Went to Southend to see Theo playing with The Tangent last night. For those of you that don’t know (I’m guessing that’s most of you), The Tangent are a prog rock band, in the old fashioned sense of mini-moogs and obscure time signature changes, too many band members and 22 minute songs. Andy Tillison, who basically IS the Tangent, is a driven man, and I have a huge amount of respect for him, bordering on awe, mixed with bewilderment… That his musical vision requires him to hire six other musicians, write this insanely complex music and play it in little clubs in Southend is a remarkable testament to his tenacity and dedication.
And it is very well played. Despite a number of nasty technical hitches (an electrical spike that shut down all the keyboards and synth stuff), the band played the ridiculously complex music very well indeed, especially considering this isn’t a band that gigs week in week out (three of them are over from Sweden for the gig), and there are moments in the gig when I’m reminded why I loved prog-rock so much in my teens – the complexity, energy, the bizarreness of grooves in 7/8, 11/8 etc – it doesn’t really sound like anything else.
But I also breathed a huge sigh of relief that I’m not destined for the kind of logistical hell that Andy is every time he puts on a gig. My own musical goals in life are scalable to the degree that I could play solo in people’s living rooms for the rest of my music life and be not only fulfilled but probably make a reasonable living doing it.
I’m rarely at the mercy of club sound engineers and sysyems built to make Stones tribute bands sound loud, not 7 progsters sound clear. Even when I add other musicians, there are never any scores to hand round, rehearsals to be hand (except the duo with Julie, and that actually made a nice change, to have things to remember for once!)
My own musical journey is one deeper into collective spontaneous composition – beyond what usually gets described as ‘free improv’ and into something where ‘Is it Good?’ is the question of the hour not ‘Is it Right?’ – it’s what the Recycle Collective is about, it’s what the duos with Theo and BJ and Cleveland are about, it’s where I’m happiest, and where I play best.
So, a salute to Andy Tillison for his remarkable tenacity in the face of unrelenting technical obstacles, and a prayer of thanks that the musical monkey on my own back isn’t quite so demanding.