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The Bigelf Progressive Nation Tour Report: Bums, George Clinton and Steve Vai

Ace Mark from Bigelf is currently on the road with the Progressive Nation 2009 tour with Dream Theater, Zappa Plays Zappa and Scale the Summit. He hates people who write about themselves in the third person.

Denver
After a day off in Omaha, Neb. we were once again in Denver. A great venue, but unfortunately the show suffered from technical difficulties. It turned out that a circuit board inside the Echoplex was loose, so the echo didn’t work, and what’s even worse we had no Mellotron. Anyway, Damon did a really good job using just the Hammond organ and the Mini Moog, considering. Luckily also the audience seemed to appreciate their dose of ‘Mediumelf.’ After signing some merch, we disappeared into the night with the Zappa boys once again, this time to the local Rock Bottom Brewery. Some local fans were ordering us beers and shots, but somehow they ended up on our bill after they had left. People in Denver are generally really cool and friendly, but some of them seem to have a weird kind of hospitality…

Drive to St. George, Utah
The bus left at 4 AM towards St. George. Duffy and me were in still in a party mode, so we ended having beers and drinks in the front of the bus and playing country music to our driver Jerry. Them sad old songs was a perfect soundtrack to the mountains of Utah bathing in the rising sun. Jerry is an older guy from Tennessee, so he was into it. At least he said he was. The country session went on until 8 AM, but we’re still on speaking terms. I think.

The weather in St. George was hellishly hot, so as soon as we got to the hotel everybody jumped in the pool and rinsed off the dust from the road. After the pool we went to an Italian restaurant, and in an hour or two everybody’s stomachs were upset. But after all, what could have potentially been the most boring day of the tour turned out to be pretty good actually.

San Jose, Calif.
In the afternoon Duffy and I made our usual beer run to the liquor store a few blocks away from the theater. It was kind of a seedy neighborhood, lots of weirdos and bums hanging around. At the liquor store this huge hip-hop dude was trying to make me buy him beer, another guy on the street just wouldn’t believe that I had no marijuana on me. What a scene.

The show was good, and after watching some Zappa and Dream Theater we (you guessed it) went to a bar. The only place open was this funny hip designer bar which looked like a hotel lobby. Weird music, too. I don’t think I recognized one song they were playing the whole night. Well, we had a good time anyway, after all it is the company that matters the most.

Las Vegas
I knew it would be hot in the desert, but I still wasn’t prepared for this. There was a heat warning in Vegas, the temperature was 120 degrees. Sin City was hot as the pits of hell, thank God for air conditioning. Before the show we were hanging out with the people from the record label and the management, who had flown into town to see the show. Before we went on, I was watching Scale the Summit by the side of the stage, they’re still young but they always kick serious ass. Our show went well and the crowd was going nuts. After Zappa’s set we went to see George Clinton and P-Funk by the pool of the Hard Rock Hotel. It was a full on party scene, people were having drinks and dancing in the water. Everybody else’s wifes and girlfriends had come to the show so they bailed early and the Zappa bus left at midnight, so I went to explore the bars on my own and ended up having a great time.

Los Angeles
The last show of the tour was at the legendary Greek Theater, a dream come true for us. Before the show we did some interviews and a quick photo session which went great. During our set Matt, John Petrucci’s guitar tech, jumped on the stage in a rabbit suit, and Mike Portnoy sat in for ‘Blackball.’ Zappa Plays Zappa were totally on fire and played and amazing set. Portnoy got on stage with them to play ‘Broken Hearts Are for A–holes.’ During Dream Theater’s set Portnoy got all the drummers from the bands one by one for a drum battle. After that they did an amazing guitar jam with Petrucci, Dweezil Zappa and Mr. Steve Vai himself. I was kind of hoping that Vai would jam with Dweezil’s band, too, after all he played in Frank’s band for years. Nevertheless, an amazing guitarist and a cool guy. Dream Theater performed a funny Star Wars light sabre battle, which was guaranteed to make Damon and all the other ‘Star Wars’ geeks wet themselves.

After the show everybody was hanging out at the green room and saying goodbyes. Such sweet sorrow. All in all the tour was great and by far the most fun I’ve ever had on the road. Everybody in the bands and the crew were totally cool and great in what they do. It is Sunday morning after the Greek show as I am writing this, and I’m so bummed that the tour is over. Well, at least we get to do the European leg of Progressive Nation in September and October, that’s going to be a blast. Thanks for having us on the tour Mike, God bless you brother. Thank you Dream Theater, ZPZ and Scale The Summit, it was an absolute pleasure to tour with you guys. Take care everybody, see you next month!

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