Glass Hammer chooses quality over quantity
For a lot of musical groups, touring and performing live shows are a big part of who they are. They love the grind of the road, the roar of a live audience, the chance to sell some merch.
For Glass Hammer, a local progressive rock band that has been together for a quarter century, playing in front of an audience is great and something they enjoy doing. They just do not enjoy touring, especially when the likely outcome is to simply break even.
“We don’t tour,” says
Steve Babb. “We just don’t.”
They do play live shows, last playing one at The Camp House here in May.
“It went really well,” Babb says. “People were streaming in when the doors opened.”
In addition to 17 studio albums, the band has recorded and released three live albums and four live DVDs.
So they do get out and perform, but the circumstances have to be right for a live show: It’s usually a one-off,
and the situation has to
be to their liking.
A handful of shows have met those criteria recently.
They are headlining this weekend’s ProgStock 2017 festival in Rahway, N.J., and they will be a part of the six-day Cruise to the Edge hosted by Yes in February, sailing from Tampa, Fla., to Belize and Costa Maya.
Their other big show this year was 2Days Prog + 1 Festival in Veruno, Italy. The event was held in early September, and Glass Hammer was one of the headliners on the closing Saturday night.
Babb says they were treated like royalty throughout their entire four-day stay. The entire trip from airfare to hotels to food and even a private tour guide were provided by festival organizers, which happens to be the city itself, with the help of sponsorships. Not only does the city cover expenses for the bands, admission to the festival and camping are free for the fans.
“Everything was right for us,” Babb says.
For co-founder Fred Schendel, the band has several things they look at when choosing to play at a festival such as 2Days.
“We don’t want to lose money,” he says.
Going overseas for an extended period of time takes them away from families and their studio work here. They also look for festivals where they can play in front of prog fans. This festival ticked off all of the boxes.
“This trip was amazing. Plus we ate like kings,” Schendel says.
The festival is about 15 years old and spans three consecutive weekends, with the first two dedicated to classical and jazz music. The third weekend features prog rock, which has also been called art rock or symphonic rock because of its blend of jazz, experimental, jam and acid rock. The genre has a solid audience in Europe, and the Veruno festival is the largest in Italy.
Also on the bill with Glass Hammer for the prog weekend were Procol Harum, Motorpsycho, Discipline, Frost, The Tangent, Comedy of Errors and Sophya Baccini’s Aradia.
Veruno is in the province of Novara near the northwest corner of the country. Babb says the band’s driver/tour guide happened to be the region’s chief historian, and he took them to Lake Como in Lombardy and Lake Maggiore on the south side of the Alps.
“It was beautiful but looked like other beautiful lakes, and then you see this fourth-century monastery with these stone paths. It looked like what you thought a fourth-century monastery would look like. Amazing.
The historian “spent two days of his life with us,” Babb says. “I believe they do this in the spirit of bands going away and telling people how wonderful Veruno is.”
Because of fears of terrorism, Babb says security surrounding the festival site was very tight. Past events have drawn as many as 5,000 people, but it was limited to 2,500 this past year for security reasons.
“It takes place inside the town,” Babb says. “It has probably two places to eat total. It’s not very big. Our dressing room was inside the police station, which says something about security.”
Once inside, however, Babb says everything was very friendly and open. The band got to meet and spend time with fans and other band members throughout.
“I think we took more pictures with people than we ever have,” Babb says.
The band released “Valkyrie” earlier this year and is set to release “Untold Tales,” a collection of previously unreleased studio and live tracks spanning its 25-year history. It also has two unreleased covers of Argent and Beatles tracks and a song featuring Rush drummer Neil Peart.
Some years ago, Peart recorded some drum tracks as a sample library and made them available to a selected number of acts, including Glass Hammer. Nothing was done with the finished songs, so Babb says the band decided to include the song on “Untold Tales.”
Without having to be asked, he laughs and answers the obvious question: “It is not possible to use his drums and have it not sound like Rush.”
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-7576354.
KamranAlanShikohofGlassHammer. Steve Babb, below, plays bass during Glass Hammer’s performance in Veruno, Italy, during the recent 2Days + 1 Prog Fest. Glass Hammer, featuring Susie Bogdanowicz on vocals, was one of the headliners for the three-weekend festival in Italy.
Members of Glass Hammer are, from left, Fred Schendel, Kamran Alan Shikoh, Susie Bogdanowicz, Steve Babb and Aaron Raulston.