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more... ArtistsBassistsGuitaristsJuly 2014Steve HoweYes

Cruising to the Edge


The Squackett team of Steve Hackett and Chris Squire reunites for “All Along the Watchtower,” with a little help from UK’s John Wetton. Photo by Robert Juckett.

Motion of the Ocean
This event also provided a rare and special opportunity for everyone aboard to socialize and mingle with their fellow passengers.

This wasn’t Kurdt Vanderhoof’s first cruise, but Presto Ballet’s founder and guitarist said it was the first one where he wanted to see every show. “I hate to see it end,” he shared after his performance in the Atrium on the last day of the cruise. “I like all the bands, and I love most of them.” Vanderhoof, whose other band Metal Church is a far cry from the sounds filling the Divina, started Presto Ballet to pay tribute to the progressive rock bands he cut his teeth on. “We’re regressive prog!” he says laughing. “We play regressive rock.”

It can be hard for bands like his to find paying gigs. In fact, Presto Ballet has been around for six years and has released five albums, but Cruise to the Edge was only the group’s fourth live gig. For Vanderhoof, it was the gig: “It’s a boat full of people who are actually going to listen.”

“I love playing the guitar because my finger touches the string directly and I have the impression that the divine influence can go directly into the string and translate.” —Markus Reuter

The ship’s relaxed atmosphere provided many opportunities for the relatively young group of musicians in the Swedish sextet Moon Safari to meet some of their heroes. “It’s like talking with your record collection,” says lead singer/guitarist Petter Sandström. “You could just go around with a beer and talk with everyone, and a lot of the old legends would just hang around in bars late at night. I talked a lot with Eddie Jobson. He was hanging at the late-night prog jam almost every night.”

For Moon Safari’s bassist Johan Westerlund, it was a chance to witness some of the greatest trailblazers of adventurous bass playing, like the great Squire. “He revolutionized it,” Westerlund attests. “In the mix of Fragile, you can hear something really strange going on, something that was brand new. They just played all over the place, the guitar can be low … there was no logic to it. It was not the same way it was done before. He used the bass like an actual instrument, not just to fill out the bass range. You can tell that everyone wants to play like him.”

Guitarist Steve Hackett chilling backstage before one of his several performances during the 2014 sea-faring festival.
Photo by Armando Gallo.

And so it would make sense to go to the source and ask the man himself: What is prog? “Generally it’s a term used for anything that’s a bit more complicated than three-chord songs—even though there’s nothing wrong with three-chord songs in their own right,” Squire says. “But prog rock has always had a classical influence, more interesting chord changes, and generally more complicated styles of playing. That’s really what prog rock means to me. I think most artists that have been involved in prog have generally been more clever players than is necessary to be in a lot of rock ’n’ roll, which is all about feel. We in Yes have always developed our interest in that as well, to promote the feel side of music as well as the musicality.”

As Genesis’ “Land of Confusion” played in the background, Vanderhoof offered a heartfelt reason for why he made the trip. “For me, progressive rock is about going against the grain, and music is the main focus. Music is paramount. It’s not about money, it’s not about fashion, it’s not about hits, it’s not about being cool, it’s not about chicks, it’s not about drugs, it’s not about beer—it’s not about any of that. It’s about music.”
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