I'm not supposed to like prog. When I was in college, and discovered punk, I kind of had to keep my prog albums hidden, and in fact, got rid of a bunch of them. The first records that went to the used record store to cover the rent and pay for beer (in that order, honestly), were my prog albums. Buh-bye, ELP. Ciao, Yes. (Well, I kept my three-album set of Yessongs. I still have it, and my copy of Todd Rundgren's Utopia.) Even the Court of the Crimson King had to go. (But I did pick up a copy of Discipline my senior year). But to an emerging new waver punk like 19-year-old me, prog was the Anti-Johnny-Rotten. It was supposedly everything that was wrong with rock and roll. It was the thing that had to be totally deconstructed and flattened out so that we could make room for some I-IV-Vs and two chord antiestablishment anthems again. The first amendment junkie in me was loathe to actually burn my prog albums, but I had to get them out of my dorm room before the cute punk boy across the hall would see them and write me off as a boring suburban stoolie who didn't know who Patti Smith was. Thank god for Record Service.
Thursday night she debuted her latest pair of top notch musicians as accompanists: Micah Olsan and Eric Lundgren. I wasn't aware that they hadn't rehearsed together, she just handed them sheet music and they sightread their parts. (That old joke about "how do you get a guitar play to turn down his amp" "put sheet music in front of him" was flashing in my head). Afterwards they were kvetching about how "this part wasn't right here" and such, but I just butted in and said, in all honesty, "I heard no mistakes." But they're progs, and part of being prog is being meticulously exacting about one's music, so I let them go. Julie's tunes are still melancholy as ever, but her voice, over the past five years, has caught up to her instrumental virtuosity. (Julie, honestly, your voice used to get drowned out by your band).The songs themselves are on the level of Tori Amos introspectiveness, but without the annoying shrill. No, Julie's voice is capable of belting out some emo blues: it's full and expressive, and is doing justice to her work. She's ready to rock should she decide that someday, she just wants to strap on this awful bass I know she still has and just blast out some three chord anthems. She has the leather pants for it!