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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Far Corner

Live at M.A.R.S., June 2007

Review by Josh Turner

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 to hear 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 Kreger (the host of “Live on the Air”). 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 Steurmer is also another Milwaukee native). This goes to prove there is nothing wrong with local talent.

William Kopecky had a 13 with a circular outline on his chest. 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 Kreger for helping get his band off the ground, into the hands of fans, as well as onto the stage. He said 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 cellist, 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 said 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 that point, I was 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 Spooky Hollow. With this thought, I think he is progressive rock’s own Johnny Depp.

In the 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 liked 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 up…

Keeping in step with earlier developments, they chose another from Endangered to close their set. This selection was called “Creature Council.” In the 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. 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 then did I realize the cellist was barefoot. Far 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. Once their songs slide down your tongue, you are left with a truly sublime aftertaste on your palette.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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