but rather because their set was long enough and they were actually considered the opener that day. These pieces were not short by any measure. Also, due to the fact they follow the avant-garde formula, the pieces are disjointed enough that's it would be best to stick to defined compositions. With that said, I must say they pretty much nailed these compositions into place even if they were extemporaneous. Nonetheless, they would have gotten the point across with just the other part of the program and the people were already quite happy with what they had been provided. Some might say you can get enough of a good thing. Fortunately for the weary fan, they did not play their 16-minute epic or three-piece suite.
Speaking of people, there weren't many in attendance, which is a low-down-dirty shame. The music was too good to be played to such a small crowd. Not to mention, the price to entertainment ratio was well in the audience's favor (tickets were only $6). Between the low turnout and the cheap tickets, this was two more reasons why the improvisational pieces were unnecessary. Under these circumstances, who would have thought they'd play this long.
As the adage goes, less is more. Therefore, the only aspect of the concert I'd change is the length of it. I would have started with "Creature Comforts," done away with the improvisations (though, I'm assuming this is how many of their pieces come about), and ended with "Mighty Swipe of the Paw." They have some very strong compositions, so I'd suggest they stay primarily with those tried and true pieces. They should get on stage, make an impression, and then get off. Otherwise, they should be headlining the event.
To sum it up, great concert, poor attendance, and a real bang for the buck. I'd definitely like to see them again. Any festivals looking to fill their roster, you may find something worth checking out in the distant crooks of Far Corner.
- From Musicstreetjournal.com, by Josh Turner