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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Far Corner

Live in Milwaukee, WI, September 2005

Review by Josh Turner

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.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at https://garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2005.
 
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