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Porto Antico Prog Fest 2019 - Genova

18th July 2019

Porto Antico Prog Fest 2019 - Genova

2019’s Porto Antico Prog Fest was another single evening event but unlike the 2018 performances, there were no tribute acts and there was a distinct ‘local flavour’ to the performances. I even managed to tick off two more classic 70s-era progressivo italiano bands on my personal ‘must see’ list, both of which had their roots in Genoa – New Trolls and Latte e Miele – but all four acts playing were worthy additions to the bill.

Struttura & Forma began proceedings, another local band that got together in 1972, gigged extensively, underwent personnel changes and disbanded. Their debut album One of Us was released in 2017 a while after two original founders Franco Frassinetti and Giacomo Caliolo reformed the group with some new members. Though it was possible to discern some complex, jazzy prog they were plagued with mixing problems, and I foolishly neglected to seek out their CD from the merchandise stand. One of the other interesting features of the evening were links to the music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Struttura & Forma played a cover of Lucky Man which appeared on their album, a specially arranged extended version with new parts and a new structure.

The second act, the Giorgio 'Fico' Piazza Band, also suffered from a poor sound. Piazza was the original PFM bassist and the set, thoroughly enjoyable despite the imperfect mixing, consisted of material from the first three Italian PFM albums. Piazza was ably assisted with a gifted set of young musicians: Marco Fabbri (The Watch) on drums; Eric Zanoni on guitar and vocals; Giuseppe Pema and Riccardo Campagno on keyboards and vocals; and later joined by Annie Barbazza on acoustic guitar and vocals for a little bit of early King Crimson – something of a reprise for the bassist as PFM used to cover King Crimson songs during their early tours. Piazza’s bass guitar was actually given to him by Greg Lake and Barbazza, a keen student of the early progressive rock movement, was a guest musician at Lake’s performance at Piacenza in 2012 later released on the specially resurrected Manticore Records, who at the request of Lake himself sings on the legacy album Moonchild – A deep journey into the music and poetry of Greg Lake.

Latte e Miele were formed in 1971 and their latest incarnation LatteMiele 2.0 was the first of the two acclaimed 70’s bands I’d come to see, launching their new album Paganini Experience recorded to coincide with festivities celebrating Paganini and Genoa and including a ‘thank you’ to ProgBlog in the sleeve notes.
Latte e Miele disbanded in 1974 but original drummer Alfio Vitanza reformed the group with bassist/guitarist Massimo Gori and keyboard player Luciano Poltini for the 1976 LP Aquile e scoiattoli (along with a second keyboard player, Mimmo Damiani). Gori remained with the group when all original members were reunited for two well received albums in 2009 and 2014, the latter an updated version of their debut album, and Gori formed LatteMiele 2.0 with Poltini, drummer Marco Biggi and the violinist Elena Aiello, a graduate of the city’s Conservatorio Niccolò Paganini. Their sound was full and well-balanced but if I were to express a criticism it would be a degree of disappointment with periods lacking rhythmic invention despite the evidence of phenomenal musicianship on display. Latte e Miele had utilised the same piece of a toccata from Bach’s St Matthew Passion on Passio Secundum Mattheum quoted by Keith Emerson on The Three Fates but at the prog fest and they too included some ELP material in their set.

Headlining were La storia dei New Trolls, the nearest I’m likely to get to see New Trolls, with Vittorio De Scalzi leading a talented band through a set list spanning beat-era material to Quella carezza della sera, a distinctly non-prog song from Aldebaran (1978) that is probably the group’s most famous piece of music. A pop song with epic vocal harmonies, the track was a successful single and evidently featured heavily in the soundtrack of the lives of many in the audience. Barring that, the entire set was thoroughly enjoyable, especially the excerpts from Concert Grosso no.1 and though my New Trolls collection is fairly limited (Concerto Grosso nos.1 & 2, Searching for a Land and UT), I did recognise a decent proportion of their set.

Congratulations to Black Widow Records for organising the wonderful line-up and creating a memorable evening of first-class progressivo italiano; Black Widow is surely the main reason progressive rock is so prominent in Genoa. Special thanks also go out to all my friends from the city who continue to educate and entertain me.

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