Last night at Hard Rock Cafe, Philadelphians had the opportunity to experience world-class progressive rock music from both local and international stars, complete with live painting and video projection art for a visual accompaniment. South Jersey stalwarts Out of the Beardspace have been rocking various stages around the region for years now, including their own annual DIY festival, Beardfest. The six-piece ensemble met at the School of Rock, and three members are currently enrolled at University of the Arts for further study, and keyboardist Sam Gutman even spent some time at Berklee College of Music. Though obviously capable of incredibly cerebral music, the group manages to balance it out with visceral grooves, owing a great deal to bassist/vocalist Kevin Savo’s virtuosic work. Each member is a multi-instrumentalist, sporadically rotating around the stage to different instruments for songs that sometimes include two bassists, or two keyboardists, or two drummers, in addition to their standard dual guitar attack and tight three part harmonies. It’s a testament to the propulsive power of their music that the crowd manages to dance along at all, with shifting time signatures turning on a dime into beats and riffs influenced by virtually every genre existent. Recent single “Cast in Stone” was certainly a mid-set highlight, evidently the only time they played it on the four dates they’ve joined this tour. This was the latest of several excellent opening slots the Beardspace boys have scored lately, going on a short tour with Moon Hooch in November and opening for Marco Benevento at Johnny Brenda’s in December. They’re taking a short break from touring as a full group, but Gutman and guitarist Zach LoPresti’s side project the Hollander Crouse Duo will be opening up for Catullus at Doc Watson’s in Exton on February 13th.
Local bassist Julie Slick has attained international success as a member of The Crimson ProjeKCt, a King Crimson tribute band including King Crimson members Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, and Pat Mastelotto. The latter joined her as drummer for this tour, lending his impeccable chops and reputation to a supergroup also featuring Italian prodigy Marco Machera and University of the Arts guitar instructor Tim Motzer. They all displayed incredible musicianship onstage throughout their set, whether playing selections from Slick and Machera’s bass duets album Fourth Dementia or classics from the King Crimson catalog like “Dinosaur” and “Indiscipline”. Slick was celebrating her birthday, and the whole group seemed to be having a ball on stage, Mastelotto’s hands moving almost too fast to see. The sheer quantity of pedals in use was mindblowing, even including consoles set up on chairs that were too complex to be worked by foot. Beardspace guitarist Zach LoPresti had the opportunity to play a song or two with them towards the end, and the addition of another person had the stage virtually overflowing. The integration of circular panels for displaying video artist Dejha Ti‘s projections made for an immersive experience, but one that could perhaps have been better appreciated in a larger space. Beardspace’s own visual art, live painting by the ROMPUS, was relegated to the floor at stage right. Despite all this, the soaring ceilings of Hard Rock kept anyone from feeling cramped at what really was a packed 18+ show, two hometown artists returning from a successful regional tour. Slick and company will wrap things up tonight in New York at Spectrum for WinterProg Fest.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC