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Come September

August 5, 2011

I should have been in London by now. I should have been at the High Voltage Festival in July and I should have already written extensively about Dream Theater’s first tour with new drummer Mike Mangini. I should have been full of stories about how I bumped into my musical heroes, with slightly (but justifiably) embellished accounts of our encounters.

There is an officer sitting somewhere in the British High Commission blissfully unaware of all of this. Months of planning, dozens of emails, applying for and being granted accreditation, flight tickets and accommodation reservations were all rendered pointless because I was not granted a visa in time. The actual justification was, in hindsight, valid. I will be moving to London in August anyway as a student, which precludes my being granted a tourist visa. I don’t know what is more frustrating- that I did not get my visa, or that I did not realise that I never actually stood a chance of getting it.

Although it felt like the end of the world, I realised eventually that the best part of the year for a prog fanatic was around September, with a glut of highly anticipated albums all due to be released then. Aside from the High Voltage Festival’s prog stage, virtually every concert worth attending will take place after I get to London in August. With eighteen concerts already lined up for a two month period beginning in September, it is a little easier to get over the High Voltage disappointment.

The year began with such great promise for a prog-addict like me. Virtually every major artist was releasing at least one studio album this year, with almost all the giants of the genre represented in some way. The list seemed too good to be true- Dream Theater, Opeth, Pain of Salvation, Steven Wilson, Devin Townsend, Symphony X, Agents of Mercy,Riverside, Pendragon, Beardfish, Blackfield, Anathema, Blotted Science, Neal Morse, Nick D’Virgilio. It even included rejuvenated bands from the seventies like Van der Graff Generator and Yes.  The list was longer than any year in recent memory.

I remember having a conversation with someone after a King’s X show once, who articulated one of the problems that we have with this kind of music. Albums are long, dense and complex and require undivided attention and plenty of it. Discovering an artist’s back catalogue can be a daunting and arduous task (as I most recently discovered with Roine Stolt). It feels like a full time job. With so many potentially great albums about to drop at the same time, my immense excitement is tempered with mild apprehension. September and October will be hectic, and I will have to plan a proper listening schedule, much like how my parents adjusted all of our lives and schedules when we, as a family, got hooked onto the TV show 24. In my mother’s immortal words, “You wake up at 9 instead of 11, so we can watch two episodes in the morning. You can go back to sleep after that, but be up in time for lunch and two more episodes. Finish your work in the evening quickly so that we can squeeze in a three episodes at night.”

I have six weeks to prepare. September 13th flags off of the next round, with Dream Theater’s A Dramatic Turn of Events and Opeth’s Heritage. By the time Pain of Salvation’s Road Salt Two is out a couple of weeks later, I am quite sure I will be hearing my mother’s voice over the phone saying “You wake up at 4 instead of 8. Listen to two albums in the morning, then get some breakfast, after which…”

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