This past Thursday, September 29, 2016, the city of Cleveland was proud to be one of the very few cities to host the Sonic Voyage Fest, a festival that features the talents of two host bands, Circuline and Stratospheerius. These two bands are strongly steeped in the musical style of Progressive Rock and it is that musical style that is featured in the Sonic Voyage Fest.
Once a proud and noble form of Rock and Roll, Prog-Rock had been the music of choice for bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Yes; even early Genesis was part of the Prog-Rock movement when Peter Gabriel was mainly at the helm of that band. Each of those bands was responsible for pushing the boundaries of Rock and Roll with Prog-Rock.
Soon, however, Prog-Rock began to fade as tastes changed and new styles of Rock and Roll emerged. Many music listeners started accepting commercially-viable Rock and Roll as their music of choice, pushing prog-rock further and further into the back of the musical catalog. Commercial Rock became “the norm” and the more creative bands started to disappear.
And with Circuline and Stratospheerius being two bands that wanted to keep the style alive and thriving, they got together with some outside helpers of promoters Anne Leighton and Thomas Palmieri to put together the Sonic Voyage Fest.
The Cleveland edition of the Sonic Voyage Fest began with Circuline taking to the stage at Wilbert’s Food and Music. The upstate New York-based band features guitarist Beledo, keyboardist/vocalist Andrew Colyer, and Cleveland native percussionist Darin Brannon. The band also features Billy Spillane and Natalie Brown; two theatrical vocalists who help bring the band’s lyrics to life.
To bring the bottom to the music of Circuline, the band had a little help from musician/engineer Joel Simches. Along with the bass for the music, Simches also helped produce the sound for the night.
Circuline began their set with their song “Who I Am”. While the musicians in the band created the prog-rock music, it was vocalists Brown and Spillane who seemed to have been the stars for that particular song. Guitarist Beledo also seemed to shine as he contributed a very strong solo to the track.
The band moved into a more progressive sound on the song “Forbidden Planet”. While “Who I Am” contained a good deal of progressive influence, this song contained a lot more melody in the music, making it feel like a cross between Broadway and a track from a movie soundtrack.
The band launched into an instrumental with the song “Hollow”. That song felt as if it had been largely influenced by the likes of both Genesis and Gentle Giant. Guitarist Beledo and keyboardist Andrew Colyer really brought out the prog-rock feel of the song. “Hollow” was easily the strongest track up to that point.
As Joel Simches was helping to provide so much support to the band in the way of both playing the bass and providing the sound for the performance, it seemed only natural that he be given the chance to shine. And on the song “Nautilus,” he got the chance to do just that. Sinches added plenty of energy to the song as he played. At times, he even seemed to be the lead instrumentalist. The play between Beledo and Colyer gave the song a good deal of charcter, as well.
For one final tune, the band invited Cleveland’s own Joe Deninzon from Stratospheerius up on stage to play with Circulon on the song “Silence Revealed”. On this track, Deninzon’s violin gave the song a definite boost. His solo blew the hometown crowd away.
Throughout the band’s hour-long time on stage, Circuline alternated between the strongest Progressive Rock and their more theatrical pieces. The band’s mix made for an interesting set. And with drummer Darin Brannon calling Cleveland home, that hometown connection seemed to make the band’s set that much more special.
And speaking of hometown connection, Russian-born musicians Joe Deninzon came to Cleveland, Ohio with his parents who were part of the Cleveland Orchestra. Soon enough, Joe, too, was becoming a musician of his caliber. And with the fact that he teaches and plays for young students, Joe is definitely following in his parents footsteps…in his own way.
Adding to that hometown theme that was happening that night, there happened to be a homecoming of sorts when it came to the venue of Wilbert’s.
Back in the nineties, Joe Deninzon released his first album. That album came out on the record label run by Wilbert’s. So when the Sonic Voyage Fest came through Cleveland, Ohio, it was a lucky situation that the tour came to Wilbert’s. Deninzon came to town with his band Stratospheerius.
Along with Deninzon on vocals, violin and mandolin, the rest of the Stratospheerius consisted of: bassist Randy McStine, guitarist Avrelien Budynek and drummer Jason Gianni. The band is stocked with talent as Gianni is part of the Drummers Collective in New York City, Randy McStine fronts the band Lo-Fi Resistance and Avrelien Budynek comes from a little band called Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
With Joe Deninzon’s band Stratospheerius’ first tune of the night, they increased the energy level from the energy that Circuline was putting out. With the initial track, the music became harder, faster and louder.
One of the most interesting points of the night came from Joe Deninzon himself. At one point, Deninzon strapped on not, but two, instruments: along with his ubiquitous violin, he also strapped on his mandolin to play. The resulting song of “My Own Reality” contained influences that were part Genesis and part Gentle Giant. The sight of Deninzon performing on the two instruments was quite impressive and it showed just how versatile he really is.
With Deninzon being among a hometown crowd, it seemed only natural that he tries out something new. That new tune, “Game of Chicken,” found Deninzon and the rest of the band once again adding more progressive sounds to the night. The band picked up the energy of the music with that song.
Stratospheerius brought their set to a close with the song “One Foot in the Next World”. Like all of their songs the band put on one hell of a show and “left it all on stage,” as the saying goes.
For Joe Deninzon and his band Stratospheerius, the time seemed to be over way too fast. The band started with a good amount of energy and never let up through their time on stage.
Once Joe Deninzon and Stratospheerius left the stage, Cell 15 took over that stage in Wilbert’s to bring the Cleveland edition of the Sonic Voyage Fest to a close. Normally a trio, the band performed as just a duo for the evening because of a family situation with the bass player. But because of programming, the duo of keyboardist/vocalist Robert Scott Richardson and drummer Kevin Thomas sounded full and rich with no loss in intensity.
For the band’s set, Cell 15 played tracks from the band’s Chapter One release. The Who’s Tommy, Chapter One tells the story in song. This release deals with Richardson’s dark past that he managed to escape. As the music produced by Cell 15 contains a large amount of Progressive Rock, the band would fit right in with the likes of Pink Floyd.
With this being the second edition of the Sonic Voyage Fest and with Circuline and Stratospheerius being founding bands for the festival, Cell 15 is the newbie as far as the bands are concerned. However, with how strong the band’s music is, they were definitely a welcome addition to this year’s event. The three bands came together to create a great night of Progressive Rock that did not disappoint. Those in attendance were treated to strong night of music. And for those who were not there, there is always next time.