08 May 2008

Discovering discipline.

(Being the first in a series of slightly less news based, personal observational posts that will be showing up over the next few days...)

Let's turn the clock back, shall we? To a quieter and more innocent time, when yr. obd't blogger thought progressive rock was dead, save for a few still semi-active bands from that long-gone golden era who'd trot out their material on a semi-annual Summer Shed basis.

Yr. Obd't Blogger and his lovely wife were at just such a shed, the now renamed PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel NJ for a progtastic double bill of Emerson Lake and Palmer with Jethro Tull. This was my anniversary present to her, as she was a massive fan of both bands, and I enjoyed both bands equally. Inside the venue itself, there was a table with a banner for a publication called Progression Magazine, purporting to be the 'quarterly journal of progressive rock.' Intrigued, we picked up a card, and decided to order a subscription.

When the first issue arrived, we were shocked to see that not only was progressive rock (sort of) alive and (for the most part) well, there was an incredibly (semi) active underground scene and hundreds of (occasionally) new and unique bands presenting new material. We sat there, going through the magazine for days, and in the end, decided to each pick two bands and order a CD from each of them to see what was out there.

I know my wife picked Spocks Beard and Braindance, and I picked Mastermind and a band out of Michigan called discipline. I picked the later because the name reminded me of King Crimson, and I was hopeful that the hallmarks of what I liked in KC would be evident in this newer band I'd never heard of before.

The album I ordered was called unfolded like staircase. When it arrived, I was surprised to see there were only 4 songs on it...even more surprised when I found out the CD was over 60 minutes long. Cautiously I put it in my CD player and hit play.

I was blown away.

Dark, bits of violin and sax, fluid Howe-like guitars, and a voice unlike any I had ever heard before (this was long before I had heard of a group called Van der Graaf Generator). The lyrics were powerful and full of symbology, and I was hooked. Over the years, the hooks have gotten embedded deeper, rather than letting go.

I was a less tactful person in those distant days; I followed up that order with an order for their debut CD, Push and Profit. When I was accidentally sent a second copy of the new album, I sent it back with a sarcastic note saying I already had a copy, and that if they didn't have the debut in stock anymore, then I wanted my money back. The day after I sent it back, I got a second packet in the mail from their label, with the debut in it, and a handwritten note from Matthew Parmenter apologising for the mistake, and asking me to share the second copy with a friend. I felt like a heel.

Not long after the circle turned a little bit, and I began writing for Progression. One of my first reviews was of the discipline. album, with an ending line that I see quoted often for this album..."No neo-prog effort this, but a progressive statement of epic proportions that rocks."

Time passes. Tempus fugit. I miss seeing the band with the remnants of a relatively recently fractured echolyn in Philly, and before long, discipline. goes into hiatus. In 2002, I attend my first NEARfest, and discover that the Progday festival had several album releases of live performances from their annual fest; several had live discipline. tracks on them. Needless, I grabbed them quickly. Two years later, I get a packet in the mail from Strung Out Records, containing the new Matthew Parmenter solo album astray in it. I didn't order it...someone had it sent to me. Enclosed was another nice little note from MP. At that point, I start e-mailing him, and we develop a close acquaintanceship/I suppose friendship at this point. I start running a mailing list/e-group for him on Yahoo, and it's announced that he'll be doing a solo spotlight at NEARfest 2005.

NF 2005 was a rough one for me on a personal level, yet the highlight was his set. And the fact that I got to go on stage and do his introduction,which to this day amazes me. It was one of the most awesome (in the sense that I was filled with awe and almost unable to speak) things to ever happen to me. I got to spend a decent bit of time with him, talking to him, and so on. He gave me a copy of the re-released discipline. DVD gratis. And, when he found out that someone had taken my jewel cases and trayliners for the two discipline albums (I'd left the discs at home and had him sign the booklets), sent me new copies of both albums, again for free.

Skip forward to 2007. We get to the first day of NEARfest 2007, and co-organiser Rob LaDuca grabs me and says "Bill, I want to talk to you."

Nervous I am, until he tells me that he wanted to tell me first, before anyone else, who the first band signed for NF 2008 was, as I was such a huge fan: the reunited, classic quartet line-up of discipline. Matthew Parmenter, Paul Dzendel, Mathew Kennedy, and Jon Preston Bouda.

I think I squealed like a thirteen year old girl in the Ed Sullivan Theatre in 1964 when the Beatles played.

I then had to keep it secret till they announced it officially that day. At which time everyone that knew me there turned to see my reaction.

Needless, excitement was the theme of the day.

A little less than a year later, I've written a short bio for the NF page (having co-wrote the bio for the 2005 program when Matthew played solo)) and have in my grubby little paws Matthew's latest solo opus, Horror Express. 12 years on, give or take, from when I first saw the name, I am every bit as much a fan as I was when I heard the first notes of "Canto IV," a song that resonated so strongly with me that I took its title as a screen name for many years. My fandom is strengthened by the fact that I've gotten to know Matthew a little bit beyond the albums. It gives me a greater appreciation for the music I enjoy.

NF 2008 is a month and a half away, and something I have looked forward to for over a decade is finally going to happen; I am going to see discipline. live.

And the circle turns again...


Justin said...

Thanks for sharing, Bill. Like you, I can't wait to see these guys at NFX.

Partha said...

nice reminiscence...I've seen that description of ULS, never knew that it was yours....

Bill K. said...

Partha...yep, that was me. I continue to feel that way about the album...I rate it as one of the best 1990's Ameri-prog albums...

Justin...thanks! I am trying not to get too excited, for that way leads to disappointment no matter what they do, but...yes, I am excited :-)

Anonymous said...

Bill, are they playing any warm-ups in the Detroit area in advance of NF?

Bill K. said...

They already did...back in March, opening for Tiles. I don't know of any other dates...they may well be doing some serious woodshedding getting other material up to speed. Hard to say.