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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

ProgStock 2023

By Jennifer Ersalesi

This year the Williams Center will be hosting ProgStock, a Progressive Rock festival. Although ProgStock is new to Rutherford, it has been a successful event for many years in other parts of the state. This is Rutherford spoke with Tom Palmieri, ProgStock founder and coordinator, to learn more about this special event.

TIR: This will be ProgStock's seventh year! For the first time, ProgStock will take place at the Williams Center in Rutherford. What brought ProgStock to the Borough of Trees this year?

Tom Palmieri: ProgStock was launched in 2017 at the Union County Performing Arts Center in the city of Rahway. We thoroughly enjoyed our 6-year run there and will be forever grateful to Rahway and the team at UCPAC. As the festival evolved, we determined that a more flexible space would better serve our vision, and our search for such a venue over the last year led us to the Williams Center in Rutherford. Not only does this new venue allow us to realize more aspects of our vision, but its owner and staff, and the Borough's government and organizations, have been very welcoming and have become true partners in our "re-launch" at the Williams Center in 2023. We look forward to many enjoyable years here in the Borough of Trees.

TIR: ProgStock is the American Northeast’s only Progressive Rock Music Festival. Why are you passionate about bringing Progressive Rock to a venue in the Northeast? Why is it important to you to keep this music “alive”?

TP: The American Northeast, and specifically New Jersey, always has been my home. This is where my childhood memories of discovering Progressive Rock began, and I feel compelled to share my love of this style of music with as many people as I can here in my little part of the world. Prog (as it is often called) and related styles of music were very popular in the late '60s and '70s, but many don't realize that a tremendous amount of original Prog has been made since those times by legions of artists over the last 50 years, right through today. Since its heyday, it has become more of an "underground" scene, with fewer but utterly devoted fans, by artists who pour their emotions and creativity into musical compositions that challenge the brain while producing imagery and feelings that today's more popular music doesn't seem to provide. These artists need all the support we can give them to keep this kind of music alive, and ProgStock is our way of doing so.

TIR: What are some of the performances that you are most looking forward to this year?

TP: All of them, of course! We love every artist on our roster, and there are no such things as "favorites" here. But, some of the most notable performances at ProgStock this year will be provided by: Patrick Moraz, the unbelievable Swiss genius who played with Yes and The Moody Blues during the '70s and '80s; Rachel Flowers, the phenomenal American composer and multi-instrumentalist whose congenital blindness has never stopped her from becoming a true master with whom every serious musician craves to play; and Unitopia, the Prog powerhouse from Australia who have reformed after a 10-year hiatus to release a stunning new album, featuring the iconic American drummer Chester Thompson of Frank Zappa, Weather Report, and Genesis fame. Randy McStine, the New Yorker who recently toured with Porcupine Tree on guitar, will be performing solo material and playing with other bands on our roster. Michael Sadler of the Canadian Prog giants, Saga, will make appearances on stage with some of our artists. And New Jersey's own Joe Deninzon, the new violin player for the iconic American Prog band, Kansas, will be a guest artist as well. I could go on forever! Each of our bands and guest artists have their own storied histories and have made or are still making their mark on the music scene. We love them all.

TIR: Not only will there be performing artists at ProgStock, but there will also be fine artists. Can you tell us more about that aspect of ProgStock?

TP: Yes, ProgStock also features galleries from amazing fine artists whose work has been associated with or originated within the Prog scene. Our returning champion, Paul Whitehead, is the amazing creator of some of the most memorable album art from the 1970s for Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator, and even today for artists such as Fernando Perdomo and Days Between Stations. The lovely Annie Haslam, the woman known as the voice of the hugely popular English Prog band, Renaissance, will showcase her paintings which she describes as the work of an Intuitive Abstract Expressionist. The great Patrick Moraz will share some of his fine artwork, and the Bob Moog Foundation will host a special exhibit dedicated to Patrick's storied life and career. Our good friend Michael Bennett, the producer of the longest-running Prog festival in the world, ProgDay, will share his paintings and drawings that adorn many artists' albums. And, for an appropriate "October in New Jersey" feel, our dear friend Deane Arnold will bring his world-renowned pumpkin sculpting skills to the festival again this year.

TIR: ProgStock is a volunteer effort and putting this together must take a lot of work. Can you tell us more about yourself and others coordinating this event and all of the volunteers who are working with you?

TP: This is the most important topic because without my steadfast partner-in-crime and partner-in-life, Ann Rinaldi, and the unwavering support of our volunteers, this festival simply cannot exist. Yes, it is quite a lot of work to plan, organize, and execute a festival like ours and so much work that each year's efforts begin the very next day after the current festival has ended, and sometimes even before. Producing ProgStock is a deeply personal "passion project" that both Ann and I share, which drives us to go forward every year despite the requirements of our careers and other personal matters, and to weather the hefty financial toll it takes on us. But what keeps us somewhat sane and repeatedly reminds us of how lucky we are is the willingness and dedication of the folks who volunteer to assist us with all the important tasks and jobs, both while planning the festival and hands-on during it, and most notably those who have done so for years. There are around 50 individuals who generously offer their time, skills, experience, and efforts to ProgStock every year. These people spread the word about the event on social media, in the news, on the air, and at other concerts to strangers, and then work at various positions such as the door, merchandise tables, hospitality areas, stage crew, and production team. We appreciate their support tremendously and cannot thank them enough. Without them, ProgStock cannot exist!

TIR: Anything else you would like our readers to know?

TP: One last thing and it's the most important thing. We are humbly asking folks from Rutherford and surrounding towns to please take a chance on us, buy a ticket, and come to ProgStock. You can buy a 3-day pass that gives you access to everything from Friday through Sunday, or you can buy a single-day pass for the days you can spend with us. The Rivoli Theater at the Williams Center, where all our main performances will take place, features very comfortable seating in a historic venue. And seeing high-quality rock music shows and fine art exhibits, in a safe, clean, and family-friendly setting, is a great way to spend a fun day with your family and friends. In fact, we want to make this even more attractive for our new friends in the Rutherford area.

Use the promo code TREES50 when purchasing regular 3-day passes in our online box office and you will receive 50% off. You can come to the festival and bring a friend or family member and they will attend for FREE.

We want this to be a successful event, for us and for the Borough of Rutherford, and we would love your support to make that a reality. We promise you an exciting and fun experience you will never forget.

For festival passes, click here.

To read a recent press release from the Bob Moog Foundation, click here.

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